Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trap #7 - Losing Touch with the Frontline Experience

What might you learn by reengaging and considering your front line? As a senior executive, it is all too easy to become disconnected from the troops. The contrast between the frontline environment and the physical surroundings of the average executive—mahogany offices, dining-room-sized conference tables, and private gyms or private jets—is one reason. Then consider the contrast in the nature, complexity, and seriousness of the work, such as conversations with peer executives, and, if you are part of a publicly traded company, shareholder meetings and appointments with analysts—and it makes it easy to forget what’s going on beneath you. It is only by making a conscious effort to stay connected to the frontline experience that you can avoid Ego Trap 7. Otherwise, the trappings of your position will likely throw up blinders along the way that can disconnect you from your core business.

            Whether it’s the bank teller, factory worker, window washer, driller in the oil field, or the employee packaging products in the distribution center, there are frontline workers powering businesses around the globe. These individuals are touching your product or delivering your service every day, often interacting with your customers, shaping their opinions about your brand and securing their future buying choices. Yet, the demands on you as a senior executive to be focused on investors, analysts, the Board, or quarterly profits makes it easy to take your eyes off the organizational culture and lose empathy for those who have to execute your plans.  Ego Trap 7 gets triggered when leaders get disconnected from what it’s really like to work and be on the front line or floor, day after day. Leaders may also be disconnected from how their decisions and what they pay attention to impact the people on the front line. For example, what might seem like a simple decision to reduce costs by eliminating the perk of company cell phones for certain employees could have a big impact on operations and morale.

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