No, not those cute little marshmallow birds you buy on Easter and stick in the microwave until they explode.
I’m talking about your PEOPLE.
Employees. Clients. Guests. Fans. Readers. Listeners. Viewers. Attendees. Colleagues. Members. Congregants. Friends. Students. Hell, even your own kids.
You know, your peeps. Your constituency. Those you serve on a daily basis.
And when it comes to your interactions with these people, there’s a fundamental question that has to be asked:
How are people changed after having a conversation with you?
Too many leaders – and, we’re ALL leaders, by the way – would not be able to answer this question very well.
EXAMPLE: When my company was just starting, I used to valet park nights and weekends at a local hotel to make ends meet…
David, the colossal putz known as my boss, was the kind of guy you’d walk away from a conversation thinking, “You know, maybe chugging three bottles of Armor All isn’t such a bad idea after all…”
Well. I guess that’s one way to be changed after having a conversation with someone.
But I digress.
SO, HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: As a leader, you can exert (some) degree of control over the outcomes of your interactions.
Today we’re going to explore a list of eight practices to make sure your peeps are positively changed after having a conversation with you.
1. Open more than just the door. “I don’t understand why people think I’m unapproachable,” leaders say, “I HAVE an open door policy…”
OK, well, that may be true. And that’s a good start: Your door may be open. But the real questions people want to know the answer to are: Is your mind open? Is your heart open? And are your ears open? Because if you want to give people permission to come up TO, feel relaxed AROUND, open up WITH, comfortably walk away FROM, and confidently return TO you, some bullshite Open Door Policy ain’t gonna cut it anymore.
Approachability derives from the Latin word apropiare, or “to come nearer to.” Which means being approachable is a combination of three factors:
FIRST: The openness and attractiveness of your personal being as a function of your attitudes, values and core selfhood.
SECOND: The openness and attractiveness of your physical space as a function of your language, behaviors and environment.
THIRD: The openness and attractiveness of your public persona as a function of your reputation, personal brand and visibility.
Keep this philosophy in your mind as you explore the rest of the strategies, as it is the foundation upon which all successful conversations are based. How approachable is your personal being? What about your physical space? And how does that contribute to the approachability of your public persona?
2. Be someone whom others could tell anything. This isn’t some “technique” you use in your conversations. As you already learned, approachability originates from your core. Your truth. Your personhood. Your most honest and vulnerable self. And when you exert that core, your truthfulness leads to trustworthiness. That’s what gives the other person subconscious permission to tell you anything.
Here’s a revealing exercise: Make a list of three people in your life that you feel you could tell anything. Then, for each person, write down WHY you feel that way. Next, ask yourself, “What has she done in the past to achieve that honorable status?” “What attributes of his personality make me feel safe with him?”
Finally, once you’ve extracted all the attributes, honestly assess how you’re embodying and practicing those attributes in your own life. Think about whose “List of People I Could Tell Anything” YOU might be on. Do people feel safe around you? Are you someone others could tell anything? And when was the last time someone told you something they hadn’t told anyone else?
3. Help people like themselves when they’re with you. A truly approachable person never makes another person feel small. He forces others to have good opinions and feel more highly of themselves. People never walk away unheard and always emerge transformed, even in the smallest way.
One of the Phrases That Payses you can use to practice this principle is, “Jim, it’s really beautiful to observe your…” It’s objective and offers proof that you value whatever input they share, be it positive or negative. This gives people permission to come back to you in the future with their ideas, questions, concerns and thoughts. Sure beats someone who constantly demands, “I don’t want problems, I want solutions!”
It’s similar to what Abraham Schmitt writes in The Art of Listening with Love, “Listening IS love, and love always transforms that which it loves.” How are you transforming people by listening and leading with love? How is your open heart building others’ lives? And how do people feel when they’re around you?
4. Make people better off having communicated with you. You can do so by pointing out what people are too close to themselves to hear. This helps people listen to the loudest message their lives are screaming. A few Phrases That Payses might include: “As I silently listened to you, I heard some messages that you yourself couldn’t hear…” and “Mary, here’s what I heard emerging out of everything you shared…”
When you practice this, people don’t just LIKE themselves when they’re with you; they LOVE themselves when they walk away from you. And the best part is (as my friend Dixie likes to remind me), “When people are in love with themselves, they will love whoever made them feel that way. And we do anything for the people we love.” How do you leave people? How are you helping them fall in love with themselves? And what would happen if everyone who walked away from a conversation with you felt better about their truth?
5. Make time spent with you seem longer. Look, I know you’re busy. So, whether you’re interacting with employees, clients, guests, attendees, colleagues, members, congregants, friends and students – even your own kids – the secret is to make their (limited) time with you seem longer. Here’s how:
SIT DOWN. A 2003 study from Columbia University reported that doctors who physically sat down during their consultations were perceived by patients as being in the room three times longer than the doctors who stood up. Wow.
