Learnings from Undercover Boss and a CEO that can’t go undercover

I’m quickly becoming a fan of the NBC show “Undercover Boss.” If your not familiar with the show, each week a CEO goes undercover to work the front lines of their business, in the quest to understand the process of what’s working and what’s not. What they find, is everyday hard working folk that make the touchpoints of their brands to the customer. The CEO’s are surprised and often moved by the stories they find out in the field. Yes, this makes for good television, but also makes for some good business insight.

Brains On Fire has a new client—Capital Communications Federal Credit Union in Albany, NY. Their CEO is Paula Stopera; an insightful, personal leader. The first time I met Paula was at a monthly company-wide breakfast meeting. Paula took the microphone, walking the floor engaging her employees in a session called “Ask the CEO.” Watching “Undercover Boss” made me reflect on Paula, could she go undercover at Capital Communications Credit Union? My guess is No!

So as Heather Hough and I were wrapping up a presentation to the Capital Communications team, I asked her that very question. She laughed and she said “the other morning I came in the door on my way to my office… it took me 26 minutes. I chatted with employees about work, kids, dogs, you name it.” Paula would have liked to get to her desk 23 minutes sooner but that’s part of her day, everyday— because she’s the accessible CEO.

Paula is a lot like our CEO Robbin Phillips, Robbin has an investment in the success of our company but she also has an investment in “us as people.” In my opinion knowing that Robbin will always stop and listen to an idea, a problem, a laugh… makes all the difference in the world.

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