3 Lessons Learned As An Undercover Boss

The time that The Undercover Boss was first shown on CBS in 2010 signaled an increase in the popularity of management and leadership. Learn from your employees’ frontlines. At present, this kind of advice is a commonplace practice within corporate America. However, when there aren’t cameras to document it, or reality TV producers to create an episode’s arc, How effective is it for an executive to be able to go “undercover”?

George Berg, Vice President Logistics, North America at Bosch Automotive Aftermarket

George Berg, self-described servant leader and Vice President of Logistics at Bosch George Berg, Bosch’s Vice President of Logistics, knows the value of undercover assignments can be even when it’s not planned.

At the start of the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020, Berg offered himself and seven other people to help bridge the ever-widening gap in the number of personnel within Bosch’s distribution center. What was usually a group of 148 was reduced to around 80. The group was masked and socially distant. Berg worked for two weeks, 13-hour days, to ensure the essential warehouse operations were going.

3 Lessons Learned As An Undercover Boss
3 Lessons Learned As An Undercover Boss

“During the Covid-19 crisis, I worked at the factory for approximately four weeks. They didn’t know who I was, and many employees,” Berg explains. “I just said, ‘Okay, sign me up.’ I went through orientation, picking, packing, shipping–everything.”

Berg has learned the three most important lessons during his time as an undercover officer.

1. The way you connect is essential.

Berg needed to consider his work on frontline operations as a time to support them.

“I didn’t want to try to understand our processes better in an intimidating way,” Berg insists. “Meaning, I do not want the warehouse manager to feel as if I’m coming into their operations and telling them that they’re not managing things properly. The focus was on helping the company catch up and getting the products delivered in time at the right time to customers.”

Berg took it upon himself to go beyond the call of duty to celebrate and give high-fives whenever goals were achieved and asked the people who their roles were at Bosch and why they were there. The connections were confirmed and the knowledge gained by Berg to make choices that could help make operations eight times more productive.

“I learned that our largest commodity, product wipers, we distribute incredibly complexly,” Berg states. “Now I’m moving the distribution of wipers. It’s about eight times more efficient than it is now.”

2. Hierarchies are broken down art into the finer details

The job of an undercover manager does not require a vast secret strategy. Many bosses from larger organizations are familiar with working undercover at work, passing by people who have never met before. Berg’s advice is to focus on the little ways you communicate across the hierarchy.

“Small things make a big difference in changing people’s perspectives,” Berg states. “And I’m not a superior person to anyone. I enjoy cleaning up trash from the floor, know? Anywhere I go, say to people, ‘This isn’t Bosch’s company. This is our business. This is our headquarters. These little things show that I’m not superior to anyone else as a leader. ]”

3. Sometimes, it’s better to abandon the idea

One-on-1 meetings are a vital component of Berg’s management approach, and he has meetings with every person within the company from the beginning. This process can last “three to six months,” Berg states. These one-on-one meetings provide the blueprint of how he’ll lead each person in the future and will focus not only on their employees’ performance but also their future goals and growth goals.

“I attempt to help people succeed and help them do their jobs more efficiently. That’s my job every day,” Berg asserts. “It’s about having those one-on-ones with each individual regularly.”

Plans and procedures are essential beginning points. However, they’re only as efficient as they’re adaptable. This is true when it comes to managing and leading people, too.

“I just had a one-on-1 conversation with one of my staff members, and we were given an agenda of subjects to discuss. I told him, “You are aware? I’m not interested in talking about it today. I want to talk about your personal growth and improvement. The girl was unprepared for the conversation, which was a great discussion.”

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Samatha Vale
Samatha a senior writer for HC's entertainment team. She is an entreprenuer, mother and an excellent writer. She's also an avid reader, music enthusiast and all around inquisitive person - which is just a nice way of saying she's nosy.

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