Friday, February 12, 2010

Undercover CEO

Last Sunday, the new Undercover CEO show on CBS profiled Larry O'Donnell's surreptitious employment in four different jobs for his company, Waste Management, Inc. O'Donnell worked on a garbage truck, cleaned out port-a-johns, and picked up litter in a public park. All the while, Waste Management employees working alongside had no idea this was their President and COO.

It was engaging television, particularly in the way it showed the genuine understanding gained by O'Donnell for the situations of his various employees. In one case, O'Donnell learned that female garbage truck employees have no toilet breaks during their eight-hour day.

Imagine my surprise when I saw O'Donnell board our Southwest flight, from Oakland to Los Angeles, earlier today. Not only was O'Donnell flying with us commoners but he boarded with the "C" group, thus settling for a middle seat.

It's refreshing to see the head of a major company exposing himself (or herself) in order to gain a greater understanding of his workforce. It's even more refreshing seeing a senior executive in circumstances like my encounter with O'Donnell. When I introduced myself and complimented him on his appearance, he was genuinely taken aback and thankful, admitting that he "learned a lot" by going undercover.

If you missed the show, tune in this Sunday evening to see the head of Hooter's going undercover...and calling out a restaurant manager, who is abusing his employees, in the process. It's good television.

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