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Lessons From the Apprentice (5.7)

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The Candidates

Synergy: Allie, Andrea, Brent, Michael, Pepi, Roxanne, Sean, Stacy, Tammy

Gold Rush: Bryce, Charmaine, Dan, Lee, Lenny, Leslie, Summer, Tarek, Theresa

The Task:

Working with Ace Hardware and Boys and Girls Club of America the teams were to renovate a room in a Boys and Girls Club location. They will be judged on creativity, functionality and appeal as determined by the executives.

Synergy: Michael leads Synergy and immediately starts firing off questions to the executives when they meet. The team is able to get specific information as to what Ace and B&G Club are looking for. But just as the meeting seems to be at a wrap and the execs stand up to leave, Michael overwhelms them with more questions forcing the execs back into their chairs as he prattles on for a while longer.

After the meeting, the team decides a multi-lateral approach, creating a room with four distinct areas: TV, gaming, a girl’s area, and a music area. But instead of moving forward with the plan, Michael can’t seem overwhelmed with minor decisions to be made, keeping the team from getting to Ace and then to work for several more hours as they hammer through the small stuff. This puts the team at a disadvantage having lost a considerable amount of time.

Upon arrival at Ace Hardware they barely enough time to shop before the store closes. Michael is further incapacitated, stuck on trying to decide on paint colors. Unable to make a decision he calls the team to get their opinion… even though he’s with two of his own team members at the time. This brings the team to hysterical tears as they cannot understand why Michael is incapable of making these decisions on his own.

Having met with the execs at 11 AM, Synergy was just getting to work on the renovations by Midnight!

Gold Rush: Lenny steps up as PM for Gold Rush and starts throwing ideas around the table for their project. His ideas are to create a room for dance, art or music. The team all decide to go with music theme for the renovation.

The teams are to meet with the executives to get their ideas and vision for the project. The concept of probing the execs seems lost on Lenny. As they meet, there are considerable awkward silences as Lenny has no questions prepared to ask and seems incapable of coming up with any on the fly. When one exec asks the team, “What do you want to know?” Lenny has no response. Charmaine jumps in to get the conversation started.

After the meeting the team gets to Ace, purchase their supplies and begin their renovations. Lenny and Lee leave the team to do the major work while they head out to purchase music equipment, getting lost in the process. Now it’s Gold Rush that is in panic mode, trying to get the final touches together minutes before the execs arrive to check it out.

Upon their arrival, Lenny stumbles through his presentation leaving the execs less than impressed.

What I Might Have Done:

While Synergy did the right thing by going with four distinct themes, I think they could have also done well with a sports/gymnastics theme. Kids love sports, and if the room size allowed, they could have added a portable basketball hoop and some gymnastic equipment as well. But in all, their plan was less risk adverse in the safety department.

The result:

The execs chose Synergy’s multi-faceted room over Gold Rush’s single-theme approach. They believed that having more things to do will keep kids entertained longer than a room used only for music. The execs also liked the fact that Synergy’s room allowed for more group interaction where the music room really forced kids to play individually.

While most of Gold Rush was confident Lenny would be the one to get fired, Lenny’s new friend Lee (despite having brought him in the boardroom on the previous task,) coaches Lenny on how to save his own butt. Lenny tells Lee that he’ll bring Lee into the boardroom as his safety net.

The Boardroom:

Asked by Trump, Charmaine charges that Lenny was an ineffective leader. Lenny tries to blame Charmaine for being hard to manage and always questioning him as PM. Trump, Carolyn and Bill all jump on Lenny for going with expensive equipment (hard to replace when it breaks), choosing a poor theme, and not being prepared for the execs either in their initial meeting or with the presentation. Lee comes close to Apprentice suicide by defending an Lenny despite his obvious failure.

Everyone but Lee said that Lenny should be fired. Lenny chose Charmaine and Lee to return to the boardroom, with Lee’s blessing on that choice. While Lenny remained confident in his leadership ability, the fact that he had to bring in an advocate instead of someone with the plausibility of actually getting fired shows his own ineffectiveness at making good business decisions.

Lenny never had the opportunity to bring anyone back as Trump went ahead and fired him on the spot. I’m actually surprised that he also didn’t fire Lee at the same time for his own pour judgment in backing Lenny so fiercely, even to the point of agreeing to be brought in the board room to defend Lenny. I’ve seen Trump fire people for far less.

On the way out Trump commended Lee for his loyalty. Personally, I think Lee showed an incredible amount of bad judgment by standing by Lenny. There is nothing wrong with sticking by your friends, but it’s obvious that Lee is willing to let personal feelings of friendship overrule professional business decisions. Friendships can be an excellent advantage in business, but it should not make one blind to the obvious.

On the way out, Lenny stoops about as low as any person can go by refusing to say goodbye to Charmaine. He feels betrayed by her because she had the gall to stand up to him and say what she believed about his leadership. Lenny seems to think that he should be allowed to criticize others without receiving any criticism of his own. Lenny is truly the worst of the worst when it comes to leadership.

Apprentice 5.7

Lessons Learned:

  • Be prepared. If you have a meeting with the big wigs, come prepared with the questions you need answered. If you can’t think of any questions on your own, ask your team to brainstorm with you.
  • Decide already! Don’t sweat the small details, and certainly don’t let them hold you back. If you need input from your team, get it quick, make a decision and move on.
  • Keep personal and business separate. Building friendships in business can often lead to bad business decision. If your friendship is strong enough you should be able to make the right business decision even when it goes against your friend. When in business, business must come first.
  • Know who deserves the blame and who doesn’t. While I think you can get far in this “game” by sticking by the PM, you can only do so to a point before you lose all credibility.

What would you have done?

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