As a manager, I have always had an ‘open-door policy’. Open-door policy, to me, meant leaving my door open or partially open to represent the connectivity I have with my employees and the willingness to be accepting and/or sharing without barriers.
Often, the open-door policy can challenge deadlines and productivity. If I am in the middle of completing an important task or email response that requires a focus on detail, uninterrupted focus is crucial. Early in my career, I found that the open- door policy often meant many unscheduled interruptions that impacted timeliness and quality of work. Even with the most polite interruptions, “may I bother you for a moment”, even if my response was, “give me ten minutes”, delayed productivity more than I realized.
My first lesson; if you have an open-door policy, be ready to say, “sure have a seat” and be ready to disrupt your train of thought or “I will have a moment just as soon as I finish this email but please have a seat or come back in 10 minutes” or “I am just getting ready for a meeting but can we talk later today”. All of these responses required an interruption to my train of thought. I also realized that an open-door policy often encouraged increased outside thoughts of other for reassurance. It has been said that once interrupted, it can take up to 8 minutes to bring our focus back to a peak flow of thought.
Second lesson; if you accept the interruption, be prepared to take your eyes off the screen or task at hand, make eye contact and actively listen. Multi-tasking is inefficient and insincere in my opinion. Also, employees can sense that lack of sincerity.
Third lesson; ‘open-door policy’ did not have to mean that my door was always physically open. An open-door policy was a statement message to employees that I will always make time to discuss concerns and work on solutions with whomever raises them. I learned that it was ok to close my door. This set a healthy boundary in respecting my time and the message I sent to my employees in valuing quality of work that I am producing for our team.
Fourth lesson; assessing my effectiveness and setting boundaries that are effective for my style of work was essential in succeeding. I know, my most productive time is in the morning. I know, that most everyone uses their morning to kick start their day which meant that they needed direction from me when they started their day. Also, I know, that most interruptions occurred in the first 2 hours of the work day.
It’s important to me that my employees feel heard and valued. This experience taught me that I really want my employees to know that I have an open-mind for discussion and respect the concerns that they bring forward. I set a few rules that practice as it relates to open-mind (door) policy:
- On average I leave my door open the majority of the time that I am in the office
- I try to arrive to work before others so I have that crucial time in which I am most productive to complete important tasks.
- Take the time to shut the door during high priority tasks and simply let your employees know that you need the time to focus for the next little bit.
- Make a physical effort to turn from my computer, make eye contact and sincerely listen to the concerns of my employees.
- Realize that every task is not high priority and an open door can speak volumes.