Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Undercover Boss Vs Visible Leader

Whether it is a failing of mine or not, I had never seen a program called 'Undercover Boss' before. I had heard of it, but had never sat thru an episode to see what it was all about.

To be quite frank, I thought it was about the head of a company going to look at OTHER companies, the competition, to see what they were doing. That may sound ludicrous to many people reading this but in Sales, that happens. Maybe not the Boss but certainly sometimes you get someone come along answering an advertisement for staff and you take them on, train them up, give them all manner of resources like pitches and details about the company, even so far as giving them access to databases and then, one day...they are gone! They never show up again. They don't write, call or send flowers. It was a scouting trip. A reconnaissance mission for information.  It happens and is an occupational hazard.

I heard a story once of someone who had done just that.  They had arrived at an advertising company in London and had told them they had experience so their training was minimal. This was a spy from another ad agency.  They got a desk and a phone.  They started work.  During the first few days they got all the paperwork and all the information. In fact, they stayed there for two weeks because they had made a few sales and the company paid weekly by check, which the salespeople took to the companies bank and cashed them by arrangement..  On the Friday, once they had cashed their check, they decided to bail out.  They had taken paperwork home the night before and had everything on a memory stick.  They gave some excuse about going to Starbucks to get a coffee.  Suddenly, EVERYONE in the sales room wanted coffee. The order ended up as 9 cappuccino, 6 Latte, 5 Americano.  So another guy went with the spy to Starbucks.  Naturally, everyone paid up first.  Average coffee price in the UK: £2.50/ £3.00.  Many of the salespeople handed over a £5 note and expected change when they got back.  The two guys, the Spy and his helper, went to Starbucks with over £80 in cash.

Naturally, when they got to Starbucks the Spy gave the helper the paper with the order on it and went to the mensroom.  Never to be seen again.  He got the paperwork, the information, he got paid in cash and he got an £80 tip in cash.  The salespeople are STILL waiting for their coffee.

So with that in mind, going undercover, calling up other companies for information, sending an agent behind enemy lines, it all happens in the UK.

I was amazed at 'Undercover Boss' because this is the head of a company, and I admit that some of them are quite large, going undercover in their OWN company.

I can't believe that they could, even with make up and a disguise. pull this off.  What struck me more than that was this....

Why would you need to go 'undercover' in your own company to find out who, what, where, when and why about your business?

When I was the Sales Manager and the National Sales Trainer for Cable London/ Telewest/ Comcast I was never in my office.  I went out and saw people, I pitched up in offices and found a desk and a phone and worked there.  I got a feel for everything.  I was approached all the time, I was known, I was visible.

I couldn't have gone 'Undercover' no matter WHAT the disguise. 

The reason?  I think the clue is in the title.  Undercover BOSS!

Leaders cannot work undercover.  They can't function undercover.  Leaders lead alongside their people. 

Bosses are unknown and faceless.

Leaders are obvious, and recognizable.  That's why people follow Leaders, they recognize them.
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