There’s growth to consider, competitors and the market to understand and potential new threats to identify and address. But this TV series is a healthy reminder of the need for the external roving eye to never lose sight of what’s happening within the organisation.
For those not familiar with the ‘Undercover Boss’ phenomenon, it’s essentially about corporate executives secretly ‘infiltrating’ the factory floor, so to speak, to discover how things really work – and more importantly, what these colleagues really think.
Added to this, I had recently read Alex Malley’s ‘The Naked CEO’, where he shared his business owner father’s experience of working alongside his apprentices and how impactful this was on his business philosophy and success.
And while North Eastern Community Hospital isn’t large enough for me to go incognito, I decided after a chat with the Catering Team Leader that it was time for me to spend some time working in the kitchen.
My shift started at 7:30am and the diligent employee I am, I arrived punctually and appropriately dressed – yes, even wearing that oh so flattering (not) hair net, although the ‘disguise’ wasn’t enough to prevent quite a few double takes throughout the day!
Made to feel welcome by all the ladies in the kitchen and allocated to work alongside Wendy, we tackled our first job of prepping trolleys, checking that all the breakfast allocations were on the trays and noting any dietary requirements or special meal preparations for the 84 residents in Aged Care.
It was clear from the get-go that we’d be kept busy until the shift came to an end at 2.30pm, and even if I say so myself, I got off to a good start, feeling sure I was making the right impression and my new teammates liked what they saw – well, until I accidently broke a couple of plates…
The hectic day continued unabated but for our morning tea and lunch breaks, when I had the honour and privilege to hear all about the joys and challenges of their lives.
They were open and honest, sharing their frustrations and offering some wonderful suggestions on how we could improve systems and offer an even better service.
I was impressed, too, by their work ethic, the almost seamless teamwork characterised by everyone stepping in to help out, whether it was to lend a hand with the cleaning of dishes or the racking of the clean ones.
There was a place for everything…and everything was in its place.
The experience provided me with a new perspective on and appreciation of the work of the catering staff – and as an unintended spin-off, a newfound respect for me wanting to work among them and learn about their professional lives.
My advice to any senior executive is this: if ever you wish to get a real feel for what makes your organisation tick, step outside your corporate office, role up your sleeves and work alongside your staff, doing what they do rather than being a passive observer. What I learnt in that seven-hour shift was worth way more than any briefing or management report.
Thankfully, on this occasion it wasn’t a case of the Naked CEO, just a differently attired one.