Why you should blow the doors off that open door policy.

There’s always an outlier, after all. But generally speaking, we find the leaders who boast an open door policy are not great leaders.

We may have insulted one or two people out there, but please stick around for us to make our point, and do have an open mind! We’ll try to convince you to see things how we see them when it comes to doors, open and closed.

Declaring to have an open door policy is really an ‘all talk and no action’ kind of thing. It’s lazy. To say “my door is always open” is basically a cop-out. 

I’ll be on my golden throne, waiting, but you have to come to me. Meh.

We’re into leadership that’s active, not passive.

The kind of leader who wears running shoes (or some adorable flats) to walk around the entire organization, with sleeves rolled up, is what we like to see. Visible, available, and accessible. The kind who is seeking out interactions with team members, residents, and families. 

The kind of leader who doesn’t see the need to declare being accessible, because they just naturally are!

The message we think most leaders are trying to communicate by declaring to have an open door policy is that people know they can always come to them. No matter what the issue. 

YES. DOUBLE YES! 

But that’s not an open door policy. That’s just being an approachable leader, not an off-putting, intimidating leader. We want you to take that welcoming attitude out and into the entire community, to the nurses’ station, to the break room, to the kitchen. Don’t keep it behind your desk!

You may not realize it, but an open door policy can bring eye rolls from your team members if they see through it as a flimsy cliché. Chances are, your people do see through it. “S/He says that all the time, BUT…”

Walk the walk, talk the talk.

Do you truly welcome the input your employees have? Do you think your employees can be completely honest with you without censure? That’s the real crux of the open door policy. Not necessarily where a conversation happens between leader and employee, and who sought who out to have that conversation, and if the door was open or closed. It’s how well does the information flow from one person to another. You can have an open door policy yet your discussions are rife with intimidation, criticism, and belittlement. Not very open! You can say “my door is always open” until you are blue in the face, yet your demeanor keeps your staff from being transparent with you. Sounds closed off to us!

Make time for your people. 
Hear them out.
Respond to them with compassion.
Because they matter to you. 
Every one of them.
They are your greatest asset.

There should be a time carved out for every purpose to convey that purpose is important.

Back to that door again. Sometimes you need to close your door. And sometimes you need to get out and walk around. There should be separate, specific times for both.

We have written about the Gemba walk before. This is an essential chance for leaders to observe the actual work process, engage with team members, gain knowledge about the work flow, and explore opportunities for continuous improvement. It’s also a priceless opportunity to be visible as a leader, without any doors at all. The Gemba walk is simply a walk around your community with eyes and ears open, heart open, and an easy smile on your face.

Communicate to your teams that sometimes your door will be closed. You will have calls that are on sensitive topics and require confidentiality. You will have meetings with families that are emotional. You will have difficult conversations with employees that require discretion. 

If you are genuine and have great communication with your teams, they will know how much they matter to you by the active leadership style you demonstrate. They will not resent you for your door being closed from time to time. And you definitely will not have to boast an open door policy. How silly?!  You are always so easy to catch up with and talk to!

It’s time to blow the doors off that open door policy. Sometimes the little changes, like ditching a silly phrase, make a big impact. When you lead with your heart, there are no doors at all.