Monday, January 29, 2018

Is your Office Manager a Rock Star "Gate Keeper"?

What is a "Gate Keeper"

Administrative assistants and office managers must know the skill of gatekeeping. Some people think gatekeeping is just about “screening” people out of your employer’s life. In truth, it’s quite the opposite. With gatekeeping skills, you’re often more efficiently helping those people while helping your manager or other team members you support.

So are you a good “gatekeeper” for those you support? If you’re an administrative assistant or office manager, not only do you need to be really good at gatekeeping, you need to be a ROCK STAR.
That word itself — gatekeeping — is sort of informal slang. The dictionary defines “gatekeeper” as a person who tends or guards a gate. So I guess this phrase in relation to administrative professionals started as a play, or twist, on that definition. But that’s as close as it gets. You won’t find the following gatekeeping definition for administrative professionals in the dictionary, so here is what is meant by this term for you as an administrative assistant or office manager:

  • Gatekeeping is about filtering, not just blocking, callers and visitors (and any incoming communication avenue to those you support including e-mail and postal mail).
  • Gatekeeping is about maximizing and protecting the time of those you support.
  • Gatekeeping is about helping or directing the incoming communicators appropriately.
  • Gatekeepers need to be good at not only reading the minds of others, but also asking the right questions.
    • What are the “motives” of those seeking to interact with your team? Sometimes you have to infer a bit when information is hard to get from the person. At the same time, combine that inference with any answers you get to questions you then ask the caller or visitor. If everything isn’t crystal clear, use your powers of deductive reasoning to combine your inferences (gut instincts) with the facts you’ve obtained to make a decision about how to “filter” the caller, visitor, etc.
    • Listen or watch for cues regarding how callers or visitors behave.
      • Are they respecting you and your time? If yes, good. If no, think twice about even thinking about interrupting your team and pulling them from what they are currently involved in.
      • Like you, your team should be dealing with people who respect his or her time.
  • Gatekeepers should learn to push back by asking questions of those seeking to interact with anyone on your team that you have not already vetted.
    1. Ask, “How can I help you”, “What can I do for you”. You will find that eventually you will be able to help that person with minimal disruption of the team simply by asking the right questions.
  • It is up to the gatekeeper to asses even when it is appropriate to interrupt their CEO, manager, or other team members.
    1. It is normal for team members who are on tight deadlines, or are just not able to be interrupted to close their door. This is a sign that they expect to NOT be interrupted. If your team hasn’t made you aware that they are expecting to see or hear from a specific person then you should handle the call or drop in by taking a message and passing it along by email so that the team member can get the message in a timely manner that works best for their schedule.
    2. The same response is expected when team members are in a meeting: if you have not been instructed beforehand that someone is expected and that the team member wants to be interrupted, then the message needs to be delivered by email.
    3. Make sure that the email is specific: name of caller/visitor, phone number they can be reached at, a BRIEF description for the call or visit, and lastly leave a “call to action” for the team member, I.e. Jeff, please call Tom today, he is awaiting an answer on the contract that you are reviewing…
  • Being a gatekeeper means not only are you aiding in keeping the unnecessary noise away from your team, it also mean that you are not allowing yourself to become the noise in its place.
    1. Always ask yourself these question before you interrupt others and performing a “drive by”
      1.  Is the action that I am getting ready to take a “high pay off activity”?
      2. Can I possibly convey the same information without interrupting my team?
      3. Can this wait?
      4. Can I bring this to the huddle?
      5. Is it necessary or relevant, or do I simply just need excuse to get up and walk around?

Being the face of the company means it is necessary for that person to represent the company in a positive and professional manner at all times. Keeping a smile and a calm, pleasant demeanor at all times. Always using professional words, tone and a pleasant voice, no matter who they are speaking to, whether it’s a customer, vendor or someone who has tried your patience in every way possible. Always remember that the customer is our first priority and treating them as such, while also protecting your work family and the precious commodity we call “time”.

At the end of the day, the ROCK STAR gatekeeper will be the one who saves the day for the team.
They will help them accomplish their goals without the unnecessary noise and interruptions. They always exude confidence and professionalism. They are the “face” of the company

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