Undercover Boss

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Glenn Van Ekeren
President, Vetter Health Services 
“If you really want people to respond to your leadership, you have to have a personal relationship with them.  They need to know you’re dependable and that you’ll be there if they have a problem”
Noreen Hafner     

When the television show Undercover Boss hit the airwaves, I was hooked.  I was fascinated at the discoveries bosses made in this television reality show by going incognito.  Religiously, I tuned in every week to see what profound discoveries the next boss would make about their organization.  I must admit, I also enjoyed hearing the decisions bosses made to make life better in their companies.

I secretly and silently aspired to be one of those undercover bosses.  Certainly, I couldn’t mess things up any worse than the bosses I was watching on my flat screen.  At the same time, I found the whole concept of going ‘undercover’ a bit troubling.

Why does the CEO need to become someone she isn’t, to go to the frontline to find out how people really feel about the company?  Why is he suddenly surprised to find out that some of the company’s policies, processes and programs are anti-productive?  Why does a boss have to go to sit in an employee break room to learn they have disgruntled team members?  Why is there such a disconnect between corporate headquarters and the heart of productivity?  For that matter, how can a direct supervisor be so unattached to what is happening around them every day?

I might suggest we all take inventory of how well we listen to people at the grassroots level; those who truly make things happen.  They could no doubt save the company substantial time, money and effort if only we asked their input and advice.  Undercover Boss definitely caused me to reevaluate my listening quotient.

So, boss, if you were incognito, what do you think you would learn?

Forget the television show.  Let me give you three questions to randomly ask your team members.  You will discover boundless information that will help you improve effectiveness, engagement, and efficiency without going undercover.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What one thing could I do that would improve the quality of your life?
  2. What one frustration, if I could eliminate it, would make your work life easier?
  3. What can I do to help you become the best at what you do?

Ask these three questions of your team members.  They are worth the price of an expensive education.