Clichés are truths made less significant by too much repetition. In the realm of leadership, however, the light of some clichés never dims. One of those leadership clichés is the declaration: “My door is always open.” This expression suggests the leader is always available to talk and encourages openness from any direction.
This open-door policy, as it is sometimes called, implies your team can come to you about anything they wish to discuss. It should come as no surprise that leaders who embody this cliché learn more about what’s going on and what is important to their team. Team members also find this openness highly motivational. They are willing to work harder for a leader who is available to them whenever an issue or concern arises.
Too many leaders don’t think they have the time to spend listening to what is important to others. They are missing a huge opportunity to galvanize the loyalty of team members, not to mention the benefit of learning bad news before it spins out of control.
It is worth distinguishing between leaders who are accessible and those who are available. Those terms sound like the same thing, but in the parlance of leadership, they are markedly distinctive. Accessible leaders encourage others to engage them in conversation whenever others have a need to do so. Accessible leaders believe the open door demonstrates to team members and colleagues that they are game to discuss just about anything. The accessible leader’s sign might read: “I welcome any conversation if it is important to you.”
Available leaders go one step farther. They actually set aside time to be present, physically or virtually, so team members can have such conversations. An available leader demonstrates their open-door policy by manning the station. They are there if you need them or not.
The best leaders strive to be both accessible and available. They encourage open conversations and also put themselves at the disposal of everyone on the team by scheduling time to catch up. Something like “office hours,” or grab-a-cup-of-coffee time.
If your door isn’t already open, it’s time to consider removing the locks. If you are an accessible leader, push yourself to be available, as well. You’ll find yourself engaged in important conversations you might have missed.