The Apprentice 2010: Task 2 Performance Review

Each week as contestants compete for a $250,000 job contract, get the leadership lessons you can use to succeed

Will Mucheru-Wisner's use of the 'b-word' come back to haunt her?

The 2010 edition of The Apprentice, NBC’s business reality show starring and executive produced by real estate mogul Donald Trump, features entrepreneurs and professionals competing for a $250,000 job contract with the Trump organization. By now, the format is familiar: Each week the contestants, divided into two teams, must complete a business task. The winning team is rewarded; the losing team must report to the infamous boardroom, where one member will be fired by Trump, who is assisted by his children and Trump organization executives Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. The 2010 version of The Apprentice returns to its original premise of a competition of business professionals and entrepreneurs, eschewing the celebrity competition of the past three installments of the reality TV show. The common thread connecting the 16 candidates for this season is that all of them are trying to jump-start careers stalled or disrupted by our nation’s most recent recession. The 2010 edition of The Apprentice features three African American job candidates:

Kelly Beaty, 30, holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Spelman College and a master’s in public communication from American University. A former intern at Black Enterprise, she established a career as a rising star in the high-profile public relations industry before losing her job.

WATCH: Beaty’s Business Tips from Task 2 0f The Apprentice

Gene Folkes, 46, earned a bachelor of science degree in business from Morris Brown College and served in the U.S. Air Force before launching a career as a financial advisor. The Jamaican-born Folkes has been living off of his savings and trying to launch an assisted living facility since being laid off.

Liza Mucheru-Wisner, 30, founder of an educational technology company who was born in Kenya and, as part of the Kenyan National Golf Team, was recruited to play golf at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

With each task of The Apprentice 2010, I will post performance reviews of the candidates, their teams and their project managers. In addition, I will assess the performances of Kelly, Gene and Liza for as long as they remain in The Apprentice talent pool. You can also follow and discuss my commentary on Twitter and Facebook.

Read and comment on other performance reviews of The Apprentice 2010 Tasks.

Leadership Lesson: The best leader is not necessarily the person who knows the most or has the most expertise. Smart leaders correctly utilize people who are smarter and more talented than they are in their respective areas of expertise. (For more read my post “To Be the Best, Recruit the Best.”)

TASK 2: Set up competing ice cream cart locations in Manhattan. The team that delivers the most cash profit wins.

The all-female team, Fortitude, is led by Stanford University graduate Poppy Carlig, the youngest candidate for The Apprentice job at age 23, as project manager. David Johnson, the unemployed sales professional, confidently steps up to lead the male team, Octane. An experienced sales professional, David confidently predicts an easy victory for Octane. As Fortitude’s project manager, Poppy readily admits she’s “never sold anything.” So of course, Fortitude pretty much wipes the floor with Octane.

While Poppy has no sales experience, she’s smart enough to give the most confident salesperson on her team, financial executive Stephanie Castagnier, the authority to lead in that area. She also assigns real estate agent Tyana Alvarado and attorney-turned-entrepreneur Brandy Kuentzel, also experienced salespeople, to Stephanie’s group. And though she gives Stephanie plenty of latitude (at the risk of seeming to surrender her authority as project manager–the mistake which got Nicole Chiu fired on Task 1), Poppy is smart enough to remain engaged by including herself on the sales team. She also makes the effort to assign the rest of her Fortitude teammates, with varying degrees of success (Liza accepts accounting duties despite not being “an accounting kind of person”), to roles best suited to their talents and comfort zones.

By contrast, Octane project manager David’s leadership of his team amounts to two words:  just sell. He provides his team with no strategy or action plan, basically charging them to use their imaginations and be aggressive–to get people to buy their ice cream by any means necessary. With the exception of attorney James Weir, who took the initiative to go out to get “uniforms” (red-and-white striped vests, straw hats, and various wigs and props) for the team, the rest of Octane rolls with David’s program (or lack thereof) as best they can, despite the lack of direction.

