Sunday, March 04, 2007

Thoughts on the Apprentice: LA, Episode 7

This week's task was to create a promotional event for the new Lexus LS460. Kinetic, under the leadership of Jenn, lost the challenge. Their event focused on gimmicks including a magician and go-cart racing. Arrow, again led by Surya, got the win by focusing on the luxury experience of the Lexus brand and directly showing off the features of the car, including its ability to parallel park itself. People were impressed, and rated Arrow's event very highly.
Lesson 1: Avoid gimmicks and sell to your product's strengths.

One notable failing point for Kinetic was their attempt to create banners. Creating banners turned out to be of very small value to the event. Both Angela and Derek spent time coming up with the banners. Angela was indecisive and asked Derek for advice. Derek actively decided to let Angela flounder even at the expense of missing their deadline and doing a good job. Angela did a poor job. Derek should be ashamed of his approach.
Lesson 2: Never decide to allow your team to fail.

Jenn led the Kinetic presentation, but did a terrible job. She lost her place and blamed glare on her presentation screen for her errors. The real problem was that she wasn't prepared to present and didn't know her material well enough. She was flipping through a stack of papers to figure out what to say next. Additionally, with better preparation she might have known that there was a glare problem on the screen.
Lesson 3: When presenting, know your material cold - don't use notes.
Lesson 4: Dry-run important presentations to make sure your technology works as you expect.

In the boardroom, Derek jokingly called himself "white trash" and Trump fired him for the insensitive, wise comment. It seemed like Trump overreacted; as if the comment struck a particular nerve in him. Derek needed to go anyway. Nevertheless, there is no room for joking in an important meeting beyond what you know works with your audience. And I've noticed that self-depreciating humor always seems to fall flat.
Lesson 5: Keep your jokes in business to what you know works with your audience.
Lesson 6: Avoid self-deprecating humor.

Trump continued on to fire Jenn based on her past history and her decision to use go-carts in a Lexus event. This was a good decision. Jenn is a gracious person, going as far as trying to save another team member by suggesting that Derek's firing should be sufficient. She didn't badmouth her team or snipe that she was fired. She showed class, but ultimately was the right person to fire this week.
Lesson 7: Show grace and class in the worst situations.

I need to make two points about Arrow. First, Tim and Nicole's relationship is starting to get negative comments from their teammates. James noted that their "relationship is making them soft." Second, the whole team has started to make a silent coup against Surya. They have started to drive success on their own while denigrating Surya's leadership. The team will see their victory as proof that they were right to work around Surya. I don't think Surya is doing a poor job. I think he is just socially awkward. He lacks comfort, perhaps charisma as a leader. I've seen it before where a leader is so eager to drive the team forward that they loose the respect of the team. I can't see any recovery for him now.
Lesson 8: Skip the romantic relationships with coworkers.
Lesson 9: Don't appear overly eager for progress, your team will mock your naiveté.

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