Beating Accessibility Hurdle #1

What is Accessibility Hurdle #1?

I am generally at my desk more than I am away from my desk.

What can you do?

– Find colleagues who seem to have figured it out. Talk with them about how they spend their time and brainstorm on ways that you can get out of your office or workstation more.

– Schedule time each workday or on a frequently recurring basis to get out of your office or workstation.

– Look for opportunities to do certain work elsewhere in your office area or building. All of your work does not have to be done in your office or workstation.

– Meet a colleague in her office or a common area (i.e., employee cafeteria) when she asks to meet with you.

Are You Inaccessible?

Being accessible is not just having an “open door policy” or ensuring your team knows your cellphone number. Accessibility is about creating an atmosphere where your colleagues can reach you – even interrupt you – and leave the interaction with a positive feeling. Accessibility is the degree in which colleagues can reach you and benefit from the interaction.

Are you accessible? Perhaps you possess low self-awareness of how your behaviors in your organization diminish outreach by others. You can be heard decrying “No one ever tells me anything!” and “How come I am always the last to hear about these things?” When you think about it, you may discover that you are less accessible than you think you are. Do any of the following characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about being accessible to others?

– Your office door is always closed.
– You rush frantically between conference calls or meetings with little time to talk to others.
– You get easily annoyed when a colleague reaches out to you (especially if the outreach feels like an interruption).
– Your back faces the entrance to your office or workstation.
– Your interactions with your colleagues never seem to benefit them.
– No one comes to you for help.

How Do You Handle Unexpected Interruptions?

Accessibility does not mean you are available 24/7/365. We all have limits on the degree in 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 sunlight can cause skin cancer. We know that the human body needs sugar to survive, and yet too much sugar may cause diabetes. If you are wildly successful at being accessible, you may find your calendar and productivity under attack.

Your goal is to make sure you are being accessible to serve the needs of others, not to become a servant to accessibility. Individuals successful at being accessible also demonstrate some of the following behaviors:

– For advance requests to see you, schedule times that work within your calendar.

– For unexpected knocks on your office doors, ask if the question/topic is urgent or not. If not urgent, say something like the following:

“I’m interested in speaking with you, yet I have a report that I am working on that is due in about an hour. Can we schedule a time for us to chat? Let’s quickly look at our calendars and schedule something.”

– For topics that are urgent for which you do not have time to address, ensure that your unexpected visitor knows that you have only a moment of time. Focus your comments on next steps and possibly identifying another individual who can act on your behalf.

“I’m interested in speaking with you, yet I have a report that I am working on that is due in about an hour. Can you give me a one-minute recap of the situation so I can at least help you identify your next step?”

– For times when you need to focus on work without interruption, find an available conference room, a vacant office, or the empty employee cafeteria. Seek other ways to get your work done before you stay in your office and close your door.

What Are the Benefits of Being Accessible?

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 that 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 him my question or follow-up with him in person. This also allows my colleague to access me in ways that help them.”

When you work to be accessible to your colleagues, you are the one who truly benefits because you:

identify issues and problems earlier, leading to quicker resolution, enhancing productivity, and reducing frustration.

increase your influence in your organization as you become a “go-to” person who is known for helping others solve problems.

create opportunities for yourself to participate in activities that are meaningful to your career and your organization.

bolster your reputation in your organization and industry by modeling behavior that your colleagues can emulate.

What Are Introducers Doing that Can Help You?

Introducers introduce themselves with energy, clarity, and confidence. Why reinvent the wheel? Let’s take a cue from our Introducer colleagues and practice some of the behaviors they weave into their introductions that make Introducers so effective when connecting themselves to others. Recall that, at their best, Introducers are the following:

Consistent.They have developed a repeatable series of steps in which they introduce themselves. Like the instructions on the bottle of shampoo in your shower (rinse, wash, rinse, repeat), keep it simple.

Attentive.They focus on what they are doing as they introduce themselves, and they pay attention when their colleague is introducing herself. Introducers shake hands firmly and maintain strong eye contact.

Skilled. They approach new colleagues with confidence, ask questions that create an opportunity for engaging small talk, and ensure that they exit their introduction in a strong manner.

Invested. Introducers recognize the importance of introducing themselves in such a way as to raise their visibility and value in their organization and industry.

How Can You Remember Names?

Have you ever noticed that there are some colleagues who seem to remember names better than others? Do you covet their secret? Have they bought a DVD on the Home Shopping Network to build their memory skills? Do they picture a boat when they meet Bob and a house when they meet Harry?

