A WINN REVIEW
Television is such an important part of the daily lives of people living in contemporary societies.
Ordinary people receive some information about work and workplaces via television’s
entertainment forum. WINN reviews books and other materials that cover workplace issues. At
WINN we intend to review motion pictures, television programs and other materials that help to
achieve WINN’s operational objectives. With this backdrop, WINN presents a summary and
review of the BE THE BOSS CANADA.
BE THE BOSS Canada is a series aired recently on Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The
Sunday, April 26, 2015, hour-long episode featured a competition between two of Pita Pit’s top
management performers, two young women Ali, and Erin, for the company’s Regional
Pita Pit is a fast food retail chain that sells nutritious pitas using fresh and wholesome
ingredients. The chain adopts a franchising expansion model. It appears that Pita Pit decided to
marry its search for a new franchise owner, and a regional manager with entertainment.
However, it concealed the fact that the keys to a brand new franchise were the real prize. It this
The show was billed as a “week-long” interview for the Regional Manager’s job with a surprise
that neither contestant saw coming. Both women are young, both were eager. And both seemed
up for the challenge. At the top of the show, contestants were told the nature of the prize, the
Regional Manager’s position. Neither contestant was told about the bigger prize, the keys to a
franchise. So, in actuality, the episode was about selecting a new franchise owner and the
Regional Manager’s position was the runner up, not the main prize.
At the top of the hour the two women were given the task of working together to prepare about
two hundred pitas in a two hour period to feed students from a local high school. In the second
challenge, each woman was provided an assortment of fruits and asked to create, test and market
a new smoothie containing Pita Pit’s signature ingredient yogurt. According to the instructions
for the new smoothie, it had to have a “wow” factor.
Contestants’ performance was each rated for each of the two challenges and a winner for the
Regional Manager’s job selected. The apparent loser of the competition in the surprise of her life
was handed the keys to her very own franchise.
Ali, the go-getter, task oriented contestant won the Regional Manager’s position while Erin, who
was unclear about the branding, forgot to use Pita Pit’s signature ingredient in making the
smoothie, and who had included mushrooms in one of the pitas, contrary to the instructions was
awarded the keys to her very own franchise.
BE THE BOSS is refreshing to watch, at least the Pita Pit episode. The show is designed in a
way that promotes good workplace habits, and management philosophy. BE THE BOSS
corrects some of the management and workplace related problems associated with
UNDERCOVER BOSS, though both are developed by the same, or proximately the same
Among the positive and encouraging features of BE THE BOSS Canada are the following:
Communication with the employees remained consistent. At no time did any of the
decision makers speak to either contestant in a condescending or disrespectful manner,
even in circumstances that Erin’s mistake could have resulted in adverse consequences on
The decision makers were very clear in the way that they provided feedback. Negative
feedback was communicated to each contestant in a way that acknowledged the
constraints under which tasks were performed.
Feedback was never given by a person who did not observe the behaviour. In one of the
scenes, for example, the contestants had to figure out how to use the Pita Pit’s mascot to
entertain and engage the children at the high school. The person providing the feedback
was the mascot, played by one of the partners in the firm.
While the competition between the two women was fierce, it did not degenerate into
“nasty” commentary designed to elicit television ratings;
Contestants were given a mix of individual and group assignments;
Competitors were told the rating factors, although not provided with the weight of each
factor. In other words, the contestants knew how performance would be assessed
Task instructions were clear and unambiguous
Competitors got the opportunity to use their creativity to design a product for the benefit
of the organization as a whole, but for which the contestant received credit. In so doing,
the show balanced the interest of the individual person with that of the organization as the
winning product would form part of the organization’s product suite, even if just for a
Contestants had the benefit of all technical support to achieve the goal of the challenge.
In other words, the challenges were not designed for the contestants to fail, although it
did contain time pressures that contestants had to overcome;
The senior management team along with the technocrats were on hand to provide
performance feedback along the way.
The partners were engaged in the performance evaluation piece and they actually
watched the competitors performance so they could and did speak first hand;
Expectations of each challenge were designed to push the envelope, but not so far that the
Work-relationships were supportive and not undermining;
Partners did not interject their own thoughts throughout the performance of the challenge.
