5 Practical Leadership Tricks Approachable Leaders Use to Break The Ice
How many leaders do you know who are approachable? Be aware that not being approachable could be your biggest leadership blind spot. Today I’m going to share with you five practical leadership tricks approachable leaders use to break the ice.
Many leaders evolve in their careers by growing their technical skills and gaining challenging work experiences.
They focus on fine-tuning the strategy and execution of their job responsibilities, making sure they perform their tasks with more and more precision. Whether they are individual contributors or manage a team, they often are so determined to meet their deadlines with great deliverables that they miss a second critical part of leading: the people piece.
Many leaders don’t realize it, but if they are not approachable, their businesses and employees may be deeply affected. It’s simple.
Approachability is the ability to be accessible to subordinates. It means you are easy and open to meet with. But, most importantly, being approachable comes down to your employees’ perception of YOU. The best leaders choose to come across as approachable because they want others to freely share any input with them that may improve the workplace and build a better company.
Never underestimate how important being approachable is to the work that needs to be done in your organization.
When you are approachable, people can connect and relate to you. They understand what is needed for success and are willing to roll up their sleeves to get the work done. When others feel that you are open to hearing what they have to say, they will keep you apprised of the things you need to know.
If you are willing to ensure that your reputation for openness precedes you, read on for tricks on how to be more approachable at work and improve your social skills.
Being approachable doesn’t mean that you have to stop what you’re doing whenever someone needs your attention. It does mean that when you give your attention, you give it fully. Think through the five tricks below to ask yourself if you lead from a posture of approachability.
Leadership Trick #1: Nobody's Perfect
To build rapport and connection with team members and colleagues, we must be willing to share our mistakes. By opening up about our missteps and lessons learned, we show that we are human — and in the end, it is our humanity that makes us approachable leaders. Being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness but, rather, a demonstration of strong leadership.
Vulnerability is especially important if you’re trying to build a fail-fast culture that encourages innovation.
You can tell your people that “Errors of action are better than errors of inaction,” but if you don’t set the example, it could feel like lip service to some. At the next all company meeting, admit a mistake you made or something you’re worried about. The next time something goes wrong, praise the effort, not just results. One thing approachable leaders know is that mistakes need to be recognized. And they’re willing to go first with their mistakes.
Humility and honesty will always serve you well.
This also sets a good example for those on your team. When you can say, “That was my fault,” “I was wrong about that,” or “I made a poor choice,” you are just admitting you are human. Being able to own your mistakes is disarming and lets others know you don’t expect perfection from yourself or anyone else. Humility and vulnerability are at the core of strength and courage. Vulnerability is the courage to take a risk, to put yourself out there, when you can’t control the outcome. Humility is the strength to admit that even if you’re the boss, you don’t have all the answers, and that you need help to succeed.
Approachable leaders share their processes and their journeys and reveal the good and the bad.
They are open about the challenges they face and how they overcome them and ask for employees also to share. They don’t just share about their personal lives; they share about the company too. Such leaders will share their insecurities about the company’s future as well as good news and their hopes for it. Leaders, be honest with yourself and with your team. It will make a difference. Set the tone with your team that sharing hardships, challenges, struggles, and wins is not only okay, but encouraged too. You can’t expect your team to open up if you don’t open up first.
Just because you’re a person of high power in your company doesn’t mean you never doubt yourself.
Sure, you might appear confident, and that might have been what landed you the position in the first place. But no one is free of worry or reservation at all times. The first step for a leader in confronting self-doubt is to acknowledge that they are experiencing it. When you address or share your self-doubts, you are taking them on and they lose their power over you. And don’t be afraid of exposing your flaws and weaknesses; in fact, embrace them for the entire team to see.
Leadership Trick #2: Be All Ears
How important is listening? It’s everything! The people we connect with each day need to know that we will listen to them without interrupting and without judgment. Non-verbal cues, such as good eye contact, welcoming facial expressions and body language, are important. Finally, to be approachable, we need to ask empowering questions that shows others we are focused on the conversation.
When leaders are approachable by listening actively, they in turn help create a culture of openness and innovation.
Not only is it important to know your employees’ thoughts on the issue at hand, but showing them that you pay attention to what they say will make them more likely to approach you in the future. Being able to really hear what people are saying and responding specifically to the issues they’ve brought up makes others feel that you’re invested in them and their opinions. Approachable leaders listen to their employees and consider what they have to offer when making decisions. A leader that shows it listens to the ideas of their employees will promote future idea-sharing and will be considered more approachable for this reason.
Say it again: Active listening is a must.
