Time To Guide, Not Hide

Investors.com | Mar 08, 2010
By: Cord Cooper

Especially in tough times, execs must build workers’ trust. A sure way to miss the boat? Go in disguise to get information like top guns on the CBS reality show “Undercover Boss.” This sends the wrong message, experts say. To get it right:

Give ‘em truth. Building trust means starting with basics. Execs must be viewed as honest, says human resource coach Jon Younger, co-author of HR Transformation. When leaders go undercover with fake mustaches, new hairdos and unexpected uniforms they nuke the trust of workers and lower-level bosses alike, he says.

“By going in disguise to get information, execs basically tell front-line employees, ‘Your managers aren’t leveling with me,’” Younger told IBD. Result? “Workers and their bosses lose faith in the leadership team.”

Though the CBS show is well intentioned, it has a false premise, Younger says.

“Going undercover could be seen as a harmless deception that helps build better relationships,” he said.

The TV show’s positive messages? “It’s good to get to know employees and to understand what’s getting in the way of workers delivering to customers,” Younger said.

Those details could be discovered in better ways. “Start by visiting workers and foremen on the front line and having candid conversations. Then get out there and meet customers one-on-one. That’s the difference between management by walking around and management by skulking.”

Stay out front. The TV show begs the question, “How could top leaders go undercover and not be recognized?”