How many times have you heard a manager or boss say something like: “Hey, if you ever need to chat – my door’s always open.” Perhaps they might even formalize that statement by saying something like: “We have an ‘open-door’ policy here.”
If you ARE a manager, employer or team leader then maybe you’ve even said it yourself.
Of course what we mean is: “I’m approachable. You can bring me your issues. If you need me, I’m available.”
Here’s the issue: When we communicate this, what we’re actually saying is: “You take the initiative. You come to me. You lead this process.”
That’s the opposite of what we should be doing.
As leaders – We should be taking the initiative. WE should be leading the process. It’s US who should be going to THEM.
In a perfect world maybe people would believe us when we say our door is always open. Maybe they’d approach us at the drop of a hat, and maybe we’d always handle it in exactly the right way when they do.
But the world isn’t perfect.
People’s insecurities get in the way (as do ours) – they don’t want to bother us or they feel intimidated around us or they don’t want to look bad – there are any number of reasons why people DON’T bring us their concerns or areas of struggle straight away.
As a leader I don’t want to only find out about something when it’s finally got to the point that there’s no option left but to bring me into the picture.
If, on the other hand – I’m taking the initiative, if I’m deliberately and consistently walking through THEIR door (rather than leaving mine open) and providing them with the space to give feedback; I’ll discover potential issues earlier and be able to offer advice and solutions before the problem spirals out of control.
The main thing to remember in this is NOT to initiate contact with an agenda. If you want your team members to dread sitting down with you – by all means use that opportunity to let them know where they’re not performing, or to provide some ‘observations’ about this or that. If, on the other hand – you want to create a culture where each and every member of your team feels that they can talk to you about anything, anytime – then make sure you go in with no intention OTHER then to ask questions, listen and be empathetic.
Don’t just tell everyone that your door is open. That’s lazy leadership. Take the initiative – schedule regular 1-on-1 opportunities where all you’re doing is listening and offering support or advice (when asked).
Leadership means not asking anyone to do something you’re not prepared to do yourself. Don’t ask anyone to walk through your ‘open door’ if you’re not regularly walking through theirs.