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Why Executives Need to Roll Up Their Sleeves and Work 'in the Trenches' of Their Companies Here's how executives can benefit from working on the ground with the rest of the company.

By Steve Taplin

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today's highly competitive business environment, executives are often caught up in their day-to-day responsibilities and lose sight of what is actually occurring "in the trenches." However, this lack of connection with the rest of the company can be detrimental to the success of the business. To stay ahead, executives must work on the ground and "in the trenches" with the rest of the company, understand their challenges and provide support and leadership to overcome them.

One notable example of executives working on the ground is Starbucks, which has had tremendous success with its CEO, Kevin Johnson, working in the company's stores. In an article published in Business Insider, Johnson discussed the benefits of his hands-on approach and how it has helped him better understand the needs of his customers and employees.

Another example is Uber's CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, moonlighting as a driver for several months. He was surprised to learn how many issues were present and how rude some of the riders could be. He also learned of inefficiencies with the company's application and implemented improvements for drivers, including sign-on features.

There is also the two-time Emmy Award-winning series called Undercover Boss, where high-level executives slip anonymously into their businesses for weeks or months at a time. Some of the key benefits of executives and CEOs working "in the trenches" include:

  • Gain fresh perspectives on the business, market and health of your business

  • Improve team morale

  • Understanding clients

  • Becoming a better leader by breaking down hierarchies

Related: What I Learn by Going 'Undercover' at My Company

Why executives need to get in the trenches

One of the primary benefits of executives working on the ground is that it creates a culture of accountability. When visible and engaged with employees, executives set an example for others to follow. This culture of accountability can help improve employee morale and productivity, as they feel supported and valued. Moreover, when executives are on the ground, they are able to detect areas where improvements are needed and adjust accordingly.

Another critical benefit of executives working on the ground is that it fosters innovation. By engaging with employees and customers, executives can learn about current trends and ideas that could benefit the company. This approach encourages creativity and helps the company stay ahead of the competition. As executives observe customer behavior and gain insight into their preferences, they can better inform the company's strategy.

Executives working on the ground can also help build a stronger team. By collaborating with employees, executives can build relationships and create a sense of camaraderie. This approach helps break down barriers and promotes collaboration, which is crucial in a fast-paced and competitive environment. When employees see executives collaborating with them, they feel appreciated and inspired to do their best.

Finally, executives working on the ground can help improve the customer experience. By observing customer behavior and interacting directly, executives can better understand their needs and preferences. This approach can help the company create a more personalized customer experience, increasing loyalty and repeat business. When your clients believe they are appreciated, they are more likely to be loyal to your company and recommend it to others.

Related: 4 Lessons Every Executive Can Learn from Hourly Workers

How executives can get the most value out of working on the ground

Here are a few key considerations for executives who want to start working on the ground with the rest of the company:

  1. Set clear expectations: Executives should have clear goals and expectations for their time on the ground. This methodology will help them stay focused and ensure all parties get the most out of their experience.

  2. Engage with employees: Executives should take the time to interact with employees and learn about their challenges and successes. This approach will help build relationships and foster a culture of accountability.

  3. Listen to customers: Executives should listen carefully to what customers say and note their feedback. This approach will help the company better understand its customers and create a more personalized experience.

  4. Build a formidable team: Executives should work to build a resolute team by promoting collaboration and creating a sense of camaraderie. This approach will help improve morale and productivity.

  5. Stay flexible: Executives should be prepared to adjust their strategy based on what they observe on the ground. This approach will help the company remain ahead of its competition and adjust to shifting customer needs.

In conclusion, executives working on the ground can significantly impact a business's success. By creating a culture of accountability, fostering innovation, building a stronger team and improving the customer experience, executives can help their companies stay ahead of the competition. To obtain the maximum value out of this methodology, businesses should set clear expectations, engage with employees, listen to customers, build a formidable team, and stay flexible. By doing so, executives can build a stronger, more successful company.

Related: Get Better at Your Own Job by Doing Someone Else's

Steve Taplin

CEO of Sonatafy Technology

Steve Taplin is the CEO of Sonatafy Technology (, a premier nearshore software-development-services firm that provides its clients with expertise in cloud solutions, web and mobile applications, ecommerce, big data, DevOps practices, QA, IoT and machine learning.

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