Marion Lowrence is an award winning PA winning both ‘Yorkshire PA of the Year’ and runner up ‘PA of the Year’ for Executive PA Magazine in 2011. Marion spent 27 years in various administration and management roles - including the Civil Service and the NHS - before taking on her current role as a senior PA in the higher education sector in Yorkshire. She is PA to the CEO and oversees the smooth running of the company. Marion has presented to various groups of PAs and she loves to network both in person and through social media. She has recently set up a network for the senior PAs in Yorkshire’s universities and continues to promote the profession.
Being a gatekeeper
As a PA you need understand the needs of your boss and know what's important for your organisation to be an effective gatekeeper. You need to have a good overview of the company you work for and know how your boss fits into the framework. This will help when you get calls from unknown sources who are just trying to get past you so they can talk directly to your boss. All calls to my boss come through to me first. I know who he will talk to without question such as chairs of the various boards or close colleagues.
I also know when to ask for further information from someone who he may not need to talk to as I can sort the query out. Some people think because they have spoken to him once at a dinner or an event that they have the right to talk to him without having to say why. I will not put a call through without knowing the full details and the caller’s intentions as usually it is not my boss they need to speak to. More often than not it is one of the other managers they need to talk to or I can sort the query out myself without disturbing him. If I'm not sure, I take the details of the caller, find out from the boss if he does want to talk to them and then ring them back. If someone insists on talking to the boss and will not tell me who they are it is simple, they don’t get through. If someone is rude to me I have found that they are just trying to intimidate me so they can talk to my boss directly, usually to sell him something.
Companies often ring cold calling and there are many signs to recognise these but I find the most obvious ones are:
- No knowledge of what our company does.
- Getting the name of my boss wrong
- Saying they met at an event but cannot give you the name of the event or when it was.
- Getting agitated at my questions.
- Refusing to send the information to me for consideration by email and continuing to insist on speaking to him.
You need to be alert and one step ahead at all times. Remember, if they knew your boss that well they would be able to ring him directly on his mobile (which my boss personally gives out to them at his own discretion). I never give my boss’s mobile without knowing it is ok to do so and I take messages for him or say I will ring them back.
Saying all that do remember some calls will be relevant and are important so do not discard a call on a hunch. Be sure that you have got all the information. You are the face of the company and need to be polite and stay calm. The person on the other end of the phone may be an important caller so use your common sense and discretion.
- Have a good knowledge of the company.
- Know your boss’s contacts; who he will speak to and who you need to question more.
- Listen carefully.
- Be assertive but polite and courteous.
- Ask questions and get information that may be useful to your boss in case you need to give a brief about the call.
- Enjoy talking to the different people who call the company and treat everyone with respect.
- Remember you are often the first person someone speaks to and you represent the face of your company.
Do you find being a gatekeeper challenging? Did you find this post helpful? Got a gatekeeping experience to share or a question for Marion? Feel free to leave your questions and comments below.
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