One of the TV shows I enjoy is “Undercover Boss.” The basic premise is that a company leader goes undercover in disguise for a week to see how things really are in various parts of the business. Inevitably, the boss finds some wonderful, hard-working people as well as others who aren’t exactly what the boss was hoping to find. The eventual reveal introduces the boss as who he/she really is and usually rewards (but sometimes reprimands) the employees based on the undercover experience.
What I appreciate about the show is the willingness of the boss to do what it takes to really know what it’s like on the front lines. The bosses are rarely actually good at performing many of the duties in the trenches, so they come away with an appreciation of those who do it well. Consequently, they frequently implement changes to make conditions, policies and practices better.
The larger an organization is, the greater the chance that those at the top are disengaged from those in the trenches. Information that reaches the top is too frequently filtered and sanitized by those bringing it.
When I think about great bosses (and not so great ones) I have had, I have the most respect for those willing to be involved enough in the day-to-day work to really know the truth about what works and what doesn’t, what expectations are realistic and which ones are not, and who the hard workers are compared to who just puts on a good show or talks a good game when the boss is around.
If you are a boss, spend time at every level of your organization in honest conversation with others. Set the example of being transparent so that others will know it’s OK to be so themselves.
If you are not in a management role, you may still be a leader depending on how you conduct yourself and how others see you, which means that you can still have a positive influence on your organization’s culture by how you interact with others.
You may not be able to go undercover, but you can still follow leap year lesson #29 – The more transparency, the better.