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The wrath of personal assistants

Nothing sucks your energy and kills your morale for the day like receiving a bad phone call in the morning. For this reason, CEOs tend to hire personal assistants (PAs) to work as gatekeepers – receive all incoming visitors, phone calls, emails, etc to first understand their agendas, objectives, or reasons for meeting, before deciding whether to let them through.

The best PAs are good at saying NO. That is their KPI.

I am sure when the PA of one CEO, meets the PA of another CEO in one of their forums, they are like, “even when the dude is in the office playing solitaire, I just tell the visitors, are you on an appointment, if they say no, I ask, do you have their phone number. If the matter or are important, they should have the boss’s number. If they say no, I just give them a form to fill. Just to show them that I care. Once they get out, I bin their handwritten note.”

That is the easy and no-risk decision for their careers.

The boss may never get to know that someone said no to a great prospect. Unless the prospective client or partner uses another strategy or gets introduced to the top honcho through a friend or at a golf game or another private social meeting. Even if he reports that “last week I had passed by your office to meet you, but your PA told me you were in a meeting,” nothing can happen.

No is the default answer for all gatekeepers because they can do away with it. It is like government officials and the losses they make. For example in today’s Daily Monitor, 24th June 2020, I read a story that left me with a sour tongue, “Bank of Uganda loses Ugx. 400 billion appeal against Sudhir.”

A series of bad decisions were made by BOU, and now the court is telling this to the whole world. But who will incur the cost of this cost? At the end of the day, it will be the taxpayer. So, do we expect someone to be reprimanded or to lose their job for having made decisions that will make the treasury Ugx 400 billion poor? Let us wait and see. Maybe someone may resign their job because of this decision.

That is how PAs behave also. Like most senior Public Servants, PAs rarely get made to pay for the bad decisions they make, even when they flout laws and regulations. They never mind improving or doing the right thing next time.

The CEO, always besieged by so many demands and ideas, will always think highly of their PAs with instincts of protecting them. Because, to them, the PA is always right!

It is like telling the President to reprimand the BOU Governor. He won’t. The President knows the Governor is always right, doing work and taking decisions in the best interests of the country. And when some decisions like the Sudhir cases go through the cracks, the governor is like any other human, who has errored.

So, if you want to get anything from the CEO, make their PA your project. Find someone who knows there. Ask that person to connect you to them. Become their friend. Let them, the PA, tell you the strategy to get to the CEO. That way you will have over 99% chances of meeting the CEO  even if you don’t deserve the appointment.

That is called street smarts. No one goes to the room, without going through the door. The PA is the door. The CEO is the room. Knock on that door first in a nice way.

What is your experience with personal assistants or receptionists? Do you think they have stood between your dreams at one time?

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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