Your job duties may not include leading a team of people, but we are all leading someone. When friends, employees, or others at church look to you for your guidance and opinion, you have influence over those around you, even when that leadership is lateral. But do your coworkers and friends approach you for advice? Do they come to you with problems they need help solving? Think through these seven ideas to ask yourself if you lead from a posture of approachability.
- Open the Door. Be available when people need you. This is the simplest idea that is hardest to do. Leaders are often pulled in many directions. There are always emails to respond to, decisions to make, tasks to perform, and problems to solve. But remember to put people first. Keep your office door open as much as possible so others can easily approach when they need you. Offer your full attention—physically turn to them, put down your phone, stop typing your email, and look them in the eye. Your body language conveys your interest and respect, so be mindful of how you are perceived. If you’re in the middle of something that can’t wait, set a specific time to talk, whether it’s as soon as you’re finished with the task at hand or later in that day. Providing a specific time shows you care and intend to address whatever they need.
- Communicate Clearly. Encourage open dialogue with regular check-ins. When communicating—especially when delivering difficult information—be as clear and decisive as possible. Ask follow up questions and allow time for your team to ask questions. When asked for your opinion, offer it, but know when to make the call and when to push team members to decide themselves. Also consider personalities when it comes to one-on-one communication. As an extrovert and external processor, I used to barge into people’s offices and just start talking. It hadn’t dawned on me that someone might prefer an email to a face-to-face discussion. As I get to know team members on a more personal level, this helps me know the best way to approach them to set us up for a fruitful conversation.
- Assume the Best. When a team member comes to you with a complaint about his or her work or another person on the team, assume the best of everyone involved. Try to help him or her see the other side without taking sides. As often as possible, push team members to work toward solutions with each other rather than inserting yourself. When the whole team sees you do this, they will feel more comfortable coming to you since they can expect you to be as fair and unbiased as possible.
- Keep Confidential Things Confidential. When a coworker shares something with you that is personal or confidential, keep it that way. If you find yourself regularly asking people not to repeat things you say, take note of this. Before you speak, ask yourself if you really need to say it at all. People share more with those they know they can trust. Shut down gossip by not participating, and stand up for someone who is being ganged up on.
- Own Your Mistakes. Humility and honesty will always serve you well. This also sets a good example for those on your team. When you can say, “That was my fault,” “I was wrong about that,” or “I made a poor choice,” you are just admitting you are human. Being able to own your mistakes is disarming and lets others know you don’t expect perfection from yourself or anyone else.
- Celebrate Your Team. Take time to celebrate your team as a whole and as individuals. Thank them for the work they do, give them genuine compliments, and give credit publicly. Use “we” language as often as possible—an environment of “I lead, and you do the work” will not go far. Everyone working together is what makes a successful team. Put a high value on celebrating milestones as a team whether personal (monthly birthday lunches) or professional (our business hit 100k followers on Instagram). Knowing personalities will really help you celebrate others well.
- Keep Learning. Leaders are always learners! Keep leadership books, podcasts, and articles in your content rotation to keep best practices and principles top of mind. Ask your team for recommendations, and give them the option to read things with you and discuss. Model other leaders you admire and glean from their habits. Ask them what they find works best when it comes to building relational equity and try implementing new things. And remember that Jesus is the most approachable leader of all—everyone is welcome to come to Him regardless of their faults or failures. He makes all things new.
If you ever feel stuck, apply the Golden Rule from Mathew 7:12: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Leaders have a responsibility to their teams, but we are just people who get things wrong at times. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t always gotten it right, and resolve to start fresh.
Larissa Arnault Roach is the marketing manager for LifeWay Women. She loves to celebrate and considers Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 her life verse. She also loves to read and tells anyone who will listen about the OverDrive app—the easiest way she’s found to read books on her Kindle and listen to oodles of audiobooks for free.