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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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Lessons We Can All Learn From Martin Luther King Jr.’s Leadership

While reflecting on the magnificent life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I began to uncover what truly made Dr. King such a powerful leader

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While reflecting on the magnificent life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I began to uncover what truly made Dr. King such a powerful leader. Many revere him for the change he brought forth so it’s no wonder that he was heavily influenced by the man who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. He embodied that statement on the deepest level and lead people through one of the most challenging yet historic times in our nation. 

But what was it that made Dr. King’s movement so different than the rest? A quality that transcends ego and unites a people so divided? 

My greatest and most moving discovery while studying the life of Dr. King was the very answer to our question. 

Yes, he had the personality to be a leader, yes he had the bravery to use his voice, yes he evoked REAL change in government and policies, but the manifestation of all those comes from his willingness to lead a movement truly rooted in consciousness. 

A peaceful approach

Dr. King was continuously met with frustration, hate, and even violence by both law enforcement and those who wanted to fight for equality through violence. But the more violent things became, the more he dug his heels into a peaceful approach. Dr. King’s unwavering faith in the power to lead with peace and not violence is undoubtedly why his legacy is such a pillar of our nation still to this day. It is easier to fight.

Hate, anger and separateness from one another are primitive emotions on the emotional scale of well being but It takes awareness, understanding and elevated consciousness to move from a place of peace and understanding. Dr. King knew that we all have access to these states of higher consciousness and that our true power lies in a peaceful approach.

He is an example of the truest essence of our consciousness in this human experience. How to truly love your neighbor as yourself. 

Conscious compassion

Even the strongest opponents are human. Meet hate with love + compassion for the enemy” he said. It wasn’t his resistance to violence that made him a peacemaker, but rather his commitment to keeping compassion and connection to all humanity at the forefront of his movement. A profound understanding that underneath all the hate, violence and discrimination, we are all one. We all come from the same source and we are all human.

A conscious king

A man of his position, his power, his following could have been easily swayed by the human temptations of the ego. But he remained steadfast in his cause to bring forth real change. He understood on the deepest level that we are truly a stronger force in the universe when we move as one unit, with one mind, and one goal. That the separation from one another is the weakness of humanity. That our strength is in those things that unite us all, the qualities that give us life.

His success was in uniting not just the people of America but the consciousness of America.

No matter our gender, or our social class or our color, we all love, and we all seek peace. We all feel joy and happiness, we all want to be met with compassion and understanding. 

His cause went far beyond the need for physical freedom and equal rights. His cause was for freedom of mind, freedom of heart, freedom to be one. 

Lead with love

In his last speech he said, “I may not get there with you, but we AS A PEOPLE will get to the promise land”. And we will. At some point, we will inevitably come back to this oneness that we all come from.

The truth is? We don’t know when our last day is. Our last march. Our last speech. So this Martin Luther King Jr. Day I ask you, what will your legacy be? Are you leading a life founded in the principles of Dr. King’s movement, founded in the higher consciousness of humanity? Every moment is an opportunity to love, to show compassion, to bring forth peace and in the words of Dr. King “The time is always right to do what is right”.

Dr. King said, “I’m here to remind you, we’ve come a longggg way, but there is still work to be done”. 

And I’m here to remind you this Martin Luther King Jr. day in 2024 that we HAVE come a longggg way, but there is still work to be done. 

His fight is our fight. His mind is our mind. His spirit is our spirit. Rooted in the consciousness of all humanity. We are all one. And when we embrace the understanding of that, we will truly say

“Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty, We are Free at Last”.

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