How to be a ‘not-so-undercover’ boss in 3 easy steps

TJ Waldorf
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Don’t lose sight of the most important area of your business- The frontline interactions with customers.

The hit TV show, Undercover Boss, follows big business executives (many times CEOs) around their own companies while they pose [undercover] as in-training frontline workers. The show illustrates how very different the big boss’s view is in comparison to what’s ACTUALLY going on, and keeping their businesses running on a day to day basis- The blood, sweat, and tears of their [sometimes forgotten] frontline workers.

It’s fair to say that the CEO of a large, or even smaller organization has a lot on their plate and can easily be once, twice, or a hundred times removed from where business is actually taking place- Between customers and frontline workers. That being said, there are [big] risks involved in losing sight of this ever-so-important area of the business.

The concept of this TV show should not be restricted to only CXO’s and presidents, and rather shared even with divisional managers and supervisors of frontline workers- And here’s why….

We live in a time of ‘do more with less’, and as a result, our managers and supervisors are ‘doing’ so much other stuff, it’s easy for them to lose focus of the people they are there to support and ensure success. Whether it’s being buried in reports, attending meetings, or working on various projects, all these things mean less and less time interfacing with staff- The folks talking with customers; the ones with the intimate knowledge of customer needs and problems;  the ones who cause [or don’t’ cause] positive and negative social buzz;  the important ones.

Of course, there’s hope for all of us- We CAN train ourselves to create habits of involvement. And believe it or not, pretty cool stuff happens when you do.

Take action with these 3 steps:

  1. MBWA- This stands for ‘Managing By Walking Around’. Get out of your office (I know it’s hard sometimes) and just walk around amongst your frontline staff and see how they’re doing. See if there’s anything you can help with, ask how the day is going, or just say hi. Most times, just the fact that you walk by will prompt conversations and insights you may have otherwise missed.
  2. Plan for it- Simply saying you will walk around each day is typically not enough to really make it happen. Plan for it in your day, put it on your calendar, and create a sign to remind yourself (I have one taped to my monitors). Don’t just hope you get time (because you won’t)- PLAN FOR IT!
  3. Have fun- The cool thing about this is that it really can be fun. Being stuck behind a computer screen all day is not fun. Talking with people and learning new things is, though. Chatting with your staff on an informal basis let’s you learn more about them, and it’s also the next closest thing to talking directly with your customers. So enjoy it!

One last thing…..this takes practice and discipline. I still would not consider myself a pro at it, but I’m not giving up!

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