For a variety of reasons, some of you are more able to remember names than others. I don’t know the secret, if there really is a secret, or if there is one secret that fits all of us. Colleagues who seem to remember names tend to be attentive and invested in the conversation. They have made a conscious choice that remembering a name is important.

These name-rememberers repeat the name of the new person they just met back to the person at the point of introduction. They use the person’s name as they engage them in small talk. When introducing their new colleague to others, they repeat their new colleague’s name. When you are more attentive and invested, you will remember names better and more naturally.

For these folks, remembering names is not a gimmick or a game, it is a goal on which they are intently focused.

How Can You Introduce Yourself? (Part 3)

There are a number of ways to introduce yourself effectively. Consider the following third step of a model (comprised of the strong start, the strong introduction, and the strong finish) when working on introducing yourself to others.

Regardless of how strong you started, your best efforts will be eroded without a strong finish. How you exit an introduction might be the last thing a new colleague remembers about you, so make sure you have a strong finish.

A strong finish is also important as a strong finish is often the first step to your next interaction with your colleague. When you connect with new colleagues, do not consider your interaction as a one-time event, but the start of a possible relationship. Strong finishes make your next strong start easier.

‘The last segment of the introduction process is to exit your introduction effectively. If you find yourself connecting with a colleague in ways that feels energizing and rewarding, stay with it for as long as it feels right. Conversely, staying in an introductory conversation for too long may deny you the opportunity to meet additional colleagues.

At some point, you will sense that it is time to move to another introduction. Extending an introduction long after it should have been over is not beneficial to you or your colleague. Most probably, you will extend an introduction long after it should have been over because you do not know how to end it effectively and politely. Here are some suggestions on how to exit an introduction in ways that builds a bridge to your next interaction.

– “I see some other colleagues that I would like to say hello to. If you don’t mind, I am going to head over to see them. It has been great meeting you and I look forward to connecting again soon.”

– “It has been great meeting you! If you can give me your contact information, I would love to continue this conversation over coffee.”

– “I’d love to continue our conversation, but I see a colleague that I need to mention something to. If you would excuse me, I am going to grab him before I miss him.”

How Can You Introduce Yourself? (Part 2)

There are a number of ways to introduce yourself effectively. Consider the following second step of a model (comprised of the strong start, the strong introduction, and the strong finish) when working on introducing yourself to others.

Your strong introduction is comprised of two activities:

– introducing yourself and
– engaging in varying degrees of small talk.

A lot of networking literature refers to a concept called the “30-second commercial.” This commercial is your “30 seconds of fame,” an opportunity to tell new colleagues who you are and what you do.

A reminder that the focus on Raise Your Visibility and Value is on employed business professionals. Subsequently you don’t need to focus a lot of your attention and effort on creating, memorizing, and speaking like a commercial. When you think of commercials, you likely think of someone trying to sell you something. If fact, most of us record television programs on our Tivo recorders so we can skip the commercials! Skip the commercial and introduce yourself with simplicity and authenticity. Your colleagues will appreciate it.

Most introductions also require some degree of small talk in order to avoid awkward silences. Small talk does not need to be profound or moving. If it were, we would not call it “small” talk. Small talk is designed to create a bridge between your introduction and your strong finish.

Introduce yourself.

You don’t need a different way of introducing yourself for every situation, so create a simple way of introducing yourself that works most of the time. By creating a simple way of introducing yourself, you are also able to practice, build your skill set, and grow your confidence. Here are some suggestions on introductions that might work for you:

– “Hi, Kathy. Great meeting you. My name is Ed Evarts and I am a leadership coach and author.”
– “Good morning. I just wanted to take an opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Ed Evarts and I am an author and leadership coach.”
– “Hi. I don’t think we’ve met. My name is Ed Evarts and I am an author and leadership coach.”

Engage in small talk.

For many of you, engaging in small talk is the most painful step in this model. Similar to Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s observation during the 1988 Vice Presidential debate that his opponent Dan Quayle was “no Jack Kennedy,” I can assure you that I am no Emily Post. What I can tell you is that the smoothest way to create small talk is to ask questions. If you fertilize a new interaction with questions, a conversation will be born. Here are some questions you might ask a colleague you are meeting for the first time:

At your organization.

– “What do you do for (insert your company name here)?”
– “How long have you been with (insert your company name here)?”
– “What’s keeping you busy these days?”
– “I don’t think we’ve met before. How long have you been here and what do you do here?”

At an industry networking event.

– “What brings you here this evening?”
– “Have you been to this event (or this location) before?”
– “Do you know many people here? Would you be kind enough to introduce me to some of your colleagues?”

