Employees share information with an approachable leader that they would otherwise keep from an awkward, irritable or guarded leader.
Being the boss puts a natural barrier between you and your team, but by working on your approach-ability you can eliminate that barrier and allow more productive communication with your employees.
Approachable leaders are:
Greet everyone with a smile, say hello first and use positive body language – uncross those arms.
Wipe away the face that says “don’t bother me right now.” People are often already intimidated about approaching their boss, but most will not even consider approaching a grumpy one.
Keep your office door physically open as much as you can. If your job requires you to have your door closed a lot then set drop-in times and make sure your availability is communicated. Some leaders work in an open space so tend to wear headphones or earbuds – designate time to have your headset off or make it clear that employees are welcome to come tap you on the shoulder if they need to talk.
Listen hard. Being able to pay attention to what people are saying and responding specifically to the issues they have brought up shows you are invested in them and their opinions.
Showing some emotion or providing visual cues confirms that you are interested and really hearing someone. Practice nodding your head, making eye contact and sitting up straight. You can also improve your listening skills by asking questions and checking for understanding.
Avoid distractions such as doing other tasks while people are talking to you. You can inadvertently shut down a conversation with non verbals like glancing at your phone and fidgeting.
When staff do speak up, be open-minded and thankful. When you get updates, ideas, suggestions or requests from colleagues or your team, acknowledge them. Phrases such as, “I appreciate the heads up,” or, “Thank you, that’s a great idea,” encourage further information whereas lack of response signals apathy, which tends to shut people down.
Praising staff in front of their peers is a nice way to take thankfulness to the next level.
Share more stories about yourself so people can get to know you on a personal level and be sure to get to know your colleagues as well by asking questions when appropriate. Plan time to have fun with your team. Team building or events around recognition go a long way.
All of these approach-ability factors can lead to increased positive interactions and access to information as well as more opportunities for leaders to reinforce to their team members that they are heard and appreciated.