Getting Through the Front Door

We are interviewing Patricia Pollmann from Office Max today. Patricia has been an Administrative Professional for more than 40 years. Why? Because she loves it. Her ability to connect with people and establish trust is one-of-a-kind. Over a nice piece of apple pie and many other tasty treats we discussed everything from learning how to type on a manual Royal Typewriter to the power an Administrative Professional has in an organization. Why? Because her job is “The Gatekeeper” both inside and outside the organization. She is the go-to person. If anyone needs something or wants to know something, they know where to go – Pat. But don’t let this fool you. Her job is also to protect. Did you know that the word “secretary” (the outdated term for Administrative Professional) came from “the keeper of secrets”? It is her job to ensure her boss is protected and she will only provide that information necessary for you to get your job done.

Pat shared some great insights with her stories:

The Gatekeeper from the Outside

A fellow called the office one day and pretended to be my boss’s best friend. He said “Is Jim in? I’m a good friend of his”. Pat said, “Can I tell him what it’s in regard to?” He said, “No that’s o.k. just put me right through, he’ll know who I am.” We went back and forth until I finally put him on hold and went in and asked my boss if he knew this guy. My boss picked up the phone and said, “If you can’t tell Pat what you want then you sure can’t tell me and hung up.” 

Most of the time the front person controls the boss’s appointment book. He or she has just as much power and, in fact, more over the boss’s appointment book than the boss. If you want to see the boss, you need to treat the front office person like the boss or you will never get in the door.

The Gatekeeper from the Inside

Pat shared another story about inside the office. All communication to her boss from others came through Pat. Her boss let everyone know that if you don’t get the reports in to Pat on time, then you will be speaking to me (and I’m sure you would rather talk with her – she’s nicer than I am) – which was not a good thing. Having a gatekeeper helped enforce the rules and the necessity for timeliness and focused decisions. Everyone in that company knew that their story would not be heard unless Pat screened it. This gave her boss the strategic time he needed to build the company.

Pat and I discussed how joining an Association had increased so many of her skills. Pat has been a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals for almost 25 years. This organization has more than 21,000 members across the world. Pat has served as President of her local chapter for 3 terms and many other positions along the way. Pat mentioned how running an association was like running a business. There are budgets and Parliamentary procedure to learn. In fact, she is one of the few people who have read most of the Robert’s Rules of Order! Through her dealings with the Association she learned fiduciary responsibility and how to effectively manage groups.

Pat states, “One of the most important things I have learned, and stand by still today, is to listen and implement new ideas from all members. Even if the idea doesn’t work – so be it. Do not criticize; instead learn from what didn’t work and help build up the person and move forward in recreating the idea. Recognize the person for their hard work and help them create the next great idea.”

Just like in running your own business. Always be optimistic and build others up; don’t tear down. You will get much more done in the long run with the same players instead of having to find new ones.