WATCH YOUR EYES. Avoid any movement that seems like you are checking on how much time has passed. No matter how busy you are. No matter how badly you have to pee. Be aware of how often your eyes avert from the speaker and scan clocks, phones, pagers or computer screens. People WILL notice. If you absolutely HAVE to look, do it discreetly or wait until the other person isn’t watching. D’oh!
AVOID THE WORD “ONLY.” In Parker Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness, he explains, “Only is a negative presumption. By simply saying, ‘Come in, I have ten minutes,’ versus, ‘Come in, I ONLY have ten minutes,” you are perceived as someone who gives others enough time.” Otherwise there will be a perpetual undercurrent of resentment. And that tension will give people the impression that your time is more valuable than theirs. Yikes.
Remember: Approachability is about the openness and attractiveness of your physical space as a function of your language, behaviors and environment. What behaviors are accidentally reducing the perceived time spent with you? How could you make that time seem longer? And what would happen to your reputation as a leader if you became known as someone who made time for everyone?
6. Compliment people’s being, not doing. Scrap those cheesy, ass-kissing techniques of complimenting people’s clothes or hairstyles. The interpersonal impact of such compliments is directly proportionate to the level of thought required to deliver them: NONE. Besides, you know they look fat in that new suit anyway.
Instead, ask yourself, “What could I say to honor this person’s uniqueness?” “What attributes of her core self do I admire?” and “What facets of his personhood are most attractive?”
The secret is, making someone feel “important” and “valued” and “needed” is no longer enough. If you truly want to win with people, you need to make them feel ESSENTIAL. It’s a word that derives from the Latin essentia, which means, “essence.” And that’s what being an approachable leader is all about. Honoring and loving and acknowledge the essence of another person.
SUGGESTION: For the love of God, don’t place your cell phone on the table while you’re having a face-to-face conversation. Don’t even look at it. I had a client do this four times during a 30-minute consultation last month. Blech. All that signals to people is, “I might be receiving a call from someone who is more important than you.” What impressive part of this person’s BEING could you acknowledge? How will you make her feel essential? And do you really think complimenting her new hairstyle is REALLY going to score any points?
7. Leave a permanent imprint on everyone you meet. Constantly ask yourself the question, “What new world could I open up for this person?” If you allow that challenge to underscore your daily conversations, you WILL alter people’s pulses.
The secret is to give people experiences, not conversations. I’m not talking about a performance. Just an experience. Maybe it’s the experience of feeling deeply listened to without judgment or evaluation. Maybe it’s the experience of having a conversation that wouldn’t usually take place in this person’s life. Or, maybe it’s the experience of mutual vulnerability and humanity via the honest exchange of personal truth.
Just give people experiences. Memories. Moments. What imprint do you leave on people? What memory could you create with this person? And how do you want them to describe the experience of interacting with you?
8. Decide how you want to leave people. Meetings. Interviews Phone calls. Speeches. Brainstorming sessions. Performance reviews. Hallway conversations. Heart to heart discussions with your kids. Whichever interaction you constantly find yourself in, you do have (some) control over how you leave people. Here’s a rapid fire list of examples:
You can leave people wondering. Because you enlisted their creativity.
You can leave people wanting more. Because you emotionally engaged them.
You can leave people curious. Because you built a frame of interest and intrigue.
You can leave people laughing. Because you helped them evoke the humor in their own lives.
You can leave people inspired. Because you enabled them to give birth to their own realizations.
You can leave people thinking differently about themselves. Because you challenged them apply something to their own lives.
You can leave people in love with themselves. Because you honored, respected and made them feel essential.
You can leave people thinking. Because you asked provocative, creative and penetrating questions.
You can leave people reevaluating. Because something you said made them confront themselves.
You can leave people relieved. Because you actually listened to them.
Make your choice. How do you leave people? What do they say as soon as you leave the room? Are they diminished, unaffected, or enlarged after their encounter with you?
OK! Quick recap on today’s lesson:
1. Open more than just the door.
2. Be someone whom others could tell anything.
3. Help people like themselves when they’re with you.
4. Make people better off having communicated with you.
5. Make time spent with you seem longer.
6. Compliment people’s being, not doing.
7. Leave a permanent imprint on everyone you meet.
8. Decide how you want to leave people.
REMEMBER: Part of being an approachable leader depends on how people feel when they walk away from you.
The choice is yours.
Your peeps are waiting.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How are people changed after having a conversation with you?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “26 Rapid-Fire Strategies for becoming the Most Approachable Person in Your Organization,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
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