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Communication Nation: Communication for Buy-In and Visionary Leadership- What does it mean to have an “open door” policy?

Clipart Illustration of an Open Office Door With An Open Sign HaWe often hear of managers claiming they have an “open door” policy, but then their actions tell us something different. Many times, this could be because they don’t truly understand what it means to have an “open door” policy, or they don’t know where to draw the line. So, we’re breaking it down for you now.

Having an “open door” policy means you encourage engagement and are seeking creative innovation and input from your employees. We all know that these days, innovation is synonymous with success, so we look for ways to think outside the box and come up with new ideas to push our company ahead. However, that also means that you have to be willing to accept challenges brought forth by your employees. Rather than punishing them for stepping over what some may see as a boundary line, encourage it. Reward it.

Brian Kibby, president and chief executive officer of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, says he maintains an open door policy with his employees by rewarding candor and never punishing people who do come to him with challenges and outspokenness. If you do punish people for that, says Kibby, “you will lose.” People will try to test you to find out if you really will follow through with what you say. Once you’ve proven that they don’t have to fear coming forward with their ideas, you’ll start seeing more and more ideas coming in with a much higher probability of success.

As someone who is not in the office as much as a traditional manager, Kibby has had to find a creative way to maintain that openness with his staff. He frequently takes one day where he only sees his employees by appointment in 15-minute increments. During this time, he opens his door and his mind to their ideas, questions, and challenges, and thanks them for what they’ve brought forward. He highly values his motto of being “respectful always, but not too polite.”

It’s also important to provide feedback to your employees so they really feel that they are valued. Not all ideas will work and that’s okay. When this inevitability occurs, it is important to be prepared with what you want to say, while encouraging your employee to continue bringing his or her ideas to you. For some tips on how to have these discussions, I encourage you to read an earlier blog, Things a Great Leader Should Never Say.

Listen as host Jill Schiefelbein and Brian Kibby, president and CEO of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, talk about what it means to have an “open door” policy (skip to 19:34) and much more on this episode of Communication Nation: Communicating for Buy-In and Visionary Leadership.

 Written by Impromptu Guru Director of Operations, Christina Miller.

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