The topic of management is a universal one. It applies not only to every business, large or small, but to every organization. Thousands of books have been written in this area, with lessons gleaned from the unlikeliest of places, but today, most tend to focus on employee engagement, as Cindy Byrd points out in her article, “What Managers Can Learn from Undercover Boss."
Few would argue with the notion that the most important asset of any organization is its people; thus, the focus on employee engagement is most appropriate. Overlooking the somewhat gimmicky approach of the popular reality show, Byrd suggests that we, as managers, can in fact learn a lot from Undercover Boss. Of the six strategies she suggests to improve employee engagement, the first five directly relate to a manager’s relationship with employees: showing empathy and interest in their ideas, and empowering them with the resources and authority necessary to do their jobs effectively.
The final strategy—revealing your true/authentic self—is a bit trickier. Much has been written on the downsides of becoming too friendly with one’s employees. It’s a balancing act, no doubt—to show empathy and concern, while retaining some amount of emotional detachment—but that’s the tightrope we walk as managers. There are ways to do it, though. As Byrd suggests, “Authenticity means being humble and willing to admit mistakes”—that’s a good start.
Not all of us bosses can go “undercover.” With only three full-time employees besides myself, it’s certainly not an option for me, but that doesn’t mean we can’t put these strategies to good use. In my own case, while the hustle and bustle of the workweek doesn’t lend itself to regular team meetings as much as I’d like, I have tried to show that I care.
I can’t really know what it’s like to work in InDesign or Photoshop, but I’m at least familiar with the challenges our designers face. I try to solicit everyone’s input and show that their ideas are valued. Whenever our busy calendar allows, I like to get us out of the office early for off-site planning meetings, which tend to involve good food and sometimes even a drink or two. I’m not a perfect manager, but I try.
This seems like an ideal opportunity to recognize the tremendous work of our team here at CIBP. Darren Jackson, our production coordinator, has brought incredible creativity and enthusiasm to the table, while our associate editor, Gabrielle Balzell, has impressed me deeply with her writing ability and knack for communication, in addition to her pleasant, professional demeanor.
I would also like to recognize Kelly Stickelmaier and Lisa Ullenius of Bright Idea, who have signed on as consultants to help us with layout and design. They are amazing, talented individuals, and the positive energy they bring to our team has been priceless. Finally, our longtime managing editor, Jonathan Wright, continues to set a high bar for quality.
I am quite fortunate to work with such a great team. I’m constantly catching them “doing something right”… even if I’m not undercover! iBi