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Posted by on Dec 12, 2013

Armchair Quarterbacking and a Killer Idea for a TV Show

ArmchairQuarterbackWell, here we are again at the special time of the year. It’s gotten chilly, people are getting excited about rounds of upcoming parties, the kids are coming home from college, and great food is on the way.

Yes, it’s time for the football playoffs. There are other celebrations going on, like Christmas and Kwanzaa, but back to the football.

Everyone knows what an armchair quarterback is – the passive spectator who, especially with the wonders of slow-motion replay, can so clearly see what the better option would have been.

Beat-up leaders have a lot of armchair quarterbacks out there. It’s rare that a day goes by that someone in a leadership position is not being pilloried in the press.

Some would say it comes with the territory, but I say there’s a deeper problem in play, and that is projection. Critics often rail about things leaders do that they would probably do themselves, given the chance. The world leaders live in is rarely as neat and clean as observers might imagine. They may think leaders have perfect information, people who execute flawlessly, alignment in their executive teams and a whole host of other myths.

One way people find out about the messy, real-life existence of leaders is when they get thrust into leadership positions. Supervisors often talk about the self-serving judgments they made of supervisors until they got into the role and found out first-hand what their predecessors were up against.

So what’s the idea for a TV show?

Most people have seen Undercover Boss. (By the way, Undercover Brother is a dynamite movie, but it’s unrelated to the point of this blog.) The concept of Undercover Boss is that a leader poses as an employee and learns first-hand what employees are up against.

My idea for a new TV show is “Undercover Employee.” In this plot reversal, an employee who has been critical of leadership takes over. He or she is suddenly plucked from the front-line and installed on the top floor.

And then the drama would begin. As the employee is just sitting down and marveling at the plush, leather chair and big mahogany desk, 17 emails come in with dire warnings about a problem in a department. Then, a reporter working on a critical story calls. The board meeting is in 15 minutes but there wasn’t time to prepare. An audit is announced. Grievances begin flowing across the desk. A high-performer threatens to quit. The phone won’t stop ringing.

At least lunch is being brought in. Maybe dinner, too, since it’s looking like departure time might be 10 p.m.

The take-away in this show would be that employees learn about the complex, ever-changing, political, sometimes no-win world of leaders.

I think it would be a hit. And just like Undercover Boss, the juice in this show would be in our learning about the situations others are in, and perhaps developing this concept of empathy – just seeing things as others see them.

This is a huge competency for leaders and anyone trying to work with others. The fact is, we can’t really work together very well in any capacity until we understand each other — as much as two different human beings can do that.

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