what an Undercover Boss can teach us

Undercover boss Admittedly, I'm not much for reality TV but if you missed last night's premier episode of Undercover Boss following the Super Bowl, you missed some great 'undercover' leadership lessons from the Chief Operating Officer (C.O.O.) of a $13 billion company.  The opportunity to watch a senior executive at such a large company was really too cool to miss.

If you didn't have a chance to watch, Lawrence (Larry) O'Donnell, III, President and C.O.O. of Waste Management goes underground to experience his company from the ground up.  Over the course of the show, he took on such glamorous tasks as cleaning port-a-johns, picking up trash during wind gusts, and sorting recyclables while a conveyor belt whizzed by at who-knows-how-many miles per hour.  During his adventures, Larry got to meet the folks who truly make the company run and see first hand the impact of corporate policies on the lay-workers.

CBS did a GREAT job on the debut.  First of all, they picked a guy that clearly GOT IT (well before CBS ever came up with the concept) – definitely a Level 5 Leader and clearly highly functioning on the EI scale… Secondly, he was just a really likable guy and it was clear that he wasn't there to play "gotcha" but rather to really examine corporate policies and their impact.  Along the way, he had a number of eye-opening experiences and came away with a new appreciation of and connection to the work and the workers of Waste Management.

Powerful stuff.

At the end of the day, there were any number of take-aways that I wanted to share but these are my top 10 (plus one ;-)) in no particular order:

  1. Listen objectively to feedback.
  2. Reward hard work.
  3. Invite good talent to create effective programs for other associates.
  4. Know what motivates. Rewards are not always measured in dollars and cents.
  5. Invite your associates to hold you accountable.
  6. If you make a promise, keep it. 
  7. Take immediate action.
  8. Remember – the leaders and managers are rarely the face of your company, THE ASSOCIATES ARE.  Does this fact make you comfortable or uncomfortable? 
  9. When employees authentically get that leaders care, performance and morale can soar!
  10. Your associates are human beings with families, goals, desires and challenges.  Do you know who they REALLY are?
  11. Don't be afraid to admit when you've made a mistake and be willing to change or revamp policies that simply don't work or that create different results than you intended.

Continue to be great!

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2 Responses to “what an Undercover Boss can teach us”

  1. Thanks for bringing this together. I appreciate it.
    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell

  2. Pam says:

    Loved this post. Undercover Boss was a great show and you hit the nail on the head!