I have had many managers and supervisors tell me they have open door policies, but what does this truly mean? When I think of an open-door policy I think of having accessibility to an individual. During these times of accessibility there should be time for conversations around new ideas, proposals, clarification, guidance, concerns and hopefully some teaching and mentoring moments.
My personal experience with this has been all over the board. I have had managers who have claimed to have an open-door policy but their body language and tone of voice relays something completely different. These experiences have made me skeptical and have caused me to do some introspection with myself and those that I manage.
As I have worked to cultivate a healthy effective open door policy with my own teams here is what I have discovered.
1. If you have time, great but if you truly do not let the individual know that you want to speak with them unfortunately now is not a good time. At that point take a minute to schedule some time with them. If you do not put something on the calendar, chances are the employee will not follow back up.
2. If you do have the time focus on that individual, make them the priority. There are so many distractions and pressing matters that it is hard to ignore the e-mail, texts and the pile of paperwork on your desk, put down your pen, push away the keyboard and put the phone away. These things vying for your attention will still be there when the conversation is done.
3. Beware of your body language. People can tell your level of interest by body language, do not cross your arms, sigh loudly and often, and make eye contact.
4. Actively listen. Engage in the conversation, ask follow up and probing questions. This is how managers truly discover what is going on in their teams and keep informed.
5. Thank them for stopping by. A thank you goes a long way, and remember a manager is managing the relationships with the staff. If you manage those relationships well you will reap the benefits of a highly-engaged team who will work hard for you. Manage these relationships poorly and you will most likely not get the benefits that you are hoping for.