Don’t underestimate the secretary!

In general our society has a tendency of praising the manager because he or she officially is the one making all the hard decisions, and takes the responsibility. The question is: is this really the truth?

To some extent, Yes. The CEO is the one making the hard decision and he is also the one taking responsibility for the particular companies’ actions. Therefor is the manager also paid more than the rest of his employees, because it matches his level of responsibility. The question is then, is the manger really the one with the outmost power?

Officially, “Yes”. In reality, “maybe Not”. We as society tend to forget the power of the secretary answering the phone when we call to reach the boss. The bosses’ secretary, also known as the gatekeeper, might possess one of the most powerful positions in the organization. The gatekeeper does not have the power to design future strategies, neither to let go of employees. However the gatekeeper is in total control of everything going in and out of the organization and therefore possesses the power of information.

If the gatekeeper is confronted with a proposal for the boss, the gatekeeper can decide to deny the proposal to go through and thereby influence the decision making of the management. Turning the situation upside down the gatekeeper is asked to inform parties in a certain case. The gatekeeper again has the power to influence the communicated message.

Not just, does the secretary have the power of communication. He or she does also have access to explicit information as they often are very close to the boss/top management. The secretary is most likely controlling the managers’ calendar and can therefore decide whether or not the manager has time to see you.

If you are wondering about how you can persuade a certain leader, then you should might change your perspective and start thinking about how to persuade the gatekeeper. It is often easier, as the gatekeeper is hired to be open-minded and make objective decisions. If the gatekeeper is convinced, he or she will sell your proposal to the boss and because of the great level of trust the manager and gatekeeper share, the proposal will be treated as valuable.