Every single time I heard a leader tell me over the years that they have an open door policy I have wanted to laugh. I envisioned myself walking past the other three links in my chain of command and right into his or her office to express my thoughts. In my mind, I never even made it to the door. I have learned others feel the same way too.
I completely and wholeheartedly believe the leader who says the door is open and I genuinely believe they would want to help me. Many are concerned about the fallout from walking through that door and voicing a concern that hasn’t been routed through the chain with a staff summary sheet firmly affixed. This is something we need to address as leaders. I want those on my team to be able to go direct to the person who could best solve the problem for them not to be redirected.
Recently, I had an issue with my cell phone bill and called the customer service line. I knew I needed to speak to a supervisor in billing to get this charge removed from past experiences; however, I had to talk to a customer service agent who then transferred me to tech support and then to billing. From there I had to get a little rude to even get to the supervisor I wanted from the beginning who was able to fix my issue. Over 30 minutes wasted. Yet we do the same thing to our team members and wonder why they are not taking initiative to fix problems. We are simply wearing them down before they even make it to the appropriate level who can assist.
I am now that tool standing in front of my team spouting the cliche about how my door is open. However, I employ a few other methods to connect and receive feedback other than “hope” someone will have the courage to walk through my door.
1. ) Culture of trust: No matter what the issue is that is highlighted to me, I don’t punish the other links in the chain that were skipped or who couldn’t solve the problem. Look at what the issue is, not who to blame for it. Is there a way to empower or train others to solve this at their level?
2.) Anonymous feedback: I created a survey on Survey Monkey that provides an anonymous way to pass me concerns. My team can do this from home, their phone, their desk or where ever they choose and I will never know who was saying it unless they tell me. This is better than a comment box, because people have the fear they will be seen dropping the message. I have received some amazing feedback in there that has pointed me to some simple fixes which have paid dividends.
3.) Walk through your own open door: Get out of your office and go to where the work is being done in your unit. You will get to see firsthand what problems the team is facing and what struggles they have. I have been able to get ahead of so many major issues this way and it lets my team know I care. In fact, these are typically the people who end up taking advantage of my open door policy. Go figure.