The Apprentice 2010: Task 7 Performance Review

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

Octane is charged with creating a backers audition for Little Miss Fix It, a production about an 11-year-old girl who meets a 12-year-old impressionist painter. Steuart assigns Anand Vasudev and Clint Robertson with handling promotions, but is confronted with the challenge faced by every Octane project manager to date: What to do with David Johnson, especially with Gene no longer available to “manage” him. At first, he attempts to isolate David away from the main task by sending him out for food, even though David expresses a clear interest in and has past experience in theater. When David returns, he is clearly disappointed that he has been left out of the process of choosing the musical numbers and other creative work. Steuart, Clint and Anand discuss their presentation with only token regard for David’s unsolicited input. In response to being largely ignored, David begins to engage the actors for their production. Though Anand questions the decision, Steuart allows David to take charge of instructing the actors, in part to keep him occupied and in part to have a fall guy in the event that Octane loses the task. David shines, clearly in his element and thoroughly enjoying the creative process of “playing” with the actors. Meanwhile, Octane’s promotional materials include a Playbill and poster with plenty of information about the production.

The Result: Both teams presented equally appealing investor auditions, impressing the judges with both productions. But the goal was not to put on the most entertaining production, though that was a key to the ultimate objective. It was to create a production capable of raising money from investors. Octane’s promotional materials included contact information to allow interested investors to learn more about the production and ultimately invest. Fortitude provided information about the play but no way for investors to follow up. Fortitude missed the point of the backers audition: to raise money, not merely to entertain. In a split decision (with Chenoweth voting for Fortitude), Octane wins the task.

Who I Would Have Fired: Stephanie absolutely should have been let go–and she would have been, if Mahsa hadn’t inadvertently stepped directly into Trump’s line of “fired.” As the most experienced sales person on her team, Stephanie missed the fact that Fortitude’s promotional materials lacked the most critical information: a way for investors interested in backing their production to follow up. (Mahsa, assigned to work with Stephanie on the graphics, has zero marketing or promotional experience.) That oversight was the sole reason for Octane’s narrow victory. Stephanie was so concerned with being excluded from the creative portion of the task that she did not bring her “A” game to the assignment Liza gave her.

Fortunately for Stephanie, she was smart enough to stay quiet once Trump turned his attention to Mahsa, whose mouth finally wrote a check (for $320, the figure she shared with Clint prior to reaching the boardroom on Task 6, earning Trump’s wrath) she couldn’t cash. By holding her tongue (unlike Gene on Task 5), Stephanie avoided the possibility of joining Mahsa in a double-firing. By the way, I don’t believe for a second that Mahsa shared her team’s performance with Octane as an act of disloyalty against Fortitude. That sounds too much like she actually thought about what she was going to say, and the possible consequences of saying it, before she said it. Does that sound like Mahsa to you? No one was more surprised than she was that her indiscretion would ultimately lead to her dismissal.

Interim Evaluations of the Black Candidates: Liza did well in a losing effort, especially considering that she led team members who range from ambivalent to openly hostile to her candidacy for the apprentice job. She clearly impressed with her presentation skills (especially when compared to Steuart, who was terrible), putting herself front and center as project manager on this task. Knowing that the task fell outside of her area of expertise, she properly delegated the work to those on her team best suited to do it. But wasn’t there any way for her to see, correct and approve proofs of the promotional materials prior to the day of the audition? Liza deserved to survive the board room on this task. But what she needed was a win as project manager.

Dead Men Walking: Mahsa’s gone, leaving David, Brandy and Stueart on my list of candidates whose chances of becoming Trump’s next apprentice are slim to none. Brandy is the only candidate left yet to have served as project manager, so I expect she’ll have a chance to make me eat my words on the next task.

I am still unimpressed by Steuart, despite earning a win as PM on this task. His speaking skills were not much better than Gene’s on the Rockport Fashion Show task, even though he was reading from index cards. And it could have been the editing, but he sure looked like he was staring at the cleavage of the composer and lyricist of Little Miss Fix It as she was explaining the play’s storyline to team Octane. Last week, I said that Steuart would have to impress me as a project manager to change my mind. That just didn’t happen on this task.

David had his best performance ever, taking the lead on the creative side of this task. For the first time, he was the star on a task–and he was able to succeed while being himself. Even better, he truly enjoyed and got real satisfaction from his work. David’s performance shows that he is best suited to not a traditional, corporate job but a more creative, non-traditional job where his impulsive, temperamental and unpredictable style is not only acceptable but an asset. My advice to David: switch from a career in sales to one in film, theater or television production. You could really be successful. More importantly, you’ll be something you haven’t been at all during your time on The Apprentice–happy.