How Can You Introduce Yourself?

There are a number of ways to introduce yourself effectively. Consider the following first three-steps of a six-step model (comprised of the strong start, the strong introduction, and the strong finish) when working on introducing yourself to others.

The Strong Start

Approaching others or being receptive to the approach of others, along with great eye contact and a confident handshake, are key components to a strong start. These behaviors illustrate that you are comfortable and skilled at introducing yourself. In real time, your strong start will last from five to seven seconds. Don’t underestimate, however, the difference that a few seconds can make when introducing yourself effectively.

-Œ Approach Others. Opportunities to introduce yourself will generally arrive in one of two ways – either a colleague will approach you or you will approach a colleague. Regardless of “who goes first,” you either need to approach new colleagues in order to introduce yourself, or be receptive to new colleagues when they approach you.

- Make eye contact. Strong eye contact is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you are an attentive and invested participant. While your eye contact will vary during the conversation, focus on eye contact more when you are listening than when you are speaking. You may be the type of person who speaks visually, and in order to do so, look away at what I call the “invisible whiteboard.” This invisible whiteboard is where you do your best thinking and where you collect your thoughts in order to speak effectively. However, if you look away when your new colleague is speaking, you may appear disinterested. Maintain strong eye contact when your colleague is speaking.

-Ž Shake hands. While it might not be required or accepted in all cultures, shake hands with a new colleague when appropriate. If it does not seem to fit the moment (e.g., your colleague may not be feeling well and is not shaking hands at the moment) or there is not an opportunity to shake a new colleague’s hand (e.g., your colleague’s hands are full with a glass of wine and a plate of cocktail weinies), that is fine. Move on and introduce yourself. If shaking a hand of a new colleague does seem to fit the moment, give a firm but brief handshake.

Do You or Don’t You Introduce Yourself to Others?

Are you skeptical of the importance of a strong introduction? Sit back and watch the behavior of colleagues who do not know one another and do not introduce themselves at your next meeting. Discomfort reigns as it feels that something is missing. Their interactions are stilted. Progress flounders. If you are a busy business professional in an ever-evolving organization, you fall into one of the following categories when you introduce yourself to colleagues you do not know.

Avoider

You avoid introducing yourself at all costs. Perhaps you are highly uncomfortable or severely underskilled. Much like getting a flu shot, you want your introduction to be quick and painless. In fact, you would not introduce yourself to others at all if you could avoid doing so.

Do any of the following Avoider characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about introducing yourself to others?

– You sit down at a company meeting and immediately take out your smartphone to scroll email.
– You sit down next to a table full of colleagues at a training class and immediately look at the training material.
– You sit down at a table at a networking event and quietly “disappear” into another world, staring at anything or anyone as long as it is not anyone at your table.
– You join a senior leadership meeting and you sit next to a known colleague who saved you a seat.
– You sit with a new group at a teambuilding session and never introduce yourself.

Fumbler

You introduce yourself, yet you do so poorly. Perhaps you are inconsistent, inattentive, or underskilled. Perhaps you do not value the benefit of a solid introduction. Whatever the reason, your inability to introduce yourself effectively leaves others feeling unimpressed and underwhelmed.

Do any of the following Fumbler characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about how you introduce yourself to others?

– You take an opportunity to introduce yourself, yet you look away as you do so, reeking of disinterest.-
– You only introduce yourself when a colleague starts the introduction for you.
– You are approached by a new colleague who introduces himself to you and you respond by saying “Hi,” without saying your name.
– You introduce yourself to others, yet you are asked to repeat your name because you mumbled when you spoke.
– You are not focused on the colleague you are meeting, which causes you to repeatedly ask, “I’m sorry, what was your name again?”

Introducer

You are consistent, attentive, skilled, and invested. You introduce yourself with energy, clarity, and confidence. You are focused on your colleague and interested in meeting him. You know that introducing yourself is an exciting opportunity to make a great first impression and a thrilling opportunity to connect with a new colleague.

Do any of the following Introducer characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about introducing yourself to others?

– You demonstrate excitement in meeting another individual. You are interested in hearing your colleague’s name and any other additional information about him. Your colleagues feel energized simply by meeting you.
– You know the importance of a good introduction and you want to create a great first impression. You express this confidence with a solid handshake and a strong voice.
– You know what you want to say and you say it clearly and concisely.
– While you are introducing yourself, you are also focused on the other person. You demonstrate good eye contact and you ask questions that demonstrate you are listening.