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How to Be an Approachable Leader

Vanessa Judelman

President, Mosaic People Development

The topic of “approachability” came up this week in a conversation with a client while we were reviewing his 360-degree feedback report.

The report indicated that his peers, boss and direct reports all agreed that he is confident, results oriented and a very clear communicator. However, they did not all consider him to be approachable.

He was quite surprised by this feedback.

So, throughout our conversation, we discovered the following:

  • His introversion can appear to others as unapproachable
  • He can get so immersed in his work that he appears to be too busy to communicate
  • He really does not value small talk or casual conversation which others might consider unfriendly

Do you relate to the above?

Before I share some tips with you on how to be approachable as a leader, answer the questions in the quiz below to assess your current level of approachability:

Am I an Approachable Leader Quiz:

  • When your team asks for help, do you respond quickly?
  • Would your team consider you friendly?
  • When your team needs help, do they feel comfortable coming to you for advice?
  • Do you give people your full attention when they speak to you?
  • Can people talk to you openly without being judged?

If you answered “YES” to the five questions listed above, then you are a highly approachable leader. That is clearly one of your strengths.

Here are some ways that all of us can increase our approachability at work:

  1. Set up “informal” check-in time with people: This is especially important if you have a very analytical style as you may appear intimidating to some who prefer a more easy-going approach. Ensure that you take the time to connect with people informally. Ask them how things are going for them professionally (and personally too if that is within your comfort zone and work stye)
  2. Attend more thoughtfully to each team member as an individual. If you tend to spend most of your time in meetings problem solving, you may be missing out on an opportunity to learn about the people on your team and understand how you can best motivate and support them.
  3. Ask good questions. Being approachable does not mean that you pry into people’s personal lives. It could simply mean showing an intertest in your colleague’s work. So, get curious with people. Ask them good questions about their work or current projects to build rapport and increase your understanding of their world. This will allow you to support them more effectively.

In the highly virtual world of leadership these days, developing your approachability will serve you well.

What can you do to be more approachable?

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