Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leadership 101: Open That Door!

While at Quick Solutions, I had mentorship responsibilities for a number of folks. I was very fortunate that all my mentorees were in Quick’s Solutions group. QSI Solutions folks are, in my honest opinion, the region’s best and brightest conglomeration of bleeding edge devs. (Second, of course, to my homies at Telligent!) As a result, the scope and number of problems I had with them were miniscule in comparison to other situations I’ve been in at previous jobs.

(For example, while in the Air Force I had to manage a subordinate who “accidentally” shot his friend who was having an affair with said subordinate’s wife. Long story. Buy me a beer some time and I’ll tell you more. But I digress.)

Almost all of the personnel issues at QSI are handled through Larry Schleeter, the Vice President for Professional Services. Larry oversees nearly all consultants at QSI, and all the recruiters report up to him, so he’s an extremely busy guy. Twice I had situations where I needed to bounce my ideas off someone in a leadership position. Both times I walked into Larry’s office and was able to get a significant chunk of his time to discuss my approach to the problems. Larry was freely giving of his time and experience, helping me to refine a couple aspects of how I was going to fix the problem.

Larry was always adamant about making time for any conversation his folks needed to have with him. Sometimes I’d need to hold off while he finished up a meeting, but I knew I’d get his time at some point fairly quickly. What’s more impressive is that I wasn’t even a direct report to Larry.

As a leader you absolutely must keep your door open to your team. They need to have a clear belief that you’re going to make time to help them out with their problems. If you’re closing your door, either metaphorically or physically, then you’re crushing free and productive communication with your team. A closed door means you’re blocking the ability to quickly hear about problems that are hindering your team’s ability to function smoothly. More importantly, you’re giving the impression your team’s is somewhere far down your priority list. You’ll not be getting crucial feedback to situations, and you’ll be missing the chance to let your team bring up pressing issues – something that’s crucial for keeping a happy, productive team.

Of course you have situations where you can’t drop everything immediately for your team, and you do need to respect your own time and productivity. Set up a Do Not Disturb signal with your team and lay out some clear expectations for them, but ensure that you’re tipping the balance to “Open Door” rather than “Closed in Most Cases Door.”

Keeping your door open reaps you a wealth of goodness with your team. Ensure you’re giving your team priority for their communication needs.

Open up that door!

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

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