The contestants were left to complete each challenge on their own;
The importance of friend and family support in achieving balance was integrated in the
One thing that was most interesting about this episode was the implicit distinction between
leadership appropriate to maintain the organization as distinct from leadership appropriate for the
growth of the organization. Erin won the keys to her very own franchise, a most unexpected
outcome for her. She was sure she had messed up the two challenges. After her performance on
the smoothie challenge, she was sure that she had lost the competition. Yet, she was selected for
the new franchise. The question is why?
When it was brought to Erin’s attention that one of the pita was returned because it contained
mushrooms, contrary to the instructions she wasted no time. Erin “fessed” up. Firstly, she
identified the pita as one she had prepared. Secondly, though Erin had been unclear about the
meaning of the instructions she received on that particular order, she unequivocally
acknowledged her mistake, and apologized. She took complete ownership of the error, though
there was plenty of wiggle room for explanation and justification. Erin understood and explained
the potential impact of the mistake not only on the brand, but also the customer—the child who
Two things flow from this example. The first is the Truth-Trust dichotomy endemic in good
leadership. Trust is earned. It comes about after the evaluation of personality. People tend to
trust those who they believe are centred in truth telling. A person who is known to be a truth
teller is often given the benefit of the doubt when doubt comes into the equation.
It is absolutely clear that Erin could be trusted to tell the truth, to be authentic, to acknowledge
her mistakes and work to fix them with passion. From the perspective of the partners, they would
never have to doubt Erin’s words in circumstances when credibility is the deciding factor.
Moreover, Erin could be trusted to promote the company’s brand with integrity and passion.
The second major lesson has to do with what WINN calls the vulnerability-risk dichotomy.
Inward retreat is one oft observed reaction to vulnerability. Learning to manage risks in a period
of personal vulnerability and uncertainty is an important skill for an entrepreneur. There is
virtually nothing about the entrepreneurial experience that is certain. While confidence is
important in determining success, confidence is not a skill. Rather is an attribute and self-
disposition. Both women were confident going into the second challenge, even though Ali
appeared a little cocky with a need for a tiny dose of humility.
Erin’s display of passion, emotional intelligence, and vulnerability was evident in the course of
the one-hour long program. She was a fierce competitor. Yet, Erin was a woman with the
capacity to learn any and all technical skills needed to operate her own franchise. Yet, the second
challenge of creating a smoothie with a wow dimension presented a real challenge. Ali had made
smoothies before and claimed to be good at it. Erin, on the other hand, had never before made a
smoothie. Yet, she rose to the challenge, created a flavour that worked, even though she forgot to
include the signature yogurt ingredient. Erin included “mint” as part of the smoothie that she
created. Ali stuck with just a combination of fruits.
Ali won the smoothie challenge. Why because she had made smoothie’s before, had already
developed the skills in that area. Ali came into the second challenge with a ready-made
advantage. Yet, she added no other ingredient outside of mixing two fruits that worked well
together. Ali did not experiment. So, even though Ali had the advantage that same advantage
precluded her from looking at the table full of ingredients and think creatively. She simply
maintained and toed the line. Ali operated in the safe zone. Erin, on the other hand, had no
boundaries. She was free to use any and all ingredients. She came to the task, disadvantaged by
skills, but advantaged by an open mind that allowed her to see possibilities in the ingredients.
Erin smelled a few of the ingredients before testing them in a mixture. Erin’s vulnerability
unleashed her creativity. With her lack of developed skills she had to be more willing to submit
to the technical experts and to articulate a vision from the ground floor up. She, in fact, had to
lead, not direct, the team. Ali directed her team much more so than Erin did.
What Ali achieved was far less than what Erin achieved if one compares the relative starting
point of each of them. The challenge was not the same for each of Ali and Erin. Erin excelled in
leadership. Why? In the very circumscribed time frame, Erin overcame significant disadvantages
to create a product that met the objective of wow.
In the end, the program demonstrated that leadership involves making mistakes, charting a
course, remaining true to oneself, being balanced, learning how to lead and not take control and
having confidence in the people with whom one works.
WINN believes that this episode positively adds to workplace knowledge and intelligence.