The TV show, Undercover Boss, has become something of a phenomenon lately. If you haven't seen it, it's about CEOs posing as front-line workers in their own organizations to see what life is like from the perspective of their ground-level employees. No doubt part of its success comes from appealing to peoples' sense of moral justice by showing an out-of-touch corporate leader having to experience life among the rank-and-file.

It's not that I think this particularly relates to dentists. You certainly know what the people on your team do (and I doubt many of you could go undercover as a hygienist in your practice without being “made”). I, too, am proud to say that I am intimately familiar with the work of the people in my organization (and anyway, the mustache and accent would give me away if I tried to go undercover). Still, there is an enduring lesson to be learned from this show: the idea that you can't really serve others in a relationship until you are able to put yourself in their shoes.

This hit home for me recently when I attended a recent TED conference featuring notable speakers from a variety of backgrounds. I've always felt that I had a good sense of what the people in my audiences expect (and I still think that); nevertheless, it was instructive for me to experience an event like that as a paid participant rather than as a speaker. Just milling about with others in the crowd, watching the proceedings from the darkened part of the auditorium, gave me a sense of how people experience my seminars. I did feel a little like I was going undercover.

So my question to you is: What is it like when you, as a dentist, get your dental work done? How does it feel to be a patient? Have you ever learned anything – good or bad – about providing dentistry from the experience of being in the chair with your mouth open? I invite your comments.