Ever had a manager who told you they had an “open-door
policy?” Who knows, maybe you’ve even declared that yourself. The open-door
policy implies that your team members or colleagues can come to you with
anything. That desire to be a transparent and open leader is admirable. The
problem starts when people knock on the proverbial door (and knock and knock)
and no one’s home.

When I’m doing colleague feedback interviews for an executive
coaching client, I’ll sometimes hear that person described as accessible. Other
times, a colleague will describe the leader as available. On rare occasions, I’ll
hear that the executive is both accessible and available.

You might think the two words mean more or less the same
thing. They do in the dictionary, but they don’t in the realm of leadership.
There’s a big difference between the two and the example of the leader who has
an open-door policy but is never around to answer it explains the difference.
Accessible and Available. Not the same thing.

Being accessible is mainly a function of
personality. Accessible leaders:

Put people at ease.Encourage open and honest conversation.Provide coaching and guidance.Don’t stand on title or hierarchy.Seek feedback.

Being available is mainly a function of time
management. Available leaders:

Put team members and colleagues on their list of
priorities.Leave time in their weekly calendar for
unscheduled conversations.Make clear to others how and when they can be
reached.Keep their meeting commitments except in case of
true emergencies. (This is especially true for regularly scheduled team
meetings or team one on one’s.)Make good use of technology – particularly video
conferencing – to be available virtually when they can’t be physically.

The benefits of operating from these “best of” lists for
accessibility and availability are pretty clear. Both the leader and their team
learn more, develop faster and have higher levels of engagement and

So, how are you doing? Are you accessible, available or both?
What’s one thing you could start doing in the next week to move the needle in a
positive direction for you and your team?

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