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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. This edition of The Apprentice features three African American job candidates: Kelly Beaty, Gene Folkes and Liza Mucheru-Wisner.
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.
Leadership Lesson: A leader’s job is not only to set the course, but to monitor performance, to ensure that everything stays on course–and to take decisive action when things go awry. Nothing justifies a captain’s failure to take the helm when it’s obvious that the ship is heading for a collision with an iceberg.
Bonus Lesson: When guilty of a major failure on the job, accept responsibility for the failure–then shut up. Never suggest or volunteer for punishment. If the boss asks you to recommend your own punishment, don’t take the bait. Assert your trust in your boss’s decision-making authority, while making the argument for your past positive contributions and future value to the organization despite your most recent failure. Your goal should be to avoid being fired and to be given another chance. NEVER, out of a grand show of personal accountability or an over-estimation of your own value, invite your boss to fire you. If you’ve committed a “capital offense”, the last thing you need to do is to point out to the “executioner” that he has an axe in his hands and the right to swing it–as if he didn’t know that already.
TASK 5: Present fashion shows featuring the Spring/Summer 2011 product line for Rockport Shoes, with the men of Octane showcasing the women’s line and the women of Fortitude showcasing the men’s.
Wade Hanson, following through on the promise he made to Trump to lead on a task after Octane’s loss on Task 3, is project manager on this task. Stephanie Castagnier confidently steps up to lead Fortitude.
Stephanie immediately springs into confident, decisive action as her team’s leader, calling on her team to focus on winning, not exploiting one another’s weaknesses. She assigns Kelly, citing her creativity and flair for fashion, to handle production of the fashion show. She tasks Liza and Poppy Carlig with assisting Kelly and charges Mahsa Saeidi-Azcuy with keeping the team on schedule. For the role of fashion show emcee, Stephanie chooses Brandy Kuentzel, because she’s “beautiful, polished and an eloquent speaker….that’s who I want on the microphone.” Stephanie also comes up with a “Day in the Life” of a sophisticated, style-savvy male potential customer of Rockport Shoes, in response to Kelly calling for a theme for Fortitude’s show. Her team immediately buys in, with Mahsa even giving their ideal customer a name, Tristan (Brad Pitt’s character in the 1994 film Legends of the Fall). Then, Stephanie calls for something risky and bold to put Fortitude’s fashion show over the top. Kelly responds with an idea guaranteed to be a jaw-dropper: a finale featuring their male models wearing nothing but underwear and Rockports. (In an earlier version of this post, I incorrectly credited Stephanie with coming up with the idea for the finale.) With the exception of Poppy, her entire team enthusiastically embraces the idea, although Kelly later worries that the move could backfire. After Kelly and Poppy go shopping for their models, the fashion show rehearsal goes without a hitch, except for Liza pointing out to Kelly a model with scrapes and scratches on his legs should not be modeling in shorts. Kelly ignores Liza’s suggestion that a different model wear that outfit.
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