When people ask me how I’m doing, I have to admit that I usually say “things are well, I’m just busy.” While that is true, I may actually be inadvertently driving them away with that answer. For example, I generally try to make time to watch children in their various activities, school, sports, and whatever else. The hardest thing for me to do is get schedules, and I have had parents tell me that they didn’t want to bother me because they know I’m busy. This, despite the fact that I try to stress that I really do want to see their kids in their activities. The parents’ perceived level of my busyness actually keeps me from being able to do the thing I really want to do. Regardless of how busy I actually am, or what I tell them about what I want to do, in the end, it is their perception of my level of busyness which is most important.
Then I think back to a time when my daughter was in a serious car accident and was taken by a Medi-Vac helicopter to the Shock Trauma center. Because of the accident and the events that followed, we found ourselves in a situation where we began to seek out an attorney. We spoke to three different potential lawyers about the case. One of the attorneys that we spoke with had us actually come into to his office to sit down and meet with him. This turned out to be a “critical error” on his part. When we arrived, he had two cell phones strapped to his side, and if that wasn’t bad enough, he took us back to his office where his desk was covered in paper and folders related to various cases. He even mentioned to us that he likely wouldn’t even get to one of the folders, which was on the bottom of one of the many piles, for quite a while. One of the other attorneys we spoke with came to our home to talk with us the first time, and even when we visited his office to meet subsequently, we never actually went back to his office. Our meetings with him were always in a conference room. So, even though I am sure that he was busy as well, he never gave the impression that he was too busy for us. He never tried to impress his busyness upon us to the point that we could feel like he might not have enough time for us.
Oh, and in case you were wondering if the picture in this article is a stock photo from somewhere, it is not. It is actually my “home office,” and I generally don’t let people see it. Yes, I try in vain to clean it at times, and I do occasionally see some of the actual desk top, but most of the time it looks more like this picture. You see, I really am to busy to clean it well and keep it clean, or I’m not focused enough (I can hear Jim Wideman now telling me to get organized – maybe I’ll get a free coaching session – or entered into a messiest desk contest). However, no matter how busy I am, I need to share less about how busy I am, and stress more my desire to serve the children and their families placed in my care. I don’t want to drive them away because they perceive me as too busy to serve them.
So, how clean is your desk? What signals are you sending about your willingness and ability to make time for people? Are you driving people away because they see you as too busy to serve them, or do they see an open door that they can come to you at any time?