Open or Closed? A Leadership Debate
Management best practices over the years have encouraged a wide range of approaches for manager-employee interaction. Years ago, managers used a closed-door approach to focus on important projects and priorities. And, God knows, in this world of distractions and multi-tasking mania, we could use a bit more focus these days!
In more recent years, managers have used an open-door approach to encourage employees to share insights and ask questions. The thought, of course, was that an open door would foster better communication. But, at what price?
Research tells us that every time you stop what you’re doing, it takes three times the length of the interruption to return to the level of productivity you were at when interrupted. If managers minimize interruptions, they can complete important projects and priorities—on time and on budget.
What if managers used a screen door approach? The screen door presents an initial barrier that you can see through, but not necessarily walk through. When the screen door approach is used in organizations, it is done in connection with the use of other management activities.
What can the screen door approach do for workplace productivity?
- Prompt a clarification of what is urgent and what is not. Have your team develop the list of what constitutes “urgent.” When something is urgent it means they open your screen door; what is not urgent means they save it (or better yet, solve it on their own).
- Encourage employees to save non-urgent topics for a touchbase meeting. Managers should schedule time each week to meet face to face with each direct report, a minimum of 15 minutes.
- Demonstrate prioritization and focus, without competing interests.You want to give team members your undivided attention and this can best be done during touchbases. Trusted employees can solve problems and handle situations without your involvement.
Is your door open or closed? Would you trust employees with a screen door approach? If you’d like more information on skills development for your management team, we’d like to introduce you to the principles of practical management.
Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavioral change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com. Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company