“I have an open door policy for all my employees.”
We hear this all of the time from leaders. But what does it mean to have an open door policy?
What does it look like?
Is there a good way and a bad way of practicing this policy?
In order to answer these questions, I have compiled a checklist for making the most of practicing an open door policy while avoiding the pitfalls.
1. Consistent reminders
Never assume that your staff understands the sincerity of your policy. Whether it is because they never think their question or thought is worthy of taking advantage of your open door, or they simply forget that the policy exists, consistently remind your staff of your open door policy.
Don’t assume that your staff is always under the impression that you can be approached. Make a note of it at the end of meetings, thank the staff that has taken advantage of the policy and use that staff as an example. There is no reason to have an open door policy as a leader if your staff doesn’t remember to use it!
2. Close your door when you’re unavailable.
One way to undermine your attempts to practice an open door policy is to keep your door open no matter what. Every job has tasks that require 100% of your attention for an extended period of time to accomplish.
If you require not being interrupted, then show that by closing your door. Leaving your door open while you are unavailable will confuse your staff and add unnecessary ambiguity to what you or open door policy really is.
So close your door if you need to focus and open it back up once you finished your task. This will show that when your door is open you really are available while also acting as an example of healthy boundaries at work.
3. Get up and move
An open door policy is just as much a metaphor as it is a literal behavior. Show your availability by taking a walk around the floor or standing in your doorframe. Your physical presence can act as a reminder that you are there for your staff; available for questions or conversations.
However, be sure to take care knowing how this is coming off to your staff. This behavior can easily backfire; overwhelming staff or making it seem like you don’t trust them. This can be managed by asking yourself the purpose behind any questions you ask your staff.
Focus conversations at this time on light topics or reminders that would have been sent through e-mail. You are attempting to reach out to your staff and show them that you are not only often available to speak in person, but you prefer it to the separation caused by Internet communication.
Essentially, you are exemplifying the behavior you would like to receive.
4. Allow a wide range of conversation topics.
This is either music to your ears or the dreaded downside of the open-door policy. Just as it was stated in #3, the purpose of the open door policy is so that your staff may enter your office and talk with you. This, however, comes with its own drawbacks; especially if you are not one for idle chitchat.
Along with the routine job-related questions, it is not uncommon for staff to utilize your open door policy to ask you questions that may be better referred to other employees or simply communicate on a personal level. Depending upon your communication style you will either redirect the majority of these interactions, welcome them or be ambivalent.
No matter your personal communication style, respect the fact that your staff is regarding you as someone whom they can approach about these subjects.
5. Use it to develop relationships
Take time to understand where your boundaries are so that you are aware of what you are, and are not, comfortable talking about and with whom. Remember, idle chitchat is not idle if the relationship is being strengthened by the contact.
Many work environments expect approximately 80% productivity. This means that out of every 8 hour work day, staff are expected to complete 6 solid hours of work. This 2-hour lax time takes into account the need for taking breaks and building camaraderie. Be sure to allow yourself time to not only be productive with work tasks but be productive developing relationships with your staff.
Remember: You are a leader, and a true leader’s responsibility is to those whom they lead. An open door policy is an invaluable practice that can help develop a trusting and supportive culture. Maintain awareness of your actions and continue nurturing your workplace culture.
What are your experiences with using an open-door policy?
Leave your stories, suggestions, and questions in the comments below!
This week I want to share with you one of my favorite scholars. The author of 2 #1 New York Times Bestsellers, and 7 published works in all, Brené Brown is a professor at the University of Huston Graduate College of Social Work where she completes research to further her understanding of authenticity, leadership, shame, and vulnerability. Brené’s TED talks have been viewed several million times, inspiring viewers the world over with her expertise.
Brené Brown on empathy
While Brené has some fantastic videos, podcast interviews, and books, I have decided to show an example of her work in the video below which focuses on the difference between empathy and sympathy.
I hope you enjoy the video and find inspiration to do more good to those around you!
If you would like to learn more about Brown and her work, I have listed some of her works along with her main website below.
Video Copyright of RSA
How many times in your life have you found yourself passionately pursuing something? Be it a life-long dream, or a newly found interest. And how many times have you found yourself, pursuing those dreams, only to become derailed? Sometimes it is a significant shift in our lives that demands our attention. After which we simply lose sight of what we were pursuing. Other times we may simply lose the fire we had when we started. Either way, it often leaves us yearning to pick up the reigns again.
