28 June 2018

You can't have an open door policy if there's no door!

You can’t have an open door policy if there’s no door! Having a break in a team meeting to play badminton on the beach.

You’ve got a business idea. It could revolutionise the way your team works and save the firm a significant amount of money. All you need to do is share the idea with a director or CEO. Unfortunately, there’s a heavy-looking door between you and them, and there’s no sign of it opening soon.

This is the single most dangerous thing you can do as a leader. Having separate offices for directors and leaders, distancing yourself from the team, in your ivory tower, you’re doing untold damage to your business’ culture.

That’s why I was so surprised to read a recent article by tech site The Register regarding IBM CEO Ginny Rometty.

The article describes an internal email sent ahead of a visit by Rometty: “’Do not interact with Ginni or the group unless they approach you first. This means no selfies, no bathroom run-ins, elevator pitches, or water fountain soirees. If you happen to be in the same area, keep it professional and courteous,’ the email stated.”

For such an innovative company, this certainly seems like a bizarre approach.

A business’ culture is built in every layer of the team. The boardroom has to reflect the same values as the salesfloor; marketing the same as customer support, and beyond.

The only way that this is possible is through a culture of openness. You can’t build a healthy team culture if there’s a lack of transparency and you can’t have transparency if you have a culture of closed doors. It’s that simple.

Open the door!

I remember chatting with some incredible entrepreneurs about the culture we have at UKFast. I explained how we have small teams to ensure this level of openness and communication. Why? Because more often than not if someone is struggling at work, or missing their targets, it’s because there’s something not quite right at home. His response was: “Yes, but that’s not your problem, is it!”

I couldn’t disagree more. As a leader, you simply have to know your team well. We spend such a huge proportion of our time at work, why wouldn’t we want to get to know those around us – whether you’re the CEO, cleaner, marketer or receptionist.

We don’t have an open-door policy because we don’t have doors!


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