Who Will Be The Next Apprentice?: I’m sticking to my original “Final 4″:  Anand, Clint, Stephanie and Liza (in that order) have the best chances of landing the job contract with Trump. Liza, of course, remains my long-shot pick, although nearly everyone else believes she “doesn’t have a chance in hell” of becoming Trump’s newest–and first black female–apprentice. While she did not notch a win as project manager, I’m betting she’s survived long enough for Trump to abandon the men-versus-women theme, which I believe will work against her as long as the other women (especially Stephanie) see her as unworthy of their respect.

Who do you think will be the next apprentice? Can Liza win? Who do you choose for your Final 4? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

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  • Suman

    I totally agree, Stephanie should have been fired from this task. But i’m glad anyway, coz Mahsa also deserved to go (albeit for totally unexpected reasons!!) Stephanie is definitely not on my final 4 list. She’s so intimidating, rude, bitchy ! Each task, she starts off bragging about her tremendous experience, expertise and what not !! And the moment she’s in the firing line, she screams loud enough for anyone else to even attempt speakin! I hope she’s the next one to go.
    Brandy, is a mystery ! She’s been playing safe so far, always makin an opening statement “the project manager was really good” and never gets into the firing line. Now that there are few candidates left, we should get to see real talents and capabilities of both Brandy and Liza. The 2 ladies really need to bring on their ‘A’ game ! I feel sorry for Liza, i wonder why Mahsa and Stephanie would always push the blame on her , treatin her like a scapegoat! Did she really do things that bad that weren’t shown to us on TV !!? Liza has been strong to defend herself and stay in the competition ! You go girl !!
    About the men, i think Clint and Anand are strong, but Anand seems more composed..  
    So final 4 for me would be Anand, Clint, Brandy and Liza.. 

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.

      Finally! Someone who agrees that Liza has a shot at the Final 4! Thanks for your comments, Suman.

    • Hannah

      Am a Kenyan and wish Liza all the best but I would not hire her under any circumstances simply because she lets people make mistakes and says nothing to them at that time but brings it up in the boardroom.

      The least Liza can do is let people know why she doesn’t agree with their ideas, no offense but she sounds like an offended kid…sawa tu LOL

  • http://www.spedient.com Nichole Hodge

    Well I have to say, the boardroom certainly took an unexpected-but refreshing-spin last week! I stated after task 6 that my final four was Anand, Clint, Brandy & Mahsa & had Mahsa not made a rather immature and stupid mistake, I think I would be on point. When you look at Mahsa’s behavior though, I should have predicted that her downfall would be the result of “foot in mouth syndrome”. Remember, she’s the bigmouth that in the middle of task 6 went to tattle on Kelly for giving Poppy accolades to Donald Jr.. She took her eye off the game and couldn’t resist the urge to do a little “school girl gossiping”. I believe the same thing happened when she revealed team information to Clint. Like you, I don’t believe she was intentionally disloyal. But in many ways its worse to reveal confidential information out of stupidity as opposed to misplaced strategy.

    Although I believe Stephanie should have been fired & I would have definitely done so, Liza dodged a major bullet and she has Mahsa to thank for that. Had it not been for Mahsa’s faux pas, Liza would have taken Stephanie & Mahsa into the boardroom, they both would have turned on her, Liza would have ineffectively defended herself, become emotional and probably would have been fired. Based on what I saw, Liza did a decent job as PM. I was impressed with how she removed Mahsa & Stephanie from the area in order to continue with the task. Her problem is and has always been her inability to defend herself effectively (and without breaking down) in the boardroom. For that reason, I will keep Liza on the chopping block and regardless of her performance this week-she’s still not in my final four.

    I will refrain from calling David the Village Idiot this week as he was quite refreshing! He truly did shine with this more creative task and was allowed to in large part because Clint co-signed on a good suggestion made by David early on. Given his history, Anand was wise to be cautious ( I myself would have tasked him with counting ceiling tiles in the suite to keep him out of the way). However they took a gamble on him and won. This was NOT a win for Stueart but it was a definite win for David. Stueart has yet to impress me.

    My finalist will remain the same, in this order: Anand, Clint, Brandy & now that Mahsa is gone, I may have to add Stueart to the mix. My rationale? I don’t believe that Stephanie has any allies now that Mahsa is gone. Brandy although relatively quiet has played the game effectively in my opinion; she stepped up BIGTIME to get Mahsa fired and will do the same with the only remaining threat-Stephanie. Liza is incapable of defending herself without an emotional breakdown. Poppy is irrelevant. Stueart just may be able to hang on long enough to make it to the final 4.

    Although Brandy will be PM, look for Stephanie to raise her game during the next task since she knows she’s a target after lying to “The Donald” about why she didn’t step up as PM and underperforming to undermine Liza.

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.

