3 problems with open door policy

3 Problems with Your Open Door Policy and What To Do Instead

An open door policy doesn’t get you what you need to lead.

The intent behind your open door policy is good: a door that is figuratively always open to encourage transparency, open lines of communication, a standing invitation for your employees to bring you issues that affect them or their work.

The intent is good, but the reality is more complicated. In fact, your open door policy may be causing your team more harm than good and limiting your leadership.

3 Problems With Your Open Door Policy 

1. Your Door is Literally Always Open.

An open door policy doesn’t mean you are constantly interruptible. Constant interruption prevents you from thinking deeply and serving your team in the ways only you can. If you allow a constant barrage of “Gotta minute?” to obliterate your day, you won’t be able to lead your team anywhere.

An open door policy doesn’t mean your door (if you have one) is literally open all the time. We helped one senior leader overcome this challenge by defining 90 minutes of deep-think time in the morning and again in the afternoon where everyone committed not to interrupt anyone else unless it was an emergency.

That may not work in your setting, but the principle is important. How can you give yourself and your team the space to focus?

2. You Don’t Get All the Information You Need.

Your people know things you need to know. They can spot problems before they spin out of control. They know what irritates your customers. They’ve already created micro-innovations to be more productive and better serve your customers. They’re your greatest asset – but only if you hear what they have to say.

Problem-solving innovation isn’t going to walk through your open door. [Tweet This]

Most of the information that will walk through your open door are complaints. There’s nothing wrong with this necessarily. You need to be aware of problems – especially those that create a hostile workplace.

An open door policy isn’t enough. Occasionally, you’ll have someone walk through your open door with a great idea. I’ve had it happen. But most of the great ideas will stay locked in your employees’ minds.

To get the information you need to make the best decisions, you’ve got to intentionally go ask for it. Most employees are busy doing their jobs. They may not even realize they have experience or wisdom worth sharing. If they do have insights, they may believe you’re not interested in hearing them, no matter how many times you talk about your open door policy.

Take the initiative and seek out the information you need. Regularly ask your team how things are going, how you can help them to do their job more effectively or serve the customer, or what’s getting in their way. Ask them to teach you how they do their work.

3. You’re Not Strategic.

The final leadership problem with an open door policy is that it puts you in a reactive mode. You’re not thinking strategically about what will move your team or the business forward. You’re waiting and responding to the issues that come to you.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t respond to problems that people bring to you. Rather, if you’re leading strategically and moving things forward, you are more likely to have surfaced and solved these issues long before they surface as complaints or distractions.

Most employees aren’t asked to think strategically in their normal work, so the problems they bring you won’t be strategic either. To help your team think strategically, give them the information they need to make strategic decisions. Help them understand how the business makes money and impact and how they’re work contributes to the bigger picture. Facilitate Own the UGLY discussions to help find the game-changing opportunities and challenges long before they would walk through your open door.

Your Turn

Your open door policy can be a foundation for trust, transparency, and communication, but there’s a danger if you let it make you passive and reactive. Leave us a comment and share How do you maintain a strategic focus for your team and solve problems before they become bigger problems?

5 reasons to close your open door

5 Reasons To Close Your Open Door

You love an open door. So do I. You want to be all things to all people – all of the time. But, that’s impossible. We open our office doors as a symbolic gesture saying, “I’m always here for you.” Good in theory. But, if Sam knocks in the middle of your meeting with Sally, someone loses.

I once had a boss whose open door policy (coupled with a high need for control), led to a constant line of people outside his open door, waiting for affirmation. Big time waster. Appointments would have worked better. So would empowerment (but that’s another post).

I’m over the constantly open physical door. All my eggs are in the metaphorical open door basket. Call me any time, about anything. And if I can’t get to you now, it will be very soon. If my doors shut with people inside, don’t knock unless it’s urgent. If it’s urgent, kick it in. No questions asked.

Why I Like an Open Door with Hinges

  1. When I’m With You, I’m With YOU – A closed-door meeting provides time to focus on the who and now. Disappearing distractions build deeper connection and foster creativity. Get real, speak frankly, and get it done.
  2. Power Pauses – Many leaders drop everything when their boss calls. It’s a dangerous precedent. Your team is watching you. Your actions inadvertently say, “drop everything when I call too.” A closed door may help your boss to pause. Best to have a good signaling system for such occasions.
  3. Taking It Offline – My world is filled with tough conversations. Too much crap is aired in big meetings. I’m a big fan of smaller meetings to speak (and listen to) tough truths.
  4. Time To think – I love early mornings. The door is open and the air is full of ideas. But sometimes your best thinking can’t be scheduled. Sometimes vision must come fast. When you need a minute, close your door. Taking a minute to yourself may save your team hours.
  5. Your Turn – Why do you close the door? Or are you in the open door all the time camp? Would love to discuss both sides.
Are you looking to take your leadership to the next level? We’d love to offer a free consultation. Contact us at info@letsgrowleaders.com