By Liz Alton
Every office manager wants to be as effective as possible. And while you need a wide variety of functional office skills to be efficient, one area that sometimes gets overlooked is interpersonal skills. These are the "soft" skills that help you interact with colleagues at all levels and parts of the organization, from the CEO to the new intern.
Here are four ways to determine your strengths and weaknesses and sharpen your interpersonal skills to become the ultimate office diplomat.
1. Assess Your Current Interpersonal Office Skills
Improving your interpersonal skills starts with self-awareness. What are your strengths and where could you improve? Consider asking your manager and colleagues for feedback. Your family and friends can also provide perspective. Look at past performance reviews, as well as praise and critiques you've received. Finally, follow your own intuition. What's working well in your interactions with others, and where do you feel you have room for improvement?
2. Boost Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence or quotient (EQ) is the ability to identify and manage emotions — both yours and other people's. As an office manager, a strong EQ helps you navigate the nuances of challenging situations. For example, during an office renovation to a more open floor plan, a colleague may be upset that they're being moved from an office to a cubicle. EQ helps you detect the tension, have a productive conversation and solve the issue while still executing your company's bigger plan.
The Harvard Business Review recommends a few strategies for improving your EQ:
- Focus on the needs of others.
- Prioritize being "rewarding" to work with, which means being friendly, cooperative, unselfish and trusting.
- Learn to control your emotions and remain calm and professional.
3. Learn to Communicate and Listen
Communication is one of the most vital interpersonal skills. Office managers often have to communicate policies and updates to a wide variety of stakeholders and translate different needs into workable solutions. To cultivate stronger communications skills, ask yourself the following questions in any situation:
- Have I really listened to the other person's point of view? Can I summarize the key points?
- Did I signal active listening with good eye contact, nod or affirm what they were saying, and respond appropriately?
- What's the key point that I need to communicate, and how can I do so concisely?
- What benefits, factors or details matter most to the person I am communicating with?
4. Focus on Conflict Resolution
It's a fact that conflict inevitably arises in the workplace. As an office manager, you may need to give and receive difficult feedback, mediate disputes between colleagues or deal with underperforming vendors. If you want to be a more effective office manager, cultivate the ability to resolve conflicts while remaining focused. Consider everyone's point of view. What do they care about most, and what's driving their emotional reaction? What do people in the conflict actually want, and is there a possible compromise? Evaluate past conflicts you have experienced, and explore how different solutions could lead to positive outcomes.
Office skills and interpersonal aptitude enhance an office manager's ability to be diplomatic in a variety of situations. Whether you're dealing with conflict or honing your ability to communicate with colleagues, invest in your interpersonal skills. Not only will it make you more effective at your job, but you'll forge stronger relationships and keep your career trajectory moving upward.