The 9 Undeniable Characteristics of a Rockstar Office Manager
It’s no secret – in competitive industries, people are everything.
Attracting and retaining the best people can literally make or break your business, and success hinges on winning the “war for talent”.
The best companies know that in order to win, you have to create a culture of engagement, and an environment where people want to spend their time.
That’s where a rockstar office manager becomes indispensable, someone who can cultivate the culture your company needs and steer the ship in the right direction as your company grows.
If only it were that simple…
The office manager is a unique, demanding position. It takes a diverse set of skills – and an amazing individual – to really thrive in the role.
The office manager is one of the few people (other than perhaps the CEO or senior HR staff) who interacts with employees at every level and within every department virtually every day.
At SnackNation, we are huge advocates of talented office managers. That’s because we have the privilege of working directly with thousands of incredible office managers at some of the most engaged companies from all over the country.
(PS – If you’re an Office Manager or Assistant, join our private FB Group here. It’s a place to connect, collaborate, and share advice on how to overcome the wide spectrum of challenges you face in your role.)
So what does it take to be one of these next level office managers? How do you find and hire someone who is perfect for this role?
We talked to both office managers and the people who hire them at some of the companies who are getting it right when it comes to culture and engagement. Here’s what they had to say about the top traits you need to be a rockstar office manager.
1. Unparalleled Flexibility
We heard it again and again – flexibility was the single most important trait according to the people we surveyed. In order to be a good office manager, you have to roll with the punches and be able to handle anything that comes your way.
Shannon McLendon, Operations and Events Lead at The Motley Fool, explains:
“An office manager at the Fool is a jack of all trades, wearing many different hats.
Things change quickly so I have to think on my feet and be proactive about getting things done.”
And it stands to reason – there is no such thing as a “typical day” for an office manager. One minute you might be planning an offsite event for 150 people, the next you’re coordinating the arrival of an important investor or aiding with the interior design of a new office space.
The ability to adapt and improvise is critical.
2. Stellar Organization & Follow-Through
This second tip might seem like a no-brainer, but being organized is one of the biggest factors when it comes to success in this role. Again, the OM’s role is so wide and varied that it can be easy to lose track of the tasks at hand. And because you’re often supporting C-level executives, most things are high priority and the margin for error is slim.
Lindsey Ingalls, Client Success Manager and Office Manager at Leadquizzes, breaks it down for us.
“As an office manager you have what seems like a million different things going on at once and you have to make sure they all get handled. I couldn’t live without my Google calendar and put all of my tasks and the time I am going to do them in there.
No matter how small the task is, even something that takes 5 minutes, it goes in there and it gets done.”
It’s not just being organized though – it’s caring enough to make sure that the tasks you’re tracking get done on time and are done well.
3. Complete Accessibility
An office manager should be accessible – both in terms of availability, and in terms of the warmth of his or her personality. Your team should feel comfortable approaching the office manager for tasks that he or she owns.
Paul Marshall, Influitive’s Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Operations, explains why he named accessibility as the number one quality of an amazing office manager:
“Above all, a great Office Manager should be accessible to their colleagues to ensure that everyone is working at their maximum productivity,” he says. “A personalized experience makes individual employees feel special and valued.
An example of how we do this at Influitive is through firstname.lastname@example.org, where employees can ask our team for anything that will make their working experience better.”
According to Paul, this trait is embodied by Rebecca Shaffer, who was originally hired as an Operations Coordinator but was promoted to Operations Manager/Office Manager in just a year’s time.
Here’s Shannon from The Motley Fool with another reason why accessibility is so important in this role:
My approachability has helped Fools feel comfortable coming to me with any concern and has helped foster good relationships with Fools across the company.
My biggest success as an office manager is due to the team that works with me every day. The trust I have in them to go the extra mile and make decisions has proved invaluable.
My team handles everything from internal operations, planning events, security, maintenance, as well as the overall happiness of employees. I couldn’t be the successful manager I am without them.
4. Solid Communication
Communication is an often overlooked (but no less important) skill when it comes to thriving in the office manager role.
The job often requires taking ideas from the c-suite and translating them for the rest of the organization.
This is especially true when you’re in charge of implementing company-wide policies. You have to be careful to communicate the reasoning behind your office policies in order to ensure the highest possible buy-in from your team. You also have to be able to anticipate questions and be ready to answer them on the fly.
Liza Goldberg, our amazing Vibe Manager here at SnackNation, has made internal communication an indispensable part of her repertoire.
