Blog for the gatekeepers of information

Jane Brennan
Personal Assistant to Stephen Curtis
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

Holly Bremner
Head of Dissemination
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

It’s not often you will read a blog that is specifically targeted towards personal assistants (PAs) , unless from their industry bodies. Here at the Centre we have been talking about who holds the power to effective information sharing, and we have realised that PAs hold the key.

Have you ever heard the ancient Roman myth of Janus – the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time and endings. But above all, the god of war and peace? For us, that is exactly the role PAs play when you look at an information sharing journey.

Our PA Jane Brennan, for example, is the gatekeeper for our Director Stephen. She is the loveliest and friendliest person you could meet and spends most of her time, either working to build relationships with other PAs to get Stephen through the door to engage with other organisations, where we feel his presence is best placed, or assessing whether Stephen needs to be involved in conversations he is approached for.

Now Jane always makes a point of asking “why”. When we ask her to set up a meeting, she ensures she knows not only the basics of who, when and where, but why – why are we engaging with that organisation and person? At first, we thought Jane was a bit nosey, but then we realised that she not only wanted to be involved, but actually needed to be – she needed to know who we were building links with so that she could play her part in building the relationships with our counterparts’ PAs and secretaries. In fact, there have been a number of occasions where Jane has actually managed to get us a seat at the table for a conversation, that team members have failed to achieve.

So, you might wonder what this has to do with information sharing. Well, we will explain..When building an effective partnership, the starting point for that conversation often occurs with a cold call to someone’s PA. Now, if your PA just manages your diary and books your travel, without any understanding about the role you are playing, then there is the potential that this cold call may be answered incorrectly, thus creating a barrier to that partnership ever getting off the ground – possibly stopping the right person from attending, or even preventing anyone from attending at all.  

By taking the time to engage and inform your PAs about the work you are doing, the challenges the organisation faces and the partnerships you are engaged with could facilitate the transition of your information sharing partnership. So, our request to you is, empower your Roman gods when planning your system change and bring your PAs into the fold – they could open the gates for you, enabling you to make full use of valuable time and prevent war from prevailing. All hail Janus, or in our case Jane!

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