What would you learn as an Undercover Boss?

January 20th, 2012

When it comes to mentioning TV shows, I don’t usually stray from PBS or the Science and Discovery channels. But seeing a promo for the start of this year’s CBS reality series “Undercover Boss” prompted me to go back and watch some shows from the first two seasons on on YouTube.

Here’s the set-up: Each week, “Undercover Boss” cameras follow a different chief executive as s/he leaves a comfortable corner office, puts on a disguise and steps into an employee’s shoes to see how his or her company runs. Employees with whom the CEO gets placed are told this new person is being filmed for a documentary about entry-level jobs, or some such story. While working alongside frontline members of their team, these CEOs see the effects their decisions have on others and where problems lie within their organizations. They get an up-close look at both the good and the bad and can determine firsthand how to eliminate bad policies and set things right.

But the best part of the experience for each of them is reconnecting with their workforce and discovering the unsung heroes who make their companies run successfully. They learn that people work hard, want to do well, have dreams about creating a better life for themselves and others while doing meaningful work.

Sheldon Yellen, CEO of $1 billion Belfor Holdings, the world’s largest property restoration company, went undercover for the show and later explained in an interview with Inc. magazine’s Tennille Robinson why it was a “life-changing” experience for him.

Here are a few of his thoughts on being a better leader:

The closer the top management can be to the people who are doing the heavy lifting every day, the better the organization can be more sustainable. It gives you a real grounded sense of what’s important. And what’s important in an organization, to me, is people. That is your single greatest asset.

You can’t lead with titles, you can’t lead with rules, and you can’t lead with just words. You lead with trust, compassion and listening. The only way to have these three realized is if you have real, open, sincere, honest relationships that matter. Not work relationships, but all the time relationships.”

“I think those that believe that their title gives them credibility is unacceptable. To me, you should earn the right to lead other people by doing the right thing and being the right kind of person.

If you were to go undercover in your organization, what do you think you’d learn? What would be right? What could be working better? How engaged are your employees with your company and its purpose? How connected are you with the day-to-day experiences of your managers and staff? Where do your ideas come from for improving your company for your employees and users of your service or product?

I think probably the answers to those questions can be found without the help of CBS.

Feeling lucky?

January 13th, 2012

When the 13th day of a month happens to fall on a Friday, a significant number of people get freaked out. According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C. as many as 21 million people are fearful of this day and an estimated $800 million is lost in business every Friday the 13th because people won’t get on an airplane or do business they would normally do.

Like many beliefs, the fear of Friday the 13th isn’t grounded in any scientific logic. Some people are just superstitious. They suspect that if something bad is going to happen, it’s more likely to happen on a bad-luck day like Friday the 13th.  And chances are then, for them, it will.

A belief is anything you accept as truth. And it’s our beliefs that shape our experience. For example, if you believe a situation will frustrate you, then most likely it will. Or, if you believe a co-worker will make you unhappy, then probably s/he will.  And your frustration or unhappiness – or bad luck – will, in turn, reinforce your belief.

Beliefs, therefore, can be limiting.

Take some time occasionally to examine the beliefs you hold about yourself, your business, your job, your colleagues and your customers or clients. Write down those beliefs. Do you think any of them might be limiting you? Keep in mind that just because you believe something doesn’t mean it’s true.

No one can change your beliefs for you. And beliefs can’t be forced upon you. But we all have the energy – the ability to change our ideas about ourselves and our work situations –that allows us to grow, expand and develop fulfilling, successful professional lives. That you can believe.





Parents make lasting impressions.

January 12th, 2012

I love it when my son Harry sends me a photo of something that reminds him of me.


The 2 C’s in Success.

January 6th, 2012

Have you noticed how often business blog headlines lead with a number? On any day you can find articles that offer 3 tips, 4 must-do’s, 5 ways, 6 lessons or 10 things to help you with everything from improving brainstorming to increasing productivity.

So here’s my meaningful, helpful number 2, for the two words that are linked inextricably to the energy of success. The first word is create, and the second is compliment. Interestingly, each has an opposite that also begins with the letter c.

Create. Our beliefs, thoughts and emotions shape our experience and our outcomes. So as you focus on what’s next for you — your goals, what you want to accomplish, your success — are you thinking about what you want to create? Can you view your “right now” as being right? Can you see it as the springboard for what you want? Or, are you instead concentrating on what’s wrong with your current situation, trying to control your present circumstances versus actively creating what’s next for you?

Compliment. Our professional lives are as much about relationships as our personal lives. We have employees, colleagues, team members, bosses, clients, customers, boards, advisers and suppliers who are all important to our success and that of our organization. Every one of the people you work with on any level wants the same things you do: to be accepted, appreciated, valued and recognized. In other words, to feel good! So the next time you’re tempted to criticize someone, lead in with a little praise. I’m not suggesting you turn a blind eye to a problem behavior or situation, only that you remember it’s not the person, it’s the behavior, situation or issue. Start a conversation, and begin with a compliment about what’s right.

So there you have it. Create vs. control. Compliment vs. criticize. With some practice, you’ll find how easy it is — and how good it feels! — to design success.

This year I will.

January 2nd, 2012

As you write down the things you want to do in 2012, I hope you’ll includes also feelings and attitudes. Here are some suggestions* for your life-in-progress list:

1.  I will approve of myself, my characteristics, my abilities, my tendencies, and my likes and dislikes, realizing that these form my unique individuality. I have them for a reason.
2.  I will approve of and rejoice in my accomplishments, and I will be as vigorous in listing these – and as rigorous in remembering them – as I have ever been in remembering and enumerating my failures or lacks of accomplishment.
3.  I will remember the tremendous energy and potential that lies within me to create that which I can imagine for myself.
4.  I will realize that my professional future is a probability. In terms of everyday experiences, nothing exists there yet. It is virgin territory, planted by my feelings and thoughts in the present. Therefore I will plant accomplishments and successes, and I will do this by focusing on how I want and expect the future to be for me.

Whether it’s a new year, a new month, a new week, or a new day, you get to choose what you’ll be focused on. So, please, have some fun thinking, creating, growing, progressing, becoming more, succeeding.

Happy New Year!


*This list is adapted from one given to Jane Roberts and Robert Butts by Seth on New Year’s Day, 1979.