Beyond the Org Chart: How Procedures Elevate Leadership in Administrative Professionals

Mar 27, 2024 | Administrative Professionals, Career Development, Leadership, Procedures

In the evolving 21st century workplace, the role of administrative professionals (APs) has undergone significant transformation. Gone are the days when their responsibilities were confined to maintaining org charts and existing processes. Today, the mark of a truly exceptional admin lies in their ability to recommend, initiate, and refine the systems and procedures that keep their organizations running smoothly.

According to a report by the American Society of Administrative Professionals, non-managing APs tend to be involved only in the upkeep of existing systems, with their managing counterparts playing a more substantial role in enhancing and developing new processes. This distinction underscores a critical opportunity for APs aspiring to climb the career ladder – to step into leadership roles, they must go beyond mere maintenance and become architects of improvement and efficiency.

The Leadership Manual: Crafting Procedures as a Path to Recognition

In my book, Become a Procedures Pro®, I emphasize the unparalleled value of taking the initiative to develop and refine organizational procedures. From my 30 years of career experience, I’ve seen firsthand how creating a procedures manual can establish an admin as an indispensable leader. Rarely did any company I joined have a comprehensive procedures manual, but every position had a binder or two when I left. This earned me recognition as an administrative leader and a go-to resource for new admins and their executives within those companies.

Here’s another standout example from one of our star community members illustrating the profound impact of such initiatives. Anticipating a medical leave, Lá Shawn Sandifer crafted an administrative procedures binder to ensure continuity in her absence. This tool not only empowered her temporary replacement but also showcased her foresight and dedication to her team’s success. The response was overwhelmingly positive, leading to further opportunities to share her knowledge and standardize practices across the organization.

“I was preparing to go on medical leave and would be gone for at least eight weeks. At the time, I was supporting two busy senior officers and knew that anyone coming in to cover for me would be totally overwhelmed. So, to prevent that from happening, I started developing my administrative procedures binder. The person covering in my absence would have to hit the ground running, and this guide would serve as the tool to help them do it.

Before leaving, I was able to spend a few days going over the binder with my temp. She was very appreciative to have such a detailed point of reference to help her quickly get up to speed. As a result, she felt more confident about covering for me. While out on leave, I would check on her periodically, and she would always comment on how helpful the binder had been to her.

From a professional development perspective, my managers were blown away by my administrative procedures binder. A few initiatives were developed out of the creation of this guide.

  • I was asked to share my binder with the legal secretaries in my division in our Chicago and Washington, D.C. offices, and train them in how to create their own desk reference guide.
  • At the completion of the first initiative, I will present the guide to other administrative staff in my association to get them on board.
  • After I complete that initiative, I will revise my current guide to fit a general association standard for presentation to my HR division to possibly implement into a company standard for administrative personnel.

These initiatives are essentially goals for my professional development plan, and each goal will be weighed and rated. Needless to say, this entire process has become very near and dear to me. A few of my direct manager’s comments on my administrative procedures binder were:

‘A very impressive piece of work!’

‘I do not know of any document like it in the association. I’m going to suggest that each secretary in the legal and governance division prepare a similar desk reference manual for their positions.’

‘The binder, which could potentially be used by all employees with secretarial functions throughout the association, demonstrated not only that she has a thorough understanding of her job duties, responsibilities, and performance expectations, but also that she is willing to share her knowledge with others for the benefit of the association.’

I am very pleased with the results and the many compliments I have received. It’s a very rewarding feeling. I am excited to share with my colleagues this product and how it can make a difference for them in their professional development as it has done for me.”

–Lá Shawn Sandifer, executive assistant, insurance industry, Chicago

These experiences aren’t just personal victories; they were stepping stones on our professional development journeys. By creating tangible proof of your expertise and showing a willingness to contribute to the organization’s greater good, you can position yourself as a leader among your peers and gain the attention of upper management, too.

Demonstrating Leadership Through Initiative

The actions described above are not mere administrative tasks; they are demonstrations of leadership. By identifying needs and addressing them proactively, admins exhibit qualities essential for leadership roles, including:

  • Initiative: Seeing what needs to be done and doing it without being asked is the hallmark of a leader. Creating or refining procedures shows foresight and a proactive mindset.
  • Communication Skills: Recommending improvements and sharing knowledge requires clear and effective communication, ensuring that valuable insights are accessible and actionable.
  • Analytical Thinking: Developing and analyzing office systems demands a keen understanding of the organization’s workings and the ability to envision more efficient and effective methods.

Stepping into Leadership

For admins who want to advance their careers, the message is clear: systems and procedures set you apart and demonstrate your ability to lead. This in turn makes you indispensable to the organization. Whether it’s through developing a comprehensive procedures manual, as I did, or by recommending systemic improvements, your actions set the stage for professional growth and recognition.

Leadership isn’t just about a title. It’s about the action and impact each admin brings to the organization. By taking concrete steps to become more efficient, innovative, and resilient through systems and procedures development, you’re contributing directly to your organization’s success and enhancing your own career and professional reputation. This makes you a leader in your own right!

Would you like some help creating your administrative procedures?

Join us for the 5-Day Procedures Blitz beginning March 26!

We Have Even More Procedures Development Resources For You Here!

© 2024 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures, and Prove Your Skills! With a Powerful Professional Portfolio.

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