Undercover Boss Showcases Executive Problems

Senior executives seem to be lining up to participate in the CBS show Undercover Boss.

So far, they’ve had Larry O’Donnell, President and C.O.O. of Waste Management, Joseph M. DePinto, President and C.E.O. of 7-Eleven, Coby G. Brooks, President and C.E.O. of Hooters, Dave Rife, Owner/Executive Board Member of White Castle, William C. Carstanjen, C.O.O. of Churchill Downs, Michael G. Rubin, Chairman, President and CEO of GSI Commerce, Joel Manby, President and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment, Rick L. Arquilla, President and COO of Roto-Rooter, and Chris McCann, President and COO of 1-800-Flowers.

During each episode, a senior executive anonymously works in some area of the company. The execs end up uncovering things they didn’t know about how their company operates and how their decisions impact the business. One article, for instance, lists management lessons from the 7-Eleven episode that includes continuous improvement is key and employees can inspire management.

My take: Having CxOs spend time with employees for the sake of a TV show is no way for a senior exec to find out what’s going on in his/her organization. If an executive gets out of touch with employees and the core operations of the company, then they can’t possibly make good decisions for the business.

I often refer to this quote by Jack Welch:

Deal with the world as it is, not how you’d like it to be

The information that flows to senior execs is heavily filtered by layers of management.  That’s why all senior executive should create routines where they stay in synch with what’s going on deep in their company; even if you need to produce your own undercover episodes.

The bottom line: Figure out how to see the world as it is

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

3 Responses to Undercover Boss Showcases Executive Problems

  1. Agreed, companies are still stuck in top down instead of the networked approach.

  2. Nate Bagley says:

    Well said. Not to mention the show seems to be pretty staged. I think it’s more of a ploy to tug at the heart strings of blue collar Americans than an attempt at improving internal communication.

    Executives shouldn’t need a TV show to inspire them to listen to their employees.

  3. Arthur Heimbach says:

    The quote you provide from Jack Welch (“Deal with the world as it is, not how you’d like it to be.”) hit me as being a potentially nice lead-in to a quote many other highly successful leaders believe to have great value to building a healthy consumer-centric organizational culture – “Be the change you want to see in the world” (attributed to Mahatma Gandhi).

    From one perspective these may seem contradictory top one another yet from another perspective they could be complimentary. I’m curious as to your orientation to the quote attributed to Gandhi and how you see the relationship between these two “leader’s thoughts.”

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