The Apprentice 2: Why Wes Lostby David Bloomberg -- 11/22/2004
Wes was the Project Manager twice. Wes’ team lost both times. This is not a good path to working for Donald Trump. Still, Wes thought – if only for a moment – that he was okay. He heard Trump fire Maria. That should have been the end of it, followed by an article on Why Maria Lost… but it wasn’t. Then came the follow-up, and Wes was fired too. What had happened? One wasn’t enough? What did Wes do so poorly that Trump had to pull a double-firing? Why did Wes lose?
You know the basics. We find out the answers to these questions by looking back at What ‘Apprentice 2’ Applicants Should Have Learned and taking a step-by-step approach. Let’s see where Wes went wrong.
The first rule is a quick step in the right direction for us – and was just as quickly in the wrong direction for Wes. As already noted, Wes led twice and lost twice. An 0-2 record is not really what Donald Trump is looking for in a leader.
The first time was in the dog-wash challenge. Sandy and Kelly washed. Maria strutted around in completely inappropriate clothing. Stacy tried to convince the group to put dogs in costumes. And Wes… Wes… Um. Well, okay, I’m not really sure that Wes did anything other than saying “no” to Stacy’s idea.
Back when I wrote Why Stacy Lost, I noted that I thought it was unfair to blame Stacy for the loss and fire her. Who should have been held responsible? Wes. As I noted at the time, Stacy at least brought an idea for diversification – Wes blew it off. Yet the reason the other team won was that they diversified! And other than shooting down Stacy, he did pretty much nothing the entire time. That was how he led.
The second time around, what did he do? Well, let’s see. He let Maria immediately take over and run the show. He made feeble attempts to exert control over her but stopped when she rebuffed him. He let her run roughshod not just over him, but over other team members as well! When two of his team fought for 20 minutes, he did nothing. All in all, he was a big zero of a leader.
OK, so that’s one rather large strike against him. Let’s move on to the second rule, staying cool under fire. I have to say, Wes did a fine job of this. But then, I’m not quite sure Wes has emotions or even a nervous system. He always seemed to have the same blah look on his face. I mean, how many people would take it when Maria – an underling, no less – stuck her finger in their face and yelled at them? Yet Wes did. Yes, he was cool under pressure, but that’s because he was cool – nay, dead cold – all the time.
Since he didn’t appear to have a nervous system, what about a spine? That’s a big nope as well. As we’ve already noted, he let Maria walk all over him. Ironically, when he should have given one of his employees a bit more leeway – in the dog challenge – that was when he stood up and said no. Or maybe the problem was that Stacy just wasn’t overbearing enough to get past “no.” Maria didn’t care what Wes said, and Wes let her get away with it.
The fourth rule says you can’t be one-dimensional. I’m sure Wes is good at something – I just can’t recall what it might be. But we sure as hell know that leadership ain’t it.
We return to Wes’ handling of Maria in the fifth rule, about being loyal. There is a corollary to the rule that says, “when you have the opportunity, you should surround yourself with the best people. This means people who will be loyal in return, but it also means capable people.” We failed this before the challenge even began when he and the rest of Mosaic sent Kelly over to Apex. Wha?? Why send Kelly instead of Maria? Wes would have been much better off with a better decision, but he failed to keep a good person.
Then, Wes made the same mistake that Kwame made at the end of the first season. When he saw somebody screwing up, he didn’t pull the person out of that situation. For Kwame, it was the returning Omarosa who caused the problem. For Wes, it was Maria. Bill Rancic asked Wes flat-out why he didn’t bench her. Wes’ answer that you don’t get rid of 25% of your work force sounded good but really didn’t explain anything. I say you do get rid of 25% of your workforce if that 25% is causing major problems that may well result in your loss! It’s called “addition by subtraction.” I’ve seen it in action, and it does indeed work.
The sixth rule is to not show your hand before heading into the Boardroom. Maria definitely showed hers – to the point that Wes knew he was being lobbied against. But Wes also said some things to Andy. Maybe he was hoping Andy would side with him, but it certainly didn’t work out that way.
Wes did follow the seventh rule, playing well with others. Well, presuming he ever played. It all comes back to the whole cool/cold discussion we had earlier. He seemed nice enough, but I’m just not sure about all of what was there.
In discussing Maria’s shortcomings (and hooo-boy, were there plenty of those!), I mentioned that she did not think long-term in this challenge. If she had, she would have listened to Wes when he told her to hurry up the photo shoot, and then blamed him if they still lost. Similarly, Wes did not think long-term either. If he had, he would have realized what a poor leader he was being. Even if taking Maria off the project would have meant a definite loss, at least it would have been showing some leadership. It would have shown Trump that Wes could take control of the situation. It could have benefited him in the long run. But now, of course, there is no long run.
Wes also failed in thinking outside the box. We saw it earlier with the dog challenge, when all he could do was concentrate on doggie baths while the other team came up with a variety of ideas. We saw it again this time – he was not in any way, shape, or form the creative force behind the Levi’s campaign. He was pretty much Project Manager in name only, and Maria ran the show (ran it right into the ground, but she still ran it). She did all the thinking during this task, and Wes probably didn’t even know where the box was, let alone how to get out of it.
Finally, we have the all-important rule to use common sense. We’ve already gone over, in earlier discussions, most of what common sense would dictate. Leading doesn’t mean letting somebody else take over. It certainly doesn’t mean letting them mouth off to you and stick their finger in your face. It most definitely doesn’t mean letting one employee kick another employee out of the room and then having a 20-minute fight ensue.
Beyond that, having common sense also means you don’t walk into a presentation for Levi’s if you’re not wearing Levi’s. Andy understood this and suggested that they either go for formal with suits or go with Levi’s. Wes apparently didn’t think it important and blew off Andy. Alas, the Levi’s judges did think it was important. Another stellar decision there, Wes.
Mind you, that may have been one of the few decisions Wes actually made as a Project Manager. Another was turning down Stacy’s idea for diversification the first time he was Project Manager. Hmmm, I see a pattern – and not a good one. But managers make wrong decisions all the time. What really killed Wes was his complete and total inability to lead. He allowed strong personalities to walk all over him. The strongest of them, Maria, led them straight to defeat. Since Wes had been unable or unwilling to actually do something about her, she led him straight to defeat as well. That is why Wes lost.
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David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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