Many managers are proud to have an open-door policy. And they should be: Encouraging workers to come to you is a great way to build morale and productivity. But if it isn't well managed, an open-door policy can become a major source of unwanted downtime for you—time you could better spend working on your own top priorities.
Here are some suggestions:
- Swing wider for the positives. Make your open door wider by setting an hour or two per day when you're more open than normal to impromptu meetings. And don't limit communication to face-to-face conversations. Install a handy drop box where people can leave written ideas and information when you're not available to talk (or even when you are).
Your open door signifies the closeness of the relationship with your team. Emphasize that closeness by swapping the open door of your office for that of a nearby restaurant, bowling alley or cafe. Inviting your team to join you for a monthly or quarterly social outing will create stronger relationships within the team while it reinforces your openness and accessibility.
An open-door policy helps you learn about and respond quickly to fast-breaking situations. Except in cases where confidentiality is called for, let your team know how you've responded—and why—so when the same situation comes up again, they can act quickly on their own without coming to you.
- Narrow the opening for the negatives. With people free to call on you at their convenience, it's often difficult to finish one task before someone asks you to start another. Take a few minutes to talk to people when they come through your open door, then put their requests on your to-do list and attend to them when you've completed the task at hand. It's often helpful to mark your place before shifting your attention to an employee. Jot a brief note about what you're thinking or what you're about to do next.
If you're always available to solve problems or make decisions, some of your team members may not bother to develop their own skills. Stop nurturing this dependency by refusing to give your usual quick answers whenever people knock on your open door. Instead, take a few minutes to guide them through an appropriate problem-solving or decision-making process.