I've been a student of leadership and organizational behavior for a long time. In my own recent research, I found that a CEO who is open and approachable is much more likely to get learn about early warning signals, before they become bad news. This has been validated by research studies. Leaders who are agreeable and access the extraverted part of their personality are easier to approach. They are more likely to listen without judgment and not bite off the head of those who bring unpleasant news. They create a culture of openness that trickles down throughout the organization. In cultures of openness, individuals aren't afraid of speaking up.
Put Away Your SmartPhone
I once worked with someone who didn't look up from his email whenever anyone came in to his office. He was the boss. The message was--my electronics are more important than you or my conversation with you. It was very off putting.
Today, we are all glued to our smart phones. It drives my husband nuts when I spend any of our together time looking at my Blackberry. I have learned that I have a choice between my relationship and my phone.
I see the same thing in my consulting work. When a client is constantly on his or her phone, checking email, it is irritating. While we all think we are excellent multi-taskers, we are not. An approachable person is not glued to his or her smartphone.
Put People at Ease
If you are approachable, you put people at ease. You make eye contact, softening your eyes so that you are generating warmth. You initiate a conversation that demonstrates you are interested in others. I was a little shy as a young woman. I read somewhere that the way to be interesting was to be interested. I used my intense curiosity to my advantage. I asked questions to draw out others and found that this was a wonderful way to create a connection. I looked for things in common and built upon those.
Manage your NonVerbals
When you are stressed out, it shows. Those who are approachable are able to manage their stress. Take deep breaths and find a way to be in the present. They speak slowly. They practice active listening by nodding and demonstrating you are engaged in what the other person is saying. Those who are really good listeners create an open space that relaxes the other person and brings out their best. They act as if the other person is the most important person in the room. There is no shuffling of papers or glancing at a wristwatch.
Can approachability be learned? I believe that we all can modify and adapt our behavior. It takes strong desire, a willingness to be conscious of how we come across, and dedication to experimenting with new behaviors. Often, working with an executive coach can help.
Contact me for a complimentary consultation on how you can optimize your leadership style and create a high performing culture.