Shelly shared a wonderful blog post on the importance of how you come across as a leader in meetings. Your approach with the group is critical for your group’s development, and for how the team perceives you. You must understand how you appear before the group as an approachable leader, but also a credible leader. Both sides of you must be understood for you to be an effective, charismatic leader. First, we must understand what each leader looks like.
mentions the importance of running a good meeting. She cites cases where the leader has said “we
have 15 minutes to hold this meeting…”.
Obviously, this is not going to build a positive environment for your
team, nor will it accomplish what you hope it will. More importantly, it leads to frustration
with the team and an unwillingness to support these meetings in the
future. To put it bluntly, your team may
be smarter than you on the issue you want to discuss, and you need to listen to
them. Without dragging this out, if you
are not sure about how to run a good meeting, or it is not your strength,
research it on the web. Set up your plan
for running a meeting, then stick to it.
I will write more about how to run an effective meeting in the future for
others to reference.
of leadership and holding meetings is more than just can you run an effective
meeting. You must be clear on the intent
of the meeting. What is it you hope to
accomplish? What are the goals? How much time is needed to accomplish those
goals? And what position must you take
as a leader for the meeting to be effective?
I will look at the position of approachability and focus on the
behaviors, not the content, of the leader to give you some guidance in this
area. I hope to answer the underlying
question above, how do I present myself as approachable?
It is my
belief, and that of others that I have trained with, that we are over trained
in the practice of the approachable style.
As educators, we do it all the time because we are told to be good
listeners and pay attention when others are speaking. The verbal and non-verbal behaviors I share
below should be very familiar to you.
The Approachable Leader
As a leader
or teacher, the approachable style should sound and look very familiar. I would suggest that you observe a few people
around you and see if you notice these behaviors in them:
- Look at the person speaking
- Body faces the person speaking
- Lean forward towards them
- Nod your head as they speak
- Make sounds of acknowledgement such as “yes”,
“uh-huh”, “I see”, etc.
- Palms are up
- Our voice tone goes up at the end of our
- Gestures of approachability such as gesturing
towards yourself and the other person
- Breathe low in the abdomen
Do any of
these behaviors sound familiar? We do
them very naturally when speaking with others with whom we are trying to build
rapport. They show we are listening and
responding to the person who is speaking. These gestures show we are
interested. They are the gestures of
engagement with the speaker. So, the
question is, why are these important to the leader who wants to be
answer the last question, I will digress a bit to some underlying beliefs we
must value before moving forward. As leaders,
we must value other people’s opinions and desire feedback for improvement. To do this, we must separate the content of
the discussion, from the person sharing it so we understand it is information
only, not personal values we are discussing.
We must be willing to make adjustments so that we can hear other people
and value their ideas. For example, if
our meetings are 15 minutes in length, there is likely frustration, and we must
make the adjustment so people can be heard.
I would strongly recommend a mentor who can be the third party to
identify these issues for the leader to address. Once the willingness is there and the mindset
is being developed or fully developed, then non-verbal cues can become valuable.
As the leader
of a group, if we wish to be more approachable in our position, we must align
our verbals and our non-verbals. In
simpler terms, if our body language is out of alignment with what we say,
people will be confused about the message.
Developing our non-verbal skills of approachability will likely not be
difficult. You are likely doing them
already. The practice becomes aligning
them with the message you are working to get across. I would suggest taking one of the above
behaviors to identify it, understand what it feels like, and become aware of
how you feel when you are practicing it.
Once you are aware of it, you will recognize it in practice, or be able
to shift to it when you want to become more approachable.
Skills to Practice
In order to
better understand what it means to be approachable, I would like to suggest
that you try a couple of these drills below to better grasp how it feels to be
“approachable” at least in practice.
Tone of Voice
As a simple
practice for this, think of a phrase you may say in a meeting. Ideally, it could be one that you use
regularly when trying to get feedback, or connect with the group. A phrase such as “what do you think?” or
“does anyone have any thoughts?” can be easy to use if a phrase does not come
The drill is
simple and I would suggest you practice in a mirror, or perhaps video yourself
while practicing. Say the phrase you
have selected. When you get to the last
word, allow the tone of your voice to rise or go up, not in volume but in
tone. If it helps, you may even lift your
chin slightly as you do this. You should
notice a lifting tone of the voice and one that is friendly. This is an approachable tone of voice and one
that encourages a response. Much like an
airline stewardess asks if you would like something, we hear the tone and think
“this person would like a response” they sound pleasant.
part of the drill is also simple. Use
the same phrase and do the same thing.
