The Open Door Policy Fail
Saying you have an “open door policy” is the equivalent to saying you are not going to proactively do your job.
I know…this policy is intended to communicate positive attributes like the idea that you are available and there for your people or that you are “approachable,” but the truth is, it’s a terrible policy!
Good leaders understand the importance of having strong time management which means a segmented and purposeful organization of time allocation. Within this, it includes having designated time for your people, not just when they want to “stop by.”
Mark Murphy wrote about a productivity study on workplace interruptions that discusses the idea that interruptions can cost you half your day. This is due to having to refocus and regain your thought process after every interruption, no matter how short or inconsequential. The “open door policy” perpetuates a culture of interruptions. Because really, if the team leader has such a policy, it will typically trickle down into the entire culture…and taking productivity down with it.
Why do people need to ask you to do your job?
How would you feel if you had to ask the receptionist to answer the phone each time it rang? Ridiculous, right? If the job is to answer the phone, then this should be assumed. YET, an open door policy is just about the same thing. If your job is to lead, manage, and coach, then your responsibility is equally assumed to proactively do these things.
Your open door is most likely closed in reality
When leaders have this so-called “open door policy,” they typically end up actually having a closed door. This is largely due to the lack of proactively coaching their people. Without the coaching cadence in place, they end up having a lot of disciplinary conversations. It is simple really. If you don’t seek to coach regularly, you end up only pursuing damage control, AKA, performance reviews or the PIP. And those happen behind closed doors.
So what is the right thing to do with your door?
Office Hours: Any good professor will tell you that keeping office hours is key! Designate 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon to be available for anything. I would recommend doing this the first hour of the morning and the first hour after lunch so it is occurring before you begin projects. If no one is taking you up on this time, those are also great times to dive into emails, organize your desk, and do other small tasks needed daily that don’t melt down with interruptions.
Regular Coaching: Having regular, purposeful coaching is not only key to your people’s success, it is key to your time management, productivity, and effectiveness as a leader. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then I suggest you time block yourself for 45 mins, close your door, put on some headphones, and pay attention! Because this WILL save you.
Be Approachable: Saying the words, “I have an open door policy” in order to be perceived as approachable, doesn’t actually make you approachable! Rather than creating a bad business policy, address the core purpose behind it. Just be approachable. Be genuine, friendly, personable, caring, easy to talk to and all other things that allow people to know you are a decent human. Because that is all what approachable really means…the belief that you are not an asshole.
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