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Approach with care- Daniel Kehoe

WHEN people talk about a manager they rate highly, the word ‘approachable’ is often used to describe him or her. What does being approachable mean? What does it look like to staff? Whether other people see you as approachable is determined by how you respond to requests for information or context, to requests for the rationale behind a decision that you have made, to requests for help to solve problems, to people passing on undesirable news, to interruptions. It is determined by how you engage people in conversation, how welcome you make them feel, how important you make them feel, how you respond to challenges to your views on things, how you respond in times of stress (remember – anyone can hold the rudder when the sea is calm). In short, how you respond to people in their eyes determines whether you are approachable or not. When someone approaches you about something, think how you are looking to them. Avoid frowning or sighing heavily or ignoring them by making them wait. Turn to them, smile, stop what you are doing and give them your attention. Here are a number of different responses that send a clear signal about your approachability. Helpful responses • “Yes, Steve, I am busy right now. If it’s not urgent, can we talk about it in, say, an hour from now. I’ll call you when I’m free.” • “Yes, Helen, I am busy right now, but if you think it’s important enough to bring it to my attention, it must be important. Come in, sit down, let’s talk.” • “Hi Harry. How are things going? Gee...it’s a while since we’ve had a chat. Say...have you got time for a coffee. C’mon, I’ll shout you one and then we can catch up.” • “Yeah, sure Julianne. Look, I know it must look like a tough decision from where you sit. In fact, I don’t like it much either, but let me explain the context and I’ll think you’ll see that given the circumstances this is the best way to go. I don’t agree with it, but I accept the reasons for it so I am going to support it.” • “George. Your face tells me that you don’t think too much of what I’ve just said. I’d like to hear your view and understand your reasons. Look, if there’s a flaw in my thinking, I’d rather know than not know. Likewise, if I see a flaw in your thinking I’d like to discuss it with you. Is that fair?” • “Hi Suzanne. Problem? No. That’s OK. As I’ve been telling all of you for some time now, I really see that my main role is to support what you are doing. If you have a problem and you can’t resolve it then it becomes my problem too. So make yourself comfortable and tell me the story.” Unhelpful responses • “No, no, no. I’ve just got a million things to do. One more won’t make any difference will it?” • “You did what? For crying out loud, you idiot!” • “Mary...That’s my decision. Now, if you don’t like it, you’ll have to lump it. Anything else?” • “Look, Mark. If all you are going to do is whinge then go and whinge to somebody who cares. I’ve told you what I think and that’s it. End of story.” • “For heavens sake Suzanne, it must be bloody obvious even to you that I’m busy right now. (Big sigh) What’s the problem now?” • ‘‘OK Mike. I’ve listened to your story and I really don’t know what you expect me to do. You’ve created the problem. I mean that was a pretty dumb thing to do wasn’t it? I really don’t need this right now you know. I’ve got some really important stuff to deal with at the moment. Is this really the best way for you to spend your time? Just get on with it.” • “What? When? Just what I bloody well need right now. Thanks for nothing. Yeah, leave it with me. Damn!”

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