Administrative Soft Skills

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An assistant also functions as an administrator. Your job requires you to work with different people, and administrative soft skills are essential for success. Developing social intelligence, business acumen, office management skills, and active listening will improve your working relationship with those around you and make your life much easier.

Social Intelligence

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Social intelligence is the empathy, understanding, and cognition that is necessary to be effective in social settings. It allows us to identify and interpret social cues and react appropriately. Empathy is the ability to understand or share feelings. Some people are naturally more empathetic than others. However, it takes more than empathy to have effective social intelligence. You run the risk of creating animosity if you react inappropriately in social situations. This requires understanding of social norms and cultural customs. Remember that different cultures have different social cues, so you should take some time to research cultural customs when working internationally.

Ways to Improve Social Intelligence:

  • Pay attention to others:  It is easy to become caught up in our own lives. Paying attention to others, particularly you manager, will improve your social intelligence.
  • Practice cues: Practice interpreting social cues that you see in others. Learn to interpret facial expressions, and become culturally aware of those around you.
  • Self-monitor: Before you blurt out a response in a social situation, think about its appropriateness. This will improve your social intelligence.

Basic Business Acumen

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Business acumen is the ability to look at the big picture and make the necessary decisions for the good of the organization. While many executives practice business acumen, assistants must also develop business acumen to be effective. Developing business acumen requires you to stay informed about the different aspects of the business and industry and educate yourself on the financial equations and their meanings. This will allow you to see the impact your role has on the organization.

Ways to Improve Business Acumen

  • Research using the Internet, books, and journals.
  • Network within the organization.
  • Take classes when necessary.
  • Practice interpreting financial reports.
  • Pay attention to how your role affects other departments.

Office Management

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An assistant must also operate as an office manager. This requires you to take on specific roles that are necessary in order for the department to move forward. Poor management skills will impede productivity for everyone.


  • Plan: Plans are essential for success, but the assistant must drive the plan forward by making sure the steps are executed.
  • Schedule: The schedule and its details are typically the domain of the assistant. For example, you would make a list of people to attend a meeting, contact them, and book the location of the meeting.
  • Organize: The assistant must keep everything filed, organized, and accessible. This includes paperwork, schedules, travel, financial papers, etc.
  • Order: You will be responsible for ordering supplies. This requires you to keep a careful inventory and order at the correct time.

Active Listening

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Listening skills are essential for the assistant. Listening and understanding everything that is said may be difficult in a fast paced environment. This is where active listening will help. Active listening allows you to connect with and understand the speaker. Additionally, it is a skill that may be honed.

Improve Active Listening:

  • Pay attention: Face the speaker and make eye contact. Let the speaker know that you are listening. Turn off distractions and focus on what is said.
  • Respond: Do not listen in silence. Respond when it is appropriate so that the speaker knows you are listening. Body language will speak for you, so be aware of how you present yourself.
  • Remain open-minded: Avoid preconceived ideas when speaking with someone.
  • Allow the speaker to finish: Do not interrupt, even if you have something to say.
  • Paraphrase: Restate what speaker says to make sure that you understand.
  • Answer: Be respectful when you answer the speaker.

Case Study

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Ron was in charge of the details for a company conference. He had to talk to a lot of people when making the plan. The keynote speaker gave him an agenda, but he was trying to multitask while he took down the information. Somehow, he managed to write down the wrong arrival time, and no one was there to pick her up. Both his manager and the speaker were unhappy, and Ron had the problem of fixing the issue at the last minute.