Behind the counter

There I was...

in a YMCA lobby, watching life. Once again struck by those who venture out from behind the counter to talk with members and customers. They’re developing relationships, creating a sense of community, strengthening the bottom line.

It reminds me of a friend of ours, a restaurant owner who works the room, chatting with each of his patrons, making this more than a meal. I think of the middle school principal who does not sit in her office all day but talks with kids and guardians in the bus / carpool lines, who is present during recess and lunch, who participates in family nights. And lastly the sales manager at the car dealership – sure, you work with a salesperson, but at some point (or, more likely, at several points) the sales manager will greet you, introduce himself, thank you for coming in.

Particularly for those who lead, this is not a touchy-feely moment. It is a critical, boots-on-the-ground temperature check. Leaders are present to hear and see the “real” day-to-day operations. They coach employees in the moment, they diffuse client displeasure, they share a global perspective, they lead.

There are many leaders-in-title who think their critical role is to be in their office, do the tough work, strategize. But these same may not realize that it is imperative to be visible, to be aware, to be a part of things.

Of course I am not advocating micro-management. Who would? A leader must do large work, and they should never lose sight of the day-to-day arteries running their organization.

- Brenda Gurung


  1. The message it sends is HUGE - employees who see the Big Kahuna out in "thier world" with regularity develop less us vs. them resentment (because they are already "us" when the participate in this way). I also think it helps to keep that paranoia at bay - people often think a boss who's rarely on the floor only makes appearances to catch someone slacking. Great points, Brenda.


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