As a guy obsessed with maxing out potential in groups and individuals – and one who believes the person at the top is the one most responsible for making it happen – I was pretty fired up about the concept of Undercover Boss. In each episode, a CEO goes undercover, in disguise, to work next to front-line employees.
The format got tired quickly – boss leaves fancy home and doting family, stays in fleabag hotels, realizes he/she is totally inept at frontline tasks, discovers that employees are (gasp!) real people with real problems, cries (most episodes), promises to change, and gives lavish rewards to the episode’s featured employees.
What a great concept – and what a disappointment in a show. The focus ends up being on the heartbreaking individual stories, rather than the true obstacles to the company’s success. In an episode about a hotel chain, some maddening inefficiencies in the check-in process were revealed. I actually leaned forward. Finally! A pain point that every traveler can relate to – addressed by the CEO – awesome! But no! The focus shifted to the troubles of the front desk manager, and how touched the CEO was. Sheesh.
Contrast: Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. Now this is a show we can be entertained by and learn from.
I was ready to write this show off as another cheap reality show from Bravo where a tough-talking Brit (she’s from Australia, actually) rips folks apart. And if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll find it. But it’s much more…
Tabatha Coffey goes to hair salons, takes over, works hard to connect with owners, managers, and staff, gets to the core of what ails the business, then works with all parties to fix it.
While the format is consistent, like “Boss”, the situations and outcomes are far more diverse. In fact, at the end of the episode during the “Six Weeks Later” segment, Tabatha sometimes finds that the boss has returned to the old ways of failure and inertia.
Sometimes it’s skill, sometimes marketing, sometimes bad staff, but usually it’s the management. That’s part of the awesomeness of the show; that look on the leader’s face when they realize this:
“Hey, I really wanted this person to come in and fix the place and the staff, but they’re saying I’m the problem. Oh no!”
If you’re a fan of Undercover Boss, try Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. It rocks. And it’s full of real stuff for leaders.
Have you seen both? Which do you prefer?