The Best Managers Make a Big Impact

  • DeakinCo.
  • 30 March 2012

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How to be an approachable leader

Do you want to be an effective leader? Then it’s essential that you are approachable.

As a business manager, there can sometimes be a point at which you feel as though you are no longer having an effect on the productivity or positively of your employees. When and if you get to this point, you must act immediately to regain the trust and respect of your colleagues.

The trick to doing so is by being a social leader. This means being more approachable and connecting with your team on a personal basis. If you don’t allow your staff to get to know you, then they won’t feel comfortable approaching you with any issues or concerns they may have regarding the business.

In turn, this can cause many issues for your business, particularly if you are managing the company. Having this disconnect between you and your staff could make work difficult, lead to a high staff turnover, and in turn cost the business a lot of money. 

Five simple ways to be more approachable

Here are some pointers on how to be a more effective and approachable leader.

1. Master the art of listening

Good leadership begins with taking on boardwhat others have to say. While you may be tempted to dominate discussions with your strong opinions, decisive actions, and fearless-leader attitude, you need to stand down to let others express themselves.

What to do:

  • Always allow for two-way dialogue
  • Make eye contact, listen, and be aware of your body language
  • Ask questions
  • Repeat key information to show that you understand and care
  • Summarise the conversation before you part ways. This helps you ensure that you’ve understood the discussion
  • Let your employee know that you will take their contribution into consideration.

2. Spend more time with your team

We often hide behind emails as it makes communication fast, easy, and less stressful. But while this speeds us your work, it often distances you from the very people you’re trying to lead.

What to do:

  • Make an attempt to talk to your staff in person, or at least over the phone or on Skype
  • Adopt anopen door policy to allow staff to approach you with their ideas and questions. This helps reduce fear, build trust, and encourage more honesty. As such, staff will feel more confident knowing they can come to you when they’re struggling with a work-related matter
  • Grab a coffee off-site with a different person each month, or perhaps take them out to lunch inside or outside of work. Regular one-on-ones and team meetings are highly encouraged. Warm up with casual conversation to break the ice. 

Approachable leaders make the time to speak with their staff face-to-face.

3. Share your story

Let your staff know that there’s more to you than just being the boss. Share some personal information (that won’t damage your reputation), as this will help you bond with your staff and establish stronger relationships.

What to do:

  • Start slowly by sharing small personal stories every now and again
  • Talk about your hobbies or sport teams you may support
  • If you go travelling, perhaps share some photos with your team
  • Show photos of your family and your pets, and you’ll soon notice people sharing theirs in return.

When sharing personal information, be careful to only share that which you consider appropriate for the workplace, or you could risk damaging relationships and causing discomfort amongst some employees.

4. Sharpen your presentation skills

It is expected that approachable leaders should also be great speakers in order to sufficiently communicate their ideas to staff. If you are not an effective speaker, and you tend to get nervous and ramble or stutter when addressing a crowd, then you can learn to be a more dynamic speaker.

What to do:

  • Find and enrol in an public speaking course
  • Look at how other leaders around you address large crowds, and try to mimic their confidence and behaviour.

Once you become a more confident speaker, you’ll also be able to encourage your staff to improve their own communication skills.

5. Smile more often

Research dictates that we activate feel-good neuropeptides in our brain when we smile, and that these can help us to feel relaxed and less stressed. Smiles are contagious as well, so if you smile at your staff then you are likely to see them smiling back. And in doing so, they will feel better and so will you.

What to do:

  • Make it a priority to smile at your staff when you meet them in the kitchen, sit across from them in meetings, and walk past their desks
  • If you’re in a bad mood, stay in your office and find a way to smile or laugh before heading to a meeting or walking out the door. You could watch a funny video on the Internet or just read something that makes you smile. This will put you in a better frame of mind, and you’ll be much more approachable to your staff if you don’t have a frown on your face.