Leaders Know How to Close Doors

Door knob

Years ago my wife and I bought a house with the intention of renovating it. It was in a good location and had good “bones.” We were young, in our early 20s. But we “bit off more than we could chew” and learned a valuable lesson. We were not fixer-uppers. Yes, I re-wired most of the house. We tore up and replaced floors in some rooms while resanding thick oak floors in others. We painted, repaired plaster walls (no sheetrock in this house!), installed ceiling fans, and so on. Before we completed the project, we sold the house and moved into a maintenance free condo. We had months (if not years) of work ahead of us on the house when we bailed.

Granted, the house renovation would have gone more quickly if we’d subcontracted out the work. But we were young and energetic. We thought it would be fun. Plus we didn’t have the money for subs. We decided to learn necessary skills on the fly. It was “sweat equity” at its finest. Ugh!

Looking back, I learned a lot of skills during that time that have served me well over the years. Would I do it again? No. Am I glad I did it? Maybe. Did I learn some practical skills? Absolutely.

I was reminded of our home renovation project recently when I had to replace a doorknob on the door between our garage and kitchen. I went to Lowe’s, bought a new doorknob, came home, and replaced it in 5 minutes. Granted, there wasn’t much to it. But nonetheless I was pleased with the return on time and money from replacing the doorknob myself.

Your home, condo, apartment, or loft probably has at least one door if not several. Some doors have doorknobs with locks. Some don’t. Some doors have knobs. Some have handles. But the purpose of a door and a doorknob is straightforward. A doorknob is used to help close the door and, conversely, open it. The door itself is meant to keep things out. Or to keep them in.

What good does a front door do if it’s open during the night? Rain might blow in. An intruder might wander in. Or a snake might slither in. Of course there are thousands of other unwanted “things” that might come into your house if the front door isn’t closed. You get the point. If you’re home and the weather’s nice, you might open the door to let in fresh air. But at other times, you close the door and lock it. Right?

Great leaders remember to close doors when necessary. Maybe you’re dating someone new. Close the door on the old relationship. Maybe your daughter is going away to college. Close the high school door. It’s time to move on. The relationship, including responsibilities, has changed. Made a mistake? Ask forgiveness. Correct it if possible. But then close the door and move on. Getting married? Close the door of dependence on your parents. The focus should now be on your new bride. Changing jobs? Close the door on the old job and don’t look back. Honor the past but move forward.

In each of these simple examples, it’s important to close the door with grace, style, humility, and thoughtfulness. But great leaders recognize that opening a new door often requires them to close another. If you let rain, snakes, and intruders wander through a carelessly left open door, you’re in for a rude awakening. The consequences will not be pleasant. Instead, be deliberate. Know when a particular door needs to be closed. You might open it later. But for now, close it.

I will let you in on a little secret. Once when replacing a doorknob, I got in a hurry. I was distracted and not paying full attention. As I was standing admiring my handiwork, something didn’t look right. Eventually I realized that I had installed the doorknob backward. The lock was on the outside of the house while the non-locking side faced inward. After a good laugh, I reversed the doorknob and closed the door, just before a big thunderstorm came through bringing lots of wind and rain. Whew!

Have a great week and remember to close doors when appropriate. Be a great leader.

is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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