Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Open Door Policies Are Lame

"Stop by anytime...I'm here for you...I have an Open Door policy."

Please stop saying that to the employees in your organization.  Of all the lame management-speak phrases I've heard over the years, this has to be one of the worst.  Do you realize you're simply making an excuse to keep your butt in your office chair?  That's right, you're "here" sitting in your office, waiting for the employees to come to you. Oh yes my friend, if you're still saying this phrase, you have won the election and are officially the Mayor of Excuse-ville.  Even foursquare doesn't have a badge for that.  

That's just lame.  What decade do you think you're working in anyway?

Remember Who's Most Important
Open Door policies are meant for you to walk out your door and connect with your staff.  You remember them, right?  They're the ones who do the work.  They're the ones that make you look good.  They're the ones that step up and provide world-class service that sets your company apart from the competition.  They're the ones that update you, so you can update your boss on everything that "you're" doing.

How About You
Get up.  Look away from the glow of your monitor, stop answering the phone, and just go.  Walk through that door frame that you typically see at 5:00pm, and embrace it's power at 10:00am.  Show the team that they matter most; not only because it's good business, but because it's true.

It took me years to figure out that the Open Door policy was for me, not the staff.  I wish someone had told me sooner. Who told you about the real Open Door policy?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of Gordon and 123RF


  1. I think this is fabulous !! Not only is it true, but it is one of the most overused, sacred cow phrases EVER !!

    In fact, I think I need to go to my Employee Handbook and rip it out because I'm sure it's there. Thanks for the reminder Jay. This was perfect for today !!

  2. I practive what is called MBWA - Management by wondering around. OVer the years I have found it to quite effective. Just go walk around talk to people and see what you find out. As you said Jay my door is open - for me to walk through.

  3. Steve - Many thanks! As the book title says, Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers!

    Dave - I love that philosophy (now). Used to be I would wait for the people to come to me...I had to ditch that approach, and now follow your plan.

  4. Jay this is great! Open the door, and walk through it. Visible leadership is the very best kind. I like Dave's MBWA.

    Here's a little something I wrote to a previous CEO of mine. He chose to ignore this open letter but a lot of folk didn't. And as a result more people in so called senior positions started wandering about, getting to know people and helping to make work better. Thanks for the reminder - the link to my original letter is here in case you or your readers are interested.

    And now I've found you I'm adding your blog to my google reader :)

  5. Many thanks Doug. I love your letter on visibility - it's a great message for CEOs, and every other leader too!

  6. Great post Jay! I wish I would have "got it" much earlier in my career. I'm convinced that as you climb the leadership ladder, you get farther away from the reality of your organization. The only way to be in touch is to be where the real magic is happening - it's not in your office.

  7. Well said William. As much as we would like to think we're making it all's really happening on the front-line.

  8. Jay,

    Great post and I couldn't agree more.

    On my first trip to one of our other facilities I was greeted by the receptionist who asked who I was there to fire since the previous HR Director never went there unless he had to. I'm happy to say that I no longer get the question (or even a second look!) when I walk in now! It's all about getting out and talking to people in their element!

  9. I was listening to John Campbell (Primeast) yesterday talking about "From Competence to Mastery". He raised the issue of how organisations by their nature codify themselves to include or exclude. The challenge is how to stay fresh rather than ossify.

    Open door policies probably started with good intentions but they have become an example of codification.... this is how we do it.

    Managers & Leaders need to become much more aware of practices/behaviours and their impacts. They need to give themselves permission to break with the norms and find something that provides a different perspective. Actually isn't that really their role?

    The best way to do this? Get out there and engage with your organisation and the wider world. It's the most important thing you can do. (I think this is William's "magic" above)

    (Thanks to Doug Shaw for linking me to this thread!)

  10. Bradley - That's a terrific change for the better. I use the same approach when people come to see me. My door always closes...that way, I avoid the perception that bad things happen when my door closes during meetings.

    David - Great perspective, thanks so much for sharing your experience from hearing John Campbell. I couldn't agree more on "getting out there and engaging the organization!" Thanks to Doug Shaw as well!