Few areas of leadership cause as much guilt and frustration as your personal accessibility to others. Granted, service careers are people-focused and people-intensive, but does this give those you serve the right to declare “open season” on your time and availability? When does accessibility become “excess-ibility”? Before wading into these deep-water issues, let’s clarify a few things about what accessibility does and does not mean.
CONFUSED ABOUT THE MEANING OF ACCESSIBILITY?
Complete each statement below by circling either response A or B:
1. My time belongs to:
2. I know I’ve used my time effectively when:
A. I have been efficient.
B. I’ve accomplished my goal or purpose.
3. I’m most productive when:
A. I’m alone.
B. I’m on a carefully planned schedule.
4. I’d be more productive if:
A. I had more time.
B. I had fewer interruptions.
5. The more accessible I am:
A. The harder it is to be productive.
B. The less efficient I am.
Did you get them all right? Actually, none of the above answers are “right.” They reflect common misconceptions about time and hence our accessibility to others. Consider each question from a different perspective:
- Your time ultimately belongs to your clients. You must be accessible to them.
- Time is used most effectively when spent serving others. You can’t do this if you’re inaccessible.
- You’ll be more productive if you manage your accessibility.
- You’re most productive when you are accessible to the right people (but who are they?).
- The more accessible you are, the more accessible your entire service organization becomes.
MISSING THE BULLS-EYE
A simple but effective technique for formulating service priorities is to draw a target with four rings. Each ring represents a different priority level for serving others, hence different levels of being accessible to others. But this target works just the opposite of what we’re used to: the rings decrease in importance as you move to the center.
The target’s outer rings are the most accessible (less covered by other rings), analogous to the people who should have greatest accessibility to you. Each successive inner ring is relatively less accessible, analogous to the people who don’t need as much accessibility to you.
Shepherds must spend more time with some sheep than others, depending upon their unique, individual needs. All the sheep in the flock are cared for, but not in the same way. Here are four categories (target rings) of priorities (in descending order) for serving others:
- Those you are equipping to serve others. Lavish your time on them
- Those already equipped that need your help in their efforts to equip others
- Those in crisis whose needs cannot be fully met by others in your organization
- Those in crisis outside your organization
Strive to be most accessible to those who are most accessible to serving others. Service must be the determining factor of professional accessibility.
ACCESSIBILITY BY DEGREES
How often have you fallen into the trap of over-investing your precious time and energy into people-intensive activities that have little fruit-bearing potential? Too many professionals equate accessibility with highly personalized one-on-one contact, and thus inefficiently squander a lot of time and energy meeting with people on mostly routine matters.
In seeking to optimally manage your accessibility to others, never lose sight of the fact that people are the purpose of everyone in your organization. It’s much better to be over-accessible than under-accessible when it comes to people. No one can attain 100 percent efficient time management.
Phil Van Auken