The scene at The Stage Miami on the evening of May 11 felt more like a family gathering than a night out at a hot club in Miami’s trendy Design District.
The Stage, (www.thestagemiami.com) a locally owned nightclub that fuses art, film and music by some of South Florida’s best talent, was the ideal venue for an event that, in many ways, was a gathering of family.
The Stage played host to the viewing of the season finale of the Emmy-nominated, CBS realty series Undercover Bos s, which featured José Mas, CEO of Coral Gables-based MasTec, one of the country’s largest infrastructure construction companies, which provides infrastructure for electric, gas, telecommunications, satellite TV and other areas.
Over a period of one week, the show followed Mas as he went undercover within his company to gain a better understanding of MasTec’s inner workings and of the people who work on the front line. As Mas would reveal on camera, his experience helped him confirm a basic truth about leadership — that an experiential and hands-on approach to management is still the best way to lead an organization to higher effectiveness, efficiency, and profitability — regardless of size or revenue.
That was a lesson he learned not only from his employees on the show, but from his father, Jorge Mas Canosa, who set the company on its path to success in 1969.
In front of the hundreds of people gathered at The Stage, José Mas announced, “People remember my father as a great man who fought for the Cuban people, and as a great husband and family man, but people may not be as aware that he was also an incredible businessman who was involved in every aspect of the company from the field to the executive offices.”
For the past three seasons, executives on Undercover Boss have come to the realization that executive-level decisions should not be made in the vacuum of a boardroom without understanding how those decisions translate to the field.
As elementary as it may sound, executives throughout corporate America struggle with this issue on a daily basis. The reason is that CEOs are part of a structure that generally shields them from lower-level employees — those on the front lines and the production lines. The bigger the business, the bigger the disconnect.
When out-of-touch executives take their proverbial finger off their organization’s pulse, they compromise their ability to make decisions that are in the best long-term interest of the company. Even decisions made to improve the bottom line can have the opposite effect if implementation fails to recognize factors that affect employee morale, work conditions and productivity.
As one longtime employee stated on the show, at MasTec, this hands-on leadership is more than just an experiment or one-time deal, it is part of the organization’s management structure that was defined by Jorge Mas Canosa. Today, the next generation of MasTec leadership is ready to follow Mas Canosa’s legacy. As an emotional Mas said about his father on Friday, “He passed away 14 years ago and we are still talking about him … the fact that he was an incredible human being, an incredible businessman, and he spent his life fighting for others … and that’s the lesson that he taught his sons. It’s not about us. It’s not about how much money you have. It’s not about what you can do, but how you do it. It’s about working with passion, with love, and trying to be the best. Give 150 percent in absolutely everything that you do. That’s the message that I want to communicate to every person at MasTec.”
As I think about MasTec’s success and both the professional and personal lessons which José Mas reaffirmed on Undercover Boss, I hope that those of us in small business who watched the show can also learn from Mas’ experience.
How much easier is it for a small-business owner to implement an experiential and hands-on management approach than it is for an executive overseeing thousands of employees across the country? How many small-business owners are using that advantage to the fullest to improve their businesses? With such unfettered access to information and people and experiences so vital to success, small businesses have both the tools and data to improve their efficiency, effectiveness and profitability more efficiently and cost-effectively than even big businesses.
Healthy communication flow from top to bottom and between departments promotes a better understanding of the organization’s needs and objectives. Business owners who facilitate these collaborative interdepartmental sessions further their own understanding of what goes on in their business while providing team members with an opportunity to contribute to the organization’s overall success. That’s how the Mas family has been doing it since 1969, and as far as José Mas is concerned, how MasTec will continue to be managed for generations to come.