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Rethinking our Open-Door Policy

Rethinking our Open-Door Policy

Posted on December 19th, 2023


SMK Medical s thrilled to present a thought-provoking guest post by Ezedube Eze, LNHA, CDP, RCAL , a top voice in healthcare leadership. Eze wrote the blog titled 'Rethinking our Open-Door Policy,' Which offers a fresh perspective on the traditional open-door approach in healthcare management. This blog skillfully navigates the challenges and nuances of being an accessible leader while maintaining strategic focus. Eze's insights are enlightening and practical, providing valuable guidance for healthcare professionals striving to balance openness with effective leadership.


In our dedication to being approachable leaders, many of us have adopted an open-door policy. However, is it always beneficial? Our role as administrators demands a blend of addressing urgent needs and strategic foresight, which can be disrupted by a constant stream of interruptions, negatively affecting our focus and decision-making capabilities.


Research suggests it takes over 20 minutes to fully regain concentration after a distraction. It’s a tough dilemma in our field, where every decision impacts lives. How can we balance this?


It is also human nature to want to fix past shortcomings, whether they be from a previous poor survey, less-than-ideal community relations, a predecessor's reputation, or even rebuilding a relationship with an ombudsman. Yet, being perpetually available can impede our ability to focus on strategic tasks, diminishing our overall performance.


Psychology indicates that leaders caught in a cycle of short-term decision-making and crisis management ("putting out fires") can develop tunnel vision, limiting their ability to engage in long-term strategic thinking. This can lead to cognitive overload, increased stress, and decreased mental bandwidth, making it difficult to consider broader, future-oriented issues. It's essential for healthcare leaders to find an balance with our open door approach that allows time for both immediate problem-solving and comprehensive strategic planning. This balance is key to preventing burnout, fostering more effective leadership, and ensuring our sharpness during high-stakes decisions.


I propose a strategic reevaluation of our open-door approach:

  1. Introduce Focus Blocks: Dedicate specific hours—daily or weekly—for uninterrupted deep work, a strategy championed by Cal Newport. This approach isn't about shutting our doors but strategically allocating time for tasks that demand intense focus. For example, use these blocks to delve into QAPI preparation or to dissect key performance metrics and trends. This ensures critical thinking isn't diluted by the day's urgencies, allowing for sustained, quality output on complex tasks.
  2. Flex Hours for Creativity: Reserve time specifically for brainstorming and exploring new ideas. This allows us to detach from daily operations and engage in innovative thinking, which is vital for long-term planning and staying ahead of industry trends. This could involve evaluating novel ideas from the management team or family members, even when the return on investment isn't immediately clear.
  3. Regularize One-on-Ones: Transition from spontaneous ‘drop in’ sessions to scheduled, meaningful interactions. Scheduled meetings foster richer communication and recognition, as every team member's voice is given the space to be heard. Carve out regular 15-minute slots for focused discussions with key personnel. This not only bolsters your capacity for deep work but also significantly boosts information retention and team morale, as evidenced by the tangible improvements seen in my time.

This shift may seem counterintuitive in an industry that often values constant presence. But remember, optimal leadership is not just about being present; it's about being operationally effective and keeping our ability to think fast and slow (as recommended in the book by Daniel Kahneman).


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