Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Red Door

A few years ago, we moved out to the country. Mind you, it's only four miles from our former home in the suburbs, but that's upstate New York for you. Since then, as time and budgets have afforded, we've done some remodeling projects to restore our circa 1850 home to its farmhouse roots. One of my contributions was to paint the outside doors red. I had heard that in early American times, a red door was a sign of "welcome".

I've since learned that there are multiple meanings for a red door depending on culture, religion, and the historic period in which it's done. I've also learned that the reason this welcome sign was important to early Americans is because travel by horse and buggy was slow. A red door told a weary traveler that this was a safe place to stay for the night.

So here is the irony in that for me. My house has red doors, but no guest room.

I've been thinking about that lately and how it parallels another door in the workplace - the "open" door. It's most often a fixture of someone in leadership who says, "I have an open door policy". The message is similiar to that of the red door, "Welcome, come in. This is a safe place for you."

As a leader in your organization, do you have a red door? If so, do the weary travelers (employees) take you up on that offer, and are you ready for them when they do? Maybe the door is open, but you're too busy with other obligations to host a visitor so they've given up trying. Or maybe the door is open, but it's such an intimidating walk down the executive hallway that they never make it that far. What if the traveler bears a message of bad news, is it still a safe place to visit?

Your house needs to match your door. Your actions need to match your promises.

As for our home, we purchased a top-of-the-line inflatable bed to set up in the office area. It may be a circa 1850 farmhouse, but it's a modern day family our weary travelers are visiting.


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