I came across a fable recently that seemed to resonate. It goes like this; According…
Being approachable is key when building relationships with your colleagues, and In creating a strong team where trust, confidence, and ideas can flow. When you’re approachable, team members feel more relaxed, they are more open when disclosing mistakes, ideas will flow more freely and they are more likely to ask for guidance when required. Ultimately this means a more cohesive team that can problem solve more effectively, minimising those workplace issues that quickly become a full-blown crisis… Why? because they know you will respond appropriately.
Some organisations have a more structured business in which their leaders remain segregated from the workforce, creating more distant relationships within the organisation and this certainly creates a greater challenge to approachability than if your organisation supported a more interactive approach. However, regardless of the organisational structure, how approachable you appear to others is very much down to you. Approachability is about being accessible, consciously breaking down perceived barriers, having appropriate body language, and using the right verbal communication and listening skills. Approachability is about creating an environment of trust and collaboration.
It seems obvious, but looking available is one of the most effective steps we can take toward breaking down barriers and keeping lines of communication open. Nothing screams “leave me alone” more than keeping your office door closed or sitting at your desk with your headphones on. Improve your visibility by getting up from your desk (where you’re in the power seat and it can be hard for team members to approach) and try walking around and speaking with people at their desks, where they feel most comfortable, or talk to them somewhere neutral, like in the break room. Make a genuine effort to talk with and understand your team members, to find out what they do, check they have what they need, make sure they’re happy, and to take action where necessary to correct things that are going wrong. You could also use this informal time to acknowledge good work and/or behavior and to hear their ideas and perspectives. You’ll be amazed how much people like to share their thoughts when they’re asked!
That being said, don’t always talk about work; Share a little about yourself and what you have been doing in your personal life (like what you did over the weekend) as it shows your team that you are authentic, that you care and that you are interested in their lives. This is hugely powerful in gaining mutual liking and respect.
Lastly, it is important to communicate well for your team to feel connected. If you’re in and out of meetings a lot, let your team know where you’ll be and when you’ll be back. Tell everyone (or at the very least, reception) how to contact you if there are any problems. Should you not be able to respond immediately, reassure people that you’ll do so at the first opportunity you get.
Put simply, if your team members don’t think you listen to them, they won’t bother to approach you.
Good listening is not about hearing what someone is saying and waiting for him or her to finish so you can have your say; you have to engage your eyes, your ears and give the other person your full attention. Drawing on your emotional intelligence skills, it is important to listen without prejudgement to what they are saying instead of thinking about how you are intending to respond and what you think the likely outcome will be. Identify key points and repeat them back to the speaker as this will encourage them to open up. Use open questions that invite thoughtful responses that way you will better understand what is being said while also listening for what is sitting in the absence of words.
If you can develop these skills you will build genuine trust and respect and your colleagues will feel engaged and valued, all of which are important for increasing approachability.
There is a huge link between appearing approachable and being positive so be mindful of what comes out of your mouth as people will be hesitant to engage with you if everything you say is negative. You want team members to have confidence in approaching you with ideas and problems as ultimately that drives performance so think first, how do I approach this where trust is maintained and I can acknowledge and give credit to the situation. For example, even if that situation is a problem or a mistake you can give credit to the person for being honest and/or astute enough to raise the issue with you before it escalated. Be supportive and involve them in the solution process so they grow and develop more skills, which will serve you both in the future.
Moods are contagious and bad body language creates a negative working environment, which could stifle innovation within your team.
Your team members could be sitting on ideas that could transform your organisation but your previous reactions may have put them off telling you about them and you could be none the wiser!
We know that positive managers tend to have happier, more productive teams and those leaders are far more approachable than those with a negative outlook. Mood is contagious and your positivity will transmit through your communication, including your posture, eye contact, hand gestures, speech, and tone of voice. Your body language will determine the way people interact with you so it is very important for you to self-manage.
Be aware of your feelings and how they are being displayed in your body language and your overall behavior. Understanding that our emotions influence our decisions, behavior, and performance is a key component of emotional intelligence and your ability to identify and self-manage will have an enormous impact on the productivity and the performance of your team.
Being approachable is the foundation of building good relationships with your colleagues, and of creating a strong team in which confidence can grow and ideas flow. You can improve how approachable you are to help break down barriers and to create an environment of trust. so, don’t delay, develop your skills by increasing your visibility, using appropriate body language, and working on your communication and listening skills…. It’s all about self-improvement right!