What Would You Find If You Were An Undercover Boss?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On March 12, 2013

Do people who aspire to be great business leaders watch reality television? It’s probably not something most of us would put on a resume. And it’s probably not something that many of us would even freely admit to doing. After all, people who aspire to greatness don’t really have a lot of time for “guilty pleasures” such as reality TV.

But maybe (just maybe) a little bit of reality television could actually teach us something. The Emmy award-winning show Undercover Boss is based on the concept that a leader (the boss) is often unaware of what really goes on in his business. He may get reports and he may receive updates from key people, but—because he’s removed from the action—he doesn’t know or understand what really goes on in his business on a daily basis.

What would happen if you went undercover as an anonymous worker in your own company? What would you discover?

• Do your employees really understand your company’s vision? Would they be able to clearly and compellingly relate it to you as an outsider? Or do they simply recite the company “mantra” when the boss is around?

• How do your employees treat your customers? Do they give them the same attention you would? Do they understand how to treat them and why it’s so critical? Do you actively solicit customer feedback so that they have concrete data with which to work?

• Do your employees understand exactly what’s expected of them? Have they been adequately trained to do the tasks they’ve been assigned? Or are they “winging” it?

What do you think you’d find if you could go “undercover” in your own business? Unless you run a really large business in which employees really don’t know you, it’s unlikely that you could pull off an “undercover boss” operation. But have you ever considered hiring a “secret shopper” or an independent outside observer to give you an unvarnished look at how things really run?

What can you do to get a real look at the way your business operates? Anybody have a success story they’d care to share?