Under Cover Boss

CBS launched a new reality show following the Super Bowl called “Under Cover Boss” where top executives don coveralls and work the line along with rank and file employees.  According to a website; TV by the Numbers, response to this new idea was pretty good.

“In the early preliminary metered market numbers  Undercover Boss had a 20.3/33 (household rating/share)  between 10:15pm-11:15pm, the best numbers since Grey’s Anatomy in 2006.”


Going “under cover” in your own business is always a good idea.   You don’t have to try to hide your identity as they do on the TV show.  In fact, I think it comes across sneaky to your staff and in a small business; it is likely to be impossible.

Every couple of months, I would come to work in khakis and my Sleep Country USA logo shirt and go out for the day to ride along on one of the delivery trucks.  Armed with company logo mugs for customers,  I would experience the challenges delivery teams faced daily.

Three rules when you do this; first – never criticize while out with your team.  If it is life- threatening, speak up.  Otherwise, just observe and most importantly, be one of the gang.  You don’t want to create an atmosphere where having you along is scary or uncomfortable.

Second, ask questions.  “Wow, how do you guys even find some of these houses?”  You may learn that the mapping tools you are using don’t show newer neighborhoods and need to be updated.  “Do you have to wait for many customers to get home?”  You may discover you need a longer lead time to notify customers you are on your way.

Lastly, buy lunch.  It doesn’t have to be expensive; a short stop at a sandwich shop is fine but always buy lunch.  When you are paying, tell them you appreciate them letting you ride along and this is just your way of saying “thanks”.  Sure, you are the boss and can ride along anytime you want, but gratitude and humility will get you further every time.

When you get back, approach every issue or problem you saw from the perspective “Our team has to deal with XYZ, let’s see if we can come up with a solution” to make their jobs easier, better, more efficient.

Don’t make deliveries in your company?  Fine, spend part of a day answering the phones, helping to pick and pack internet orders, helping to make copies for the sales meeting, make the daily deposit for your office manager or work the booth at the next trade show.

I used to work the counter in one of my retail stores each holiday.  If my team had to work on Memorial Day or Labor Day, so did I.  Since I was better on the computer than the sales floor, I would enter orders for customers once they had made their selection.

Again, same 3 basic rules apply:  Don’t criticize.  Ask questions.  Buy lunch.

My presence in the stores on these key selling days was so popular with the staff that it became a contest to get me.  Whichever store wrote the most business on the last holiday was the store I was assigned to the next holiday.

Go “under cover” in your business on a regular basis.  You will not only find ways to improve the customer – and employee – experience, you will gain a new appreciation for the wonderful team of people who represent you well every day.

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One Response to “Under Cover Boss”

  1. Shella Hawking Says:

    thanks for sharing great information with us.

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