Apprentice Week 05: Listen to Trump

The Apprentice episode that aired on 2006-03-27 got some early press last summer. Remember the ship that sailed through a storm, only to take damage from a freak 70 foot wave? That ship was slated to appear on the Apprentice. The ship in this episode must have been a last minute substitute. That would also explain the extremely tight time frame the contestants had, and the frazzled look on the Norwegian Cruise Line officials.

For some background on the storm, visit the Seattle Times or CNN. Or any of the other sites Google serves up.

My favorite lines from this show were when Trump was touring the cruise liner, he asked the Captain, "How many propellers does this thing have?" The Captain explained that it had two. "Two propellers? Wow. They must be big," responded Trump.

I now take notes while I watch the Apprentice. Why? So I can write articles like this.

Before I go any further, beware of spoilers below.


Lessons Learned This Week

  1. Listen to Trump. If you don't, he will fire you.
  2. Keep your message simple. If you have to explain a commercial you made, it's probably not very good.
  3. Delegate tasks. If you're busy, and your team isn't doing anything, then something is wrong.

The Task

This week's task was to create a 30-second commercial for Norwegian Cruise Lines and freestyle cruising. The final commercials are on the Yahoo! Site. When Trump describes the task, he tells the teams that the "most original" ad will win. That, however, appears to contradict the actual task descriptions.

Synergy won. Gold Rush lost. Trump fired Dan, the Gold Rush project manager.

Team Synergy

Synergy came up with a solid ad, but there is trouble on the horizon. Roxanne, the Project Manager, seemed to be in a bit over her head and clashed with Andrea. This clash started the previous week in the boardroom, carried over into the suite, and spilled over on the ship.

The camera film crew for the project commercial complained to Roxanne that too many people were giving direction and no one appeared to be in charge. There needed to be "one voice", but there wasn't.

Synergy seemed to struggle with their organization. Roxanne tried to lead, but didn't seem to have the strength for it. At one point, she ranted at her team about how she supported all the previous PMs, and they weren't doing the same for her. She complained they didn't respect her. That outburst may not have helped her much.

There is some truth to her accusations, though. While they were shooting some footage in a restaurant, Roxanne gave direction to the actors and crew, and they began shooting. Then Roxanne had to take a call, Andrea over road her bosses decision and gave contradictory direction to the talent, something that was completely unacceptable.

They got off to a rough start. It seemed like Roxanne did not establish her authority and leadership early on. They had a hard deadline of three hours, but Roxanne did not have everything organized tightly at the start. That may be why her team sensed weakness.

I don't expect Andrea to last much longer. In the Chevy episode, she puts Tarek in charge of creative efforts, but then shoots down all his ideas, including his idea to get actual turf for a putting green. That's the same episode where she locked herself in the bathroom after Brent came back from the previous task's boardroom. In the Post Cereal episode, Andrea was in charge of the graphics for the losing banner. In this episode, she wouldn't listen to her project manager. Given this track record, she won't make the final four, and would be lucky to make the final eight.

Team Gold Rush

They lost because their ad started too negatively and was confusing. The executives didn't understand the beginning of the ad so they chose Synergy as the winner.

Gold Rush with Project Manager Dan seemed to be off to a good start. Dan took control delegated tasks in a rapid and intense manner. Team members objected, but he did get the team moving toward an idea quickly. Then he had the team focus on execution. With a time limit of three hours, promptly moving to the execution stage was critical.

The team chose Lenny's idea for the commercial but did not communicate it well. It didn't seem like a terrible idea. They executed fairly well. There were two major flaws in it, however.

First, the concept wasn't clear. The team had to explain it a couple times. When the NCL folks asked them to describe the commercial, they began by saying, "Ours is a metaphor..."

When you have to describe your commercial as a metaphor, that means it failed.

The second major mistake the NCL official, Trump, and Carolyn keyed in on was the lack of voice over. During the editing, Tarek opposed the voiceover, while Lenny favored it. Dan sided with Tarek, and that was his mistake.

Why Trump Fired Dan

If Dan had brought Lenny into the boardroom, he would probably still have a job. Lenny, or more likely, Tarek, would have been fired instead.

Granted, it's a tough choice for Dan. I don't think Lenny should have been fired, but he should have had the opportunity to defend himself. True, the initial concept was Lenny's. It was also the only concept. And the team jumped on the idea.

The team tried to put together the commercial with just images and text on the bottom. Tarek was certain that was the best way. Lenny said they had to include voice over because text was not enough. Tarek shouted him down.

While Lenny's idea wasn't the best, he had better ideas for execution. He tried the fix the very thing that the NCL folks objected to.

Sure, Lenny is tough to deal with, but he was the only one with an idea, and his ideas on execution were right.

Trump fired Dan for the same reason he fired Theresa in week 3. Dan brought the wrong people into the board room. The losing commercial was Lenny's concept, and Trump hated the concept. Trump doesn't care for Lenny. Whe Trump asked Dan who he was bringing into the boardroom, Dan chose Tarek and Lee. Trump asked Dan if he wanted to bring in anyone else. Dan thought about Lenny but said no. Trump checked again, but Dan was sure he did not want to bring Lenny into the board room. As soon as Dan made his choice to not bring Lenny in, he sealed his fate.

Random Thoughts

Parallel Structure

Lack of ideas, lack of punctuation, choosing not to write in parallel structure, and lack of coherence are four things that annoy me about writing.

The text on the Gold Rush ad did not follow a parallel structure.

The text was this:

  1. Freedom
  2. Welcome Anytime
  3. Unwind Anytime
  4. Dine Anytime
  5. Entertainment Anytime
  6. Relax Anytime
  7. Indulge Anytime
  8. Go On Your Own Way Anytime

We can probably ignore items 1 and 2 because of the their introductory nature. 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 begin with verbs. 5, however, is a noun. It shouldn't be.

Yes, I know, it's petty. It's just one of those things that annoy me, however.

Learning Styles

Different learning or communication styles may help explain the debate between Lenny and Tarek. People, for whatever reason, respond differently to ways or presenting information. Tarek may simply not respond to audio cues; Lenny may not respond to visual cues.

One of the interesting things about learning styles, is that people tend to think their personal learning style is how everyone else learns as well. Combine that tendency with the ego required to get on the Apprentice, and it's not surprise that Lenny and Tarek couldn't agree.


If the leader is executing all the tasks, then that person isn't demonstrating leadership. A leader, especially in a busy and hectic environment must assign tasks to team members. It's not the leaders job to do the work; it's the leaders job to get the work done.

Dan relied on his team member at the very beginning, but quickly seemed to take on the operational tasks himself.

There are lots of reasons why this can happen. Perhaps it was ego. Dan may have felt only he could do the job. Perhaps he felt intimidated giving instructions, and was afraid of handling rejection. Perhaps he simply didn't know how.

Delegation, like most aspects of leadership takes practice. You have to be confident that your team will get it done. You have to be comfortable letting go of tasks. You have to be confident enough in your own abilities that you're happy when your team member perform a task better than you might have. You have to learn to delegate, and then you have to actually delegate to learn how to do it.

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