Hey there, Office Ninja.
So. Your job is super important. Did you know that? Right. Of course.
Obviously, as the “I do it all” person (the Office Ninja, the Organization Organizer, the OM/IT/HR/etc person) you know how heavily your company relies on you to keep the company running. But does your executive team know it?
I was lucky enough to come into a young company with a CEO/Founder who understood the enormous potential that working together from the start would provide. Not everyone is so lucky. Too many times, I hear from Office Managers struggling to earn their Founders’ trust, or even to get a moment of face time to talk strategy. Many OMs don’t even realize they should be talking strategy, thinking about the bigger picture and ways they can make a visible impact (hint: get on it!). It can be overwhelming, exhausting, and dispiriting to pour yourself into a company that just doesn’t get what you do — or worse, doesn’t see you as a valuable contributor to the company’s success. You can change that dynamic.
One of the reasons my friends and I co-founded the Organization Organizers (OrgOrg) was to provide a safe space for folks in these roles to swap stories and share resources. Today, with nearly 400 members representing over 250 startups and small businesses, it’s become something much bigger, and I’m proud to be a part of this network of men and women supporting each other’s careers.
Now let’s talk recognition. As an early-stage Office Manager, you’ll wear a lot of different hats. Here are 3 ways to prove that you’re more than just the person who orders lunch and picks up other people’s trash.
1. Meet with your CEO (or boss) weekly -- Find out what her concerns are. Ask how you can help her solve bigger-picture problems. Is there a board meeting coming up? What’s your company’s growth plan? Has she been hearing whispers around the office about things people dislike (if your company’s small enough, people still might not go to you directly). Ask specific questions about how you can make a bigger impact. And bring your ideas to the table to show that you’re not just waiting for a list of assignments. Proactivity and considerate thinking will go a long way.
2. Connect with leadership -- Not just your Founder or CEO. Connect with leadership all across the company -- this means the “natural” group leaders as well as managers, if you have them. Create allies and spokespeople out of the mass of peers you quietly support. Get them to help you do your job when possible — asking for a hand assembling that furniture or emptying the dishwasher will give them insight into the everyday tasks they don’t realize you’re doing. But more importantly, show them you’re a forward-thinking team member by gaining insight into their needs, concerns, and ideas and iterating on current process. Involving them in the conversation not only sheds light on your work, but positions you as The One In Charge Of Company Stuff.
3. Shout it from the rooftops -- I’m not just talking about sending team emails when you’ve implemented policy. Give your team a sneak peak into your world! Did you save the company 25% by switching vendors? Score a super sweet holiday party venue? Coordinate a huge hackathon all by your lonesome self? Announce your successes the same way sales announces big client wins and engineering celebrates a successful debugging session and product high fives a huge launch. Like a good theatrical Stage Manager, a good Office Manager’s work is often invisible. That’s cool. You don’t need to be a show-off or a jerk. Just don’t let them forget that you’re behind the scenes making it all happen…and remember to thank the people who help and support you (leadership and interns alike).
Those are three of my favorite tips to get you started. If you have advice, tips, encouragement, questions or gripes, let’s discuss in the comments!
And a bit of shameless self-promotion: My OrgOrg co-founders and I have pitched a panel for SXSW 2014 on this very topic, geared not only towards the OM audience, but towards Founders and Execs (and hey, VCs) as well. Please take a minute to check out our proposal in the SXSW PanelPicker, and if you like what you see, vote us up and share across your networks and companies (voting ends Sept 6, 2013)!