Keep Employees Happy; Be An Undercover Boss

You could see how annoyed she was when she stepped onto the airport shuttle bus. She looked around and all the “good” seats were taken. The Queen had arrived and she was not happy about the situation. It was clear.

Now if you’ve taken an airport shuttle bus you know there are NO good seats when 10 or 11 people are packed into a space the size of a bathroom stall. And we still had three more seats to fill before we would work our way into the City of New Orleans. Why didn’t I take a cab was my only thought?

He arrived to the shuttle bus and there was something clearly not right with him. He seemed a bit “off.” Whether it was some type of a disability or drugs I don’t know; but his comments and actions had a story behind them.

She was sitting in the seat next to me huffing and sighing.

This is going to be good.

We headed towards the city. A little bit of traffic; not much but enough. It was good to see traffic in this city that was ravaged just a few years ago.

He gets on his cell phone and starts talking. I didn’t even realize it. I was engrossed in Word Mole on my Blackberry. The only reason I knew he was on the phone was when………………….

“Do we all have to listen to ALL the details?” say Ms. Huffy-Sighy in an annoyed tone that caused a little jump from my seat that was a standalone seat the size of an airplane jump seat.

I saved the game. I’ll resume it later. This is about to get much more interesting.

He continued his conversation. Like I said, he was a bit off. I don’t think he even realized she was talking to him.

Her lecture continued……“We’re in a confined closed space. You have to be a bit more considerate of others? Is that so hard?”

Get a grip lady!!! It’s not the end of the world; and considering where we are you need to really get a grip.

She looked at me for approval. Apparently I had a look on my face that read you are an idiot; and she knew it. She turned away.

But all I was thinking was “excuse me, could you talk a bit lower or after you arrive at your destination” might have been a nicer kinder way to talk to this person – or any person. And as usual, I got thinking…….

It’s amazing how often I see people get chewed out in front of others. I see parents reprimand kids in front of other adults; or even worse, other children. I see employees getting “coached” and “counseled” in front of customers. I see colleagues criticize one another in front of other colleagues. Or worse yet, colleagues criticize you to everyone when you’re not around!

And you wonder why therapists are in such demand; everyone’s self-esteem is shot to pieces!

The other night when I could have been out on Bourbon Street I was watching the show Undercover Boss so that I would have this lesson to offer you. (Please take note of my sacrifices.) Undercover Boss is a pretty cool concept; when Executives of a company go undercover and become one of the workers. The episode I was watching featured one of the founders/owners of White Castle. At the end of the show the Executive is exposed to those he/she came in contact with.

I loved, loved, loved the part when he revealed himself at the end and had to coach the two women who definitely needed to learn what communication and teamwork are all about. I nearly wet myself watching the body language of the “supervisor” as she looked all annoyed when she was basically told her supervisory skills sucked. Okay, my interpretation but basically he was telling her she had work to do.

But the best part was that it was done in a private location and it was done together; both of them in the same room. There was no chance of anyone saying well “he told me this” and “well he said that to me.” No chance of communication getting screwed up. Although we all know that’s not true either since we hear what we want.

Two of the main thrusts of my Permission To Speed program are communication and teamwork so I loved this approach. It gave both women an opportunity to share their feelings. Both got an opportunity to hear what the other needed to do or not do. The message trying to be delivered was that they were not in trouble but needed to work differently. If there is one thing that organizations can do today is really look at how they communicate with people. Ask yourself this question every time you open your mouth:

Is what I am about to say subject to interpretation?

If the answer is yes count to three and think about how you can say it better or don’t say it yet. Can you do that? Would you do that? Would you share this simple communication tip with others?

When the show ended I thought about the shuttle bus the day before. I thought about the public stoning of Phone Guy. I thought about my look of disgust and its nonverbal communication. And then I thought I’m glad I took the shuttle bus.

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