Training Opportunities

Manager Minute – How approachable are you?
June 10, 2020

Being approachable 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 sit on or cover up problems. This means that they are able to bring issues to you before they become full-blown crises because they know that you won’t react badly.

Team members who have approachable managers feel able to contribute ideas and find the workplace a safe environment in which to do so. They’re not scared about being knocked back because they know their manager is open to their suggestions and will consider them fairly.

How approachable you appear to others is very much down to you. Sure, some of the people who work for you may have a fear of authority, but you need to break down those barriers and create an environment of trust.

Approachability is about being accessible, consciously breaking down perceived barriers, having appropriate body language, and using the right verbal communication and listening skills.

Look Available
It seems obvious, but looking available is one of the most effective steps you can take toward breaking down physical barriers, reducing power distance, and keeping lines of communication open. Not much says “leave me alone” more than keeping your office door closed, not talking to team members because they’re less senior than you, or expecting people to address you differently from everyone else!

If you don’t have an office, improve your visibility by getting up from your desk and walking around. Your desk is your turf, and this can make it hard for team members to approach. So, go and speak with people at their desks, where they feel comfortable, or talk to them somewhere neutral, like at the water cooler. Use this informal time to recognize good work and to gain feedback. You’ll be amazed how much people like to share their thoughts when they’re asked!

And don’t just talk about work: indulge in a little personal disclosure. Sharing information about yourself is important when you’re in a leadership role because it shows others that you are empathetic, compassionate and authentic. Speak about your family, what you did at the weekend and your hobbies. Build rapport with others by finding out about their lives outside work, too. When you share information and take the time to chat, you’ll probably find that you end up liking the people you work with more. This means that working alongside them will not only be productive, but fun, too!

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 how to contact you if there are any problems, and make sure that you’re available. Should you not be able to respond immediately, reassure people that you’ll do so at the first opportunity you get.

Listening Skills
Put simply, if your team members think you are not listening to them, they won’t want 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 “two cents.” You have to engage your eyes, as well as your ears, give the other person your full attention, and draw on your emotional intelligence. Being switched on in this way builds trust and respect, both of which are important for increasing approachability.

Engage in Active Listening. This is the process by which you pay attention to the words that someone is saying, and understand the complete message that he is sending. Listening in this way is important, because it shows you are paying attention, so your colleagues feel engaged and valued.

Another approach is Empathic Listening. This can help you to win your team members’ trust and get to the root of any issues they may have. Do this by identifying key points and repeating them back to the speaker to get her to open up. What’s important is to pay attention to what’s not being said, as well as what is – the absence of words can often be telling.

Verbal Communication
There is a huge crossover between appearing approachable and being positive, and this is especially important when we consider verbal communication. What we say is a crucial part of approachability, because it has the power to build trust and create a strong team spirit.

Few people will want to engage with you if everything you say is negative. Although it will always depend on the circumstances, team members will have more confidence in approaching you with ideas or problems if they are not fearful of the outcome. With this in mind, make sure that you acknowledge ideas from your team and give credit where it’s due.

You don’t have to go over the top. Try to give slightly more positive feedback than negative (because people take negative feedback much more to heart than positive feedback). A simple “thanks for the suggestion” will encourage people to open up.

If an idea is great, make sure that you give your team member the recognition he deserves. Research shows that receiving praise raises our dopamine levels – the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of joy and satisfaction – which can, over time, help us to establish good working habits. If an idea is not so good, explain why. Failure to do so may leave your team member feeling like his input is not wanted, and this can stifle future creativity.

Responding positively to good ideas is the easy part. It’s how you react to bad news that’s the real test. Self-regulation, which is an important part of emotional intelligence, isn’t always easy but problems can fester if team members are too scared to come to you with their issues. Appreciate that it takes courage to speak up when something is wrong, so always thank the person for letting you know.

Body Language
Your team members could be sitting on ideas that could transform your organization, but previous experiences (when you’ve seemed disinterested or irritated) may have put them off telling you about them. And you could be none the wiser!

We know that positive managers tend to have happy teams, and they are naturally far more approachable than those with a negative outlook. Positivity shines through all communication, including our posture, eye contact, hand gestures, speech, and tone of voice. And how we hold ourselves determines the way people act toward us.

Using the right body language is a vital yet simple way of increasing your approachability. Smile more, unfold your arms, look your team members in the eye when you talk to them, and speak slowly in a moderate to low tone. Take your time when you’re walking to and from your desk – even if you’re in a hurry – and remember to look around rather than straight ahead or down at the floor.

Key Points
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 can flow. You can improve how approachable you are by breaking down barriers and creating an environment of trust.

Develop your skills by increasing your visibility, using appropriate body language, and working on your communication and listening skills.

Excerpts taken from: and

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