Unsung heroes aren't the men and women in expensive suits driving the latest and greatest cars and taking home huge corporate bonuses. Sure, such folks participate in key decisions that help companies succeed. But it's those support people flying under the radar at mach six that are the true unsung heroes: I'm talking about secretaries and administrative assistants.
I have yet to visit any successful company where these unsung heroes aren't pulling off the amazing under impossible deadlines and pressure.
These are the behind-the-scenes multi-taskers who make the executives look good, yet rarely get the credit for doing so.
Take for example Julia, who worked in several positions at her medium-sized company before being asked to be the president's administrative assistant. Interestingly, in the five years Julia has been in the admin assistant position, the company has grown beyond its normal pace.
A few facts about Julia: She doesn't need nor want the spotlight. What she does do is watch her boss's actions and attitudes like a hawk. She anticipates his every need. She goes above and beyond to make sure things come together better than the president expects.
In many ways, company growth is attributable to Julia's efforts. Unfortunately, nobody on the executive board or the leadership team give Julia much public credit. They silently take advantage of her loyalty and press on, while simultaneously taking much credit for the company's success.
Julia is an unsung hero.
There are many like Julia in the world making senior executives and senior managers shine. Even though administrative professionals week comes around every April, it makes sense to acknowledge such loyalty and effort year 'round.
One obvious way to recognize solid administrative support is to publicly acknowledge it. This could begin with making comments to others on the leadership team during staff meetings. But better still is to talk openly about specific, positive ripple effects that resulted from the administrative assistant's efforts.
Another ever-so-simple way to thank a secretary or administrative assistant is to consider their workplace needs.
One executive I know periodically goes around to his support staff and thanks them face-to-face at their desks for their hard work and dedication. Then he asks each one if they have everything they need to do their job well. If they have a request and he can fulfill it, he sees that they get what they want.
This executive realizes that his staff is dedicated and wants to do a good, efficient job. They are the subject matter experts in what they do, and therefore they have the best handle on what it will take to get their jobs done more effectively and efficiently. If an additional piece of equipment will make them happy (and therefore more productive), he's usually quick to acquire it.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this level of commitment to administrative staff generates reciprocal commitment back from them.
On a cautionary note, those with secretaries or admin assistants should be careful not to cross potentially hazardous boundaries when showing thanks. One supervisor got into trouble when he sent his entire female staff to a Chippendales show (even when it was at their request!).
If giving a gift directly to a secretary may be misconstrued, it is certainly acceptable to make a small donation to the secretary's favorite charity. This act speaks volumes and fosters esprit de corps at the same time.
Bottom line, those working in support roles are often a company's unsung heroes. To make sure they stay around to continue their support, it's always a good idea to acknowledge their efforts any way you can. Besides, it's just the right thing to do.