Doors. To someone with any experience in an office setting, they symbolize the barrier or separation between those with authority and those without. As the saying goes, “all the big deals take place behind closed doors.”
Before the internet blurred the lines of the eight-hour work day for everyone and kept teams connected at all times, there were doors. Before the mass adoption of mobile and wearable technologies provided actionable data and insights that drove behavior for organizations, there were doors. Before real estate developers and designers started transforming cube farms into open-concept collaboration spaces, there were doors.
For many years leading up to these changes, popular management theory told us that the “best” CEOs were the ones who established a vision for their organization, put great people in place to execute on that vision, and sat back to let the magic happen.
Take some of the lessons from the One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. In this classic, “Good Managers” are described as those who maintain a regimented “open door policy” for employees and oversee the high level direction of the company by having one-minute meetings and doling out one-minute reprimands or one-minute praises to keep things on track.
It begs the question for the modern-day organization — does this approach still hold up in a world where network connectivity, mobile technology and open-concept offices have completely broken down many of the physical and communication “doors” between the CEO and the first year college graduate who was just hired?
As these changes have occurred, research studies have begun to point out the positive correlation between strong corporate financial results and the relative strength of company culture. While it tends to go against the grain for boards and management teams to seriously consider driving growth by investing in employees and benefits as opposed to marketing and development, there’s no denying that companies like Facebook, Apple and Zappos have become market leaders in large part by attracting and retaining some of the best people. How? Because their leadership embraced these changes in organizational methodology and defined a new kind of “open door policy” where collaboration and culture served as the bedrock.
Of course, change isn’t easy. For CEOs that have overseen the success of their teams for many years previously, the idea of adopting some of these concepts probably seems expensive, time-consuming and totally crazy.
If an organization is truly to make the shift to constant connectivity and a collaborative work environment, how can CEOs take the lead, adjust the way their teams work together, and establish a new cultural paradigm primed for success?
Here are five very simple ideas for CEOs to consider implementing as they are defining the new “open door policy” in their organization and embracing the modern day work environment:
Is it a call? A text? An email? Skype? With so many channels that CEOs and Managers must be available on, set the expectation immediately on what the preferred method of communication is and when it should be used. Often times, employees will be more comfortable using certain channels or platforms over others. The trick here is to remove any uncertainty that might exist and be available to the team on the channel of choice.
2. Gather the team together unannounced to talk through a big decision.
Rather than making every single one of those big decisions behind closed doors, the CEO should huddle the team up in a conference room or maybe even around their desks to get feedback on a decision being made. One of the most engaging things a team can be part of is helping the boss tackle a problem. If it’s important to the CEO, and the CEO is asking for help, employees feels like they have a voice and they are helping mold the company in some small way.
Because members of the team all have smart phones and are always online, it’s mission critical that the CEO establish a very clear policy on personal time and follow it. How can an employee ever fully enjoy big personal moments like a family graduation or a friend’s wedding if they are getting emails from other members of the team during these times? When the CEO makes it a point to communicate that they value the team’s personal time and gives employees a clear cut way to disconnect, it creates an increased likelihood of employee loyalty, accountability and satisfaction.
Company wins should become moments for everyone to take part in — not just management. Whether it’s a bell in the office to ring, a voice over the intercom, or even just a personal note or email sent out, the CEO needs to make sure everyone gets to feel part of the celebration when a new client is signed, new milestones are reached, new financing secured, etc. Even if these wins did in fact take place behind closed doors, let them out for air so the team can experience the pride and excitement of victory.
Don’t be the CEO that doesn’t “fraternize” with the team — no one likes working for a leader that doesn’t show up for the company happy hour, softball game or picnic. With everyone working in closer proximity and connected on platforms like Facebook, the CEO can’t help but hear about some of the things that are going on after hours or on weekends. At the end of the day, the CEO is the face of the family that can single-handedly boost morale just by being in the room.
Michael Walsh is the CEO of Dallas-based Cariloop. Cariloop provides comprehensive services and tools to help families plan for and manage the care of aging loved ones.
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