The best listeners listen to understand rather than to respond. When someone comes to you to talk, they came to tell you something. Did you receive the message they wanted to send? Be mindful of not asserting your own opinions over listening to what they want to say. Employees that are not heard feel it, and it will absolutely impact how they feel in the workplace. In fact, a leader that doesn’t listen to their employees won’t be approachable at all. No employee wants to share their opinions with someone who never hears them. Unfortunately, many leaders fall into this trap, even without realizing it.
If you routinely rush through conversations or give employees the cold shoulder, they’ll feel disrespected.
And they’ll be less likely to respect your leadership. The development of good listening skills is one of the most efficient methods for becoming a great leader. Most people like to speak, but it’s far more rewarding to listen with your full attention. You retain more, and people talk more — because the sincerest form of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. The most successful people are the ones who do more listening than talking. Great communication is more about hearing others than it is about being heard yourself.
More than ever, people need the psychological safety to share what’s on their minds and to feel heard.
Approachable leaders can provide this by listening with focus and emotional intelligence. In today’s pandemic and social upheaval landscape, powerful listening is rocket fuel for a leader, helping them more effectively navigate and succeed. Listen for emotions and energy, and spotlight them. Active and deep listening is also about listening for emotions and energy. Listening for emotion and energy helps you set the context for what is being said and also helps you signal that you understand and appreciate what the other is experiencing.
Leadership Trick #3: Open The Gates
When you are open and transparent with employees, they will give you the same consideration. If you are not fully sincere, others will sense that you are pretending to be a character that you are not. It is much easier for workers to trust a supervisor that is genuine because they won’t feel that you have ulterior motives.
Talk to your employees about their interests outside of work.
Let them know who you are as a human being, with interests, a family, and a personality. You may find that you and some of your workers have a lot in common. This approach shows the employees that you, too, are an integral part of their team, and they won’t look at you as a privileged outsider. Besides, taking the time to know your employees allows you to see what their interests are and what motivates them. Sometimes, you’d be surprised to discover a special skill (which you never would’ve known since nobody asked!).
There’s always going to be some separation between leaders and those who work with them.
While your role may be more formal, try not to bring that rigidity into your demeanor — people are more likely to approach those who seem more familiar and on their level. When you can, ditch the tie or the formal attire in addition to the formal attitude. People are most likely to resonate with a leader who feels at their level but with the power to make their jobs easier and more successful. People want someone who will help figure out how to do things better and then help make that happen, not someone to assign work and finish tasks for them.
Be available when people need you. This is the simplest idea that is hardest to do.
Leaders are often pulled in many directions. There are always emails to respond to, decisions to make, tasks to perform, and problems to solve. But remember to put people first. Keep your office door open as much as possible so others can easily approach when they need you. Offer your full attention — physically turn to them, put down your phone, stop typing your email, and look them in the eye.
Leaders who sit behind a closed door all day long become cut off from those they lead.
Their teams can become antsy because they rarely see this leader and feel like they’re imposing on him when they need to talk. Decide to have an open door when it comes to hearing out your team. Give them permission to approach at any time. That said, let your team know that an open door policy doesn’t exist to spread gossip or rumors. The focus is always on exploring obstacles or opportunities, and coming up with practical solutions and next steps.
Leadership Trick #4: Never Beat About The Bush
The way we share our messages and thoughts can make or break the way people in connect with us. We need to be clear in our choice of words, the tone and volume of our voice, our hand gestures, and our body language. We also must speak with sincerity to be believed.
To be approachable, we must respond to an issue that is troubling someone by displaying empathy and respect.
Even if we don’t agree or have a different perspective, it’s important to express honest feedback while validating the other person. Communication is a two-way dialogue that allows both parties to share without attack. When communicating — especially when delivering difficult information — be as clear and decisive as possible. Ask follow up questions and allow time for your people to ask questions. When asked for your opinion, offer it, but know when to make the call and when to push your people to decide themselves. People in an organization look to the leaders for direction on how to behave. When leaders speak with confidence and optimism, it inspires those around them.
One vital trait that distinguishes approachable leaders from poor leaders is the ability to communicate with both transparency and compassion.
Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter. For leaders to be effective, communication is not just part of the job — it is the job. Giving clear direction is one of the most important tasks for any great leader. By communicating the visions and goals, or something as simple as job responsibilities, approachable leaders help motivate the team to achieve top efficiency and success.
Try to always be clear, succinct and specific about what you expect of others.
Avoid situations where employees are guessing what is expected of them. Ambiguities can lead to misunderstandings and even erode trust, morale and performance. Similarly, business partners, contractors and vendors should all know where they stand and how they can work most effectively with you. Two-way communication flow is essential with all parties. Say what you mean. Be direct. Don’t hide behind complexity or pile on a ton of information.
