In a rather reflective one-to-one the other day, one of our clients said, “Your availability in a world where nobody is ever available, (mentally, emotionally and physically), is greatly appreciated.” This comment has unleashed a whole inquiry in which I have been examining the implications for my life and work. What does it mean "to be available" to others? Particularly if you are a leader? At the Individual Level If you look at your individual availablity in the first person, meaning from the "I" level. What does it mean? When I consider it, the questions that come up for me are: "Am I present to the day – to the sights, sounds, and sensations of the physical world? Do I notice the birds singing, the waves rolling up on the beach, the sun and moon rising or setting, or the sea lions barking in the middle of the night? If I do, how do I interact? Do I miss it all because I’m lost in my own thoughts, opinions, judgments, etc.? How would it change my life and well being if I got very, very conscious and dramatically increased my experiences of these things?"
Pushing it a bit further, consider this from a leadership perspective: "Am I available to hear what those around me are saying that could accelerate the quality of my experience, my life, and even my strategic direction? Am I willing to be impacted by the things that people who care about and appreciate are saying to me/about me? Would I be a bigger person? How much richer might life be and how big would I play?"
At the Relationship Level If you consider your availability in your relationship to others, at the level of "we," what does that mean? When you are interacting with others, can you be fully available to them? What would that mean? How can you do that, given all of your commitments? Does this seem overwhelming? What if being available has nothing to do with time or space and only to do with how present and open you are? How quiet your mind gets so you can hear what others are saying, whether it’s in person, on the phone or even in an email or text? Rather than rattling around with your own thoughts and feelings, what if you just really listened, and asked questions and didn’t judge?
With clients and colleagues, can you listen newly to them or are you just listening to the noise in your head about what you are going to say next? Are you focusing on what you think about what they are saying, or whether they are on the right or wrong path? What if you weren’t coming from knowing, rather just being there for them, being a generous listener, and asking questions that perhaps help them gather their own thoughts more clearly?
"Available" - What Does It Really Mean?
According to the Answers.com dictionary it means:
1. Present and ready for use; at hand; accessible
2. Capable of being gotten; obtainable
3. Qualified and willing to serve or assist
4. Chemistry. Capable of being used in a chemical reaction
5. Botany. Present, as in soil, and capable of being used by plants as a nutrient
The more I consider these definitions the more I like them all when applied back to this inquiry.
I invite you to consider a commitment to being present and accessible, willing to serve and be used by another to cause a catalytic reaction in their lives, (remember your chemistry here: a catalyst causes a reaction and is not used up in the process), and to be a source of nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.