Have you seen the reality show, Undercover Boss, on CBS? A recent episode highlighted the integration of 7-11 CEO, Joe Depinto, into the entry level positions of his own company. Under an assumed identity as part of a supposed documentary about new employees in various fields, Joe spent a week being filmed doing various jobs in the stores and support shops of his huge, billion dollar, corporation.
Take a minute, if you haven't already, to watch the first part of the show above. If you have a few more minutes, watch the full show here on Hulu.
So why go undercover in your own company? Here are some of the things Joe learned in his one-week adventure:
-- Successful stores are ones in which the employees know their customers and make them feel like family. Joe was amazed at how Delores (she of the 5 children, 1 kidney, and almost 20 years at the same 7-11) knew the names of everyone who came into the store, one of the busiest franchises in the company. She (and not Joe!) was why the store was so successful.
-- Everyone needs a way to grow in the company. Joe was disappointed to find an employee who felt that there was nowhere to go, no way to grow, within the organization. There can be no dead-end jobs in a company if people are going to remain loyal and stay motivated.
-- Great programs, hatched by well-intentioned managers and senior leaders, often don't make it to the support facilities or store floors. Often this is not known unless and until those senior leaders take time to get out in the field and listen to employees. Joe was disappointed to see that his initiatives on things like facility repair and sharing of older food with charities wasn't being implemented as designed. He would never have discovered this without getting out from the big office and seeing first-hand what was happening -- day and night, and in both stores and support shops.
It was great to hear Joe refer so often to his "troops." "Great companies need great soldiers!" "Just as in the Army, the role of the leader is to take care of his people." And I know Joe is sincere, because I have served with him. We were good friends and company mates at West Point and we soldiered together out in the Army. I am proud to see that the values he learned in uniform still shape his thinking about leadership today!
Maybe a stint undercover would be good for all of us. Perhaps a day down on the shop floor would not only humble us but give us a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that still need our attention. How about calling your own office and support staff and seeing how customers are treated to learn more about this important interaction? Why not serve others for a day and learn about the true role of leaders as servants to others?
Thanks for your leadership of 7-11, Joe. Your undercover experiences made me proud to know you are part of the "Old Grey Line" at West Point. Next time I am in one of your stores for a cup of coffee and a donut I will, no doubt, see the results of your customer and employee-focus. That's Leader Business!