“I have an open door policy.”
Managers and leaders use this phrase to convey that they are available for their people, willing to help them.
This, however, is a lazy saying. In essence, it means, “If you come to me, I’m willing to take time out of my busy schedule to accommodate you.” It makes an offer, but no more. It communicates that the initiative rests with the employee.
How many managers and leaders say things like this, but fail to demonstrate it with their actions? Even if they are available and well intended, this phrase is still passive.
And this is why we should retire it.
Instead of an open door policy, managers and leaders must cultivate a culture of conversation. They need to live out a rhythm of intentional interactions with their people, asking good questions, and offering to help in specific ways that clear obstacles or provide advocacy. In this way, their availability and willingness to help is demonstrated, not simply offered.
It is the difference between policy and culture. As leaders, we should never prefer policy when it is possible to shape culture.
Don’t have an open door policy; have a culture of conversation.
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Phrases We Should Retire