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Friday, June 18, 2021

Lean Quote: 3 Keys Steps to a Genuine Open-Door Policy

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"A true leader has to have a genuine open-door policy so that his people are not afraid to approach him for any reason.  —  Harold Geneen

An open-door policy refers to the practice of business or organizational leaders leaving their doors open so that employees feel welcome to stop by and meet informally, ask questions, or discuss matters that have been weighing on their minds.

These days, with open office environments, co-working spaces and remote team members working around the globe, the “open-door policy” is more metaphorical than ever before.

Follow these three key steps.

1. Set boundaries

Your goal as a manager should be to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s really going on with your team. So, how do you make yourself accessible for meaningful discussions without turning yourself into a counselor or micromanager?

Clear communication lays the first building block to creating a successful open door policy. Even managers who encourage frequent, informal conversations through “walk around management” may need to establish set office hours, say before and after team meetings. 

If daily interruptions and vent sessions are limiting your productivity as a manager, another option might be to schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member.

2. Always listen intently 

The next step in a successful open door policy requires that you listen intently to what an employee has to say. Let the person “speak their truth,” without interruption from phones, email or other people.

Recap what you heard the person say in order to make sure you fully understand the problem. Beware of being dismissive of an employee’s vent because a genuine issue may be lurking behind their frustration.

If the employee brings a recurring issue to you, there’s likely a root cause that needs to be addressed. You might say, “I notice there’s a pattern here. What do you think the solution is?”

By driving the conversation toward solutions, you discourage endless venting and encourage employees to come up with their own solutions.

Remember, not every person thinks in terms of solutions or problem-solving. Walking such employees through decision-making processes teaches them to rely on their own abilities.

3. Focus on the solution

Time, yours and your employees, remains a key component to maintaining a well-oiled open door. After all, endless interruptions compromise your ability to lead your team and your team’s productivity.

Managers should try to solve any issue the first time, within the parameters of what’s functionally achievable. By slaying problems as quickly as possible, you set up your team for maximum success, particularly when you involve them in the decision-making process. Things could get worse if you and your team fail to act.

The rationale behind the open-door policy is to develop trust and communication between employees and management, and facilitate a regular feedback process that deals with and improves day to day issues in the work environment. Such a policy is more important than ever since the transition to remote work, as managers need to find new ways to communicate and engage their employees.

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