Administrative Professionals have an incredible opportunity to help implement change and step into the role of company influencer explains Tae Lee

 Every company has a select number of people that can change and drive innovation. Most people assume that it’s the CEOs and high-level executives that will bring new technology and new ideas to a company. However, in my experience as a CEO, executives are typically tasked with responsibilities that take them away from the office and away from the everyday challenges that face employees of a company. Rather than trying to solve problems they are not connected with; smart executives will instead turn to trusted advisors who they view as the true influencers of a company.

The question is, who are the true influencers of a company?

Who can be influential?

There are 5 main characteristics that help someone be truly influential in an organization:

  1. Smart
  2. Flexible
  3. Creative
  4. High Emotional Intelligence
  5. Love for Learning

Sound familiar? Executive Assistants, Administrative Professionals, and Personal Assistants are the perfect people to influence a company and help inspire positive change. These traits and skillsets are the building blocks of every efficient administrative professional. In addition to the above traits, administrative professionals are in the unique, and powerful, position of having high levels of involvement in multiple aspects of a company. This means you can find solutions that will better the lives of a large number of people.

Why should you influence your company?

Administrative professionals are famous for wearing every hat in the office: travel planner, office manager, expense reporter, hiring coordinator, calendar guru. Because of this, you are deeply integrated in your company making you uniquely able to see inefficiencies in your company that you can help solve. As you identify these inefficiencies, you should always prioritize them based on a few key characteristics:

  • How many people does this affect?
  • How much time is it wasting?
  • How much money does it cost the company?
  • How many departments does this affect?
  • How many subsequent tasks rely on this item being completed?

The bigger these numbers are, the higher priority it should be when creating a solution. As the highest priority pain points get solved, you will notice a significant increase in productivity. Not only will you have solved a major pain point for many people in the company, but you will also see that your job has become easier as a result. Most importantly, your efforts will not go unnoticed. People you collaborate with will appreciate you and recognize you as a key influencer in your office community. I have been incredibly fortunate to have had administrative professionals supporting me who have offered invaluable recommendations that have undoubtedly saved the company time and money.

How can you implement change?

Implementing change will be the biggest hurdle administrative professionals face as company influencers. However, there are some key steps that can help guarantee success.

  1. Understand the biggest challenges senior executives care about. This will typically align with the list of priorities you created when identifying inefficiencies in your company.
  2. Research, research, and more research. Use this research to come up with a creative solution that is backed with heavy analysis. Doing this will give your solution more credibility and will make it harder to overlook.
  3. Build a coalition of sponsors. Present your research and action plan to those who can enforce change – if it’s a good idea, people will want to be associated with it.
  4. Overly give credit to others. Make them believe it’s “our idea” not yours. The more ownership people feel over a plan, the more motivated they are to finalize it. Don’t worry about getting credit, believe it or not, the person who gives credit to others ALWAYS gets the most credit.
  5. Think about the little guy. Think about how you’re going to motivate the ones who will need to follow the new process. What’s in it for them? How will this benefit their lives and make their jobs easier?
  6. Go the distance. Show your executives you are willing to bring your solution to the finish line by proactively volunteering to keep the process moving forward.

There’s no guarantee this will work, but if you are successful you will gain an immense amount of credibility. Everyone values those who can inspire others and execute an idea. Each success will make future implementation easier. Overall, the key thing to remember is to focus on problems that affect everyone –  not just yourself or your manager – but all the people who are going to be a part of that tool and new process. These will be the easiest problems to solve that have the biggest reward.

What’s one way you can use this power to implement some positive change?

Technology! Keeping up with new technology will keep your skills sharp and make you an even greater asset to any company. An admin that is not only able to adopt new technologies, but also implement them within the company, is a forward-thinking leader that can help the company stay ahead of the curve, rather than being left behind. Here are some tools that have really helped me communicate and operate more efficiently.

Slack: instant and easy team communication.

Team communication is the most important thing for an office to run smoothly. Typically, offices use back and forth emails to organize and connect. Email is still a great method of communication in between companies and clients. However, typical communications within an office are less formal and move at a much faster pace. Slack allows offices to talk without sending emails that clutter inboxes and distract from more important emails. Slack channels allow groups to collaborate on projects from all around the world. Best of all, slack works on all computer and phone operating systems which means communicating in the office is just as easy out of the office.

Google Drive: access files and collaborate anywhere.

Business is all about collaboration. Projects are rarely completed by a single person. They require constant changes and communication. Google Drive and the suite of Google apps allows me to do this, in real time, with anyone. I can edit a document while my admin is reviewing it. I can create a spreadsheet as my engineers fill in the data. It’s instantaneous and allows my team to work efficiently. I prefer Google Drive over other platforms because of its flexibility. I can share my document with anyone, from any company, and they are not required to pay for a subscription.

Calendly: easy meeting scheduling.

Scheduling meetings, especially across time zones, can feel almost impossible. In the past, I would send an email to a client with a couple of date and time options and then wait to for a response to see which time, if any, worked for them. Often, scheduling a meeting could take 3 or 4 back and forth emails. This was just for me! This process was exponentially harder for admins and hiring managers scheduling thousands of meetings. Calendly integrates with Google Calendar, Office 365, and Outlook to create a calendar with a complete list of your availabilities. Share this calendar and people can convert time zones, view all availabilities, and sign up for what works for them. As meetings get scheduled, your calendar automatically updates and that timeslot is removed. Just like that, this process is boiled down to one email.

Expensify: expense reports made simple.

Expense reporting is notorious for being frustrating for the traveler, the admin, and the payroll department. More importantly, they’re known for being a huge time suck for everyone involved. In the past, travelers were responsible for collecting and tracking physical copies of their receipts while on the road. For some road warriors, who can be out of the office for weeks at a time, this was extremely difficult to do. With Expensify, travelers can take pictures of their receipts and add them to their reports as they go.

TRAVO: the trip planning and booking tool for administrative professionals.

Admittedly, I’m a little biased here, but TRAVO was inspired by suggestions from admins advocating for change in how travel is managed and planned. As a senior executive at my last company, I was inspired by my admins who were forced to use inefficient and outdated tools to create complicated business itineraries. Travel planning is the most time and email intensive process listed here. It is never a simple booking process; travel planning includes trip requests, itinerary approvals, and booking confirmation emails. And each step is a four or five email process. TRAVO is proof that admins can inspire change. They inspired me to leave my job and create an entire company around their ideas and suggestions. TRAVO has come a long way, but we are continuing to grow and improve, based on feedback from thousands of admins around the world.

We are fortunate enough to live during a time of unprecedented technological growth and we should use this to our advantage as much as possible. Companies that avoid innovation will quickly be outpaced by others who are more flexible and faster to adapt. Administrative Professionals have an incredible opportunity to help implement change and step into the role of company influencer. I can’t think of a better group of people to be driving that change.

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Tae Lee is the CEO and founder of TRAVO, the only trip planning and booking tool built for administrative professionals. He was formerly COO of ZEFR and held executive positions in three successful startups. During his time as an executive, he worked with ... (Read More)

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