When you're the boss - and especially when you run your own company - you rarely get feedback from the people you most need to hear from: Your employees.
So while you can ask for ideas, hold open meetings, be accessible and approachable, and do everything possible to get feedback, sometimes the only person you can count on to tell you the unvarnished truth is you.
Make the following a part of your morning ritual. On your way into the building, tell yourself:
"I don't have all the answers." Being the boss doesn't mean all your views and opinions are valid, and it definitely doesn't mean they all should be shared with employees. I worked at a plant and a sinkhole formed in the parking lot. We brought in a geologist to test for sub-surface issues under the building. He conducted his tests and at the reporting meeting our CEO jumped up, drew a few lines on the map of the facility and grounds, and said to the geologist, "That's all you need to do. Settled. Next topic?" Promotions don't come with wisdom. Always assume you don't have all the information you need to make a great decision; that way you'll listen more than you speak.
"I don't make the difference." Outstanding leaders can't solve every problem. Sometimes problems get solved even when a leader is terrible. (I'm sure you been involved in situations like that.) While you are certainly important, your employees are more important. Focus less on what you do well and more on what you could improve, and work hard to overcome your weaknesses. That's a great example to lead by.
"I'm not the life of the party." Being a boss or owning a business is a little like being famous, because employees will tend treat you differently simply because of your position. Keep in mind they may treat you like a rock star, but inside they may not feel the same way. If going to work gives you a charge because you get to channel your inner Mick Jagger - and you don't feel that way at home or with friends - it's time to reevaluate how you behave. Never force your opinions, jokes, or point of view on employees just because you can.
"We're not one big happy family." Your job is to win customers, increase efficiency, reduce waste, and make things happen. Creating a pseudo-family isn't part of the job. You should absolutely be friendly, but you should not be friends with your employees. Don't say you have the interpersonal and professional skills to strike the right balance, because you don't - no one has that ability. Don't make employees feel they need to do things with you outside of work. Make other friends, or better yet spend more time with your family. Great leaders keep their relationships separate. Caring, warm, and supportive, yes. Family, no.
"I won't expect my employees to care as much as I do." Many business owners and bosses get frustrated when they feel employees don't seem as invested in the success of the company as they should. Quite frankly, those owners and bosses are wrong. The department is yours. The business is yours. You should care more. Inspire your employees by setting goals and helping them achieve those goals. Set high standards, expect great performance, and reward outstanding employees. But expecting the same level of dedication and sacrifice will only leave you frustrated - and negatively impact your ability to lead.