Executive Assistant = Gatekeeper?
When I was in the Navy, my job was to serve as an Executive Assistant to admirals, captains, and other high-ranking officers, as well as, senior enlisted individuals. After several years of serving in this capacity, I eventually became an Admin Guru. I owe my success to my mentor who not only taught me how to be a resourceful Executive Assistant, but also introduced me to the term Gatekeeper. He informed me that due to my proximity to high-ranking individuals, I was delegated the power to speak on their behalf. When I spoke to those that outranked me and had been in the military for years, they would assent to my requests because they knew whom I represented. When people would come to the office to speak to the “Big Guy”, they had to speak to little old me first. This responsibility was not to be taken lightly because my decision to allow or prevent individuals from entering the gate could affect not only myself but also others.
Initially this was an abstract concept but became tangible as I fulfilled my other military responsibilities. One of the responsibilities actually included physically standing Gate Guard duty on both foreign and domestic military bases. My assignment was to be aware of my surroundings and prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the gates. I remember standing duty during the midnight shift, armed with a 16-gauge and my head on a constant swivel. Individuals that possessed a legitimate military ID and belonged to the USS Bataan were granted immediate access; those without those credentials were immediately challenged and the intentions assessed. This duty was of utmost importance because what was behind me represented millions of dollars of taxpayer money and more importantly, the lives of over 5000 Sailors and Marines. I was not just an Executive Assistant…I was a Gatekeeper!
As a CEO’s Gatekeeper, my job remains the same…to protect my employer! I protect my employer’s time and operate in his/her best interest. Executive Assistants are definitely a CEO’s “partner in crime” because we advance the mission of the organization by fulfilling essential supporting roles. Imagine where your organization would be without the Executive Assistant! Could you or your employer’s organization achieve the mission of saving the world, increasing software sales or dealing with multi-million dollar contracts without someone handling the administrative tasks, dealing with correspondence, arranging travel, managing the schedule…well, the list can go on and on!!!
“Simply put, the best executive assistants are indispensable. Microsoft will never develop software that can calm a hysterical sales manager, avert a crisis by redrafting a poorly worded email, smooth a customer’s ruffled feathers, and solve a looming HR issue — all within a single hour, and all without interrupting the manager to whom such problems might otherwise have proven a distraction. Executive assistants give companies and managers a human face. They’re troubleshooters, translators, help desk attendants, diplomats, human databases, travel consultants, amateur psychologists, and ambassadors to the inside and outside world.” — Melba J. Duncan, HBR, May 2011
So fellow Gatekeepers…get your battle gear (computer, telephone and a cup of coffee) and let’s guard those gates!