Have you ever worked for someone that proudly stated they had an “open door” policy? Was their door really open to new ideas, feedback, information, and issues? Or was the door physically open but the mind closed? Perhaps you work for someone that has an open door policy, but a closed mind, or perhaps you are the person whose door is open, but your mind is closed. You aren’t alone in either situation. Whether you are the one walking in the door in hopes of being heard, or the person to whom someone is talking, the conversations can be uncomfortable for one or both parties – even if the person walking in is coming with a “great idea.”
Another aspect of an open door policy that frequently compromises business operations comes from the misconception that asking for input, being willing to hear ideas and suggestions, and engaging staff and team members in working on a problem, means that there will be decisions by consensus or popular vote. While most leaders, managers, and business owners are interested in perspectives, opinions, and input of others, when it comes to making the final decision, well the boss’ word is final. When the buck stops with you, you want the final say.
So how do you create an atmosphere that will enable the flow of important information, updates, and ideas, but doesn’t compromise your authority to interpret the information/inputs, and make the final decision? How do you establish an atmosphere of openness without it impairing the ability to act?
The ability to receive information and to utilize it to its best advantage resides in your ability to separate the information from the emotion. Information is neither good nor bad. Information doesn’t challenge our authority or our opinion, instead information provides us with perspective on what is working and what isn’t. It is critical to our ability to make informed and well-considered decisions. Our reactions to the information and what it indicates is up to us.
Several years ago, I worked with an organization in which the entire business process we established was built around the concept of getting information about the status of projects (“good or bad”) as early as possible so that it could be acted upon. The intent of the company was to:
- Improve performance based on information
- Meet commitments to customers by preventing internal delivery, performance, and production issues before they impacted the customer
- Assign and allocate resources where they were needed most
- Act to make decisions based upon relevant, timely information
- Minimize “reaction” activities by establishing protocols and processes to identify and address issues as they occur and before they escalate and impact the customer
- Communicate with the customer in advance of any potential impact; let the customer know when you know a deadline will be missed, etc.
When it comes to running your business, it is important to keep internal problems internal and as much as possible insulate your customer from ramifications. Where it is not possible to keep the original commitment to the customer, minimize the impact and as much as possible negate surprises by communicating early and often about issues, delays, and other factors that are expected to impact your customer. Being honest may be painful, but being honest with the customer as early as possible¾when an outcome is relatively certain¾gives the customer time to act rather than react and also minimize the impact on their own operations and customers.
Your organization serves the customer; this translates to doing what is best for each of them. It also means developing a business with the right people, values, processes, and culture to serve the customer. It also means having confident, capable, and informed managers and leaders that are willing and able to listen. If you want to improve your bottom line, improve your communication skills to:
- Increase internal results
- Convey value to the customer (make the sale)
- Negotiate the best terms from vendors
- Provide the best customer service, and
- Keep communication flowing into you and your team.
Copyright ©2015 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.