CBS’ hit show, Undercover Boss, was the Emmy-nominated #1 new TV series for 2009-10. Each week, Undercover Boss follows a different executive on an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of the companies they lead. Typically taking on the role of a new hire in an entry level position, the boss gets a close-up look at how their decisions affect the people in their organizations, problems that are not being addressed, and a chance to meet some previously unsung heroes who truly make their companies run.
Could you benefit from this kind of reality check? Would your company benefit by having you spend some time on the front lines (without the other employees knowing it was you)?
The CEOs who participated as undercover bosses report that the time spent in the trenches taught them some hard and humbling lessons about their own companies, and inspired many changes.
The CEO of Waste Management recognized the need to seek advice from the garbage collectors before launching company-wide initiatives.
The CEO of White Castle became more aware of employees’ personal health concerns and set up online access to medical advice from nurses and dieticians, and company reimbursement of co-pays for preventive care visits.
The CEO of 7-Eleven realized that many employees viewed their jobs as dead-ends, and started a talent identification program and beefed up internal training.
The CEO of Hooters decided to counter some of the criticism of the chain as an exploiter of women by changing their approach to public relations, pointing out that Hooters has the highest percentage of female employees in the restaurant industry. He now also requires all executives to spend a few days each year working in one of their restaurants.
The CEO of GSI Commerce also started rotating executives to work temporarily in the company’s call centers, so they can better relate to the impact of headquarter’s decisions on their front line staff.
What might you learn or change as an undercover boss at your company?