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The Apprentice: Martha Stewart – Why Jennifer Lostby David Bloomberg -- 10/24/2005
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Jennifer’s first trip to the Conference Room was also her last, while Jim survived once again. How did the guy who almost got thrown out of the store during their challenge manage not to get thrown off the show by Martha Stewart? Why did Jennifer pay the price for Jim’s behavior? Why did Jennifer lose?
It was so obvious to Martha that either Jim or Jennifer needed to go that she didn’t even give Jennifer the opportunity to bring somebody else in. The same should have been true to anybody watching. But it wasn’t so clear who deserved most of the blame. Thus, we will look back at What ‘Apprentice 4’ and ‘Martha Stewart Apprentice’ Applicants Should Have Learned to see if we can answer those questions.
The first rule says applicants should show leadership. While Jim has not stepped up to be a project manager, Jennifer had – and blew it. She should have been afforded some level of leeway since she volunteered to lead a new team, much as Leslie was when she jumped to Matchstick. However, Leslie at least tried to manage, and had been given a losing team. We didn’t see Jennifer doing much in the way of management – other than managing where the bottles of salad dressing went on the table – and she got to pick her own team!
The overall opinions of those on the team – not to mention Martha, Alexis, and Charles – was that Jim is crazy and difficult to control, but Jennifer didn’t even try. For this, we can only fault Jennifer’s leadership abilities.
Let me tell you about a situation at my own job. I occasionally attend meetings with a group of employees who work outside my area. Every time I got to these meetings, I am astounded at the lack of respect shown. During the meeting, these employees read the paper or novels, put their heads down and nap, or tap out songs on the table – all while the rest of the meeting is going on around them. This occurs even when their own supervisors are talking, imparting what is supposed to be important information.
Do I blame these employees for behaving this way? Somewhat. But much more of the blame falls on their managers, who sit there and allow such behavior to continue. Without strong leadership, this behavior will not change. Similarly, without any leadership from Jennifer, there was no reason for Jim to change his unacceptable behavior.
Jennifer failed to follow the part of this rule that specifically says, “When you are the Project Manager, by all means be the manager. Don’t let other strong personalities overwhelm you.” Another part notes, “What is worse than walking into the Boardroom after having lost? Walking into the Boardroom and saying, ‘Yes, we lost, but it wasn’t my fault because I had no control over my team’ or making some other similar excuse.”
Jennifer both was overwhelmed by Jim and feared his behavior rather than controlling it. If she believed he would overreact and cause a scene, there were much better ways to handle it other than ignoring it. She could have taken him aside, brought him to a non-public area of the store, or even brought him outside altogether. She did none of these things, apparently hoping he would just stop on his own.
I think we’ve made it quite clear that Jennifer completely ignored the first rule, so let’s move on. The second rule says to stay cool under fire. At first we might think that Jennifer didn’t have a particular problem here because she definitely remained calm – too calm. She should have gotten rather angry at Jim. But really, she did fail here because her failure to act was based upon her fear. She was under pressure and was afraid to do what needed to be done. In other words, she buckled.
This also plays into the third rule, which says to have a backbone. It seems simple enough to note that anybody with a backbone would have stood up to Jim and told him to cut it out. Jennifer did nothing.
The fourth rule says that scheming and plotting usually doesn’t work. Jim might be seen as an exception to this, since he is definitely playing this as a game rather than a job interview. But once again, that isn’t really why Jim was saved. Indeed, he angered at least one of his teammates by trying to “warn” him and tell him what to do. Jim stuck around despite repeatedly breaking this rule, which only emphasizes how bad Jennifer’s rule violations were.
Another place where Jennifer did better than Jim – but it didn’t really matter – was the fifth rule, playing well with others. To put it mildly, Jim didn’t. Jennifer was fine in that regard. Once again, this serves merely to underscore how poorly she did in other aspects.
The sixth rule says to focus on the long-term. We already know Jim doesn’t understand this rule and it will inevitably lead to his downfall – but we’ll save that for a later “Why Jim Lost.” I think Jennifer also suffered here, simply focusing on hoping they would win the task rather than on doing what was necessary to prove herself a good potential apprentice. If they had won the challenge, perhaps her ineffectual leadership would not have come under as much scrutiny – though certainly it might have been brought up at a later date. So she ignored the problem and hoped it would go away. She would have been better served to deal with Jim, even if that meant he exploded, as she feared. At least that way she would have shown that she could do what was necessary to lead.
Seventh is to understand the challenge. This should not have been a tough call here – the challenge was to make more money. Primarius was smart in pricing the salad dressing 50 cents higher than Matchstick – as Martha Stewart noted, it was in the same range and likely not a big factor in their loss. However, I don’t know that Jennifer actually had any part of that decision. Indeed, I’m not sure Jennifer played a real role in any of Primarius’ decisions!
Anyway, the big difference here was in sales. Jennifer had a person on her team who was causing trouble during the sales pitch, Jim (in case that wasn't already obvious). As we’ve already discussed in great detail, she did nothing to stop him.
The eighth rule says to be creative, but not insane. Jim is insane. Again, we’ll get to that another day. Jennifer, though, showed no particular affinity for creativity. She did not create the salad dressing. She did not create the artwork. She did not create a sales or marketing plan. She did not do, well, much of anything.
This also plays into the ninth rule, which says applicants cannot be only one-dimensional. If Jennifer has even one dimension, I’m afraid we didn’t really see it.
Finally, we arrive at the rule that says to use common sense. As you might have guessed, Jennifer blew this one as well – for many of the same reasons already discussed. Does a person really have to be a great leader to know that Jim shouldn’t have been allowed to continue his sales pitch? No. A person just needs a tiny bit of common sense. Jennifer didn’t even have that.
Was it surprising at first that Jim wasn’t sent home? Yes. But a bit of examination shows why Jennifer was truly the correct choice. Charles noted that Jim is a nut, but he was not properly controlled. That about sums it up. Jennifer was useless as a leader. She was afraid of her own employee and didn’t even attempt to control him. She lacked backbone and common sense as well. Martha Stewart is looking for an apprentice who can lead. Jennifer couldn’t even deal with one bad apple. That is why Jennifer lost.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Apprentice: Martha Stewart Episode 5 recap:
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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