Happiness and success on the job are greatly affected by our relationship with our manager. The ability to communicate issues with our manager, ask questions, make requests and know that he or she will do what they can to assist you can matter more than supposed company policies. I was curious to learn from actual managers what creative ideas they have developed to ensure an approachable and supportive relationship with their employees. I am amazed by the amount of forethought, creativity and effort many managers put into their role.
Why should you be an approachable manager?
Employees are comfortable asking questions: Mistakes can be made because an employee is afraid to ask an important question for fear of looking foolish. An approachable manager can communicate to her team that there are no dumb questions as well as demonstrate with kindness, openness and, most importantly, a clear answer to questions asked by employees.
Mistakes can be caught and dealt with early: If an employee does make a mistake, an approachable manager can potentially minimize the size and scope of that mistake for the company if dealt with early and immediately. If an employee feels comfortable approaching her manager immediately, the manager can do what is necessary to limit the negative impact. Being approachable allows you to deal with something before it escalates. You cannot fix something you do not know is broken.
Learn what motivates employees: Being approachable allows you to understand what motivates and drives your employees. Inya Chehade, CEO of The Bridge says that understanding an employee’s motivation is critical as a manager and what motivates one person can be very different from what motivates another.
Promotes a creative environment: An approachable manager means employees are more comfortable being creative, suggesting different ideas and thinking outside the box. In our fast paced world, we do not have time to overthink. Moving forward without fear can contribute to the success of an organization.
Most importantly, being approachable can ensure your head is not in the sand. Ignorance is bliss but is not in your best interest long term as a manager. Being approachable requires courage to face the truth and deal with it.
How can you be an approachable manager?
Get a (well-rounded) life… and flaunt it: A balanced life allows you better perspective and increased confidence when things go wrong at work. Managers with a full life have perspective and often more confidence, which allows them to feel less threatened by questions and concerns from their employees. In addition, a manager with responsibilities and interests outside of work is more likely to support employees with their whole life and encourage balance for them as well.
Let Your People Go: As often happens with good managers, their employees achieve great success due to the positive and enriching environment they have provided. The conundrum of this is that your fantastic employee whom you have nurtured and mentored is now ready to move on up to a higher position outside your group. As hard as it is, you must set them free to share their skills. As Lori Schuldiner Schor, Social Welfare Program Manager for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany noted, her support of employees within her group also motivates other staff members in knowing that she also has their back.
Spread the good news: Of course we know that you should document problems with an employee and keep HR informed. However, why can’t we keep HR informed of the good news as well? Lori makes a habit of sending a compliment to an employee and copying HR so HR can put it in the employee’s file. Smiles all around!
Pay attention to your physical cues: You don’t need to walk around smiling, but you do need to be aware of how your stance and expression impact those around you. As Judy Summers, Director of the Montclair State University Red Hawk Math Learning Center notes, employees can be sensitive to the moods of their managers, so be aware of unintended messages you might be sending.
Meet Your Team: This could seem pretty obvious if your team is 10 people. But what if your team is almost 200? One successful manager shared that she took the time to meet with her almost 200 employees even though it took her six months to do this. Several employees told her that they had never sat down and talked with a person at her level before. Meeting your team one-on-one can give you great insight into what is going on in the organization and help you identify problems before they start.
Request Feedback: Lori sends an email to her team every few months asking if they have the “resources they need to do their jobs and be able to feel satisfied.” These resources could be as small as a new headset to something more complicated like additional support for a project they are working on.
Say Thank you: As one manager states, “Thank your employees for their specific contributions and articulate how their work is contributing to achieving the team’s goals and the company’s visions. I get thank you notes for my thank you notes!”
Do you have thoughts about how to be an approachable manager due to your experience as an employee or a manager? Please share! We can all learn from the creativity and experience of others. Also, I plan to write a blog about the challenges of being an approachable manager. I would love to hear your insights about this as well. As one of the managers mentioned, the mere exercise of thinking about her management habits allowed her to revisit her strategy and continue to improve upon it. Thinking about how we manage can enhance productivity and is worth our time and attention.
Interested in learning more?