Are You Available or Accessible? 

Are you accessible or available?

Accessible versus Available

Although many people use these two terms interchangeably, I see a clear distinction between being accessible and being available.  And distinguishing between the two is important for business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Available

Being available is when anyone can interact with you at any time and any place.  Your door is open.  All an employee, customer, or vendor has to do is knock, and you will drop everything and focus on their problem or concern.

An example from the software world for available means data can be accessed anytime from any location.  The data is always there for anyone to get and use.  Just like when you are available, you can be accessed anytime from anyplace.

As mentioned in my blog on Open Door policies, employees need to have the ability to talk with their supervisors and see them as a resource that they can rely on when needed.

Accessible

Being accessible is when anyone can meet and talk with you, but the timing and topics discussed may be conditional.  It may require an appointment, or that the employee must try other resources first.  You are not available to talk about anything at any time.

Again, I liken this to the software world where some data may not always be available.  The person needing this information may be required to submit for the privilege to access it and use it only under special circumstances.

Supervisors and managers need to find time to complete the requirements of their job, and one way to manage their time is to be only accessible and limit the time when they are available.

Combining Available and Accessible

Effective leaders who understand the distinction between availability and accessibility structure their time and priorities around the difference between the two.

At certain times, leaders understand they need to be available.  Their team needs to see them and know that they can stop and discuss any issues that are weighing on them.  During these periods, leaders are often found on the manufacturing floor, wandering the office halls, or calling the employees they supervise to check-in.

At other times, however, these same leaders are unavailable except for the direst needs.  They will not be available for face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and emails.  During these periods, these leaders trust their employees to make the right decisions.  Everyone understands these boundaries are set so the business leaders can focus solely on business issues that will drive the future of the company.

The balance of availability and accessibility is critical, and any imbalance is to the detriment of the leader, the employees, and ultimately the company.

The Bible

            Matthew 4:18-22 says.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus was searching for His disciples, and he found Peter, Andrew James, and John to be available and accessible.  They were available so that Jesus could speak with them and open to listening to Him and His calling.  They responded and followed Him.

In contrast, Luke 5:16 says.

 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Jesus, like all successful business leaders, understands that there are periods when He needed to be inaccessible.

For us, we need time to think, plan our business’s future, and pray.

Knowing the distinction between available and accessible often is the difference between being successful and not. 

Be available when needed and accessible when necessary.