Below are some typical hurdles to accessibility and suggestions for improving them in your organization and industry.
Accessibility does not mean you are available 24/7/52. We all have limits on the degree to which we can be reached by co-workers, and you should feel comfortable enforcing and expecting others to honor these limits.
Can you be so successful modeling accessible behavior that too many colleagues want a moment of your time and you find that you have no time for yourself? Is this an example of “too much of a good thing”? We all know that sunlight is a good thing, yet too much can cause skin cancer. We know that the human body needs sugar to survive, and yet too much may cause diabetes. If you are wildly successful at being accessible, you may find your calendar and productivity under attack.
It is not enough that you are highly accessible to your colleagues; your colleagues must also benefit from the interaction. After all, what is the point of being highly accessible if the interaction does not benefit your colleagues?
Visibility is also comprised of “reputation” which is the intangible ways that individuals connect with you. Do you create a welcoming atmosphere that reflects your desire to be accessible? When your colleagues come to see you, is your behavior creating or hindering access? Here are some ways to create a welcoming atmosphere that inspires access:
Visibility is comprised of “presence” which is the tangible ways that individuals connect with you. Here are a few ways to make sure it’s as easy as possible for people to find you:
Being accessible benefits everyone. Ram Reddy is the Chief Information Officer at The Rockport Group, offering high-quality dress and casual footwear to customers globally. Despite the daily challenges he faces in his busy workplace, Ram is committed to being accessible to those who reach out to him. “Being accessible is a key part of collaboration. Although many of us have offices that physically separate us from one another, it is important to act as though there are no walls. If a colleague needs me, I want her to be able to get to me. Likewise, I like getting out of my office and, rather than email a colleague a question, ask her my question or follow-up with her in person. This also allows my colleague to access me in ways that help her.”
To stay ahead of an unending volume of work, sometimes people hide in their offices. They may spend the day dodging colleagues, letting the phone go unanswered, and surfing their inbox to select which emails are the most urgent. Their colleagues likely feel frustrated that they cannot get their attention; and on those rare occasions when they do, they feel rushed. If those people are inaccessible to colleagues who need their help and attention, they may slowly lose contact with individuals who are important to their careers.
Raise Your Visibility & Value highlights seven visibility accelerators. Our second visibility accelerator is “Be Accessible.” Learn the importance of your colleagues being able to reach you and benefit from the interaction.
It is not enough that you are highly accessible to your colleagues; your colleagues must also benefit from the interaction. After all, what is the point of being highly accessible if the interaction does not benefit your colleagues? Why would your colleagues reach out to you in the first place if not to obtain a benefit from the interaction? Take a look at the types of accessibility illustrated in the following list to help you visualize the relationship between access (your colleagues ability to get to you) and benefit (the benefit you create for your colleagues).
– Low Access + Low Benefit. Due to your behavior, you are at risk of being inaccessible to colleagues in your in your organization and industry. In many ways, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy – you are not accessible to colleagues and, at that rare moment that they gain access to you, your colleagues do not benefit from the interaction.
– Low Access + High Benefit. While your colleagues benefit from their interactions with you, their ability to gain access to you is inconsistent. You are at risk of creating frustration on the part of your colleagues, which may lead to them go elsewhere. It is common for colleagues to say to one another “She’s a great resource if you can get to her.”
– High Access + Low Benefit. You have created a strong environment of access for your colleagues. However, your colleagues are not benefiting from their interactions with you, eroding their interest to come see you. You are at risk of being viewed as irrelevant.
– High Access + High Benefit. You are demonstrating the right behavior for your colleagues to access you and feel that the interaction is benefiting them. Your high level of being accessible is positively contributing to your visibility in your organization and industry.
Accessibility is a Raise Your Visibility Indicator and I define accessibility as the degree in which colleagues can reach you and benefit from the interaction.
What is accessibility hurdle #3?
If I have an office, my door is likely closed.
What can you do?
– Leave your office door open all the time and assess the impact. Start small – do this for a day, and then two days, and then a week.
– Consider doing some of your work away from your office so that the door is open more. Schedule time to use a conference room to get some of your work done. This way, at least your door is not closed.
– Schedule times when you need to close your door so that you colleagues know when they can see you. For example, conduct your “closed door” work between 10:00am and noon or 3:00pm and 5:00pm.