      Nichol;

      Brilliant assessment as usual. But you and I just can’t agree on Liza, can we? I agree with you that she handles herself poorly in the boardroom, but she’s performed decently on every task, and has made positive contributions to a couple of them. With Mahsa gone and Stephanie’s credibility with the Donald weakened, Liza has a good shot at surviving future boardroom sessions, with Brandy being the only possible threat among the women. (I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying that she’s irrelevant, but Poppy wants nothing to do with conflict.) Unless the remaining men turn on Liza, I think the worst boardroom attacks on her are behind her.

      I hope you enjoy reading my commentary as much as I enjoy your comments! Thanks!

      • http://www.spedient.com Nichole Hodge

        Thanks Alfred! You know if any one of my candidate assessments comes back to bite me in the you-know-what, it will be that darn Liza!

        I agree, “The Apprentice Fairy” has been on her side thus far (I’m liking her more lately but I’m not ready to attribute her longevity to business savvy) and her worst days in the boardroom may be behind her; but I believe her boardroom skills (or lack thereof) will lead to her demise.

        I really enjoy your commentary and look forward to it each week! As a result I have started reading more of the articles on the site and several weeks ago switched from CNN to BE.com as my homepage! I know I’ve had some colleagues follow suit. Keep up the great work Alfred!

  • http://essenceboutique.ca Rahina Abdulai

    Nicole,

    Another Great assessment! Mr. Trump accusing Stephanie of lying to him was extreme and really just a misunderstanding. I think she was trying to tell him that the team decided to have Liza serve as PM prior to them arriving at the theatre. Thus when the decision was made the team knew it was a theatre task but not specifically a musical theatre task. Unless I missed something the team didn’t know the specific nature of the task until arriving at the theatre to meet with Mr. Trump. This being the case she wasn’t lying when she said that she didn’t step up to be PM given her musical background because she only knew that it was going to be a theatre task not a musical theatre task.

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.

      Rahina, I agree. I don’t believe Stephanie lied at all. It remains to be seen whether Trump will get clarification on that and not unfairly hold the misperception against her. That said, Fortitude did not lose because the music wasn’t right; the productions were a virtual tie creatively speaking. The omission of contact info for the investors from Fortitude’s promo materials was the difference. It was Stephanie’s sales experience, not musical training, that was of most value on this task. Thanks for weighing in!

      • Suman

        Yep, It was the contact info issues that made them lose ultimately. And Stephanie wouldn’t take the blame on this one. She instead put it on Liza, saying she did what was asked of her ! 

    • http://www.spedient.com Nichole Hodge

      Thanks Rahina! I tend to agree with you and Alfred. I don’t really think Stephanie intended to lie- I believe she started out with the intent of throwing Liza under the bus for not giving her more creative control, given her music background, Royal Conservatory, blah blah blah… So she found herself back peddling when Trump called her on it. Unfortunately for her, she was a bit flustered & caught off guard by his questions. In a situation like that, most excuses won’t sound truthful.

  • Jackie

    I thought Liza was the only African American on the show? I didn’t know gene was from Africa? And Kelly too? I thought they were born in the US.. What countries are they from?

  • BaberDashery

    Task 7: Well, I have to admit that during this episode I voluntarily changed the channel. It was just boring! For some odd reason this task just seemed to move slowly. However, I did view the episode later thanks to my inexpensive DVR service.   Anyway, as I watched Steuart sideline David during the task I thought that was a great decision on Steuart’s behalf due to David’s erratic behavior. Nonetheless, when David was eventually “in his element” he did a great job engaging the actors.  Steuart has done a great job building confidence in his team and utilizing each member’s talents to successfully complete the task at hand.  Yet, Steuart’s stumbling was not a good thing, but nothing that deserved him being fired.  As far as Liza is concerned, I think she did a pretty fair job as PM, but definitely not anything praiseworthy; then again, neither did Steuart!

    Let’s be honest for a moment, the tasks the candidates are given aren’t that difficult. The show is supposed to represent seasoned professionals and/or highly-educated individuals. We as viewers sit back and “talk to the television” and say “why didn’t you do this” or “do it that way” it’s textbook! Additionally, Trump always provides a professional in the respective industry at their avail. Why do the candidates rarely take advantage of this golden asset and opportunity?  

    Back to the task, how can anyone leave out contact info? Let anyone at B.E. omit contact info from their events they promote to potential sponsors and see what happens! Especially the top person who approves it all!!!  I tell you what, the next time you submit your perfect resume, omit your name and see if you receive any calls for an interview.  Liza, should have at least attached a business card to the promotional materials if it was too late to make any changes to the printed materials.

    Who should have been fired, I have to agree that Mahsa and Stephanie deserved to go. However, Liza should have proofed everything, especially since she was the target from the beginning. I don’t want her to slip up like that again. If she does, we’ll soon see her taxicab confession!

    My final four remains the same: Steuart, Anand, Clint, and Brandy.

  • kathryn

    Nichole has made an excellent point. To further illuminate, consider that the reason Mahsa was targeted and fired for behavior in which others had engaged, the producers were able to avoid firing the third African American in a row.