Being an undercover boss is a good way for a CEO to see the trenches unfiltered. Anytime you visit your employees as a CEO, everything is staged, well prepared. My advice to other executives: If you want to find out what's really going on, start dropping into meetings unannounced.
I did a half-day of training and got my license to drive a forklift in one of our food warehouses. I thought it would be simple to do. Well, what I learned is that it's very hard to do. It was taking me forever to load the food, and I broke a pallet. My supervisor took me off the forklift.
Next I picked lettuce, and that was a very hard job. The importance of training became clear. My supervisor had been doing it for many years. We were in the field at six in the morning. He showed me how to take a big, very sharp knife and pick the lettuce, core it, and put it on a conveyor belt. I would ask: "How am I doing?" He'd say, "Okay, but you need more training." He started clocking me and said, "Okay, you did it in nine seconds, but you're missing some heads." You're supposed to do a head every four seconds with the machine moving at the same time. I couldn't catch up. At the end, 5.5 seconds was my best time.
We made some changes after the show. We decided to reach out more to employees and make sure they're being taught what to do. I'm not talking about a big formal training program. I'm talking about creating a culture where each employee helps train others to do their job better.
NEXT: Mike White