Three Lessons of Going “Undercover” in Your Company

America has been invited behind the scenes of several companies thanks to the CBS hit Undercover Boss.

If you haven’t seen the show, its format is based on a senior executive of a company working undercover in their own firm to investigate how the company really works and identify how it can be improved, as well as rewarding the hard working staff.  Click here for a few video shorts.

The show has taken a deeper look at companies across many industries and locations.   A similar theme typically emerges:  the executive identifies what employees “really” experience; several operational improvements are made; and individual employees are recognized for their hard work.

While the “magic of television” allows the executive to really look inside the company, any executive can learn from the show’s premise and uncover opportunities for improvement.

How?  Consider these three truths:

#1 Company effectiveness is always more than the numbers.
In each episode, the executive experiences the company from the employee’s perspective – the employees who interact with the customer every day.  Perspective always changes when you leave the “office”.  Effective organizations must have mechanisms in place to stay in touch with the customer and just as importantly, the employees who make that connection every day.

#2 Everyone has a story to be heard.
The heartwarming part of each show is the employee stories we hear.  Single parents enduring long hours to ensure their children can go to college. Employees working two jobs so bills can be paid. Workers getting their feet wet in this company to pursue their real dream of the future.

In each moment, we hear their story and the realization that the company executive, in most cases, has forgotten what it’s like to be a regular employee.  And the truth? Every employee has a story.  But how often do we slow the world down to long enough hear it.

#3 Leadership is more than a title.
Each episode of Undercover Boss concludes with the executive revealing their secret and sharing with their teams the lessons learned throughout the week and introducing any positive changes as the result of their experience.

Each executive comes away changed in some way because they saw the organization from a new perspective.  So often, the “us versus them” war exists in companies simply because managers don’t understand what the employees experience and vice versa.

You may not have the camera crews of Hollywood to transform you into an undercover character. But you can put mechanisms in place to get closer to your organization.

And let’s face it, your employees are already tuning in.

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