Most CEO’s of businesses that I know are not avid viewers of prime time television. They are simply too busy. Neverthless, there are two so-called reality shows about business that are so good that I use some of them in my management course for MBA students.
The Apprentice, featuring the “love him or hate him” Donald Trump, does a good job of illustrating the ice cold nature of business. If you have ever heard anyone say that they really like somebody, but that their losing a deal was “just business” then you will appreciate The Apprentice. In the show two groups are given a project to accomplish in a short amount of time. A group leader is appointed. Last week’s project was to design and furnish a front office for a certain type of company. Next week the project is about which group can sell the most ice cream. After the project is completed there is an after-project critique in the board room. Trump asks hard questions of the individual team members, especially the kind about who worked hard and smart and who did not. Each week someone gets fired. Viewers will discover that the most likeable team members are not the best team members. The prize at the end of the season is a menteeship in Trump’s organization. This show does a good job of illustrating how business can sometimes be cold and hard for the CEO.
Undercover Boss on the other hand depicts how CEO’s can become disconnected from their employees and their customers. In each episode a CEO goes undercover and works in various aspects of the company, often using management trainee as the cover. Every episode I’ve seen has not only enlightened the CEO, but changed one of his or her approaches to management. For example, on last night’s episode the Seven-Eleven CEO learned that it make take up to a month to get lights replaced in a store. He changed the store support system. He also learned that we should not take living in this country for granted. While delivering supplies with one of his employees from another country he was told that America is still the greatest country in the world. One of the better episodes was the one about the Roto-Rooter CEO. It is practically a tear-jerker at the end. One of the messages from Undercover Boss is that CEO’s forget how valuable employees are and how important customer service is.
Two shows about CEO’s and management. One reveals the cold nature of business; one reveals the warm nature of business. Both are worthwhile.