However, at the end of the phrase, allow the voice tone to drop lower
and slightly lower your chin at the same time.
Repeat the phrases and notice the difference. When your tone drops, it sounds like a
command voice, much like a police officer or airline pilot. It is not friendly nor does it encourage a
response. Non-verbally, we hear the tone
and think “the person says they want a response, but it does not sound like it”
or “they may be angry”.
The tone of
one’s voice can drive how one is perceived in conversation or meetings. Tone of voice is very powerful. If you couple the tone of the voice with a
non-verbal skill, the result can be very powerful in determining how someone
responds to you.
Palm Up versus Palm Down
practice is quite easy. There are many
variations to this same practice, I will keep it simple.
practice, I would suggest the phrase “does anyone have any questions?” however
you may use any phrase you are comfortable with. In this first practice, you will again use
the approachable tone where you lift the tone at the end of the phrase. Say the phrase, asking for a response with
the tone lifting. However, also use an
open hand and either place your palm up in front of you or lift your hand like
you were asking a person to raise their hand.
As you complete this, the combination of the verbal and the non-verbal
encourages a response from others. Try
this a couple of times.
same phrase as above. This time, the
tone of your voice will drop at the end of the phrase to use a command style or
sometimes called credible style. At the
same time, your palm will face down in front of you. This combination is best used for sending
information. The intent is not to
receive information rather to tell others information with no response needed. One quick note about this style, you may be
uncomfortable with this style. However,
understand what it sounds and feels like for you so. Recognize that there are times you will need
to use this style, and times where you should not.
Body Posture – lean in versus remain still
This skill is
a listening skill and requires a partner who is willing to chat with you. I would suggest you alert your partner as to
what you are doing rather than trying this on them without their knowledge for
the health of the relationship.
You may do
this seated or standing. Your partner
will begin to talk to you about any particular topic. You will lean in, nod your head, make eye
contact, and verbally acknowledge that you are listening by responding with
simple phrases such as “uh huh”, “yes”, “I see”, and other common phrases. A short amount of time is all that is needed
to practice this. Repeat this, with a
willing partner, and exchange roles.
Discuss how you felt. Were you
listened to? Did you feel like the
person listening valued you? Share your
feelings about this experience. This is
an approachable pattern of listening and acknowledging the other person. They should feel valued and listened to.
practice again having a discussion.
However, this time, sit or stand with a straight back. Listen and make eye contact. Do not respond or acknowledge the
conversation unless asked a question.
Again, repeat this with the other person. Discuss your experience with the other
person. The feelings should be different
this time. This is a credible pattern of
listening and really one that does not encourage response. The other person may not feel listened to or
that you heard what they had to say. It
may be very uncomfortable for both the speaker and the listener.
What to do with this
The intent is
for us to recognize what we are doing.
We need to recognize our own patterns of behavior and
communication. Whether you are
approachable or more credible, it is okay.
We need to recognize our patterns and know when to shift from one style
As the leader,
you need to be aware and acknowledge that your non-verbals and verbals may be
out of sync. You may be asking for responses
with one or both palms down and your voice tone dropping at the end of the
phrase. You are not seeking information,
you may appear angry to your group or simply indicating you don’t actually want
is that you practice this during the summer.
Look for these patterns of behavior in other people. See if you can identify simple patterns as
described above. Also, practice these
patterns and consider when you would use them in your setting. Knowing when to use one pattern over another
is critical. Knowing how to shift from
one to another is a key piece of communicating consistently and effectively. With practice, this can become and effective
set of tools in your toolkit.
next step is practice. Work on your
communication skills of connecting verbal and non-verbal communication. If you have people who believe you are not
approachable, work on becoming more approachable. Practice lowering the tone of your voice at
the end of the sentence. Practice
speaking with your palms up and perhaps also gesturing back and forth with the
If you want
to move forward in your practice, I would encourage you to check out Michael Grinder and Associates and
consider the purchase of the book ENVoY, or review Michael Grinder’s
YouTube Channel where a wealth of videos are currently housed. If you are in Asia, I would suggest you look
for a course by Kendall
Zoller on Adaptive Schools where he presents this information and more for
If you have
additional questions about this information, feel free to contact us through
the website. Please add your thoughts in
the comment section below to help guide our thoughts on future blog posts for