The Organization's Barometer | Cleveland State University Professional Development Center in Cleveland

The Organization's Barometer

Contributor: Adrian Rutt

It’s comes as no surprise anymore that administrative professionals are the ones in any organization that know what’s going on. And it’s not that they know what’s going on all the time at any given moment, it’s the fact that if they don’t know something they will find out. Still, this characterization and praise does not do justice to the administrative professional.

I have found that administrative professionals are often overlooked for their most important skill: communication. Organizations - like almost every relationship - are prone to dissolve or dysfunction over what we call relatively minor issues. We always act as if a “communication error” or situation in which someone was misinterpreted was totally avoidable and thus a silly mistake. However, anybody who knows anything about communication knows that this isn’t true: communication errors happen so often because it’s one of the hardest “skills” to come by. And, as I just said, it may be hard to come by because we don’t see the expert communicators sitting right in front of us.


What we call “soft skills” in today’s workplace are becoming ever more important. Here at Cleveland State’s Professional Development Center we make sure people know that learning the “hard skills” is complimented by - if not superseded by - soft skill learning. Things like team building, how to keep people accountable, and how to have hard conversations are the cornerstone on which we build everything else, because they are foundational. Administrative professionals understand this: while everyone else is learning the next best app or program, they are focusing intently on improving their soft skills so the organization can continue to or work smoother. 

To end, I just wanted to offer a few things I have found the administrative professional to be especially good at but, again, this doesn’t do them or the position full justice in any way. The first is adaptability: sometimes it seems they’re the only ones in the office who can be flexible in different situations. Whether it’s an on-the-fly presentation someone forgot to mention or hammering out a newsletter, they always seem to have a handle on things. Perhaps it’s not simply adaptability, but rather adaptability under pressure and they’re often so nonchalant about it!

They are always the first to want to groupthink a problem or task; making the suggestion of “let’s get Dan in here - he knows about this.” Granted, this is because they have so many hands in so many areas, but it is also because they not only understand the power of teamwork, but know how and when to effectively employ it. Teamwork isn’t necessary all the time - indeed, sometimes it can be dangerous - but rest assured the administrative professional will know when the time is right for teamwork and masterminding.

Last, but in no way least, is what some call “critical observation.” I always find it fascinating that administrative professionals can both strip a large problem of all its fat and get down to what actually needs to be done, and understand the separate components of complicated issues so as to tackle them separately. Most importantly, critical observation calls for judgment and judgment is one of those skills that is nearly impossible to learn by only taking “hard skill” classes. Critical observation also is a lead in to problem solving and conflict resolution: as most know solving a problem or resolving a conflict requires that the entire situation be understood first and foremost.

So really, I just wanted to take a moment to not only show my appreciation for administrative professionals in my own life, but tell you why I think they are - when utilized correctly - one of the most important positions in any organization. This week I urge you to take time to not only thank your administrative professionals out there but to utilize them more often and in more situations. You will no doubt find that you’ve been missing out.

Here’s to you administrative professionals… enjoy your day!

Administrative Professionals: To show our appreciation to you, get 10% off any of our courses now-May 1!