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Part 2 of 3: FIVE Ways to Develop Leadership Approachability

The conference call went silent for only a second while she was thinking. Then my boss said, "Russ can be there. Set up the meeting." Well, it looks like I was about to book a flight to Boston from Houston. Without any thought to my personal schedule, my pregnant wife, or my 2-year-old son. I'm off to Boston and missing yet another family event.

woman picture

I'm not proud of the fact that I'd been consumed by the Beast of Progress and Success, but I had. I'm weak, probably just like you. Driven to succeed, there were times in my life where I was known for putting business ahead of everything else. I'd get it done... but at what expense?

Thankfully, through the coaching of others, I've become much more aware of how to define success. It's no longer defined by money, status, or possessions. I'm much happier and easier to be around when my success is defined by making choices aligned with my core values. My focus has turned more outward and I think I'm genuinely much more pleasant to be a around!

The Choices of the Leader

All leaders make choices. That's nothing new. But, we all need to know that the choices made by the leader affect the level of engagement from the team. Not every leader thinks about that before making a decision.

The Gallup Organization found that when employees feel they can approach their leader in conversation, they feel 54% more engaged in their work. Contrast that with only 2% who are engaged in their work when they don't feel they can approach their leader. Leaders benefit their organizations when they're approachable with their team.

"Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people. Poor leaders sacrifice the people to make the numbers."

- Simon Sinek

The Second Element of Leader Presence is Approachability

Last week we began a three-week journey to explore the 3 key elements of Leadership Presence. The first element of Leader Presence is your CONFIDENCE. Remember that the actions of confidence come first. The feelings of confidence come second. Don't wait until you feel confident before acting or you'll be waiting a long time!

The second element of Leadership Presence is approachability. How do you know if your leader's got it? Just answer this question, "Do you enjoy being around this leader?" If you do, my guess is, the leader is someone you trust, respect, and generally like. Your leader is approachable.

The deeper question then becomes, "WHY do you see this leader as approachable? " When you answer this question you've gotten much closer to what makes up an approachable leader. Forget leadership for a minute and just focus on anyone you enjoy being around. Why do you like being around that person? Based on my experience, it all comes down to one thing... the other person cares about you.

So, how can we improve our approachability? You've got to care about others.

5 Ways to Develop Leadership Approachability

1. Listen without judgement

When you listen to someone on your team, do so without judgement. Separate yourself from your own personal opinions just long enough to view their thoughts as a third-party person. When you can separate yourself from judging what you're hearing, you're less likely to allow your emotions to take control. (Russ Harris writes about this in his book The Confidence Gap.)

2. Consider your core

Before making a decision, ask yourself if it aligns with your core values. Your team can spot inconsistencies in your leadership style. How you act and react reflects what's most important to you. Humans cannot act in contrast to their core beliefs for very long. How can you discover your core values? Take 5 minutes to write down all of the things that matter the most to you, but it cannot include a goal. Goals are different. Goals can be completed. Values define how you get to the goal but with values, you're never done. You will pursue them for the rest of your life.

3. Invite others to engage

Jack Schafer, former FBI agent, points out there are 3 friendly signals we send to others using our facial expressions. We do this without even thinking. However, some of us are not as expressive and when these signals don't show up, people avoid us because we make them feel uncomfortable. The three friendly facial expression signals include the eyebrow flash, a smile and a slight head tilt.

"Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement." - Dan Pink

4. Give the gift of autonomy

The best gift you can give anyone on your team is your trust. When employees are free to make their own decisions, they feel empowered and trusted by the leader. There is real power in choice. The trust offered by the leader builds more engagement and approachability.

5. Show your gratitude

You can express your gratitude without making everyone an employee of the month for something they did well. Employee surveys consistently show how appreciation from the leader impacts the attitudes and engagement of the employees. Recognize them when they've done well and when they've improved. Appreciation doesn't have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as a thank you note.

We've got one more week to complete our series!  Next week... is Vision!


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Books mentioned in this post:

The Like Switch, by John Schafer

The Confidence Gap, by Russ Harris

iSpeak teaches workshops on Professional Selling to help sales leaders gather the most important data and then use that information to create the right message. Are your sales presentations closing eyelids or deals?

Russ Peterson Jr. is the co-founder and Managing Director of iSpeak, Inc. - An award-winning professional development training company. Russ is a speaker, international trainer, and published author on Professional Sales Communication and Business Communication. He delivers workshopskeynotes, and personal communication coaching services to business professionals in the US and around the world. You can connect with Russ directly through TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

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