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How to Get Employees to Open Up

Once a day, ask someone this question: What is the dumbest thing you are working on?

You can walk around all day as the CEO thinking you're not an intimidating person, but a lot of people, especially those who haven't known you a long time, are automatically intimidated by your title or by the fact that you don't talk with them every single day or whatever it is. When you have a strong personality, as I do, you have to make sure you are not intimidating people even more. You can say until you're blue in the face that you have an open-door policy, but nobody ever takes you up on it.

I try to combat that. Every day or so, I ask someone in the company, What is the dumbest thing you are working on? It accomplishes a few things. First, if I think the project isn't actually dumb, that usually means I have done an inadequate job explaining how it relates to the larger business, so I explain it a different way. If I think it is kind of dumb and we shouldn't be doing it, that is of course also helpful. And the question makes the open-door policy real. It gives people a comfort level to say something they might not otherwise say.

As told to Inc. editor-at-large Tom Foster.

From the November issue of Inc. magazine


Michael Fertik founded with the belief that businesses and individuals have the right to control and protect their online reputation and privacy. Credited with pioneering the field of online reputation management (ORM), Fertik is lauded as the world's leading cyberthinker in digital privacy and reputation.

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