This photo of Hemingway with soldiers on the front lines in 1937 in Teruel, Spain speaks to much of why he was a great writer – he literally got in the trenches.
He wrote about what he knew about – not just what he thought about.
What does this have to do with you and your company culture? Chances are back in the day you were the front lines. And it’s been a while. You’re focused on strategy. As the leader, you’re working on the business, not just in the business. And while that’s where most of your time should be spent, I highly recommend you schedule (right now) a day or two to get in the trenches with your employees who are on the front lines.
When done with a curious attitude, it is AMAZING what you can learn in one day about what’s working and not working – both from your employees’ perspective as well as from the customer experience. Chances are you will also unearth a multitude of opportunities for operational efficiences – making everyone’s lives easier and increasing the bottom-line. And lastly, you will undoubtedly gain respect from your people – and not because you’re showing them that you can do their job better than them, but because you’re attentively listening, interested in their ideas and suggestions as you stand side by side with them and they have an opportunity to SHOW you what they mean.
PS – Yes, I know this isn’t a new idea and that it was recently glorified in the “made for TV” show Undercover Boss. It may not be new, and the show was hokey, but I promise there is wisdom to be gained by this practice.