Leadership: How Approachable are You?

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One characteristic of an effective leader is how approachable he or she is. Being approachable leads to being informed about both good news and challenges. If people feel comfortable coming to you then you will have an opportunity to influence them.

Two facial expressions that keep others from approaching you:

1. Angry Face – Terry, a production manager at a client of ours where we were delivering supervisory training, had a facial expression that made it seem like he was ticked-off by default. He wondered why his production supervisors didn’t come to him with issues sooner. Of course when Terry found out about the problems, he got upset, further reinforcing the desire of his team to avoid him. When Terry smiled, he was naturally warmer and more approachable. Like most people with a macho exterior, Terry was actually a kind hearted person on the inside.

2. Aloof Face – More common than angry-face, aloofness is a neutral expression that is interpreted as remaining distant from others and disinterested. When you are aloof, others will not approach you because they get the sense you do not want to be interupted.

Both angry-face and aloof-face are defensive. Angry-face is aggressive-defensive hoping to keep you away with fear. Aloof-face is passive-defensive; keeping you at a distance by melting into the background, hoping not to be noticed.

How to be more approachable

1. Smile! A warm smile is always inviting to people. Consciously smile more often and watch how other people make eye contact with you and are willing to engage in conversation.

2. Talk to People – Get out of your comfort zone and strike up a conversation with more strangers. At work, go out of your way to ask people how they are and what they did on the weekend. Even though this is small talk, it goes a long way to being approachable.

3. Be secure in who you are – one reason we keep people at a distance can be a deep rooted sense of insecurity. Not wanting to say the wrong thing or be embarrassed. Once you realize that this feeling of inadequacy is unfounded and that you are good enough, you’ll feel more comfortable around others.

There are some good resources available in my book store to take yourself to the next level. If you have a book to recommend, comment on this post, or send me an email and it could be added to the collection.