You’ve been there as a leader, you’re working in your office and someone knocks at your doorway with a question… a simple question that could take two minutes turns into an hour-long conversation you didn’t plan on having! This process happens two more times with colleagues and BAM… there’s half your day! This was my kryptonite as a new leader; I was a Connector Type and loved to engage and converse… and my office quickly became the place for questions and an escape for so many. Initially, I enjoyed it… until I found myself bringing work home, falling massively behind, and my superiors eventually having the “Tough Conversation” with me as to why my work wasn’t done. Although there were other factors regarding the timeliness of my work… my lack of leadership regarding “My Doorway” was a big one! To be fair, this is a delicate issue of harmony; if your door is always closed… you’re a disconnected leader; leading your team like the Grand Wizard behind the curtain in Oz. When your door is always open, you’re always available to emergencies or perceived emergencies of others.
Also, through the Covid Pandemic, the need to have scheduled Virtual Meetings made increased patience a bit more necessary and understandable… therefore your virtual calls increased tremendously and your email inbox was hit hard! The positive of this is… people had to WAIT for you to get back to them; proving the sky would not fall! So, what to do to protect your doorway and find the sweet spot in this area; enhancing your leadership and those on your team?
Two types of people will want to cross the threshold of your doorway, the employees and co-workers you enjoy and the ones you don’t… the one’s with a poor attitude, gossiping, seeking the easy answer instead of refining their skills, etc. No matter your feeling, be a leader and time-frame the interaction. It may sound southing like, “Hi ________, do you have a minute? What can I do for you? They will share their dilemma… or the fact they just stopped by to chat. “Ok, just to let you know, I’m middle of something right now so I have about 5 or 10 minutes and I have to get back to it”.
This statement is something I wish I implemented earlier in my career as a leader and it certainly made an impact when I did. The hardest person I found to do it with was the employees and co-workers I enjoyed because it took significant personal leadership on my part to end the conversation and get back to task. This may also be difficult for leaders who have the urge to please and/or find it difficult to set boundaries. I’ve found “Time-Frame It” keeps you polite, willing, addresses the issue, and works to protect your time…. as long as you follow through and end the conversation at the time you allotted. This will also prevent your employees and coworkers from saying you were dismissive and disconnected… Be Mindful!
When “Time-Frame It” is successful, you can stop there and your professional world is golden! When it doesn’t… and you have more and more people visiting your office for 5-10 min slots that take over your entire day… something is wrong. You fixing everyone’s problem is not leadership and they are not exhibiting leadership by always asking you! Therefore, it’s time to request a meeting with your direct supervisor (unless you’re the Big Boss). Please remember, your boss may feel the same way about their doorway… So, follow my rule of accompanying your problem with a suggested solution, explain your plan of how you plan to attach the issue of your doorway with your team or individual, ask what he/she likes about it, and if there’s anything they’d fine-tune, and request a timeframe of three weeks to a month to see how it works.
Now your higher-ups understand there’s a problem, that you actually want to do your work, you’re willing to lead your team, you’ve worked to develop a plan, did not throw any of your people under the bus to make yourself look better or them worse, and you know have their backing and support if and when there’s an issue or complaint that goes over your head!
Perhaps your plan and adjustments are for your team or an individual… we’ll get to that in a bit. Perhaps the plan is for YOU… a more flexible work schedule to arrive earlier or later, leave earlier or later, or to have a regularly scheduled time of day or day of the week with your door closed to get the most important part of your job done. Many years ago, I chose the latter… closing my door certain times of the day significantly limited the travel across my doorway. However, beware… as it can become addictive and you may soon find yourself disconnected from your people and the real-world happenings of your team and the organization! I also selected Friday afternoons as the day to complete my more monotonous tasks outside of my office in somewhat of a common area to be in the mix, making myself available, and to see the day in real-time. When you choose this option, be mindful of the day… when a crisis takes over on a Friday… that work then doesn’t get completed and piles on to your next week, and the next week, and so on! Pick a day that works for you, your team, and the organization; enhancing your leadership and work/life harmony… and theirs!
It’s time to be transparent with your people or team! This can be uncomfortable to share… as you really enjoy your team or some of them, Lol! You can do this in a group or 1-on-1. The goal is to share things will look different as there’s a new expectation focused on enhancing your leadership, theirs, and working more effectively as a team; your door will be closed during set times to allow for _____________ and emergencies are defined as _________________. It never ceases to amaze me what people may consider an emergency… usually, a mess up on their part constitutes an emergency that you must stop everything and fix RIGHT NOW! Through the pandemic, team members had to schedule a Zoom Call or wait for an email response. Suddenly, because your office is ten steps away… everything is NOW and takes an hour to discuss and solve?
Meeting with you people is not only about sharing the changes that help your needs get met. It’s also to understand why they have so many questions, don’t know what to do, or how to do it, and why they’re living in your office. There are many possible reasons… So many new employees were hired during the pandemic that have never have shaken hands with existing employees or other new hires. Perhaps there’s been monumental turnover and they’re really that unfamiliar. Perhaps, due to the current employee shortage the company hired available bodies… all good people, but not as competent or as positive as you need or prefer. Perhaps through all the change, proper trainings were not administered and everyone is simply attempting to figure it out on the fly. Or, maybe an employee or coworker is simply incompetent, lazy, or the boss’s cousin! I could go on, but you get the point. Whatever the reason… You’ve found a way to get your needs met; be sure to understand why they need so much from you and work to develop a plan that enhances their ability, their leadership, and work/life harmony!
It would be a shame to go through all of this and not follow through! I know things are busy… and “Busy” has beaten more people, professionally and personally, out of “Better” than anything else in the world! There will be time when crisis, deadlines, and other significant circumstances arise and all-hands-on-deck are necessary… however, that’s not every day! Therefore, follow through with your plan and fine-tune it as necessary from the smallest strategy of “Time Frame It” to the biggest of “The Meeting” and “Your People”… OR, keep getting what you’re getting, set up a turn-style at your doorway, and stop complaining!
“As a leader, you fixing everyone’s problem is not leadership and they are not exhibiting leadership by always asking you and simply getting the answer or the task completed for them… Be Mindful!” – Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
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