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  • rebecca89503

Is Your Open Door Policy Failing Your People?

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Do you have regular 1:1 meetings with your team?

Do you have them with your own manager?

It always amazes me just how many negative responses I get when I ask this in my training and coaching. More often than not, I hear how they only happen when it's an annual review or appraisal because ''we catch up informally all the time."

But this 'informal' time doesn't cut it!

Yes, it is important but employees need to be heard and feel seen. Great leaders give their direct reports a dedicated 30-60 mins of their undivided attention on a regular basis. And they focus on the person, not the tasks to be completed.

In my early days as a leader, I made the mistake of always thinking I had to have solutions and ideas for my team. This meant that I was never really listening, just waiting for them to finish talking so I could do my 'job'. Managing a team in the public sector did require regular 1:1s, it was all part of policy. But they were always so transactional! It made me dread them instead of enjoy them which I Iearned to do over time as I developed as a more empathetic, present leader.

This is a mistake I see many leaders make, they forget to bond with their people as human beings. And in a new age of hybrid working, an emotional connection is crucial.

Open door policies don't encourage this because they rely on employees reaching out when really, it should be leaders reaching out to their teams!

Leadership is about investing time in people. Just as with parenting, we reap the best rewards when we do. We shouldn't be pushing for results, that will happen as a byproduct of being supportive and inspiring. Yet it is far too easy to get caught up in our own heads with our own tasks that we forget to create space.

Making The Most Of Your 1:1s

Having emotional intelligence and headspace is crucial when it comes to conducting effective 1:1s. If you turn up with a head full whilst spinning plates, your ego will get in the way! You will not be fully present or able to truly connect. Without this, you will not see things in a clear and balanced away which is when poor decision making occurs. This is why we need to constantly check in with ourselves as leaders, to practice mindfulness, self care and know who we are. Not always easy in this crazy, modern world hence why I developed my leadership programme!

It is also super important to take just a few minutes after every 1:1 to reflect on what was said. Make notes if you can. Not only will this make it less likely that you forget to take the action that will gain you trust and respect, it will allow you to think creatively. Maybe a concern was raised and you need to think outside the box to respond effectively.

Also, critically reflecting on your own performance and what you need to improve on as leader is how you will grow and evolve.

Give your people time and see them thrive! As I always say, invest in them and they will do your best thinking for you.

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