In a recent post I highlighted the importance of leader accessibility, responsiveness and reliability, effectively saying nothing beats these for importance. A reader suggested I follow up with a note on how a leader can achieve accessibility – here goes with my thoughts.

Accessibility is not simply a question of saying you adopt an open door policy – it is about your partners and staff feeling and believing you are accessible. It is what they think and not what you believe you are or are not doing that matters. If you are not sure, you should seek feedback. Chances are they will have a different perception on this to you. For a start don't just open the door, walk out the door to connect with others.

I remember when I was in a managing partner role I thought I did a pretty decent job of being accessible and getting around to see people – I am willing to bet though that plenty of the staff and partners didn’t think so. The reason is I have since realised its not what I thought about this that mattered, but what they experienced and felt. Too often we look at these things from our perspective and although we may feel we ‘get it’, we often don’t. It is all about the perception of others. Everyone amongst those others is different. Everyone thinks differently. So, I don’t think I gave it quite enough thought at the time and should have. I suspect many leaders don’t. They should. It is that important.

You will quite often hear law firm leaders say things like ‘I have an open door policy’ and so on. This is a good start, if it is true and if that results in people actually feeling they can come through that door, or approach the leader in the passage or canteen and discuss what it is they want to discuss or better still, offer up some innovative or strategic ideas for the firm. Too often that door can stay open all day but people will simply not cross the threshold as they don’t feel comfortable.

Rather than simply having an open door policy the key is to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable communicating and sharing their thoughts.  It seems to me to be more about stepping outside the door and being accessible outside rather than sitting in your office with the door open and assuming others will regard you as accessible based on that assumption and gesture.
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