An Open Door is not enough – How about an Open Ears policy?

Early on in my own entrepreneurial journey a client asked if I read Inc. Magazine. When I said no and listed the other, more traditional publications, he just replied “If you are going to be an entrepreneur you need to read Inc.”. I listened, and it continues to give me things every month that help me develop.open ears

This month Jason Fried (co-founder of 37signals – Basecamp) makes the case that if your door is open as a leader, it does not mean they are lining up to come in. The article reminds me of a phenomenon I continue to see in workplaces – people are reluctant to bother their leaders.

Here are three excuses(direct quotes!) I have heard from people why they don’t go in:

  • “They are always so busy, I don’t want to bother them.”
  • “If I take them my problem, they will try and fix it.”
  • “I don’t want to look like I can’t do my job.”

When we went virtual with our teams and our time, we forgot to change our terms. Open office is outdated and irrelevant as a concept, because the virtual world has made it insignificant. Here are two habits and two questions to help you translate an open door policy to an open ears policy.

  1. Habit: 20 minute One on Ones 1-2x per month (see my guidelines and template if you want to learn more about this one).
  2. Habit: Eat lunch with your team 2x per month.
  3. Q: What is the dumbest things you are working on? (thanks Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com for this, INC. Nov 2013)
  4. Q: (for one on one) What things should I Keep doing? Start doing? Stop doing?

Do you have any to add?

Talent management is about great conversations, and it does not start with an open door anymore, it starts with our presence and open ears.  The challenge for followers is to have the courage to step into that open ears space and take advantage of the opportunity.  The challenge for leaders is to slow down and actually listen – really listen – and do something with what you hear.  Here is your big risk:  You can fake an open door policy – you can’t fake an open ears policy.

Here are some templates to help you listen better and make open ears work.

Note: Rework by Jason Fried is in my Library/Resource Center.  I also added a few more great reads this month:  The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey and Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard,  Leadership and Self Deception.