The story of the leader with “an open door policy” who is never available, accessible or who never has his or door open would be comical, if it weren’t so sad.
In fact, I’ve never met a leader who didn’t say his or her door is open always. However, I’ve met hundreds of staff members – at all organizational levels – who didn’t feel their leader was accessible nearly enough (or at all).
Just because you lead a virtual team doesn’t mean you are off the hook, either. An open door policy certainly doesn’t require a physical door. It is a state of mind for both you and employees. You have to make yourself readily available. And your employees have to believe that you are available.
Hey, I know you are busy, but before you start backtracking and justifying your availability, let me say a few things:
- You can’t lead in a vacuum.
- People won’t follow an absentee leader for long.
- Saying your door is open is very different from being available.
I am not saying that you should be available to your team or staff at any and all times. That’s entirely unreasonable. Still, you have to make time for your employees.
You must keep in mind that employees don’t just want your time, they want your focus when you are meeting. If you aren’t giving those things to them, you aren’t leading nearly as effectively as you could be. It’s not enough to say “Call me whenever” if you aren’t able to fully concentrate on the person when he or she does.
So ask yourself:
- Am I available enough, by the standards of those I lead?
- Am I present with people when I am talking with them?
If you don’t know the answers to those questions, survey your employees. Then make improvements if necessary.
I also strongly urge you to establish hours when you are not to be interrupted so that you can focus on your high-priority tasks. Let employees know that you are not to be interrupted during those times unless a true emergency happens. That allows you to tackle your critical to-dos so that you can truly be present when you are meeting with employees.
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