I don’t catch many shows on TV, but one show that I do enjoy watching when I stumble upon it is Undercover Boss.
The premise of the show is that an executive of a company disguises his or herself and infiltrates into one of that company’s franchises as a “blue collar” position. CEOs become cashiers, company presidents become salesmen, etc.
After working in the undercover role for a while, the boss starts realizing the difficulties the entry-level jobs face. (And sometimes those hardships are within the control of the executive to change.) Without fail, the executive starts seeing circumstances and making decisions based on what he or she experienced working on the front line.
“Until you walk a mile in another man’s moccasins you can’t imagine the smell.”
– Robert Byrne, American Author
The most reasonable bosses I have had were ones who started from the bottom and worked their way up. Not only do they know what they’re talking about—they have the work experience in the position they are affecting to back that knowledge up.
I’m pretty sure a police department would like a police chief who worked years in various public safety positions, rather than someone who just has a lot of formal education and certifications. The same applies to virtually any department that comes to mind.
A leader who cannot put themselves in the shoes of others—and realize what the job titles under their management entails and how a decision may affect the people doing those jobs—is nothing but a talking head piece. The education is there, but the proficiency to make sound executive decisions is not.
Even though you probably don’t have time to spend days doing the tasks of every worker on your team, think like an undercover boss. Get to know what the people you supervise do. Know how they spend their day, what their work frustrations may be, and how their job duties directly affect yours. You’ll gain a greater appreciation for them, and the way you make important decisions will change for the better.