My “closed door” 100% engagement policy
Firstly, I’m not into policies. Too many rules. Rules change.
However, as a leader and entrepreneur, you need to be very protective of your time and this is the only “rule” I request of my team.
It’s easy to be busy. It’s harder to achieve big things.
My whiteboard tells me that I need to be creating, leading, innovating, growing, learning and that I need to be laser-focused. If I’m not doing those things, I’m not having fun, nor am I being as productive as I should to myself and the business.
So, how do you manage your time?
Do you actually believe that an open door policy is the best approach?
How many times have you heard a manager say, or been sold a role where there is an “open door” policy? What does that actually mean to you?
If you were the head of a company, would you want every Tom, Dick and Harry walking in at any time to ask you about anything?
So let’s be honest. The “open door” policy is the worst thing a leader could do and, very politely, an absolute local of bullocks.
Let’s now look at the open plan environment. Some say that being in an open plan helps you oversee things and monitor what’s going on day to day. I guess that may be true for those control freaks that like to micro manage and gawk over people’s shoulders all the time. Successful and experienced staff don’t respond well to that environment.
Sure, I do think open plan offices can work and can be an efficient use of office space, particularly if a manager respects the space of others, provides autonomy, empowers their staff and manages their time well.
I, however, work on a performance-based model with typically more experienced staff, so ultimately it’s performance that counts; all, of course, while delivering a great experience to the client within an ethical framework. If someone underperforms, then it’s imperative to look at output and quality of work and find areas to improve, but I’m not interested in the detail of every activity that goes on day to day.
So what’s a “closed door policy”?
Firstly, I am protective of my time and I work extremely well undistracted while knowing I’m not going to be distracted. This way I can do more for my business and more for others with peace of mind. I’m sure many people can relate.
I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “I need to stay back late or get in early to get things done!” Well, now you don’t if you try my approach.
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The problem with a door is that it is exactly that – a door. If it’s open, people walk in and assume it’s reasonable to do so – makes sense right? And if the door is closed, people knock right?
If they knock and you don’t answer, that would be rude?
But why should that be? They distracted you. Surely they are being rude?
Except no one wants to be rude: that’s bad leadership.
So if you let people in the door after knocking, then there’s effectively no difference to being in an open plan.
Why even have a door? It might cut out the noise for a bit but effectively you’re “open to the public”.
So I now have a sign on my door that politely says: “Door closed = Please do not disturb. If urgent…email me. Thanks.”
Now I feel safe. Well not quite yet. It only takes five minutes for people to disrespect the sign, so it takes some “polite enforcing”.
Don’t go soft. It’s my one rule.
If I can’t come into my own office which I pay the rent for and have time to ‘get things done’ without feeling violated, agitated and irritable (which most managers do feel constantly by the way), then I may as well find a secret office location where nobody knows where I am!
So now, this is why my “closed door policy” works so well.
When my door is closed and I am on my own, I can write this blog undisturbed and in peace. Feels great! When I walk out of my office I am happy and feel ready for interaction.
When I have scheduled time with someone, they come into my office and I close the door. They now feel safe. I am now 100% fully focused on them and nothing else. They know that I won’t check emails or answer my phone, nor allow anyone else in to disturb us. This time is their time and this is 100% engagement and productive time and staff love it. If I’m running overtime, my PA is allowed to knock and help keep me on time.
I am now in control of my door! Sounds so silly, yet is so powerful. Are you in control of your door if you have one?
It’s the attention and effort you make with someone when you’re ‘with’ them that is critical. Being available for the sake of being available and then only giving 50% attention to an issue is a waste of everyone’s time.
Don’t you hate it when you talk to someone and they look over your shoulder or tap away on their phone? Now that’s rude, insensitive and selfish.
Being 100% “present” with someone is thoughtful, authentic and meaningful for the other person and that’s what people want from a leader – someone that cares, listens and wants to help.
So there’s my closed door policy which has now been renamed my “100% engagement policy”, which is 100 times better than a crumby and meaningless ‘open door policy’.
There have been suggestions of adding one more line to my sign: “The sole exception is if you are bringing coffee or food – you may enter!”
However, I’m worried I’ll be flooded with food and caffeine, which might not be a great thing!