by Colleen Kettenhofen
The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.
As you become more successful, more demands are made for your time. As you become a leader, your time is divided up amongst an increasing number of people. However, to be an effective leader, you must be an accessible leader.
The Leadership Accessibility Conundrum
The time you have is a zero-sum game. This is the crux of the leadership accessibility conundrum. When you give your time to one person or activity, you are also taking available time away from other people and activities. You only have so many hours in a day. Leadership accessibility becomes a delicate balancing act. However, you must have some level of accessibility, if you’re to be an effective leader.
Because your people need you!
An effective leader isn’t just some figurehead, whose picture they may see on a wall or website. An effective leader is one who gets to know their employees and is available to help overcome unexpected challenges, acknowledge their employees’ efforts, provide additional guidance when needed, and be the ultimate authority they turn to should they have a question or concern. You can’t be any of these things if you’re not accessible.
Active Leadership Accessibility
Active leadership accessibility is the more difficult of the two types of leadership accessibility – active or passive. With active accessibility, you purposely go out and seek out your employees, engaging them in conversations and learning about what’s going on in their slice of the organization first-hand. Your employees don’t need to schedule time to see and talk to you, you initiate the scheduling of time with them!
Walmart founder, Sam Walton, was devoted to active leadership accessibility. He would travel tens of thousands of miles a year to visit his growing numbers of stores. Walton would even carry a small tape recorder with him, during these visits, to record the conversations he had with everyone from store managers to cashiers, knowing that these interactions often held valuable nuggets of knowledge he could use to further the growth of Walmart. Additionally, Walton saw these interactions as investment into building positive relationships with his employees, which would result in increased productivity and increased loyalty.
Passive Leadership Accessibility
Passive leadership accessibility is the easier of the two types of accessibility. This type often comes in the form of an “open door policy” allowing employees to seek out leaders when they have a concern or a question. Although this will free up your time that you’d have to devote to active accessibility, there are significant trade-offs that make it the least effective accessibility effort.
First and foremost, most people will not take advantage of an open door policy, unless it is something incredibly serious. This means you won’t be hearing about a majority of the questions, complaints or ideas – things that could really impact your business. You take the chance of only hearing about an issue once it’s become a crisis!
With passive leadership accessibility, you also miss out on the positive benefits of active leadership accessibility. This includes not taking advantage of the collaborative efforts of actively seeking out your employees and getting their counsel on developing policies, procedures or hearing new ideas.
Although passive leadership accessibility is better than no accessibility at all, to be a truly effective leader go out and actively interact with your employee. Listen to their concerns. Take advantage of their ideas. Build positive relationships that will benefit the organization for years to come!
About Colleen Kettenhofen, Leadership Expert
CREDENTIALS: Colleen Kettenhofen is an international workplace and employee management expert, award-winning corporate trainer, and conference keynote speaker. A media veteran, she has appeared on numerous radio shows around the country and has written more than 40 popular articles on diverse workplace issues. Colleen has delivered more than 1,100 entertaining programs in 48 states and five countries. She is the author of 10 published audio programs and two books including SECRETS YOUR BOSS ISN’T TELLING YOU.
Colleen Kettenhofen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions, and seminars by calling (971) 212-0479.