“Internal communication in this role is so important.
Every week I’m up in front of the entire company, announcing new activities or explaining policies, and I have to make sure I do it in a way that is sensitive to the needs of the team, gets all the details right, and also clearly explains the reasons behind it – whether it be a new parking policy or our next team building offsite.”
(Fun fact: Liza won the company’s coveted Value Victor award just over a month of being on the job – she rocks!)
5. Unreasonable Optimism
When people visit the office – whether it’s a potential new hire, possible investor, or future strategic partner – the office manager is usually the first person they see, and his or her demeanor helps form those oh-so-critical first impressions.
Most good office managers have a naturally positive attitude and warm demeanor. But the real challenge comes on those inevitable bad days. Everyone has them – days where we’d rather just stay in bed – and it can be tempting to let your mood darken your personality. But the office manager doesn’t have this luxury, since his or her demeanor has a direct impact on the company. Rockstar office managers know to put on a happy face even when it might not totally reflect their mood on the inside.
SnackNation CEO Sean Kelly agrees:
“Having a naturally effervescent attitude is a must. Even when you’re down, you have to put on a positive face.
You’re the center of morale – that’s why we call it a ‘vibe manager’ rather than an office manager.”
6. Magical Creativity
Increasingly, a company’s office manager is responsible of the office vibe. In fact, that’s why our office manager’s official title is “Vibe Manager.” The office vibe sets the tone for the rest of the business and helps create the culture that we need in order to be productive, creative, and hit our goals each month.
Maintaining a culture and a vibe takes considerable creativity. Office managers dabble in things like interior design and event planning.
Take planning an off site event for example – something most employees probably take it for granted. Just coming up with a fun, new activity that everyone will enjoy is a challenge.
You have to consider, what’s something we haven’t done before? What would our entire team enjoy doing? What can we do within budget? How will this activity help support the culture we need to be successful? It’s a major challenge, and it takes some serious outside-the-box thinking.
(Luckily, we have a few ideas you can borrow.)
7. Unwavering Self-Confidence
This role quite frequently requires daily interaction with CEOs and COOs, so you have to confident in order to earn their respect.
Part in parcel with this self confidence is the ability to push back from time to time. As much as you might want to, you can’t be everything to everyone, and you have to prioritize. Learning to say no is essential.
Lindsey from Leadquizzes explains:
“I get daily requests from people in the office of things that are ‘necessary’ and that they want done right away, and it is important to put limits on it so that the entire office can benefit.
Just because one person wants the office temp set at 78 doesn’t mean the entire office would be happy with that. You have to keep a healthy balance to keep the whole office happy.”
8. Jedi-Like Anticipation
Being proactive and anticipating future needs is one of the best assets an office manager can have.
Much of the job is reactive, and that can be one of the biggest challenges – reacting to and prioritizing the myriad request that an office manager gets from all over the organization. One way to streamline your workflow and reduce reactive tasks is to anticipate and plan for them.
SnackNation’s Liza Goldberg expands on this idea:
“You have to constantly keep your eyes and ears open.
You’re one of the only people in the company that has a truly holistic point of view on a lot of issues, and it’s your responsibility to both anticipate needs, and to make sure that you’re connecting the dots for people and departments who don’t have the benefit of your perspective.”
9. Keen Emotional Intelligence & Steadfast Composure
As we’ve mentioned, you deal with people at every level as an office manager – from rank and file employees to the c-suite, and everything in between. This means tons of different personalities – some more challenging than others. As the office manager, you have to be able to deal with all of them.
SnackNation CEO Sean Kelly (someone who knows a thing or two about working with amazing office managers) elaborates:
“The number one thing that makes a rockstar office manager is a high degree of emotional intelligence. You deal with everyone in the company, and experience a lot of different emotions and attitudes.
Often times when people request things, they don’t necessarily do it with as much respect as they should. But you have to take it in stride, stay composed, and be resilient. Those qualities are invaluable to success in the role.”
And while reading and catering to the emotional needs of your team is crucial, on the flipside, you can’t have thin skin and be a great office manager. Having a level head and maintaining composure in the face of pressure is a necessary attribute.
It takes a lot to be a great office manager. Sometimes it might feel even harder to find one.
But the importance of culture isn’t going away anytime soon, and therefore office manager role is only going to increase in significance.
That’s why you need to find someone who embodies most (or all) of these traits. Finding the right fit might seem like an impossible task, but trust us, it’s well worth it.
Does your company have an awesome office manager? Give them a shout out in the comments below!