People sometimes think of leaders as unapproachable because they hold so much power and influence. If you do not actively work on being approachable, you will lose the respect of your people, and your team’s culture will suffer. Approachability creates transparency, trust, credibility, and authenticity. Approachable leaders will see lower rates of turnover and increased creativity. You can have other leadership qualities, but without approachability, you will put a limit on how much you can achieve.
Q: Do you think that you are an approachable leader? What signs are there that you are an approachable leader? Are there any signs that you are not? In your experience, what is it like to work for an approachable leader versus an unapproachable one?
“Power creates distance, but leaders bridge the gap.”
Seven Ways You Can Be More Approachable
1. Greet everyone
Showing that people matter to you by doing something as simple as saying, “Good morning!” positively impacts your reputation over time.
Use people’s first names and intentionally learn the names of new or unfamiliar people.
Make eye contact and practice open body language.
You will create even greater approachability when you show that you care about people beyond just your employees or team.
2. Show you care
People are drawn to those who genuinely care and are interested in others.
Set aside time in your week to check in with your team.
Ask how about their tasks and the challenges they encountered.
Ask about troubling factors and distractions from outside work.
Demonstrating that you care, even when everything is going right, makes it easier for people to come to you when they need your help.
If you lack consistency, you are sending the message that you only care when it is convenient for you.
You can show you care by:
Giving your full, undivided attention.
Asking follow-up questions.
Reflecting and recapping what you heard.
Suggest ways to move forward.
Do not check-in only when you know there’s a problem.
3. Offer help
Asking how you can help shows that you are listening and willing to help create solutions.
When offering help:
Don’t take over. Empower people.
Allow people to fully answer before offering your own suggestions.
Be clear on the next steps.
Follow through on what you specifically agreed to do.
4. Ask for help
Contrary to popular belief, asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
Asking for help is something that great leaders do regularly.
Asking for help allows others to shine.
Make sure that when asking for help that you:
are specific about the problem you’re trying to solve and the kind of help you need.
do not always ask the same people.
do not be apprehensive about approaching others first. As the leader, you need to set the tone.
5. Have a sense of humor
The best leaders know when to crack a smile, add in a joke, and laugh along with everyone else.
Humor can help break up a tense situation.
6. Make time to chat
Good leaders make time to cultivate both personal and professional relationships with their team.
Take advantage of running into someone in the break room or walking to a meeting.
Remember your conversations so that you can follow up the next time you see them.
Be especially intentional with the team members who are quiet or less comfortable in social situations.
7. Loosen up a bit
Know when it is time to make a joke or relax around your team.
You want to be casual, but not unprofessional.
Q: Which of these qualities do you think is the most important? Which do you think will be the hardest for you to implement? Why?
Q: How have your leaders shown that they care about you? Describe a moment when a leader went out of their way to show you that they cared. How did it affect your relationship? How did it affect your work?
How many people in your company can you name off the top of your head? For one week, say hello to every person you see by name. If you do not know a name, write it down and dedicate it to memory. If you do not usually talk to people outside of work conversations, start by making a goal of saying hello to 5 people by name every day, then up your goal to 10, then 15. Eventually, it will become a habit!
On a scale of 1-10, how easy is it for you to ask for help? Consider the tasks on your plate. Choose one thing that you can delegate or ask for help. Try to consider what tasks would help develop your employees, not just the tasks that are the easiest or the least important.
Ask a few co-workers to describe how you come off during the workday. Look out for words that might sound like compliments, like: “busy,” “focused,” or “authoritative,” along with the more obvious words that would show that you are not approachable, like, “dismissive,” “abrupt,” “abrasive,” or “domineering.” Take an honest look at how approachable you are and ask your trusted mentors to speak into this area as well.