Instead Of Your Open-Door Leadership Approach, Try This
Your open-door policy of "I'm here if you have questions" or "please tell me if you need anything" may not be as effective or inviting for your employees as you think. You likely are sincere in wanting your team to reach out, but a vague "I'm available" may not be as supportive for floundering employees as you think.
An "open door" policy communicates, "I'm here if you need me, but I don't want to micromanage you." It seems helpful and supportive, but it puts the onus on your employees to do your share of active management. By placing the responsibility on your team to know when to approach you, instead of thinking ahead, strategically, about what they need, you're under-leading, which can be just as detrimental to your team's success – and initiative – as micromanaging.
To help managers move away from vague open door support to active, strategic management, we're presenting three common scenarios where you can proactively help rather than simply being available.
Your Employee Lacks the Hard Skills to Manage a Task
Perhaps your new account manager doesn't understand how to fully use your CRM software. Telling them, "Come to me with questions," doesn't work because they probably don't know the right questions to ask. Putting them in a position of telling their new boss, "I don't understand this program," can be intimidating.
Instead, provide them with comprehensive training for all the software features, and explain why each one is important and how it relates to their job. Give them examples of what successful mastery of the program looks like and time to process each module before building on the next one. Anticipate questions they have, and be sure to give regular feedback on their progress.
Communicate the "Why" Behind Company Compliance Regulations
A common scenario for many employers is a company mandate that in-office workers must get covid-vaccinated before they may return to the office. If the expectation is for team members to comply, but you're available for questions or concerns, may communicate that there's some wiggle room in the policy where there may not actually be.
Instead, communicate the "why" behind the company mandate to your team, and anticipate that not everyone will agree. Clearly state what can be open to negotiation, such as a six-month work-from-home period or a grace period to get vaccinated, and what isn't, such as the company's hard-and-fast vaccination policy.
Open-Door Policies Don't Work in an Emergency
Make it clear to your employees that open-door doesn't mean everything is up for question or negotiation. Unfortunately, in today's world, there may be times when there is a safety crisis, such as a building security breach. In these cases, everyone must immediately cooperate for the safety of all. It's not a time to ask, "Why do I have to go out to the parking lot?"
In these events, your verbiage, tone of voice, and facial expressions must all convey the seriousness of the situation and calmness on your part – communicate to your employees that you will keep them safe, but now is not the time for debate or discussion. Simple, clear communication is necessary in these situations.
You want to be a helpful leader, available to support your employees. However, helpful leaders anticipate their team's needs and proactively manage instead of passively waiting for employees to come to them.