Nearly every boss has said it. And just about every employee has heard it. Yet it’s one of the most meaningless lines ever spoken in the office:

“My door is always open.”

The statement usually is followed up with some version of, “If you ever have an issue with anything, please come talk to me.”

What’s wrong with this? Isn’t it important for your employees to know that you are open to hearing their suggestions, concerns, and criticisms? Of course it is.

But let’s be real here: In most cases, “My door is always open” isn’t really an invitation to speak up. It’s a cop-out. It makes the boss feel good but puts the onus entirely on the employees. You might as well say, “You find the problems and then take all the risk of interrupting my day and confronting me about them.” How many people have taken you up on that offer?

Your employees have lots of opinions about everything—your strategy and vision; the state of the competition; the quality of your products; the vibe in the workplace. There are tons of things you can learn from them.

But how many of these ideas and opinions have you actually heard? A tiny fraction, I’d bet. The reality is that companies are full of things that are left unspoken. And even when they are out in the open, the CEO is almost always the last to know.

I like to think of myself as a leader whose door is always open. But I recently learned that an open door isn’t enough…

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