Sadly, reigniting that fire can seem incredibly challenging. We feel that we need to start from the beginning; forgetting everything we have done up to this point. This has happened to me on multiple occasions. I want to share with you what I do to get myself back to that point of action; passed the feeling of being overwhelmed and reconnecting with the motivation I had before.
These techniques are helpful in multiple arenas. Whether you resonated with the situation above, or are simply wanting to keep the motivation you already have. Try these techniques and adapt them to your personality.
Be specific with your goals
I have lost count how many times I have heard a client say,
“I just want to live a healthier life,” or, “I want to live comfortably,” or, “I want to spend more time with my family.”
While these goals are not bad with respect to their fundamental quality as aspirations, they are often the cornerstone to a resolution that fans to the wayside and is quickly abandoned. This is because we need specific, tangible goals. If we can’t picture what life would be like after accomplishing the goal, then it is too vague and will not give you the motivation you will need for success. Instead of simply wanting to live a “healthier” life, make a list of behaviors and characteristics that you would identify as part of a healthy lifestyle. Once we have done this, we can move to our next technique.
Picturing your future self; act as-if
Often we think about what it would be like to have find ourselves where we want to be. The problem is that we constantly forget about what has to happen in order to accomplish our goals. Instead of thinking about how much you want to be a better you, think about what this better you does and then do those things. In other words, act as if you are already as successful, or healthy as you want to be. Does the healthy you exercise 3-4 times weekly or more? Then start doing that. Does the successful you take chances to live through your passions? Then take the steps needed to take the big leaps of faith. Until we realize that the behaviors of our “more successful self” are integral to the lifestyle we want to live, we will never get to where we want to be. Act as if you are as you want to be, and you will be amazed how your life will change.
Take one task at a time
There may be many aspects of your life you would like to change or improve upon. Be sure to focus on one task at a time. It may seem as though it will take so much more time this way, but you need to change your perspective to see the bigger picture. Investments in your lifestyle are like investments in passive income. Time, energy, and focus are required in massive amounts at the beginning. But, if you invested properly, the end result would be longer lasting and more fortuitous. By not putting the time in at the beginning, you will spend more time in the long run just trying to maintain your pursuit of your goals rather than the obtaining of them.
One thing can lead to another
Remember, we are always improving. Simon Sinek tells a story of a time when he gave a presentation to a group of entrepreneurs. He asked them to raise their hands if they have met their original financial goals that they made first starting off. Most of the people threw up their hands. Sinek then asked them to raise their hands if they feel successful. Only a select few kept their hands up. This is because the goals we set for ourselves behave like mile markers rather than destinations. Every goal teaches us something and leads us to the next step. Do not lose heart if you don’t feel as successful as you assumed after achieving something. This just means that you are meant to do more. Keep going. Keep improving.
Understand the purpose
Finally, whatever you set out to do establish an intimate understanding of why you are doing it. The purpose of our actions is vastly more important to our sense of fulfillment and accomplishment than whatever payout we receive. If you begin to lose motivation, or you lost your motivation long ago, reconnect with why you are pursuing the goal in the first place. Purpose, above all, is what drives us. Without it we lose our direction and reason for action in the first place.
Viktor Frankl once said, “those with a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.'” If we lose our connection to our purpose and forget what motivates us, we can become lost. So remain connected to your goals. Understand them. Deepen your connection to what drives you. Achievement and fulfillment are only found when we act out of our purpose, and purpose is the truest form of motivation.
We all struggle to concentrate at one time or another. It can be a frustrating ordeal to not be present and focused. Whether in meetings or spending time with family and friends, if you don’t feel like you can concentrate or be present, it can feel like you are getting absolutely nothing done. For some of us it may be a chronic issue while for others it may occur intermittently. No matter where you find yourself, the following list of 7 tips may help you improve your focus and reduce “brain fog.”
1.Get enough sleep
There is a reason this is the first tip. Our quality of sleep impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. From physical health, to food intake, to our ability to focus. If we do not get the right amount of sleep, then we will be lagging behind in every other aspect of a healthy lifestyle. In an article written by Claire Scullin for the journal for Occupational Health, she states that just one night of poor sleep can negatively impact our productivity at work by 57%. This means, generally, that we complete more in less than 4 hours while consistently sleeping well than we do in a normal 8-hour shift after a night of poor sleep. Sculpin also wrote that when we are tired our body produces more hunger hormones (Ghrelin) and less satiety hormones (Leptin). This means that when we are tired we eat more, and often poorly. Which leads us into our second tip.