Leadership communication style can make or break employees’ motivation and engagement in the workplace.
Clear communication is important because it gives guidance and aligns employees around the common goals and objectives. Leaders are the ones responsible for achieving that organizational alignment by opening the line to two-way workplace communication and by making sure that their language is clear and precise. Be clear and concise when discussing strategies and goals through any form of communication with people. Always be realistic and never over promise anything you can’t deliver.
Leadership Trick #5: Share The Glory
Approachable leaders share the glory: You will find there are leaders who hog all of the glory for a job well done. You will also find that these leaders are rarely the approachable ones. Rather, the leaders who share the glory are the ones who are seen as approachable leaders and people rally around them.
Don’t hog the praise for yourself. Pass it around to the ones who really helped your company get to where it’s at.
Take time to celebrate your team as a whole and as individuals. Thank them for the work they do, give them genuine compliments, and give credit publicly. Use “we” language as often as possible — an environment of “I lead, and you do the work” will not go far. Everyone working together is what makes a successful team. Put a high value on celebrating milestones as a team whether personal or professional. When a success is celebrated, everyone is reminded that their ability to reach one specific goal indicates just how close they are to achieving even greater goals. No matter how briefly, changing your team’s mind-set from “work” to “celebration” gives both you and your team renewed positive energy on the job.
Celebration honors the work that has been done and shows gratitude to the people who do it. Don’t forget to celebrate! It’s important!
Take the time to step back and recognize the effort that went into achieving that big success or even a modest win, and do it authentically. You’ve probably seen the “going through the motions” type of celebrations in work environments that result in more rolled eyes than actual pride. Make sure you celebrate immediately and in a meaningful way. Be specific about what was accomplished, how it made a contribution, and why it’s important. It doesn’t take a big effort, but is hugely meaningful to people. It’s a celebration so have some fun!
If your ambitious goal is to become the top-rated firm in your field, you need to celebrate the moment when you move up.
Otherwise, striving to reach long-term goals can become an endless slog with no rest or sense of progress. Taking the time to celebrate a milestone your team has achieved is like pausing to take in the view on the way to the summit. It gives people a break to recognize and appreciate how far they’ve come and gives them energy for the next big push. Great leadership isn’t just about pointing towards the victory to be reached; it’s also about giving the team a reason to keep going over the long haul. Whatever the method, it reminds people that goal setting works and unifies everyone around a positive outcome.
A leader who does not know how to celebrate is a leader not worth following.
People want to win. When you or your team achieve success, celebrate it. No matter how busy we get at work, there is always time to acknowledge victories. Celebrating success lets your employees know that their contributions are valued. It also boosts morale and can have a positive impact on all aspects of business, as your team will enjoy coming to work more each day. At the end of the day, companies that don’t celebrate success will eventually have no success to celebrate.
Most leaders create segregation and separation, and miss the mark when it comes to accessibility. Keep in mind that as a leader, you don’t only lead — you must also stay open and listen. You must embrace compassion and engage empathy. Making yourself approachable and accessible is the secret ingredient to great leadership.
Your people need to trust that you care about them, and they need to trust that you’re leading them to a good place.
It’s important that employees at all levels of the business feel comfortable knocking on your office door when there’s critical information you need to know. If they’re unafraid to tell you,“Hey, I saw a potential problem, and we need to shift course,” you can sidestep disaster. If you want to be approachable, think of the ways you can encourage others to come to you when they need you most. Oftentimes, that will be by making time for them even when they don’t.
It’s important to be approachable because when you put people at ease, you enable them to think and do their best in your presence.
It’s an essential professional skill that only gets more important as you ascend the ladder into leadership positions and is expected of managers by their employees. Approachable leaders also have an information advantage over those who are more difficult to talk to. If you’re able to keep up a good rapport with people, you’ll get the scoop earlier than those not as skilled. Employees will trust you more, and you’ll have a stronger network and more loyalty from your team.
Being approachable is not difficult to achieve, but a necessity for successful leaders.
When we are deliberate about being approachable, we communicate to our team that we value their input and their contributions. When we are approachable, we are able to receive valuable feedback and build trust in our organizations. When we are approachable, we create opportunities for leadership, mentorship, and empathy. As Colin Powell’s stated, we as leaders should be mindful of our approachability as a reflection of our subordinate’s faith in our ability to lead them.
Leaders who are approachable get things done because they create the kind of relationships that support them and the organizations they lead. Your turn!
More than just a nice-to-have, the art of being approachable is a necessary attribute for effective leaders at any level or organization because it is a pre-condition of trust and open communication. Make being approachable the governing trait of your leadership. Which way of being approachable do you find yourself implementing most often? What have been the results? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.