The CIO Is In January 26, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: Communication, Leadership, Listening, Management Skills, Relationships
Like almost every other executive I have ever met, I have an open-door policy. I look forward to talking to my team and appreciate those that take time to stop by and chat, on matters large and small. I try to wander about as well, keeping in touch with people whenever possible. In spite of this policy and my efforts, though, I still don’t get enough contact with my co-workers. In short, being accessible is easier said than done.
A big part of the problem is that I have a hectic schedule. I am often out of the office and hard to find. When I’m in the office, I am often in meetings and unavailable. Even if people wanted to talk to me, I can be hard to find and pin down. For those who might be a bit reluctant to stop by, I am essentially unreachable.
To make myself more accessible, I started scheduling “Office Hours.” Simply put, I promise my people that I will be in my office, otherwise unoccupied, for a set period of time each week. Anyone who wants to see me can stop by and know that I will be available and ready to listen. If no one shows up, I’ll certainly find other things to do; when they do, I set aside what I’m doing and focus on them.
When I started office hours, I laid out the rules so that people would know what to expect. Here are the rules:
- I will be in my office every Thursday, 1:30-3:30, except when I am on vacation or a serious emergency has occurred
- Anyone can stop by to talk about anything they want
- First come, first served. If I am talking to someone else, put your name on a Post-It and stick it on the door. I’ll call you back when I am available.
- Except in rare circumstances, you cannot “book” time during office hours. Just show up!
- Except in rare circumstances, you can’t shut the door while we are talking. I don’t want others to be put off by a closed door. If you have a sensitive topic, we’ll set up a separate time where we can have some privacy and adequate time to discuss it.
- Topics should be relatively brief (less than 15 minutes) to give time for others
Office hours have been a big success! Many times, I am the pacing item on some project, for a signature, approval, or recommendation. People know I will be available for these kind of “quick hit” items during office hours, so they stop by and get things moving forward. Beyond these kind of items, people stop by for almost every imaginable topic: advice, personnel issues, venting, bouncing around ideas, and just saying hello.
Communication is crucial to our success as leaders and to our teams. Office hours have had a big positive impact on communication within my team. What started as a quick experiment has turned into an important part of my weekly schedule. I couldn’t imagine removing office hours from my schedule. Give it a try; I hope you find it as useful as I have.