Approachable leaders need to have open MINDS.
Because even if you surgically remove the door from your wall, that might not reduce the psychological distance between you and your people.
Here are four little known ways for implementing and Open Mind Policy at your office:
1. Create an environment of openness. People need to feel they’ve been given PERMISSION to (1) come up to, (2) feel relaxed around, (3) open up with, (4) comfortably walk away from, and (5) confidently return to you.
Don’t be too busy to explain anything. If that’s the perception people maintain of you, you’ve communicated two dangerous messages: (1) Your time is more valuable than theirs, and (2) Their question is not important. Suggestion: Stop whatever you’re doing and give yourself fully to the other person.
Or, if people catch you off guard, book “blank time” in your schedule so people know for certain when they can get you. Another suggestion is to post a “Lunch with Mark” sign-up sheet outside your office or on your door. Let people choose the day that best fits their schedule. That way they can come shoot the breeze with you on an informal, unstructured, non-threatening, one-on-one basis. They WILL open up. How do you initiate movement toward people?
2. Be someone who can be trusted with sensitive information. Becoming someone that anyone can tell anything will reduce the likelihood of your company kicking you to the curb.
Exercise confidentiality when dealing with sensitive issues. Create a Question Friendly Environment (QFE.) A safe space. A non-threatening atmosphere where people (1) feel comfortable, and (2) feel like they have permission to ask anything that’s on their minds.
Consider trashing your “Suggestion Box” and replace it with a “Question Box.” People will open up. Honesty will flourish. Feedback will flow like wine. Especially if people don’t have to sign their names. Do people feel safe around you?
3. Engage in more “What if?” discussions. Approachable leaders are giant question marks.
There are only two possible responses to a “What if?” discussion: Either you pause and openly consider the question with an attitude of curiosity and enthusiasm — or you reflexively launch into a defensive routine of “Yeah, but…” backpedaling in order to preserve your precious ego.
And the challenge is, ONE of those response patterns draws people TO you, while the other repels people FROM you. I wonder which one YOU practice. Perhaps a sticky note with a giant X through the words, “Yeah, but…” would reinforce this behavior. What words govern your questions?
4. Eagerly pursue new knowledge, skills, and methods. Approachability is a function of teachability.
In the book Beyond Counterfeit Leadership, Ken Shelton explains, “Continuous learning is the best protection against pride. A person who is vigorously learning can’t be egotistical about what he or she knows, because each increase in understanding reveals a larger area of ignorance.”
The secret to being teachable is daring to be dumm. Demonstrating a willingness to put your ego on the shelf and approach everyone and everything as your teacher, mentor and resource. Without such mental flexibility and openness, here’s what happens: You stop learning, which means you stop growing, which means you start dying. Yikes. Not good for business. How many books did you read last month?
REMEMBER: Nobody cares if your door is open – they only care if your mind is open.
That’s what being an approachable leader is all about.
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What’s your company’s Open Mind Policy?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
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