Monday, 19 September 2011

Employee Glass Slipper

"If you sit up in your ivory tower and just look at financial reports, you're going to make some big mistakes." – Tony Fernandas CEO of Airasia Group 

Tony Fernandas adopts a 'walk around' management style, routinely he works as baggage handler, ticket clerk, or flight attendant, slipping into the shoes of his employees. He says he's learned a lot from working on the airline himself.

When Airasia moved from the 737 to the Airbus, the Airbus is slightly higher off the ground and the crew said they need belt loaders. It would have cost about a million US dollar  compare to used just manually put the bags into the cargo hold on a 737.

So Fernandes turned the idea down. But on his next stint working alongside staff, he says he almost 'broke his back' loading the plane. He made the decision instantaneously.  He says that without the experience he could have made a very wrong decision that damaged a lot of people and destroyed the morale of the organisation at that level.

I had the chance to watch Undercover Boss, CBS's new reality TV show about corporate  executives who go undercover to observe first-hand what's happening on the front lines of their businesses and find out how their almighty management decisions really get implemented.

All of the executives were amazed and humbled by the employees they met. The workers picking up trash, cleaning port-a-potties, brewing coffee, making pastry, managing a late-night convenience store, driving 18-wheelers, and serving burgers at a fast food joint knocked the executives' socks off.

I was struck by the heartfelt appreciation the bosses expressed to their employees for their hard work, dedication and positive attitudes, both while they were undercover and after revealing their true identities to the employees. The CEOs did more than just praise the employees: They acted on what they learned while undercover, too. And in many cases, they subsequently made process changes to improve employees' working conditions.

In other cases, employees received raises, promotions or new career opportunities inside their companies after the executives learned of their hard work, personal interests and career aspirations.

A lesson that Undercover Boss makes clear is the importance of listening. Each episode shows that employees want to be heard but have little opportunity to vent or share ideas that might improve their companies. When the bosses, while undercover, ask the employees about their jobs, challenges and personal lives, they receive an earful. The employees talk about their health problems, their financial difficulties, their children's disabilities, the stress of their jobs, their fears of being fired. It's as if the employees never had the chance to vent, and when the undercover bosses prompt them to talk, a dam breaks.

If senior leaders take the time to listen to their employees, their employees will speak frankly, and they'll get tangible ideas for improving their businesses. They'll also discover talent worth rewarding and cultivating.

Airasia is known for employs pilots who started out as baggage handlers and stewards.  This is because of their unique corporate culture that emphasises casual environment and lack of hierarchy means that any employee in the company has the ability to climb the ranks to the top.

Without the camera rolling, Tony Fernandes has shown that the fundamental of management is to roll up your Sleeves get down to the floor and see what's happening get in with your staff at all levels. This everyman CEO insists sometimes you can learn gets the best idea from the support staff and discovers the best out of them.

Even in old folktales, a king will dress as a commoner to understand the suffering of their people. Hope many more CEO willing to come down from Ivory tower and try to slip in the employee glass slipper

Note: - Hope that my CFO can work with me on my daily task trying to safe this company from Chapter 11

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