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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Be Approachable

Leaders each have a persona. Leaders can be cocky and boisterous or quiet and unassuming. Regardless of the type of leader you are, to be effective you need to be approachable. Your people need to be able to go to you with problems or issues that are work-related and sometimes personal.

"I've told my people that I'm always available for them." Great. Glad to hear it.

"I have an Open-door policy." Wonderful.

These are great things to say. Do your words match your actions? Sometimes leaders send their team members multiple messages. Primarily, there's the message of availability, like above. The subtle (or not so subtle) secondary message(s) could be one or several of the following:

1. Door always closed, even with signs like "do not disturb."
2. Talking down to employees like they're stupid idiots when they come with problems, especially if the solutions seem simple to us. Sometimes we even say, "why do I have to think of everything?"
3. Killing the messenger (an oldie, but a goodie) when the message isn't as positive as we'd like.
4. The stare ("don't even think of talking to me right now").
5. Acting put out when asked to turn our attention away from what we're doing to talk to team members.
6. I'm a martyr and that's OK. "Go ahead and lay your troubles on an already overworked boss. Don't feel bad."
Sure, why would anybody have trouble approaching a boss who communicates mixed messages? It can be very troubling to employees and perhaps cause them to give up ever trying to connect with you.

I'm not trying to beat up on leaders too much today. It's just that, to be successful leaders, we need to have empathetic spirits (being able to walk in oure employees' shoes). We need to be able to relate and to be able to help lift the crap off our people, whatever they're dealing with (within limits, of course), so they can be efficient and effective. To do that, we have to be approachable.

We all want to be strong, positive leaders and bosses and I'm sure we are a lot of the time. However, like I've mentioned several times, leaders are on constant display and we're sending out messages to our people all the time. We just need to ensure the messages we want to send are the ones that are being transmitted.

This is a great coaching point for your younger leaders, too. When you're working with your less experienced managers and coaching them, help them understand how their words and actions need to fit together so their people will come to them with the issues weighing them down. Model this behavior for your younger leaders and your coaching will ring true.

Bottom Line: "a song is 10% lyrics and 90% music" (lyrics = words & music = actions) and a lot of time people remember the music much more easily than the words. Let's do our best to ensure our lyrics and music fit together harmoniously.

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