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  • Sharon Jackson

    I do not think Poppy did such a fantastic job leading. Poppy allowed Stephanie to lead the team, which Stephanie was all to glad to do in case Fortitude lost. The difference between Poppy and the now fired Nicole is that Nicole was overly confident and off-putting while Poppy seemingly taking this into account, was nice and tried to get along with the stronger personalities of the group (Stephanie and Mahsa). Her niceness and willingness to get along with the stronger personalities made it easier for her to not be thrown under the bus by her teammates. That said, Poppy knew that putting others in charge of sales who are stronger was the better move. Nothing genius there. I questioned Poppy’s judgment when she named Liza the weakest link. I feel she named Liza as the weakest link not because she didn’t sell, but because there wasn’t as much face time between the two. When named the weakest link, I wanted Liza to speak more effectively about how her marketing efforts directly affected the team’s better sales. Liza needed to show, without screaming, that marketing and sales work hand in hand and that her well thought out ideas led the team to success. She then should have shown how in contrast, the men looked unprofessional when executing the same strategy. When Liza used the b-word, I screamed at the TV in vain wishing she could hear me! I understand her frustration at being named the weakest link, but I wanted her to be less emotional. I hope that going forward she will be calmer and then use that calmness to prepare and implement her plan of attack. Cooler heads always prevail. I agree that David should have been fired. There was no plan of action other than, sell anyway you can. David is a highly emotional, high-strung, hot head. If not for the apparent “please fire me” attitude of Alex, David could have been fired. Alex clearly wanted it all to end as he knew he was in way over his head. Way over. That said, next week’s episode should prove to be quite interesting as it appears David and James will come to blows.

    • http://blackenterprise.com Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      LOLOL “the apparent ‘please fire me’ attitude of Alex.” Sharon, you got that right–Alex absolutely wanted out! LOL

      I also agree with you that Liza should have more calmly and firmly made a case for her marketing/brand identity push being critical to sales support. My concern was not that she used the ‘b’ word–though I don’t recommend it–but she did it out of anger. I agree with you that coming off as emotional and reactionary won’t be good for her and could be the cause of her demise if she doesn’t correct it.

      You’ve made some great points, Sharon, and I hope you’ll continue to weigh in on my performance reviews in the weeks to come.

      Thanks!

      Alfred

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  • Porcupyn

    It is ironic that when talking of Alex, you talk about his ‘please fire me’ attitude whereas, while talking of Gene, you talk about how great he was and he should not have been fired (in spite of his specific ‘please fire me’ phrase).

    That said, I think that as of Episode 7 – the latest on this website to date – Alex’s exit was the most graceful of them all. I would unreservedly vote for him on my team … if we were looking for someone with his skillset. He is someone who would accept responsibility (and blame) and not throw someone else under the bus.

    BTW, I would have said the same thing about Gene too … but for his attitude with Anand (and on comments posted on this website).

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.

      Porcupyn;

      Thank you for your comments! I’m sure Alex is a great guy; that’s certainly the view of many of the other former Apprentice candidates, based on what they’ve said about him on Twitter.

      However, Alex just didn’t seem like he WANTED to stay in the competition, allowing himself to be fired although he was in no way directly responsible for Octane’s loss on this task. I believe if he had defended himself more forcefully (which did not require him to throw anyone under the bus), David would have been fired, as I believe should have happened.

      As for Gene, I did not say he SHOULD NOT have been fired–his performance on Task 5 was terrible. I said he WOULD NOT have been fired if he had not stated out loud that Trump could fire him if that’s what he wanted to do. Gene, like Alex, also refused to throw anyone else under the bus. But in his case, if he had just accepted responsibility for his performance (which he did) and then held his peace (despite the disparaging remarks Trump kept making about his speaking ability), I believe Gene would have survived the board room and remained in the competition.

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