Nick Salamone believes that being accessible can work to your advantage, but it can also work against you.
The president of Keystone Asset Management Inc. says that if you are too approachable, employees may come to you with problems that should be handled by their direct managers, something you need to remind them of.
“One of my first questions is, ‘Did you speak to your manager first?’ and pushing it back down to where it needs to be,” says Salamone, who, along with Jane Hennessy, founded the company that works in the real estate default industry and employs more than 100 people.
Smart Business spoke with Salamone about how to be approachable and how to use humor to make people feel more comfortable.
Q. How do you make yourself more approachable?
Humor. I think that — in this business, and any business that you’re in — is extremely important day in and day out. I think a little bit of humor makes people feel a little more comfortable.
Also, when it is time to put your nose to the grindstone and you get serious, I think people can pick that up in your tone and in your voice and realize that maybe it’s time to put that humor away and get to the job at hand.
It is a daily practice for me to make my rounds. I stop at work stations; I see different people. We have some running jokes, and I’m pretty much fair game when it comes to, if I’m going to give it, I have to be able to take it.
Q. How do you draw the line on what is appropriate humor?
It’s just like, we are training a couple of puppies right now. I think you need to set the boundaries with that. The same thing with your employees. If your humor is light and you don’t push an envelope, I think that works really well.
Q. How else can you make yourself more approachable?
Little things — I learned a trick many, many years ago, and, if you ever come visit me in my office, my desk is against the wall and it’s not in front of me. I very rarely sit at the head of a table. When I have a meeting with somebody, I’ll spin that chair around and be open with them to get from behind that big dividing line that’s there. I think that opens you up a little more.
To be seen on the floor, to come through the front door ... to have a cup of coffee in the break room and not have a cup of coffee in your office. Those are things that make you a little more accessible.
Q. What is one thing you would advise other leaders to avoid doing if they want to become approachable?
Be selective when you are approachable. I think if you made the decision to be approachable, you need to be approachable all the time. You can’t say, ‘OK, today I’m approachable, tomorrow I’m not. I’m going to be approachable between 9 and 10.’
I do have bad days, and I think that it depends if you set the tone right away, people know when not to approach you.
If I come in the door, I think a lot of people can read you if you have something on your mind. If you’re going to make that commitment to being approachable, you have to be approachable and you have to realize there are going to be those stumbling things along the way — from wanting an interview, to asking for a day off or a suggestion on how to run your business, any of those things. It’s a big commitment.
I think that if you’re not into it, there are many times where I’ll just say, ‘You know what, my day is over at 2 (p.m.). It’s not good for me to be here. It’s not good for my look, it’s not good for the management style, it’s just not good for that.’
Or close the door. I think people respect the fact when you have the door closed. I mean, all our doors have windows here in the office, and if they are closed, they can look in and you put your hand up and then they turn around and go away.
HOW TO REACH: Keystone Asset Management Inc., (215) 855-3350 or www.keystonebest.com