The CEO of 7-11 went undercover last week as part of the new reality show Undercover Bosses. The concept is that each week a CEO goes incognito in order to get a finger back on the pulse of what’s going on at their company. This week the cameras turned on 7-11, the 24-hour convenience chain. We watched Joe DePinto, the CEO of 7-11 as he spent a week in the field.
I love this show because it attempts to close the chasm between leaders and their people. Unfortunately it will likely be cancelled because there is no drama, no scandalous characters, and no storyline that draws viewers each week. But what a great concept – a show committed to showing a more humane side of CEOs whose reputations have been tarnished a bit in this economic turbulence.
I also love it because the whole adventure takes moxie. Do you as a leader have the moxie to take on something like this? Joe DePinto definitely does and he showed us his moxie to the very end.
Putting his ego aside, Joe steps down from his all-powerful post as the big cheese of 7-11 to become a store clerk, a pastry maker, and a delivery man. Why? Because of his commitment to the success of the company. He acknowledges that he can only succeed as the leader if he better understands what’s happening in his stores and with his people. So he goes undercover to find out.
Joe as a Store Clerk
First, Joe was blown away by Dolores, one of the store clerks who was quite popular with all the customers. He recognizes immediately that she is the reason people come to her particular 7-11 to get their coffee. It’s not for the coffee. It’s because of her 18 years of enthusiastic interactions and connections with every customer that walks in.
Joe in the Graveyard Shift
In his next position, Joe joined the graveyard shift to understand what motivates individuals to accept this role. Joe was impressed by the kindness of Wakas, the night clerk who showed him the ropes. Wakas’ work ethic and commitment ensured the store was kept clean, safe, and productive throughout the night.
Joe at the Bakery
At the bakery, Joe was grateful to Jimmy, the trainer whose personality and patience allowed Joe to succeed in his first experience of making pastries.
Joe as a Delivery Driver
Finally, Joe was struck by Igor’s enthusiasm during the night shift delivery route. Igor enjoyed his job because of his own self-generated, positive outlook, energy, and enthusiasm.
Joe Recognizes his People
What did Joe do with these first-hand experiences? First, he brought each of these individuals to 7-11 headquarters, revealed himself as their CEO, and expressed his gratitude for their obvious contribution to 7-11’s success. He then rewarded each of them in their own way. Igor got a vacation with his wife, Wakas got a mentor, and Dolores received support for her failing health.
Joe Inspires his People
He could have left it at that. Instead, he brought together all of the people at headquarters to share with them his recent experiences. He humbly showed them the video of his undercover struggles to clean doors and floors, make pastries, and deliver merchandise. He admitted to his people how little he knew about what it was like to work on the front lines. He went on to declare his appreciation for the people at 7-11 who touch the customers, and by doing this he inspired everyone at headquarters with a renewed commitment to serve these people to the best of all of their abilities. And finally, he announced how much more he loves his job now that he has had the experience of learning about his people and his customers in this unique way.
Risks for Rewards – that’s what moxie’s all about!
Sure Joe and 7-11 got something out of participating in Undercover Bosses. They could not buy this kind of publicity for the company. This adventure put the store on prime time television for a full hour. There was clearly something in it for Joe and 7-11.
But it was also a huge risk. Joe risked exposing something on national television, and he risked his reputation. What if he looked like a fool in front of his people and millions of Americans? Joe looked past the risks and stayed focused on his commitment to get the pulse of the organization. That takes moxie.
Now imagine how Joe’ moxie will inspire the moxie of his entire workforce. Well worth the risks he took.
Are you this committed to your own team and your organization? What could you do to listen to, understand, recognize, and appreciate the people who serve you and your customers like Joe did?