2.Eat a healthy diet
With the growing literature on the effects of healthy eating habits and obesity epidemics, more focus has been placed on what we put into our bodies. Roger N. Walsh, a professor in the Psychiatry & Human Behavior School of Medicine and the University of California, writes that a significant link has been found between obesity and cognitive function as well as significant impact of our daily diet on our overall mental health. For a diet that is beneficial for our cognitive functioning as well as our physical health, Walsh says to follow these rules:
1. Eat a “rainbow diet.” Focus on gorging on colorful fruits and vegetables. This includes blueberries, strawberries, avocados, broccoli, spinach, and anything else that makes your plate vibrant.
2. Eat deep-seawater fish like salmon. High in Omega-3 oils, it is a fantastic source of lean protein without boring yourself with chicken every night.
3. Do your best to reduce unnecessary calories. This is good for your overall health, focusing consumed calories on healthy sources, as well as good for your wallet. By keeping yourself from stopping for a snack at a gas station or a fast-food restaurant you will save yourself a significant amount over even a week’s time.
3.Organize your tasks
Many times we lose focus during a task simply because the amount information we are trying to take in is enormous. Instead, take the time to break your tasks down and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. A simple form of this is to make a to-do list that separates every single step of a process. Organizing a task helps you maintain focus by keeping a tangible understanding of exactly what you are working on. You also give your brain motivation to concentrate because your body releases dopamine as you progress through tasks. This means that watching as your to-do list gets completed literally gives you a high.
You don’t need to achieve enlightenment to benefit from this simple and refreshing activity. In their study printed in 2007, Chan & Woollcott found that meditating as little as 6 minutes a day can have a positive impact on your executive functioning. This means meditation improves focus, emotional regulation, self-awareness and alertness, among many other benefits. They also found that it doesn’t matter how much practice you have meditating over the years. Rather, the positive impact of meditation on your executive functioning is determined by how much you meditate each day. This also means that the more time you spend meditating each day, the better it is for you. So don’t concern yourself with how little or how much practice you have meditating; just start.
In their 2009 work, studying exercise’s impact on individual’s memory and affect, Stroth, Hille, Spitzer, and Reinhardt of the University of Ulm in Germany, found that adding a routine of three 30 minute running sessions each week significantly increases the individual’s positive affect, or positive mood. They also found that those who completed the running sessions showed improvement in their visuospatial memory, or their ability to remember specific objects and their relation to other objects. This indicates that as little as 30 minutes of running three times a week could help improve your overall mood and spatial processing and memory abilities. Not to mention feeling better about yourself for being healthy!
6. Get a mental health check-up
I am a passionate proponent for metal health management. I strongly believe that regular appointments with a therapist are just as important as our appointments with our primary care physicians. Mental health awareness has been growing, and with it a deeper understanding of just how much our mental and emotional health impacts our overall wellbeing. From physical ailments such as headaches and nausea, to mental functioning including fatigue and poor concentration, our mental health can impact nearly every aspect of our lives. Having a trained professional help provide unbiased, educated feedback can have a significantly positive impact on every one of us.
To learn more about mental health, and ending the stigma of establishing a mental health provider, visit the following links:
7. Spend time outside
Over the centuries, we have spent increasing amounts of time indoors. With the invention of computers and smart phones, we have been exposed to additional blue-light, which can confuse our circadian rhythm and can impact our quality of sleep. Our bodies crave natural sunlight and the benefits that can only be found outdoors. Studies have shown that waterfalls release negative ions, which clean the air and have an anti-depressant effect. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that spending time outside had an effect similar to meditation; improving memory and concentration by as much as 20% by spending an hour outdoors each day. While you may be able to find negative-ion machines for use indoors and sunlamps (which are necessary depending on where you live and if you are impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder), do yourself a favor and get outdoors whenever you can.
Most of all, spend time on yourself. If you don’t treat your body and mind with respect, who will?
Chan, D., & Woollacott, M. (2007). Effects of Level of Meditation Experience on Attentional Focus: Is the Efficiency of Executive or Orientation Networks Improved?. Journal Of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 13(6), 651-658. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.7022
Scullin, C. (2015). Top tips for better sleep. Occupational Health, 67(7), 16-17.
Stroth, S., Hille, K., Spitzer, M., & Reinhardt, R. (2009). Aerobic endurance exercise benefits memory and affect in young adults. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 19(2), 223-243. doi:10.1080/09602010802091183
Walsh, R. (2011). Lifestyle and mental health. American Psychologist, 66(7), 579-592. doi:10.1037/a0021769