I’m not quite sure why I’ve been so lucky, but in my last three roles, I have sat near the company boardroom, in the previous two offices, in fact, I’ve sat directly outside the boardroom. As I said, I don’t know why I was so lucky!
I would see the comings and goings of all of the board members and senior directors and would get to chat with colleagues waiting outside the room for the meetings to finish or just hanging around trying to overhear or find out what was going on (I was at my most tight-lipped with these folk!)
I would also be asked by my colleagues on quite a few occasions if so and so was in the meeting and if they should interrupt to speak to them. Mostly it would be another assistant trying to get their director into the next meeting on time or have to update them on a client or pass on an urgent message. Having witnessed this on a daily basis, I began to notice that most people were a bit nervous before they knocked on the solid oak door. I had other assistants asking me to interrupt the meetings on their behalf and once I had another director confess to me that they hated walking into the boardroom because they felt like they were back at school walking into the headmaster’s office.
Do you have the confidence to open the boardroom door?
Keeping our managers on time and a schedule is a fundamental part of the assistant role so we must be able to interrupt meetings, including board meetings and drag our guys out of the room when they are needed elsewhere. How do we get the confidence required to walk into a boardroom when top-level directors struggle and how do we keep our boss on time without annoying the rest of the meeting attendees?
Believe that you belong
A lot of my confidence comes from a deeply-rooted belief in ‘fake it till ya make it’! You might not be a board director yet, but you have every right to be there doing your job. Just remember they are in the room doing their work and ensuring your boss is up to date on urgent matters and on time is your job.
Knock on the door and say sorry for interrupting. You will encounter a hostile room if you barge in and demand to see your manager.
Once you are in the room either ask to speak to your manager outside or pass them a note. This is slightly awkward if they are sitting all the way over the overside of the board table but worth doing if you are just passing on a message.
What is the worst that can happen?
I once fell over a chair when walking into a boardroom to tell my boss something. This is the worse thing that can happen. Anything else is fine; no one is going to shout at you or ask you to get out. These people should be professional and not laugh when you fall over a chair…
Have a plan
Speak to your boss about these types of situations. Ask them how strict they want you to be with timekeeping, if they are okay with you interrupting board meetings or if they prefer to be in there for the entirety of the session. If this is the case, do not plan any meetings after the board meeting in case it does run over, which they often do. Finally, ask if your director would prefer you to email or text them if anything urgent comes up. Just ensure they have their phone on them during the meeting!