The Spies Within Our Ranks

Who runs your company, and do they know the actual inner workings of what your business does on a daily basis? It’s like that TV show “Undercover Boss”, where the CEO, President, or owner of a company puts on a disguise and hides in plain sight while working alongside unsuspecting employees.

The show can be considered funny, stupid, but to any manager or executive; the show should be scary and possibly an eye opener. “If I had an employee like that, they wouldn’t be working for me very long” or “That company doesn’t follow proper procedures”.

How do you know? The higher in rank that you are or the bigger that your company is; the further you are away from the day-to-day operations. Does that mean that your employees are not following the rules? No, but there still may be a disconnection between the company’s vision and the employee’s vision.

The “normal” CEO, President, or owner doesn’t put on a wig and fake glasses to visit their stores. People know that they are coming. There is a big announcement so the team can be ready. Everyone cleans and issues are either fixed or not brought up.

On the day of the visit the CEO, their entourage, and the branch manager drive around the area to visit large customers and to check out the competition. They usually come back to the branch and are tied up in meetings for hours. All while the rest of the team is on their game and doing everything by the book.

Then comes the employee’s time to speak up about what it is really like in the branch. Handpicked team members are selected to join a meeting made up of the most powerful decision makers in the company. During this round table meeting, every person has a chance to discuss and share their views on a specific topic. The meetings usually go well, and afterwards everyone goes back to their normal job duties.

The CEO and party leave, and then the next morning the branch manager has a meeting saying that there are a few changes that we need to make, but overall everything went well. Good job to everybody.

How is it that actual reality and a TV show are so different when both are supposed to be real, and both have the bosses visiting locations?

Simple…it’s about the employees that they choose. TV shows want ratings, and so they choose employees that make good television. Company personnel that make you, the audience, feel something; which ultimately leads to the big finish where rewards and second-chances are given.

In the real world, employees that are part of the round table discussions are picked based off of other factors like “they don’t rock the boat”, have company loyalty, don’t complain, buy into company policies, and are part of the change.

The question should be is either way correct, because in both scenarios the higher ups are not getting the complete picture of what is happening on the ground floor of their own company?

Should there be a change to help the decision makers make better decisions? What if the branch manager and the leadership team were not allowed to pick anyone, but instead it was left up to chance? The CEO would come in and walk around the branch picking random employees, “That guy with the pony tail, her with a nose ring, the older gentleman with creased slacks, and the employee over there helping that customer”. Would that be fair?

If your company were to adapt a policy to pick random employees to speak on your behalf, what would they say?


April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.

Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.

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