June 19, 2012

Approachability…What Every Manager Needs

You are walking around your department when an employee sees you and asks a very critical question.  Did you ever wonder what would have happened if you did not happen to be walking by?  Would the employee have sought you out to ask the question?  Or, would the employee have just delayed the task or completed it incorrectly?

Approachability is a key attribute for anyone who manages others.  Managers need their employees to communicate with them and feel comfortable doing it.  Your success depends on how well your employees perform.  It is difficult for your employees to be successful if they do not have access to you when they need decisions made, critical information from you, or approval to complete tasks. 
So how does someone become more approachable?  I ask this question in my training classes: “If you were attending a party where you did not know anyone, who would you feel comfortable approaching?”   Well, after the typical amusing answer of “the bartender”, people usually say “someone who looks friendly or is making eye contact.”  So being approachable is simply looking like you want someone to approach you.  Here are a few tips to start increasing your approachability:
  • Keep an Open Door:  A closed door gives the message that you do not want to be disturbed and it becomes intimidating for your employees to have to knock to ask a question.  Try to arrange your office to show you figuratively have “the welcome mat” out.  If you have a day filled with meetings, make sure you find a few minutes to ask if anyone needs information from you between meetings.
  • Walk Around: Be available to your employees for questions by walking in their area.  You do not have to wait for them to come to you.  Make a point of whenever you leave your desk to stroll by one of your employees to make it easy for them to ask a question.
  • Open Body Language: Is your body language welcoming or does it say “I am too busy”.  Do you glance at your watch or clock on the wall when your employees are speaking?  Making direct eye contact and giving your employees your full attention will encourage them to approach you with their questions, concerns, or ideas.
  • Facial Expression:  A smile and eye contact will encourage others to approach you.  A smile lights up your face making it more comfortable for others to approach you.  You appear more welcoming.  Remember the party example.
  • Reaction to Bad News: When something goes wrong and an employee has to tell you, what is your reaction?  Do you sometimes figuratively “shoot the messenger?”  By handling bad news in a problem solving manner employees will learn from the experience and be more likely to communicate if something else occurs in the future. 
Approachable managers keep current about the work in their department because employees feel free to keep them informed and ask questions that keep the workflow productive.

1 comment:

Cat Wagman said...

Thank you, Deborah Avrin, for sharing your insights on Approachability.

I have also found that by being aware of what is being "said" by each respective person's Body Language can intuitively help both managers and employees interact more effectively.

This is especially true when managers are approachable. When Body Language matches up with what is being said, that creates a bond of confidence and reassurance. When it doesn't, it reinforces distrust and doubt.