As a leader, how do you let your team know you are available to them? Sure, you’ve probably said (more times than you can count) “I’m here if you need me.” But do you back those words up with actions that show you are not only available but approachable? That’s a distinction that merits exploration, don’t you think?
The Approachability Litmus Test for leaders
A leader can be physically available (“our one-to-one is at 3:00 PM today”) but still unapproachable (distracted, critical or sarcastic.) Unapproachable leaders are an island—remote and inaccessible. And research shows that leaders who are perceived as unapproachable have higher employee turnover rates, which is something no leader wants to deal with.
The best leaders are a beacon for their team. Like a lighthouse’s bright light, they guide people safely into port and provide hope for what awaits onshore. As my colleague Victorio Milian told me, “I believe a leader is approachable when I can talk to him/her and not regret doing so.” Sounds like an excellent Approachability Litmus Test to me!
10 tips for being a more approachable leader
Here are some ways to be more approachable as a leader:
- When meeting with people, remove distractions. Silence the cell phone and put it away. If it’s on your wrist, do not look at it while someone is talking with you.
- Take a deep breath before responding to inflammatory statements and reply, “I’m curious, what leads you to say that?”
- Practice genuine humility. People can spot “humble bragging” a mile away.
- Watch for verbal “erasers” that negate a positive statement. “That’s a good idea, but . . .”
- Be sincere. If you don’t think the idea is “great” don’t label it as such. Search for an adjective that is more appropriate, but not damaging. Remember, to be an encouraging beacon, you must “THINK” before you speak.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously. One of the best bosses I ever had always told me, “I take my job very seriously, but not myself.” Learning to laugh at your shortcomings is one of the most effective ways to remove barriers between you and others.
- Build a reputation for keeping confidences. If an employee shares something with you in confidence it is a show of trust on his/her part.
- Tell the truth, keep your promises. Your credibility depends on it and people won’t come to you if they think you’re not trustworthy.
Take a moment and think about your last handful of interactions with your team members. Were you a beacon or an island?