The Paper Towel Admin

I’ll bet you are wondering what a paper towel administrative assistant is! This came to my thoughts recently, and I decided I definitely don’t want to be one of those.

Think about it: when does someone think about, or reach for, a paper towel?

  • When they’ve made a mess.
  • When they have a spill.
  • When something is sticky. 

And as soon as they use that paper towel to clean it up and their mess is gone… they ball the towel up and throw it away. And return to their work.

I heard a speaker at Office Dynamics’ Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence refer to a negative style of administrator as “transaction based.”

I’ve thought a lot about that since the conference, and I’ve concluded that this described administrators who perform a task when it’s brought to them, then wait at their workstation for another transaction to come their way.

But work is so dynamic, ever changing, and flowing like a river 24/7! We cannot afford to idle in neutral, awaiting our next task to come to us. We are capable of assimilating work and handling heavy responsibilities to achieve success and leverage the initiatives within our businesses. We can be the strategic business partners of management.

I don’t want to be a “paper towel admin,” who is only thought about when one of my principal supports makes a mess of something and needs me to clean it up!

As an administrative professional, strategic thinking, advance planning and project management are foundational to my success every day. It’s much easier to become involved in a project early on, “out the gate” so I can work my magic, preventing mishaps along the way. But managers and principal supports won’t think we can do this if we sit awaiting the next transaction, will they?

Therefore, as administrative professionals, we need to rise up and truly reflect how capable, polished and professional we are. We can do more, think more and accomplish more than ever before. We need to be open to becoming the “right hand liaison” of the leader; the strategic business partner who makes things happen within the organization.

Instead of a paper towel, I want to be salt and pepper. I want to season things, and add flavor, working also to be a preservative. Why? Because every kitchen, restaurant, dorm, cart, cafeteria and take-out joint have salt and pepper always available — whether in paper packets, crystal or even those tall-necked Corona bottles with perforated tops!

No matter how fine you dine, whether “up” or “down” -town, you always need salt and pepper with you. And that’s exactly how I want my principal supports and manager to view me:

Necessary. Cleansing. Preservative. Flavorful.


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