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Take Your Open Door Policy and Slam It Shut

It’s a check-in-the-box tactic that makes the leader seem engaged, concerned, and willing to listen



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It seems like a gracious and genuine gesture for leaders in executive, senior, or supervisory roles everywhere. Extending a policy to their team that invites them to knock on their door to express concerns at any time they feel compelled to still feels like a forward-thinking servant leadership practice, and that’s probably why it’s still so popular.

It’s a check-in-the-box tactic that makes the leader seem engaged, concerned, and willing to listen. Perhaps that’s true and the leader genuinely is all of those things. Perhaps the leader sincerely expects the team to circumnavigate any direct chain-of-command in the company’s internal structure to take grievances, professional concerns, or personal issues directly to them at any time as a demonstration of support. I sure did.

I always established an open-door policy as a leader. Opening my office to my team was typically the first order of business for me in any new leadership role I accepted. Transparently, I also felt like it would make me more approachable and more connected. It seemed like a noble idiosyncratic trait to my modality of leadership until I began to notice some pitfalls and drawbacks to having an open-door policy:

1. It’s rarely used. 

Every so often, I would field a genuine concern from a staff member who trusted me. Most of the time, however, my open door serviced general complaints and gripes about teammates and the threshold to my office would seem like a petri dish for one-sided toxic deposits of gossip and inappropriate remarks.

This did not promote healthy conflict resolution and disrupted productivity on several occasions. Real issues were discussed in my absence between teammates in the form of cynical remarks and apathetic expressions. Meanwhile, I was oblivious in my high tower assuming all was well in the kingdom.

2. In my efforts to be more approachable and connected I became the opposite. 

I lost touch with what was happening down the hall. My relationships with my teammates eroded. My door was open, and the staff knew that if there were any issues, I was all ears. But I wasn’t always attentive and vigilant independent of my team alerting me to issues. You can’t sit in an office and notice the teammate who’s exhausted or struggling. You can’t reserve yourself to your desk and notice the teammates who are at odds with one another.

You can’t see burnout on your team’s faces no matter how open you keep your office door. You have to engage. You have to seek the staff that know what’s going on and initiate discussions with them. You have to get in front of your people and care.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

3. Served as an unintentional override on the chain-of-command.

Undermining the lead workers in leadership positions underneath me by creating a teamwide dependency on my decisions created an atmosphere of micromanagement that I was vehemently opposed to. Micromanagement stilts growth. I always want my team to feel empowered, to trust their decisions, to learn from their choices, to develop themselves, and to discover their own greatness. Micromanagement provides unsustainable and infertile conditions for this type of growth.

Before I could recognize the instability this created, I had already stripped my first-line leaders of the team’s trust by indirectly and erroneously communicating to the team that I somehow didn’t trust the lead workers’ ability to address concerns so the team could take advantage of my open-door policy if they ever felt that the lead workers were ill-equipped to resolve issues as well.

Availability to your people shouldn’t be a passive action and should not come at the expense of the trust your team places in the leaders underneath you.

Best practice: don’t communicate an open-door policy.

Show up for your people in a way that you don’t have to communicate your support for them in a policy because they’ll trust you enough to follow expectations, make decisions, resolve conflicts, and address concerns appropriately in a way that supports the vision of the team.

If you’re there for them, they don’t need a policy that lets them know that you’re there for them.

Brian Parsons is a leader, teacher, author, philanthropist, and CEO of Just Keep Playing Media, LLC with over twenty years of experience in diverse leadership roles. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, a former peace officer for the state of Colorado, a former non-profit manager, and the author of the Don’t Bee a Prick leadership book series.

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How You Can Start Networking in Style in 2023

By investing your time and effort in networking, you will gain more business through the relationships you make



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Are you completely new to networking?

Then this article is a great place to start. Networking isn’t hard on paper…you go along to online and in-person meetings, make new connections and build relationships, and those relationships lead to more work so you can grow your business! The challenge is that in reality, it isn’t quite so straightforward, as our emotions get involved and make things much tougher.

It’s incredibly common for nerves to creep in and to feel overwhelmed and apprehensive when it comes to networking – even when it isn’t new to you. But how can you become more successful at it, feel less self-conscious, and make networking work for you and your business?

Here’s a few tips to help you embrace every business networking opportunity you get, so you can grow your business and achieve your goals.

Rock up with confidence

If you want to keep those nerves at bay and ooze confidence at networking get-togethers, you’ll need to downplay it rather than seeing it as a big occasion. Try not to put pressure on yourself and see it as a casual meet-up with a bunch of people with similar goals to you. To help you relax in the run-up to the event, be sure to set achievable goals and expectations before you go.

Keep your chin up and your goals in mind – positivity is key. One easy goal for your first networking meeting is very simply to speak to one other person and see where the conversation goes. Introduce yourself and your business, but take the time to listen to their story, too. It’ll only take a few minutes and will be over before you know it, so it’s nothing to fear. You may even enjoy it and want to speak to a few more people, too!

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Where to go networking

If you’ve never been networking before, it might not be very easy to find a group – but only because there’s so much choice and you don’t know where to start your search! Groups come in different sizes and styles, so it’s important to find one that suits you and your business. Informal, formal, big, small… the choice is yours.

For your first meeting, start small to ease yourself in – a big group could prove too daunting, and stop you from feeling comfortable enough to get involved. After all, you want to make a strong first impression!

If you’re wondering which group to opt for in the long-term, give a few a go! Get a feel for them, speak to as many people as you can, and see which one suits! You’ll know when a group feels right for you, and you can see where those all-important relationships are most likely to be built. If a group doesn’t feel like the right for you, give a different one a go.

Get more leads and referrals

This will happen for you, as long as you put the effort into building those relationships. If you take the time to get to know people, and then check in with them and support them, they’ll see you as a trustworthy and reliable contact who they can call on. And when they feel that way, those leads and referrals you’re looking for will come a-knocking.

Once you’ve made relationships with people who you trust, and they’ve had a positive experience working with you, you can even ask for referrals! But don’t rush this, as you don’t want to inadvertently push people away or try and force the relationship along too quickly.

When you do get an opportunity to work with someone you’ve met at a networking group, go above and beyond to offer more value than they’re expecting, as then, they’ll be much more likely recommend you and introduce you to more of their contacts!

Grow your business

By investing your time and effort in networking, you will gain more business through the relationships you make, and you will be able to grow your business.

We know that it’s not easy, going networking for the very first time. And that’s why we want to give you all the advice and tools that you need so you can walk in with confidence and make the most of the opportunity.

2023 is just around the corner, and you have the chance to make it the year you make networking work for your business. And the benefits could be incredibly amazing for your business, just like they have been for ours, and many business owners we have worked with over the years.

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