How to be an Effective Gatekeeper

An executive assistant takes on many roles: scheduler, organizer, and perhaps most importantly, the gatekeeper within an organization. Gatekeeper is defined as a person who controls access to something. Within an organization an executive assistant is the gatekeeper to an executive’s time and effectively prioritizing their days and weeks.

What does a gatekeeper do?

The role of gatekeeper is simple: your focus is to manage the chaos for an executive so they are able to stay focused on their core responsibilities in leading an organization. An executive assistant should be the point of contact for internal and external partners when scheduling so they can prioritize and manage requests.

Here are the 5 best practices in building a strong gatekeeper presence within an organization:

Clearly define the gatekeeping role. An executive should communicate their expectations for the support they need from their executive assistant with on-going work and where they expect them to step in daily. The executive assistant should also understand the executive’s priorities and be able to make decisions on their behalf, when necessary. This helps weed out the small details that eat up important time in a day that could be used elsewhere.

Establish communication protocols. This should work both ways – between the executive and executive assistant. This might include regular check-ins, clear expectations around email and phone communication, as well as implementing guidelines that lay out how to handle unexpected requests or emergencies.

Develop a screening process. This includes all incoming requests, whether it’s emails, phone calls or meetings. The gatekeeper should feel empowered to make decisions about what to filter; sifting through which requests are important enough to bring to the executive’s attention. Setting clear parameters will help both roles meet this goal.

Provide training and support. This step is key; an executive can’t expect their assistant to read minds… but an executive can guide you into learning how their brain works. Proper training and support will lay the groundwork for being effective in the role as gatekeeper. For example, receiving coaching on decision making, training on communication protocols and etiquette, as well as providing support for dealing with difficult or sensitive situations will allow the gatekeeper to feel equipped in making the best decision.

Foster a collaborative relationship. This is where mutual respect and trust comes in. A collaborative relationship between roles will help foster this. You can achieve this by being open to feedback, listening to each other’s concerns, and working together to refine and improve the gatekeeping process over time.

At the end of the day, building a strong gatekeeper relationship will promote efficiency and ensure that all time is being used effectively. This will in turn, promote improved advancement to the organization’s goals. A win-win solution for a gatekeeper in business.