One of the most common concerns I hear from leaders at all levels is being “left out of the loop.” We think we have a strong connection to our colleagues and teams, yet we sometimes miss out on information being shared. We may not be told that someone is really unhappy with his or her job or that another person just received a huge honor in his or her volunteer position. Then one day we are with a group of co-workers and realize that others have opened up to each other and not to us. We may even become upset or feel “slighted”. Instead of wondering why we have been left out, we might reframe our thinking by asking: How have I contributed to being on the outside of the circle? Am I an approachable person and leader?
Here are some ways that may help in becoming more approachable:
Be interested in others
When people have a sense that we care about what they are doing, they are more likely to share their world with us. Although this may not come naturally to all leaders, we need to develop empathy for others. We may even need to reprogram our thinking to include being curious about what other people are focusing on and what is important to them. We can also grow our leadership knowledge by exploring what other leaders are doing and feeling.
Ask questions to create rapport
One of the best and easiest ways to learn about what is important to others and what is happening in their lives is to ask questions. People love to tell us what they are involved with and what they care about. The key is to be sincere in our approach and tone. I have a friend who never asks me questions about myself, yet I always ask her. Once I approached her and asked why she didn’t and her response was that she felt that it was prying. I asked if she felt I was prying when I asked her questions and she said emphatically-“no”. So I told her I would welcome questions so I too could share.
Share part of yourself
When we are approachable, we are able to share our thoughts and hearts with people. We are authentic and genuinely show concern for others by listening attentively and offer meaningful personal and professional stories. We are not afraid to be open or share our insights into lessons we have learned along the way. Just keep in mind that each person discovers different teachings depending on their perspective.
Are you an approachable leader? How do you show others that you are available to them and care?