“A true leader has to have a genuine open-door policy so that his people are not afraid to approach him for any reason.” – Harold S. Geneen quotes.
When I was a principal I always had an open door policy for all staff, students, and parents. My goal was to encourage discussion about important issues, get or provide feedback, and solve problems as quickly and effectively as possible. This enabled me to speed up progress towards agreed school goals.
An open door policy is a communication strategy in which the principal or any other manager or leader allows staff, employees or any other stakeholders to come to the office at any time to discuss issues, ask questions, get or give feedback, report problems, or share ideas. An open door policy tends to increase collaboration between management and staff, and promote mutual respect and trust. Relationships often improve in this environment. It also increases productivity and performance because problems are discussed and solved very quickly. Principals become more accessible and get the opportunity to provide greater mentorship.
This communication system is quicker and works better than having staff wait for appointments with the principal to report problems in person, or submit e-mails or written reports to the principal, and then wait until they are called into the office, maybe a few days later. Many issues require a prompt response from the principal and will fester if they are not dealt with immediately.
Teachers, students and parents also become demotivated and annoyed if they have to wait too long to bring a problem or suggestion to the principal’s attention. Matters of discipline must also be dealt with promptly for the penalties to be effective. In contrast, an open door policy empowers staff and makes them feel more highly valued. Management needs to know the concerns of staff as soon as possible.
In operating an open door policy, the principal will need, at times, to redirect some of the issues and problems to his Senior Staff, such as his deputy principal, year heads, department heads, and guidance counsellor, or call them in, as needed, to assist in resolving the matters at hand. This will reassure these senior staff members that they are not being bypassed or overlooked, and that they remain integral parts of the management team.
One drawback of the open door policy in schools is the constant flow of people to the principal’s office to deal with important or urgent matters. This makes it difficult for the principal to complete his or her pre-prepared to-do list for each day. Principals then have to work after school hours on their daily to-do lists. The office often becomes a very hectic place and the principal has to learn how to deal with many matters quickly and effectively and delegate some of them to senior staff members. The implementation of an open door policy may challenge your personal time-management system, but it pays off handsomely in the end in terms of school improvement.