Have You Been Labeled Unresponsive?

Responsiveness is the degree in which you get back to colleagues and foster progress.Your colleagues also do not have a lot of time. Their world is as frenetic as yours. When your colleagues do reach you, they need your help in order to keep moving forward.

Have you been labeled as unresponsive? Do your colleagues use the phrases “black hole,” “bottomless pit” or “it’s like pulling teeth” when describing you? Your colleagues are reaching out to you for a reason. Most of the time, your colleagues are contacting you to obtain something from you (i.e., information, an opinion) in order to make progress on whatever is important to them. Some colleagues may be reaching out just to say “hello,” yet even those colleagues are looking for something – opportunities to build a professional relationship with you. If you have been labeled as a black hole, you are injuring your visibility in two ways –

– Your unresponsiveness impacts negatively on the progress of others.
– Your unresponsiveness impacts the desire for others to reach out to you in the future.

These behaviors are visibility decelerators – your unresponsiveness creates frustration and damages relationships. You become an obstructionist of individual and organizational progress.

How Responsive Are You?

In the Raise Your Visibility model, the third visibility accelerator is responsiveness. Responsiveness is defined as is the degree in which you get back to colleagues and foster progress. It is the other side of the revolving door for the second visibility accelerator – accessibility.

Do any of the following characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about being responsive to others?

– You never return phone calls or respond to your email.

– You have to be caught “live” in your office or on the phone in order for your colleague to connect with you.

– You don’t recognize (and in some cases, don’t care) that you are unresponsive.

– When you do get back to your colleagues, you mask your behavior with self-effacing humor or by overusing happy face emoticons? For example “I totally forgot to get back to you on this! Another topic for me and my therapist …! Anyway, still working on it…”

Being responsive is not about always getting back to everyone instantly. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “You can get back to some of your colleagues all of the time, and all of your colleagues some of the time, but you cannot get back to all of your colleagues all of the time.”

Accessibility + Benefit = Value

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.

Beating Accessibility Hurdle #3

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.

Beating Accessibility Hurdle #2

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 #2?

I don’t feel I help my colleagues as much as I would like when I meet with them.

What can you do?

– Confirm the goals of an upcoming meeting with a colleague and the outcomes your colleague needs in order to make progress.

– Pause and confirm with your colleague that the conversation is helping her make progress. If the conversation is not helping her make progress, ask her to restate their goals and outcomes so you can get the conversation back on track.

– Ask your colleague if the conversation was helpful as the conversation comes to a close. If your colleague does not respond in a positive way, ask how else you can help him make progress.

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.