Stop Hiding Behind Your Open Door

Open Door policy IIWhile working on my undergraduate degree in Behavioral Science I took a Child Psychology class. At the time there was (and may still be) a lot of debate around quality time vs. quantity time with children. The argument was that although quality time is important, being around and interacting on a frequent basis could me more important to child development, compared to meaningful, quality time, if it only occurs on an infrequent basis. My belief was, and still is, that deeper child-parent relationships are forged when quantity time occurs.

Leaders and team managers are extremely busy. Weeks often fly by in a flurry of endless meetings and a plethora of emails. To ensure engagement regular team, staff or division meetings are conducted to ensure the leader spends quality team with the team discussing everything from weekly activities to revenue to future goals. Weekly meetings along with monthly or quarterly performance reviews are great quality time.

How often do you hear someone say “I have an open door policy”? I hear it all the time. The open door policy unofficially allows employees a chance to talk with a manager or leader anytime. In theory, this creates a culture of trust and transparency. The open door policy is an attempt at quantity time, meaning the leader is available any time and all the time.

Having an open door policy sounds good, but in practice it may not be accomplishing much. One challenge is that it puts all the responsibility on the employee and none on the leader. That creates a certain level of risk on the part of the employee; most employees are risk averse. The other problem is that most leaders aren’t always available (remember the never-ending meetings and emails mentioned above).  The open door policy could be creating less transparency and weakening employee-manager engagement.

So what can be done about it?

Stretch Your Legs: Stop expecting everyone to come and see you (your office is not that impressive). Stand up, stretch your legs, go walk around and just talk to people. Spending just a few minutes walking around and interacting can go a long way. Make it casual and informal – don’t micro-manage what people are doing.

Go Eat: Invite others to join you when grabbing a bite for lunch or making a quick drive to buy a Diet Coke. Even just a 10-minute Coke run provides a chance to talk about interests, hobbies, and family; in other words, things not work related.

Clear a Path: Too many performance reviews end with “let me know if there’s anything you need from me”. Here’s a novel idea, find ways to clear the path and help people achieve their job better (quicker, easier, more efficiently) without being asked. Look for ways to offer solutions without being asked.

Close the Door: Invite individuals into your office just to talk, or ask them questions and bounce ideas of them. Make them a part of something bigger than mere day-to-day tasks. Talking in your office behind closed doors will seem like a normal part of their job. By doing so, they will feel more comfortable coming to you the next time they have a question, concern or need.

Don’t wait for people to come to you, reach out. A culture of transparency and trust can be fostered more quickly through frequent and varied interaction. That’s the power that great leaders can harness through quantity time.

I love to hear your thoughts: Quality Time vs. Quantity Time.


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