What Is Your Policy?

What is Your Policy?

Do you have an open door policy? If so, what does that mean to you? What does it mean to your employees?

In a recent conversation, a senior executive confided that she was receiving criticism from employees. The team felt she was not honoring her open door policy. They stated that her door was often closed. As our conversation developed it became clear that the employees were emphasizing the word “door” in open door policy. 

So should leaders have an open door policy when much of their time is spent in conversations that may have elements that are confidential or sensitive in nature? Is it reasonable for an executive to close a door when providing constructive criticism or performance reviews?

I believe in open door policy. I also believe that leaders need to define what that means. I believe in an open door policy that places the emphasis on “open” rather than “door." So what does that mean?

An open door policy means the leader is open to receiving feedback. It does not mean the door is open all the time. I once worked with a president who had an open door policy. His business was in the midst of significant change. He wanted to stay grounded in what was happening in his business. 

To accomplish this his assistant scheduled two hours every other Friday where anyone could walk in and talk to him. During that time he was always in his office. If someone came in he moved from his desk to a round table, inviting him or her to sit and asking them what was on their mind. When people finished talking about their topic he would ask a few probing questions. How were the changes affecting that individual? Was anything keeping them up at night? What could he as president be doing better?

An open door policy should not be limited to team members coming to the leader. The leader should open their door and get out into the organization. Get to know the people. Listen to what they have to say about family, friends, and hobbies. Find out what they know about the organization, the target outcomes and how those outcomes will be reached. Leaders can use this time to understand how well their message is being received by the team. What adjustments can they make to increase understanding, focus and engagement?

Leaders should be encouraging this behavior in their deputies. Human capital is one of the most significant investments many organizations make. Taking time to understand the people and how they perceive the organization can offer insight that will help leaders improve outcomes. 

Many people experience the organization through their interaction with its leaders. What kind of experience are your people having?

Joe Thompson

© 2016 Differentiating Strategies, LLC