“I believe in a Open Door Policy,” said the candidate for the position, arms crossed, leaning back in the chair. “I’m accessible 24/7/365.”
The interview panel looked up from their notes, shifted in their seats, then looked back their notes. Each member of the panel is a seasoned leader and each felt the momentary tension that such a “policy” creates.
As a leader, manager, supervisor in a complex environment, accessibility is important. But, it can also be a liability. It can unintentionally create a habit in the work group that results in laziness and supervisor-pleasing. Running to the “boss” or supervisor or leader for everything, just because her door is always open, assumes that she has all the information, the larger perspective, and the time, to address every challenge that arises. It assumes that the risk of decision-making is solely hers. This habit results in a subtle re-definition of the job: one moves from “doing a better job” and toward “doing what the boss wants so she will be happy.”
I’m a supervisor, a leader, a manager. I like being happy. But, making me happy as the central goal, will usually mean the best ideas are left behind. Oh, I’ll be happy—eventually. But pleasing me is not an early indicator of success.
So, I have learned to cultivate an Open Mind. To do that, I often have a closed door. I’m not accessible 24/7/365. I step away, to do the deep work required to learn, and to see through my own psychology. I invest my best time and energy in building an environment in which my teams can flourish.
Even though my door is often closed (or it’s open but I’m not behind it), I’ve learned to cultivate a voraciously open and curious mind. Especially when it’s uncomfortable. I measure my success in large part by how much learning I’m engaged in.
So, next time you hear, “I have an Open Door Policy,” pivot and ask, “How often do people change your mind when they walk through that open door?” That’s what the interview panel asked the candidate. Now it was his turn to shift in his chair. He dodged the question. He couldn’t remember the last time his mind was changed by someone he supervised.
We wish him well. Just not with us.