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

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

3 thoughts on “Undercover Boss Showcases Executive Problems”

  1. 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.

  2. 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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