Monday, January 11, 2010

Tips for Booking Your On-Site Time

In the world where Stella works (non-profit fundraising and advancement), making visits is the bread and butter of the work. Major gift officers are assigned a territory and start mining the people in those areas to find folks to visit and engage in the work of the non-profit. Ideally, you see a mix of people whom you're meeting for the first time, along with more established prospects whom you're trying to move along toward making a greater commitment to your cause. But unfortunately, what sometimes happens with gift officers is they go back and see the same people over and over again because they have developed a rapport with them, and they're fun to visit with. But if they aren't moving along toward a gift you have to focus on new faces, too.

For the telecommuter the same risk exists. When you are on-site, it can be tempting to go back to the old standbys -- people who always have an hour to meet with you, people who are good to have a happy hour with, people who know where the good lunch spots are. You want to fill up your on-site time with face-to-face meetings, and familiar faces make it easy.

But it's important to keep your schedule mixed up. Some tips:

  • You should have a balance of people with whom you have on-going projects and relationships, and also make a big point of figuring out who the new faces, emerging trouble spots, and up-and-comers are and seek those people out. Aim for a 60% on-going business/40% new faces mix.
  • Consider taking less focused meetings into overtime: put together small happy hour groups, for example, or use lunches to have those conversations that fall more into the "Remember me? I work here like you! We have a lot in common. Don't forget!" range rather than the "Let's hammer out these requirements and figure out our action plan"-type meetings.
  • Be ready to rock: when you're an infrequent visitor to the Real Office, each visit is a bit like a job interview because you never know when you're going to meet someone important for the first time. Yes, of course, you already have the job, but if you flip the Bozo switch with someone recently hired into a leadership position, you may not get another chance to make a better impression for another quarter. So always be prepared to put your best foot forward.
  • Have a little flexibility: don't book yourself completely before you show up. You'll discover when you're face to face with people that there are things you didn't know before you got there. Have a some room in your schedule toward the middle and end of your time to schedule follow-ups with new folks that you've identified as new faces, emerging trouble spots, or up-and-comers.
Needless to say, Stella's schedule for her next on-site doesn't completely follow all these rules. A couple of existing projects are dominating my time, and I have a feeling that a few other emergent issues will pop up that will eat into the open space that is still there on Thursday and Friday. I do have a couple of new faces in my schedule, and I'm also making a presentation to the whole staff that will max out my personal visibility in a quick ten minute show and tell, so that's promising. We'll see how it all works out.

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