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Mike White
Mike White
Position: Chairman, President, and CEO
Company: DIRECTV
Mission: White oversees this global media powerhouse, which delivers state-of-the-art technology to over 25 million customers. He posed as a satellite-dish installer.

Why did I do the show? After 20 years at PepsiCo, I moved over to be a CEO in a new industry, and I figured, What better way to learn the business? We've got a very complicated business, and I wanted to know what it was like on the front lines. Second, we put a lot of content on DirecTV, and this was a chance to see behind the scenes what goes into putting a TV show together.

When I was on roofs installing satellite dishes in Birmingham, Ala., in 98° F heat, I was struck by how hard these employees work. The very first day I was crawling through an attic and fell and screwed up my hand. Also, the technology is complex, and you have to make it work in every home, and every home is different.

The employees I met had incredibly different life experiences than I've had, and yet with every person I found amazing connections. In this economy, empathy is very important to motivate a team, and you can't have empathy if you haven't walked in their shoes for a bit.

You have to get as close as you can to where your employees interact with the customers to find out how things really work, and that takes hard work and lots of curiosity. You've got to create trust between the front lines and middle management. You have to understand that you're not there to embarrass anyone or to find out what they're doing wrong. You're there to learn.

I'm now more committed to figuring out how to help the unheralded front line. We're putting on an appreciation day next spring in honor of one of the techs I worked with. He deserves it. They all do.

NEXT: Kimberly Schaefer

Last updated September 22 2010: 10:28 AM ET
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