Smart Solutions: Redesigning the Open Door in the Age of Entrepreneurship

Marilyn Witbeck

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Texting and social media have made the open door policy an old door that needs to be closed. It is obsolete. You don’t need people in your office all day long. Nowadays, you can keep the pulse on your organization with just your iPhone. The open door policy, as we knew it, no longer makes sense. 

As an entrepreneur, you have mastered networking; now you are looking for the next edge you can gain in productivity and growth. Consider maximizing your business relationships by creating a solutions-focused open door. 

Here’s how this works. The solutions-focused open door puts some basic rules into place, allowing you to decide who has access to you and when, so you stay on message and increase productivity. Those who do their homework will come in prepared, while those who are unprepared no longer get on your meeting schedule. This policy is an intentional way to manage who, when, and how others can meet with you to develop synergistic business relationships.  

With this new policy, create a set of rules for those coming in - rules that create mutually beneficial solutions. Here are some rules that have been incorporated into successful meeting policies in entrepreneurial settings:  

Bring your value instead of your needs.  

Jon Wilcox is CEO of California Republic Bank - a strong community bank on the cutting edge with a growing auto-finance division. Jon spends considerable amounts of time mentoring millennials. He is passionate about teamwork, and expects those meeting with him to know their strengths so that he is better positioned to help them reach their goals. Jon’s message is clear: “Bring your value, not your needs.” 

With every problem, bring a solution set. 

Ted Turner is a self-described pioneer in sustainable solutions.  Whether it’s truth or urban legend, it’s said that any employee who brought him a problem without three solutions would be fired. Many times the person who is most involved with a problem hasn’t looked beyond the most basic solutions. Having them do the work it takes to come up with a solutions set will make your time together more solution-focused, rather than getting mired in the details of the problem. 

For every new idea, share three resources.

The collaborative process is expedited when employees bring you valuable resources pertaining to their projects and ideas. Whether it’s in the form of research, networking, or feedback, having the groundwork done saves you valuable time and helps you gauge insight, understanding, and resourcefulness as you move to the next level.  

Be clear about the types of issues you want to address.  

While you are approachable, your time is to be valued. Have a clear idea of what special circumstances deserve your attention. Many in the workplace will attempt to triangulate you by bringing you into their conflicts with others. While you want to be made aware of serious issues, you don’t want to be trapped into personal conflicts better resolved by clear communication between the original parties. You have hired smart people to take care of certain issues as they arise – be intentional about which issues you want to be involved in and which ones you don’t. 

Practice good self-care.

Be strategic with times and locations for meetings. Let your presence speak more than your absence. Having a limited schedule emphasizes the value you provide. Decide where you’d like to meet. Meeting in your office may limit your approachability, while having open door meetings in a conference room or coffee shop is less formal with fewer distractions. Provide for your own self-care by guarding your most productive time for the relationships and conversations that matter most.  

An open door policy with a few simple rules applied can work for you, perfectly complementing what you value most. When this is consistently communicated and applied, you will be approached by synergy and solutions rather than headaches and heartburn. 

Tell me about your open door policy and how it works for you. 

Marilyn Witbeck is Co-founder of the Atlanta Relationship Institute, focusing on relational issues and increased fulfillment for family, business and personal life.