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I am a new manager, and I have received some feedback that I am un- approachable — I don’t think I am, but what should I do to change the perception?
The first thing you want to do is thank the person that gave you this feedback. Not being approachable can be a “fatal flaw” for any executive and being aware of this perception enables you to take action.
And of course, even if you don’t think you’re unapproachable, you want to give serious consideration to this perception; being unapproachable ultimately means that as a leader people around you won’t engage in giving you feedback or provide you with important information. So what is it that could make us come off as unapproachable?
Many times it is a misinterpretation of being shy or introverted; if this is the case, you may want to step it up when it comes to initiating conversations.
Go ahead and be the first to say hello, ask curious (vs. critical) questions, like: “What are you thinking about the changes to the project?”
Personalizing your conversations can also be helpful. Personalizing involves remembering and communicating your knowledge of the other person — if you know a few things about people you regularly interact with and bring these items up in conversation, they will feel much more at ease with you.
Another way we are often misinterpreted as being distant or aloof is that our non-verbal clues suggest we are tense, not listening, or too rushed — all working against approachability.
Approachable people have open body postures; they are calm, they smile, they make good eye contact.
And don’t forget the dreaded “looking at your watch” or “checking your Blackberry” when talking with someone — this is an immediate signal that you’re really not approachable.
Finally, approachable people are also great at sharing information, either about themselves or business issues.
As leaders, the people around us model our behaviors. If we are sharing information regularly and openly, we will foster this behavior in others. Disclose some personal things about yourself — don’t be an enigma in the office.
Letting people know a few tidbits about you will help you build rapport with others and help.
I am a new CEO of a small business, we have 25 employees who have all been with the company for several years. We need to make changes in order to be competitive. I would appreciate advice about taking this company into the future.
Good for you for looking ahead and anticipating the future of your organization.
Too often, leaders get stuck in day-to-day operations and do not take the time to focus on longer range goals and strategies.
One of the best ways I’ve found to plan for the future is to build strategy into a learning process within your organization. This takes strategic planning out of the realm of plans that get developed in a vacuum and then collect dust on a bookshelf in the back office.
Instead, “strategy as a learning process” keeps the future of your organization front and center while linking it to the tactics, systems and measures in your organization.
This process begins with taking a good look at the current state of your organization; performing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is the first step. Next is to revisit and clarify your organization’s vision, mission and goals — are these guides still taking the organizations where it needs to be? Are they consistent with the organizations values?
Once the vision, mission and goals are clear, the organization needs to identify the factors that will enable the organization to achieve the mission and goals. These are often called “key competitive drivers” or “success factors” and they are typically those elements of the business that are integral to your success.
Some examples of key success factors include quality, customer service, manufacturing capacity, branding, etc. Once you understand these factors, you have to develop your strategies to make them come alive for the organization.
Are you going to outsource? Are you going to partner with other organizations? How will your organization go about achieving its vision and goals?
Once the strategies are decided, it is critical to align the tactics, systems and processes to support these strategies. This step is often a disconnect in organizations — strategies and day-to-day operations do not sync.
The strategy as a learning process ends with an evaluation of how the process is progressing with a review of performance measures linked to the vision, mission, goals and strategies.
The important thing to realize is that in order for this process to succeed, leaders must give it continuous attention through ongoing and regularly scheduled reviews.
Finally, leadership within the organization must build this process into the culture of the organization and keep it alive in all levels, functions, and operations within the company. By looking at all elements of the organization through this integrative lens, you should have a good start for dealing with current and future challenges.