Undercover Boss has WM COO Larry O’Donnell shovelling *bleep*

Posted February 5, 2010 in Latest News & Insights

And we’re not talking about the type of “shovelling” that can on around the boardroom table!  Here’s a show you’re going to have to check out. Its called Undercover Boss and premiers after the SuperBowl this weekend.

The first episode follows Larry O’Donnell, President and COO of Waste Management, a Fortune 200, 45,000+ employee company. It is absolutely fascinating to watch the big cheese go from the boardroom to literally pumping poop out a port-a-potty.

There are countless lessons in this episode, but the big reminder I got was how easy it is for execs to sit in big comfy offices and talk about how to squeeze the next nickel into the bottomline with little, if no regard, to how these changes affect the frontline worker.

This gets painted in technicolour at WM when employees are peeing in old coffee tins because their route doesn’t allow for a bathroom break and racing to punch in their time clock after their lunch hour so that they don’t get docked.

To O’Donnell’s credit, he seemed pretty horrified by some of the things he discovered and seemed to have addressed items that came up on the show quickly once his identity gets revealed.

It’s a great reminder for ALL leaders, not just those in the uber ivory tower, to stay connected to how “productivity” changes are playing out once they jump off the powerpoint page.

Spending time on the front line should be a mandatory annual pilgrimage that C-suite execs should make just to stay humbled by the hard work involved in keeping the corporate machine churning. Who knows… if more did, maybe we’d actually start seeing some of them cut their fat exec bonuses instead of laying the deepest cuts at the feet of the frontline.

Happy leading!

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  1. Donna says:

    I just watched the show and I was so touched by Larry. I cried along with him. I was so glad that he got out to see how hard the employees work for little money; to see how physically demanding the work is; how the employees are taken advantage of. It was wonderful to see the improvements he is implementing and that he actually cared about these employees. He seems like a genuinely nice, caring man. All bosses should switch jobs for a week. This was an excellent show and very eye-opening. I had no idea how hard these job were that these folks do and it gave me a whole new appreciation for all they do. I could never do their jobs.

    • LeaderTalker says:

      I know… unbelieveable what some people do and how incredible the spirit of some of the employees were. The port-a-potty guy was my absolute favourite. And, I couldn’t agree with you more. I thought Larry O’Donnell exemplified so many fantastic leadership qualities. A great role model for up and coming executives for sure. Thanks for contributing Donna!

  2. […] Undercover Boss has WM COO Larry O’Donnell shovelling *bleep* February 2010 2 comments 2 […]