The Lossy Logistics of Leadership: A Case for Admins

I had dinner the other evening with two accomplished in-house group leaders. We were catching up on our professional exploits and one of the managers exclaimed how pleased he was to be relieved of well over half of his direct reports in a management reorg. He happily explained that he would no longer have to spend well over half his working hours (including 2AM email catch-up binges) having to approve expense reports, assist with HR administrative functions, slog through irrelevant dense performance reviews, requisition equipment, make and approve travel arrangements for his directs and troubleshoot IT issues and Facilities roadblocks for them. Being that he is a great coach and mentor, I was struck and saddened by the loss this meant for his former directs.

My late-to-come epiphany is so obvious but so clearly unaddressed by organizations – In their zeal to cut costs by eliminating administrative assistants dedicated to supporting leaders like the two I was dining with, corporations are undercutting their leadership’s ability to lead. This shortsighted tactic results in hard to quantify but very real losses in efficiency and employee effectiveness.

My guess is that many of you reading this post are, or have been, in similar situations. Not only is it frustrating, disempowering and demoralizing to have to spend a majority of your day checking transactional check boxes on your to-do list preventing you from attending to your more important responsibilities of engaging in strategic planning, the coaching and mentoring of your directs and forging relationships with your managers, but in the absence of those activities those people whom you don’t have the time to interact with suffer as well.

The few strategies I’m familiar with that have afforded managers trapped in this circumstance some success include working with peer managers to secure shared admins, bringing in contract admins as “Logistics Managers” and pushing back on other departments such as HR and Travel to assume responsibilities they should never have foisted on managers in the first place.

The most powerful avenue for success is one that I have never seen employed. Analyzing the current practice and presenting quantifiable metrics to upper management that underscore the loss of productivity in a way that cannot be disputed by the myopic beancounters who reflexively resort to cutting heads without any consideration of the long-term consequences of their misguided strategy.

Anyone out there willing to take THAT responsibility on?