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Why an Open Door Policy Needs More than an Open Door

1024 576 David DeWolf

Last week, I visited the 3Pillar team in India and attempted to disrupt the status quo.

My typical visits to India include a series of meetings – both one-on-one and with various teams. I eat meals with the management team and try to squeeze in as much time as possible to go around and talk with the teams. Unfortunately, the majority of my time is behind closed doors. There are just too many things to catch up on given that I’m only there twice per year.

This visit, I was determined to be different. I refused to pack my schedule. I agreed in advance to only schedule one meeting and one day with the press.

As I arrived, I noticed the typical sign on the corner office door. “Reserved for Mr. David DeWolf.” It was at that moment that I realized that I had little or no reason for that office because of my schedule. I made an impromptu decision that proved to be a game-changer. I decided not to use it, and instead to sit at various locations with the team.

The results were amazing.

Midway through Thursday, one of our employees approached me as I caught up on email – while sitting out among our teams.

“I wanted to come check on you. On Tuesday, when you arrived, you looked different than your normal self,” he said. “I was afraid that there was something going on with the business or that our pipeline was not strong. You looked very stressed out. I figured it was my job as your teammate to check on you and see if everything is well.”

After I explained that I was simply jet-lagged and had slept very poorly, I realized the power of what had just happened. Someone who had never approached me before was willing to address me with genuine concern – all because I made myself physically approachable. This gave me an opportunity to answer this concern directly and, more importantly, understand how I had come across.

Throughout the week, I had several examples like this. One employee invited and hosted me for dinner. Another joined our group as we toured the Taj Mahal on Saturday before our flight. Several more opened up at our annual party, and I can count at least three different 10-minute “stairway” conversations I was able to have. Through these, I learned a lot about what we can improve on and how well our teams are doing.

I left for India with an open-door policy that I think most people respect. I left from India having learned an important lesson. Don’t just open the door – tear down the walls. Because I did, I was able to connect with and learn more about our folks than I ever would have from within that corner office.