The importance of being an approachable leader

4 mins

Strong leaders aren’t what they once were. But that’s a good thing.The stereotype of leaders...

Strong leaders aren’t what they once were. But that’s a good thing.

The stereotype of leaders needing to be feared by their employees has rightly been consigned to the history books, with many now appreciating that being approachable is far more conducive to a ‘strong’ employer-employee relationship. ‘Approachability’ can be one of those fluffy terms, however, that is easily thrown around but less easily evidenced.

So, what does approachability look like?

In leadership, approachability is about building relationships that allow people to feel comfortable, whether that’s putting forward their ideas, or voicing their concerns. Much of this stems from using all the abilities that you have cultivated throughout your career, and which have made you successful.

Take communication; while it may seem obvious, it’s one of the most fundamental skills for a manager to have in their arsenal. From everyday occurrences, like greeting people by name and making eye contact so that your staff feel valued, to the ability to motivate your staff with a word of inspiration, these ‘basic’ skills are what set apart great leaders.

No-one should have the air of being ‘above’ others, so giving your undivided attention to staff when they need it, free of distraction or smartphone notifications, will help them feel like part of the team. Much of this will also arise from continual curiosity about how the business and its employees can improve. Remaining open to your staff’s views and asking lots of questions will show that you really do care about their opinions. Ultimately being approachable is about staying grounded.

Why is it so important?

As a business leader, your role is to support your workforce but also to get the best out of them. Approachability creates a culture of open communication, which results in empowered employees, more collaborative problem solving and improved productivity. This is also a trait you want in your senior team members, so show them the value of putting time into developing this quality. If others are able to put people at ease, you’ll have a stronger network and greater loyalty across the board.

Staff will be more willing to throw out different ideas without the fear of being shot down, and therefore be more creative.

The truth comes out

The best leaders understand that people will come to them with good and bad news. By being approachable, employees will be more willing to tell you what is actually going on with the team, rather than telling you what you want to hear. You cannot solve an issue if you don’t know about it and a culture of secrecy isn’t conducive to a happy, satisfied workforce who feel listened to.

If your workforce is concerned about negative reactions to issues, they will be more likely to hide a problem and allow it to bubble under the surface. It’s far more beneficial and time-efficient to work on an issue while it is still manageable, and you risk losing staff if they don’t feel like they can raise concerns. But, if your employees feel valued and know that you are invested and committed in helping them to improve, they will be eager to demonstrate their growth to you and to help those around them to do the same.

If you aren’t approachable, what’s the point?

If your employees don’t feel comfortable in approaching you for advice, the insights that you are sitting on become redundant. Sharing knowledge is crucial to business success and your workforce will benefit from using you as a hub for information. In essence, approachability is likely to improve your bottom line.

At Hamilton Barnes, our co-founders Nick and George work hard to remain approachable, visible, and open, and it shows. Our company culture is one of the most important factors behind our high retention rate and we are proud to have such a hard-working cohesive team.

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