Is Your Gatekeeper Holding the Keys To Your Office or Your Kingdom?

"This is great, but we should have started six months ago.”

That statement was said to me by the CEO of a not insignificant Melbourne manufacturing company last week. Mindset has just commenced a large organisational transformation project with them that will see significant cultural and personnel change over the next 12 months. The company has been losing market share and profit dramatically so the CEO is perched precariously on a burning platform.

Let’s analyse his statement.

Mindset cold called him a month ago and started the discussion that led to the project’s commencement, BUT… We had been trying repeatedly to get that meeting for over eight months prior. We were being blocked by his overzealous PA. She screened his emails, his phone calls and mail. We finally made direct contact via social media and got the meeting. The glare the PA gave us as we arrived for our first meeting was priceless.

So, the upshot is we could have commenced the project six months ago if it hadn’t been for the PA. The delay has made the project much more challenging and much more expensive. There’s also now less profit in the company’s accounts to pay for it.

The CEO is now wondering how many other strategic opportunities he has missed out on because his PA thinks she knows what the company, and he, needs better than him.

The moral of this is that many CEOs have similarly overzealous gatekeepers. They go by many names and titles. Operationally they can save a leader significant time, but strategically they can also shield them from opportunities, valuable market information and innovative new suppliers. Often this cost will massively outweigh any perceived administrative benefit.

If you are a CEO with a PA what are you missing out on?

Views: 179

Comment by Aaron Dodd on April 20, 2011 at 5:56pm
Thanks Morgan. It was just good old fashioned persistence!
Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 21, 2011 at 1:15pm

Having given this a little thought as to which CEO's and c levels are the most difficult to reach because of their "my life is keep everyone from talking to my boss" gatekeeper.  My observation is that the most effective ladies and gentlemen that i work with at that level are very accessible.  They answer their own phone unless they are in a meeting, they return calls even if they have no idea who is calling them.


I asked a couple of them how they like for information to be screened by their admins.  One indicated that he asked her to take information from anyone who called or sent an email, put it in a folder for him to review each day.  He had fired one because she took it upon herself to decide who should get through to him.


I think perhaps the way to let a c level know that his admin has become his filter of all things she doesn't like or second guesses him is to send a letter marked personal and confidential with a well written letter or proposal.  Some of the gatekeepers will also open those but if a voice mail is left indicating that a personal confidential letter has been sent normally the boss wil inquire as to what it was and the gatekeeper gets to explain.


I think we are going to see a change in some of this both in the personal admn and with the internal recruiter lower level gatekeeper types.  People are going around them in droves as are recruiters, candidates and vendors.  When that happens things start to roll back downhill. 


Selling the gatekeeper has always been the first order of the day but if they are just the dragon lady it's time to slay the dragon.


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