Undercover Boss: Lessons in Management Techniques

There was a show on after the Super Bowl last week called Undercover Boss. It followed an executive of a large company, Waste Management, as he disguised his identity to get a front line view of how his company operates and to gauge the impact of his policies on the people actually doing the work. The experiences were so impactful for him that he used them to make real changes in the way his company operated. It was such an interesting show that I couldn't wait for the second episode this past Sunday.

This week's CEO was the head of Hooters who went undercover at several restaurants as well as the Hooters plant that manufactures their sauces and dressings. I was really struck by how different the two episodes were. Where the Waste Management CEO actively engaged employees and was genuinely interested in their success and the success of his company, the Hooters episode revealed a disinterested CEO who was only interested in being on a reality television show.

Undercover Boss provides an opportunity for CEOs to reach out to their employees and see how the company truly functions. This episode, however, became a sort of what-not-to-do for corporate management. Here are some worrisome traits revealed by the Hooters CEO that should be avoided in your management techniques:
  1. The CEO lacked passion - He appeared to interact with his team because he "had" to, not because he had a burning desire to make his organization the BEST. The CEO sets the tone for his or her company, and a negative attitude permeates quickly through an organization.
  2. He lacked conviction - When a restaurant manager humiliated female members of the staff, he stayed in "disguise" and allowed the manager to continue working. Even after he revealed himself later in the show as the CEO of the company, he gave the manager a soft "reprimand" and allowed him to keep his job. Employees need to know that the person at the top has the fortitude to make difficult and uncomfortable decisions for the good of the company.
  3. He asked questions but it was clear he wasn't listening to the answers. When employees start believing their voices are not being heard, they will stop talking.
  4. When he found employees doing a great job he congratulated them with lip service. While a pat on the back and an "at-a-boy" are often welcome, when you find truly talented, energetic, and hard working people in your organization, you MUST reward them both financially and with the appropriate title and role within the organization. Don't assume that a kind word from the boss is enough for them to sustain the energy level and enthusiasm that makes them great.

Management styles can definitely vary, but remaining engaged with your employees is essential to your company's success. How do you stay connected to your employees? And if you saw the show, any other tips to share?
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This page contains a single entry by Ermis Sfakiyanudis published on February 18, 2010 2:10 PM.

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