Is Your Team Getting What They Need From You? 4 Tips to Make Your “Open Door Policy” More Effective

We have all been there. We look at our calendar to find out we are buried in meeting after meeting “all” day, “every” day. We scratch our head and try to figure out when we are going to have some time to do OUR work. A list of phone calls that we have to return is piling up on our desk, our inbox is out of control and our team is “lined-up” outside our office to get advice on work they have been assigned. 

Unfortunately, too many times the order that we catch-up on our work is in the exact order listed above, based on who is trying to contact us (i.e. with superiors always getting bumped to the top of the list, as their issues always seem the most urgent…or at least they think they are!).  Certain phone calls get returned and emails get sent to address the most pressing issues, the remaining emails are addressed at night or over the weekend and the team needs are squeezed in where possible.  We think we are supporting the team adequately, but, if you asked them, they would (most likely) have a different opinion.

Yet we know, if we properly structure, hire, retain, develop and support our team, we can delegate more and ensure we are available to engage with our team more often, improving the quality and efficiency of work.  However, because we are so busy to begin with, we don’t have the time to do this either. It is a vicious circle that we eventually have to break!   

Of course, an exercise can be undertaken to comprehensively address organizational structure and employee assessment and development to ensure you have the right people in the right roles, but this takes time.  So, assuming you believe in the concept of an open door policy, here are the four tips that you can immediately do to improve on the execution of this policy (in other words, be available when your team needs you): 

  1. Schedule time with your direct reports weekly – Regularly scheduled touch points (scheduled weeks, months, a year in advance) with your direct reports may seem like just ANOTHER meeting.  Technically, it is another meeting.  However, how this meeting is used (or not used) is the key to its success.  Scheduling at least one hour with each of your direct reports early in the week (preferable Monday) gives you the opportunity to set the goals and priorities for the week and address any questions/issues that your team may have.  To the extent that a particular direct report has a more significant and urgent project, you can schedule two (or more) touch points during the week (for example, one on Monday and another on Wednesday). All of these regularly scheduled meetings may take an hour, a half-hour or five minutes.  Don’t meet just to meet, but if you need the time to connect with your team (and they need the time to connect with you), the time is scheduled. If all chaos breaks loose, at least you know that you already have this time with your team scheduled to make sure they are getting done what they need to get done and you can address their issues in a timely manner.  
  2. Manage your calendar – Any company that “likes” meetings has an integrated calendar across employees (e.g. Outlook).  This tool generally allows you to see when others are available so that you can schedule any necessary meetings.  To make sure your day is not completely overrun, take the time to plan your calendar a week ahead; when doing so, block out time each day for you to work in your office (not the whole day!, but an hour here and/or there). This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it gives you time to catch-up on YOUR work.  Second, and most importantly, it gives you time in your office for your team to ask you questions or address issues that have arisen.  Let your team know when you plan to be in your office so they can plan their day accordingly and get to you when/if they need your advice.
  3. Spread the (meeting) wealth and develop your team at the same time – Although we like to think we are indispensable, we aren’t. Leverage your direct reports (and experts in their areas!) to attend meetings that are appropriate for them to attend. Obviously, you need to be at meetings where your expertise, opinion and decision making ability requires you to attend.  However, if you can leverage your team, do so.  It not only will free you up to be available to address issues with others on your team, but it is great experience for your direct reports.  Learning how to run, participate, communicate, etc. in a meeting setting becomes more and more important as we progress in our careers; practice makes perfect, so this can be a great learning experience for your team members.  
  4. Delegate – Last, but certainly not least, is proper delegation. Delegation is not only giving some one something to do; it is giving them the authority to make decisions on how it gets done.  You need to empower your team so they feel comfortable in making decisions, while, at the same time, knowing when (based on the magnitude of the issue) to escalate an issue to you for your final stamp of approval.  Set the boundaries for decision making/escalation with your employees and then let them run! Obviously, the less that hits your desk, the more time you have to address the issues that are most significant…and maybe even give you some of your weekend back!

Prism Partners International can help you assess the performance of your employees, at every level, against the strategy and culture of your organization and deliver resulting employee and leadership development plans and tools that will drive superior performance and improved organizational results. Through our practical operational experience, and innovative assessments and analytics, we can focus and align management actions and employee performance to achieve improved profitability. 

To assist with the delivery of your organizational improvements, including the development of your employees, we have recently partnered with Dynactive Software, an online gamification learning software company.  Dynactive’s learning and content management systems, enables users to learn more, faster, and at significantly lower costs.  Dynactive’s proven methodology can help employees achieve their potential and their company’s critically vital business goals in a cost saving and revenue enhancing way. 

Please contact us to learn how we can help.  We invite you sign-up for our weekly blog posts at  We also ask that you join our LinkedIn Group (Strategic Human Capital Alignment Forum), Like Us on Facebook (Prism Partners International) and Follow Us on Twitter (@PrismPartners).