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Ditch The Open Door, Try This Instead

Ditch the Open Door, Try this Instead

Does this sound familiar, “I have an open door policy. Come see me with any questions.”

Chances are you’ve heard this from a manger or you convey a similar message to your team.

The Open Door Policy lets your team know you’re there for them when they need you. It’s an invitation to bring challenges or questions to your attention so that you can help.  The idea is to promote transparent communication. Great idea in theory, not as great in practice. Here’s why:

Team members don’t always approach their manager proactively.  There could be several reasons for this. Perhaps it’s a perception that the manager is busy, or maybe the manager is not available when the employee’s question comes up.

Often, employees don’t approach their managers because, as the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.  I was once asked to create a product comparison spreadsheet. I worked hard to make sure my data was accurate and that everything was color coded. Thank goodness my manager checked on my progress because it was not at all what he was looking for. I never would have thought to ask questions because I thought I understood what he wanted.  These check ins are often missed so employees and managers work under the assumption that they’re on the same page.

Another issue is that transparent communication doesn’t occur simply because you’re part of the same team. If your relationship with your team members is underdeveloped, they may not have confidence in you. This means that team members are unlikely to seek your help or feedback.

So, if the Open Door Policy is ineffective, what’s the answer?

The Drive By…

The Drive By (also known as Management by Walking Around) is a periodic check in with each member of your team. This approach involves the manager visiting each team member at their desk for a few minutes. During this short visit, the manager engages the team members in casual conversation and takes the opportunity to check in on the status of projects, solicit questions and generally get to know what’s going well and what the challenges are for that individual.  The conversation is short and sweet, but highly effective. Here’s why:

  • Keeps you in the loop with what is happening with each individual. Helps you understand the challenges that the team is facing.
  • Allows team members to ask questions and get feedback in a non-threatening way.
  • Allows you to collect feedback from the team
  • Helps keep you and the team on the same page on tasks, projects and priorities
  • Strengthens the relationship, which builds confidence

Keep in mind that consistency is key. This is not a one off activity, but rather a shift in the way that you build relationships and communicate with the team. Remember that you are building confidence and trust. Over time the team will be more open and communication will become proactive and transparent.

How do you build relationships with your team and keep the lines of communication open? I’d love to hear your insights or questions. Give us a call at (888) 529-0240 or shoot us an email at

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