Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The power of leadership by open door

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 1, 2011

I recently posted a note on the power of leadership by example and I wanted to follow up on that with a note on the value and power of open communications and availability. It is important for any manager to set a good example in meeting the standards they would want others to follow. But in a fundamental sense that cannot make a difference if managers are all sequestered away and out of touch and out of contact. I add in that context that barriers to contact and communication are one of the principle warning signs I look for in a possible change management situation. Leaders and managers suffer and so do the people they are responsible for supervising. So, I add, do their customers and clients and any potential members of those groups who cannot receive value because of the barriers they would face too.

I look for secretaries and administrative assistants whose jobs seem to be primarily that of gatekeeper, and with a priority on keeping those doors closed. I look for barriers to setting appointments, and problems in keeping appointments. I will add that when that happens it is not always because the more senior person on the table of organization does not see it as worth their time to spend it dealing with underlings. More often than not it is because of scheduling problems, and when this is a change management-required situation that is virtually always the reason. The more senior managers are just too busy putting out fires, and generally the wrong ones to move past being reactive. I say “the wrong fires” because when everyone is reacting and playing catch-up, priorities get skewed or tossed aside entirely. I say “reactively” as businesses and organizations in need of change management come to be entirely reactive, losing ability to proactively plan for or develop on anything. Reactive becomes a part of the corporate culture, and so does defensive behavior and that closes doors and blocks communication too.

I readily admit that closed doors and barriers can and do happen in sound, well run organizations and even people who follow open door policies in general can have heavy work flow periods, going into annual audits for example where they just do not have the time or bandwidth to be generally available. But I also note here that there is a warning in this if closed doors and limited availability become the rule rather than the exception. There is a reason why these patterns are so commonly observed in change management situations and for businesses approaching a need for that sort of remediation.

As a final thought here in this posting, look to the table of organization to see where it facilitates or limits communication and shared development of value. But do not simply limit yourself to looking to the larger picture; look to your own line in the table of organization and to people you supervise and to those who supervise you. And set a good example in keeping an open door and open lines of communications. Develop best practices in this, and measure bad, good and best according to how they impact on workplace performance and team morale – and on how they impact on the top and bottom lines.

Best practices spread because they work, and because that tends to positively impact on performance reviews and on all that comes from them.

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