by Jane Anderson, Featured Contributor
I DON’T USUALLY judge a book by its cover. I pretty much learned that about the time I advanced from picture books to chapter books. I have to say though that the cover of Leaders Open Doors (by Bill Treasurer) offered pretty strong incentive. The picture of the kite was pretty cool, but flipped over to the back was a seal promising “All Royalties Donated to Children’s Charities”. I liked that idea, although wondered what I would find inside. Well to be totally transparent, I found treasures in every chapter from the Preface to the Epilogue.
Prior to reading this book, I had heard the story of Bill Treasure’s five year old son’s blatant revelation that he was chosen to be class leader one day and as result he got to open doors for people. Simple concept with audacious potential, don’t you think? If you’ve ever witnessed a leader consciously opening doors of opportunity for others, you will appreciate the content of what Bill Treasures writes about in his book, Leaders Open Doors. In a candid, easy conversation style of writing we all understand, Bill gives us the keys to understanding what an open-door leader does and how to transform from problem-solving, critical thinking mentality to a mindset that treats leadership challenges as opportunities, not problems. Bill asks the question, “Do you aim to be a problem-focused leader or an opportunity-focused leader?” What if, instead of thinking about what keeps you up at night, you transformed your thinking into what gets me up every morning? At the root, the situation is the same, but the reaction breeds a different result.
Is there a sanctioned way to write a book review? I hope not, because I want the latitude to share my favorite parts of the book first. The instant I have a book in my hands, I start paging through it. I don’t even stop at the table of contents, which would be the logical place to start. In this book, I thumbed through and settled on the chapter The Door to Personal Transformation. “Open-door leaders lift us up. They help us rise above who we are … to move closer to who we can become.” Bill acknowledges that being an open-door leader is hard if the mental door is closed – then he gives a page full of ideas for leaders to inspire their own transformation so they can inspire transformation in others.
I have a motto. Do you have a motto? Mine is: Keep an attitude of gratitude. Treat Yourself to Joy Every Day! I think this is why the chapter, The Door to Your Open Heart resonated with me. In this chapter Bill discusses the importance of authentically caring for people if you are to lead them well, and be prepared to open doors for them. This is not a candy-coated chapter where everything looks like a sunny day at the park. He presents ideas for getting outside your comfort zone and connecting with people in your organization or elsewhere through a variety of actions that might be uncomfortable but necessary to be an authentically, caring leader. You!
If you’ve read this far – thanks for being inquisitive enough to stick with it. Seasoned leaders, and even those whose experience spans less than a year are going to have a measure of skepticism about how to build a better organization by reading a book. Therein lies the issue. Reading a book is only the first step. Let’s keep going. I have a little more to share, because the book offers guidance that you might not get anywhere else. In essence Bill has identified 6 doors of opportunity. I already mentioned two of them, but let me give them to you again so you don’t have to scroll backward. I’m sort of a forward momentum gal. The first door I mentioned is the Door to Personal Transformation and the second door was the Door to Your Open Heart. The other doors in order that they are presented in the book are the Proving Ground Door, the Thought Shifting Door, the Door to a Second Chance, and the Door to Open for Others. When you have a copy of the book in your hands or open it on our eReader, there’s an explanatory table that identifies each of the chapters and doors, points out what you will learn, and gives you at least two takeaways. You know what? Since that’s readily available in the book, I’m going to share my favorite phrase from each of the chapters, and let you investigate that illustation in the book.
When I went to my first serious job, there was a big buzz about the ‘Open Door Policy’. Bill dispels that myth in the context of open-door leadership. He says “Open Door” is not a policy of keeping your door open, it’s about taking action to open doors for others. You will love the story he shares on this topic. In fact, this book is full of stories that will make the subject of being an open-door leader come alive.
Are you a spiller or a filler? Spillers motivate people by stroking their fears. Fillers motivate people by appealing to their desires to excel. Bill talks about focusing on opportunities to ‘fill’. Opportunity attracts; fear repels. Opportunity points in the right direction. Contrast the impression you get when you say, keep the ball in the air or say, don’t drop that ball. Seriously, how hard can it be to change your speech just a touch? Think about these. Opportunity activates imagination, opportunity inspires courage, and opportunity begets opportunity.
There is nothing quite so motivating as having something to prove, and so the Proving Ground Door is introduced. As a leader, you are responsible for assigning challenging work to people, but give them these opportunities in absorbable doses. Allow them to prove themselves without setting them up for failure. In your strategy for opening doors think of opportunities in graduated stages: small, medium, large
The Thought Shifting Door discusses the mental nature of providing opportunities. To open up opportunities, people need to think imaginatively. This chapter introduces three aspects of thought shifting. 1) disrupt normal thought patterns; 2) use symbols or metaphors to spark new thought; 3) small language changes – this, to make a difference in thoughts and attitudes. For example say “pretty good” instead of “not bad”.
The Door to a Second Chance speaks volumes, doesn’t it? The open-door leader has a responsibility to the enterprise as well as to the individual. The leader has to be thoughtful with authority to give someone a second chance. The essence of a second chance could involve strategic forgiveness which recognizes that the person who gets the second chance could change from being destructive to constructive behavior. How do you know if the second chance should be permitted? Bill offers some guidance for that determination.
We gravitate toward people most like us, don’t we? That’s not a bad thing, but we can all use a little work in the area of welcoming ‘Others’ who are different from us. In this chapter we learn the way to a stronger, more diverse organization is through opening doors for people who are not just like us.
A book review is just that – a high-level synopsis of all the book contains. Even an abridgement couldn’t cover the methods and practices brought out in the book, so if you want to be an awesome leader who opens doors of opportunity, I hope you will pick up a copy of the book. In fact, you might know several leaders who can use a tutorial on opening doors for people because they’re worth it.