Approachability is key to building relationships with your colleagues, and to creating a strong team in which trust, confidence and ideas can flow. When you’re approachable, team members do not shrink from problems. They feel free to bring issues to you before they become serious crises because they know that you won’t react in a bad way. Team members who have approachable managers feel free to share ideas and find the workplace a safe environment. They are not scared about being knocked back because they know their manager will listen to their suggestions and will also consider them fairly.
Approachability is about being attainable, breaking down obstacles, having proper body language, and using the right language and listening skills.
Businesses, much like people, have characteristics and personalities. A leader who is not approachable is seen as out of reach and ineffective. Few people want to follow a leader who refuses to be approached.
Such leaders are –
- Distant, not easy to be around.
- Not comfortable with first contact.
- May be timid, cool or a reserved person.
- Not an extrovert, difficult to know what he is really like.
- Doesn’t build rapport, may be a “let’s get on with it” type.
- May be a bad listener or appear indifferent.
- May be unaware of social indications that others would recognize.
- May be stressed.
Leaders who are approachable are –
- easy to approach and talk.
- Make extra effort to make others comfortable.
- Can be warm, pleasant, and gracious.
- Are sensitive to and patient with the interpersonal anxieties of others.
- Build rapport well.
- Are good listeners.
- Are early knower, getting informal and incomplete information in time to do something about it.
There are few managers who are highly approachable. They –
- May waste too much time in establishing relationships.
- May be mistaken as casual or impressionable.
- May have a strong desire to be liked by everyone.
- May avoid important, negative or difficult transactions.
- May try to make the problem seem less serious than it really is.
The lack of approachability by business leaders is often what is holding business back. It causes poor relationships, suffocates the environment, and causes leadership to be uninformed and lacking influence Maintaining high employee morale is extremely important for long-term success in business. When employee confidence is low, it affects productivity, performance, and employee retention. Recognizing the causes of low employee self – esteem will give you better insight into how to get things back in shape. Some leaders are –
Arrogant and lacking open communication.
- Not interpersonally skilled.
- Not self confident.
- Very busy.
- Too intense; can’t relax.
These could be the reason that people hesitate to approach such leaders.
Being approachable means making others comfortable so that they can perform better. It means initiating relationships, listening, sharing, forgiving and comforting. Approachable people have more knowledge, know things much earlier, and inspire others to do more things. People just like to have them around. Some characteristics of being approachable are –
- You start – Being approachable means you have to initiate the transaction. You have to put out your hand first. Make first eye contact. You have to share the information first. You have to make the first few minutes comfortable for the other person or group so they can accomplish what they have come to you for.
- Listen – Approachable people are very good at listening. They listen without interrupting. They ask clarifying questions. They don’t judge at once. They listen to understand. Judgment may come later. They summarize what the other person has said to show they understand. They nod. They may make notes. Listeners don’t always offer advice.
- Sharing – Approachable people share much information. Suggest their thinking on a business issue and invite the response of others. Pass on bites of information they think will help people do their jobs better or broaden their perspective. Disclose some things about themselves. It’s hard for people to relate to a problem. Reveal things that people don’t need to know to do their jobs, but which will be interesting to them and help them feel valued.
- Personalizing – Approachable people work to know and remember important things about the people they work with. Knowing their interests or their children or something you can chat about, other than the business agenda, really helps. If you ask a few questions, you will find they have something in common with almost anyone. Talk to people you work with about things that need not be necessarily social. They could be issues of planning, market shifts etc. The purpose is to make common ground and connections.
- Watch your non-verbals – Approachable people appear and sound open and relaxed. They smile. They are calm. They keep eye contact. They nod while the other person is talking. They have an open body posture. They speak in a pleasant tone. Do away with any disturbing habits such as speaking too forcefully, using firm language, or going into too much detail. Watch out for showing disinterest with actions like glancing at your watch, fiddling with paper work or giving your impatient look. Keep the conversation pleasant.
- The magic of questions – Many people don’t ask enough prying questions when in their work mode. There are too many informational statements, suggestions and solutions and not enough inquires. More of statements and less questions. Ask more questions and make fewer solution statements early in a discussion. Keep piercing until you understand what they are trying to tell you.
- Selective approachability – Some people are approachable with some and not with others. Make a list of the people you are comfortable around and what they have in common? The principles of being approachable remain the same regardless of the audience. The results will be the same for what you do with the comfortable group or with the uncomfortable groups.
- Shy – Those who are shy are not easily accessible. They are afraid of other people’s reaction, and they are not sure of their social skills. Such shy people should talk to strangers, try and meet a few new people and find out what they have in common with them. Have a conversation with somebody at a place of worship, at school meetings, in the neighborhood, at the supermarket, on the plane and on the bus. See if any of the bad and scary things they think might happen to them if they converse with people, does actually happen.
- Arrogant – Arrogant people are seen as unapproachable and aloof who prefer their own ideas. They purposefully, or not, devalue others and their contributions. This makes people feel declined, abandoned and angry. Arrogant people don’t listen. They give instant output, sharp reactions. So, if you don’t want to be that way then read your audience and try to know what people look like when they are uncomfortable with you. Do they back up or stumble over words, stand at the door hoping not to get invited in? You should work harder at observing others. Especially during the first few minutes of an important transaction, work to make the person or group comfortable with you before the real agenda starts. Ask a question unrelated to the topic. Offer them a drink. Share something personal or even a smile will work.
- Conflicts – If someone is angry, let him express without saying anything other than you know he is upset. It is not easy for people to continue for very long with no encouragement. If someone has a habit of complaining all the time, ask him to write down his problems and solutions and then discuss them. This turns down the volume while hopefully moving him off complaining. If someone wants to complain about someone else, encourage him to talk to that person. If that doesn’t work, summarize what he has said without agreeing or disagreeing. Manage your time by gently interrupting to summarize or asking people to think about it more, then continue. Disclose things that can be said quickly. Put off extended conversations to other times. Approachability doesn’t mean you don’t have to manage your time.
The role of managers in the workplace has shifted dramatically. Gone are the days that managers watched over employees, assessing their every move and correcting every mistake. Today’s manager has to work more hard to meet the expectations of a talented workforce. Many companies provide initial training for approachability to new managers, but as the scope of their work and relationships grow, so does their need. Most organizations invest in training for new hires, providing the basics to get employees started in their roles but then never really pursue from there.
It would be more helpful for the workforce if the employers focus on continuous learning and development, rather than one-time training. Training is also important for experienced managers, As their workforce grows and evolves and priorities develop, skills must be sharpened. It is important to identify the capabilities people need and where they’re lagging behind. It is important to be approachable because when people are comfortable in your presence, they think and do their best. Approachability is an essential skill that is expected of managers by their employees and it only gets more important as you climb the ladder into leadership positions.