Have you seen Undercover Boss? It’s the latest reality TV show that follows CEOs of companies as they go undercover to investigate their businesses. The first episode aired after the Super Bowl and focused on Larry Hughes, President of Waste Management.
On one hand, I guess you could say “it’s about time.” Presidents of corporations are FINALLY getting out there and seeing what it’s like for their employees on the front line.
But a part of me sees this all as grotesque reality TV. Am I the only one who sees this as too little too late? We’ve suffered through decades of leadership deficit in Corporate America.
CEOs have failed miserably at communicating with their people. They have lost sight of what it’s like to be their employees or their customers, vendors, suppliers, partners, etc. They have alienated their workforce by initiating massive layoffs, instituting draconian employee compliance programs, and overworked, underpaid, undervalued, and underappreciated their people for so long that this new emphasis on hands-on caring CEO smells of grotesquely insincere gesture.
So, CEOs are going undercover to find out what it’s like to work in their companies? Here’s an idea. Why limit it to only ONE week out in the field? Why not take THREE MONTH tour with 2-week job rotations across all of the areas of their company? While they’re at t, spend time with their key customers, top suppliers, most valued partners, and other stakeholders.
The fact that this show was even produced is yet another slap in the face to the American worker. This is like dropping a coin in the tin cup of the homeless man on the corner, a momentary morality speed bump. If CEOs of American businesses really want to know what it’s like to be an employee in their organization, ASK THEM! Here’s a novel idea. Implement truly valuable programs for employees. Solicit direct feedback from workers by soliciting their ideas constantly.
Offer valuable incentives through reward and recognition programs, and match junior-level staff with more tenured workers in coaching/mentoring programs. Ant to REALLY show you are a CARING CEO? FREEZE all senior management bonuses, commit to NO MORE LAYTOFFS for several years. How about implementing cutting edge training & development programs for the employees?
Start by communicating with each and every employee. Use monthly town hall meetings to speak from the pulpit on the state of your business. Hold quarterly video conferences. Implement weekly “Breakfast with the Boss” talks, and send Monday morning emails from the CEO?
We all know there is a void in corporate leadership. Let’s not add insult to injury for the American worker by implying CEOs care. That ship sailed a LONG time ago. The landscape of American enterprise is littered with the fecal remnants of Adelphia, Enron, Global Crossing, Bear Stearns, GM, Lehman Brothers, AIG, etc.
If you want to get lost in mind-numbing reality TV, check out The Jersey Shore. Leave Undercover Boss.