While working yesterday, the CBS show, “Undercover Boss,” was playing in the background. The premise is simple: an executive goes undercover (usually as a reality show contestant, ironically) in their corporation. The boss tries to remain discreet until the big reveal at the end as the employees meet at the company headquarters for some reason.
One particular episode caught my eye. The CEO of the company described his reasons for going undercover as wanting to see if his employees were embodying the values he has espoused. This resonated because he joined a particular camp of bosses who shared similar reasons. The other camp of bosses said they were going undercover to understand what it’s like for their employees and customers.
Later in the episode, he’s being “trained” by a customer service agent in one of his call centers. The agent apparently doesn’t do a good job of keeping customers on the phone and finding alternative solutions for the issues at hand. As the undercover reality show contestant, he begins asking “why didn’t you do this or that” between calls. He eventually pulls off his disguise, reveals his identity and tells the agent that he’s not happy with her performance. He says the blame lies with her management, not her, and goes to see her boss immediately. She looks horrified.
During the big reveal, he apologizes for catching her off guard and clearing creating a very uncomfortable situation for her as an employee. Can you imagine the weight of the power dynamic on her at that moment of his revealing his true identity out of disgust?
Don’t be that guy.
As a manager, you can talk a lot about wanting your team to perform with excellence. You can preach the gospel of “being in this together.” If you only look for people doing something wrong, how are you excellent at that moment? How are you in this “with” them if your only goal is to find where someone is doing something wrong?
The gotcha manager does this. He lies in wait for employees to slip up and pounces when they do. He has plenty of time to preach about how things should be better or how he would do them but little time to offer praise.
If your team is failing, that’s a reflection of you first and foremost. There are always going to be areas that need improvement. There are likely areas that are far better than they were some time ago. Make sure you’re looking for and rewarding successes more than failures.