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Adding value, no matter where you sit

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in Admins,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Office Management

Administrative assistant Eileen Behr recently won the 2010 OfficeTeam Administrative Excellence Award. When nominating her, a colleague described Behr as being an effective communicator and workflow manager, being willing to take on any task, solving problems before they occur and having technological prowess.

In short, she adds value to her team at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif.

We caught up with Behr to ask her about how admins bring value to their roles.

“The overriding feeling I have is that it’s my job to allow the staff to stay on task at their highest levels,” she says. “They’re capable of making copies or organizing things. But it’s in my best interest and the organization’s best interest to have them working at their specialty.”

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Here’s how she brings a “value-added” focus to her role:

1. Start by opening others’ eyes to the value you bring. When Behr started the job four years ago, the 25 people in her office—many of whom hold doctorate degrees—didn’t give her a lot of work.

She says, “I told each of them, ‘Every time you mark your billable time as overhead, you might be doing my job.’ It opened their eyes to the ways I could help them. Now they know that they can give me a task and it will be taken care of.”

2. Focus on keeping your team on task. Before coming to the research and development firm, she ran her own secretarial service. “It was in my best interest to keep my own staff on task, so I took care of everything else,” she says. “And I do the same thing here.”

For example, when the firm switched from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2007, Behr anticipated the huge hit on productivity. So she asked to be trained two months before the rest of the staff, then made a suggestion to the IT manager:

“I said, ‘These guys are not going to go to an all-day session for training. We need an hour-and-a-half training session, so they can tuck into this. I’ll take care of all the bits and pieces, like formatting—that’s my job.’ That turned out to be really beneficial for the team.”

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3. Visualize projects to the end, so you can spot problems. “Over time, I’ve developed a habit of mentally going through a project until the end. I’ll look beyond,” she says. “I’ll think, if it goes well, this is what will happen. Or, here’s where the bumps will be, now how will we mitigate that?”

4. Remember, you can make a difference from where you sit right now. As the president of her International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) chapter, Behr often hears other admins talk about their goals. Most often, they are striving for the executive assistant seat.

What they don’t realize, says Behr, is what they can accomplish in any administrative role.

“You’re an administrative professional; it’s your job to make a difference. Your job isn’t just to make copies or truck something from one building to another. Your real job is to give others confidence that they can give you a job that needs to be done, and not worry about it. That’s highly valuable.

“We need to get past the ‘just an admin’ attitude,” she continues. “You can see a difference in an organization where people trust their administrative professionals.”

Not long ago, an admin professional was someone who answered phones or typed letters. Times have certainly changed! Now you may find yourself handling the responsibilities of an IT pro, a marketer or a public relations expert. With information and technology speeding toward you, you’re being hit with more tasks than ever before.

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