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How Open Is Your Open-Door Policy?

September 19, 2016

open-door policy

Having an open-door policy is practically a cliché in management. All leaders say they are available anytime, and that they want to hear from their team. But in practice, it’s often intimidating to walk into an executive’s office and share what’s on your mind.

Ask yourself how many times you’ve had someone take you up on your open-door policy, and walk in with a suggestion. And while you’re being honest, ask yourself how you really feel when someone pops in with an unscheduled idea or gripe.

The open door may seem like a great idea, but it’s actually not always the best way to get real feedback in a busy organization. So what are some better ways to hear new ideas, and ask people what the organization could do better? Here are some things to try:

  • Suggestion box – It can physical or virtual, but having an anonymous way for people to make suggestions can be a powerful tool for hearing what’s happening.
  • Idea night – Host a pizza party and ask people to write down ideas for how to make the company, department, team or product better. Use a whiteboard or have people drop suggestions into a hat. Put them all up on an idea wall, and then vote up 1-3 ideas—and implement them.
  • Feedback Friday – Dedicate one day a week for everyone to give a piece of positive feedback to someone else in the organization who has helped them. This is a great way to encourage people to focus on the positive, and to remember to thank each other for doing good work.
  • Schedule one on ones – Executives often make time to meet new hires to welcome them into the organization. But at that point, these employees don’t yet know enough to be able to offer great feedback. So schedule some time with people on their first anniversary of working for the company, and see what they say then.

An open-door policy is a good place to start when you’re looking to build a culture of open communication in an organization. But it shouldn’t be the only tool in your toolbox when you are looking for feedback.

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About The Author

Katy Tynan is an expert in the future of work. She is the author of Survive Your Promotion, and her upcoming book is How Did I Not See This Coming: The New Manager’s Guide to Avoiding Total Disaster (ATD Press, November 2017). Tynan is managing director at CoreAxis Consulting.

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    […] Schedule dedicated one-on-one time. As a team leader, you need to make sure you’re making time to meet with each person on the team at least once a month, and ideally more often. This time shouldn’t be full of status […]

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