The Apprentice 4: Why Chris Lostby David Bloomberg -- 10/06/2005
Chris seemed like a natural to lead the men to victory in the second challenge of the fourth Apprentice. The challenge involved creating an ad campaign and Chris works in advertising. The challenge involved Lamborghinis, and men love their sports cars – just ask Excel. So he should have led them to victory. Instead, he led them to defeat and then led a charge right out the door. What happened? How did he get fired before crazy Markus? Why did Chris lose?
The answers lie within the pages (or, since you’re likely reading this online, the electrons) of What ‘Apprentice 4’ and ‘Martha Stewart Apprentice’ Applicants Should Have Learned. So let’s see what we can find.
The first rule, as always, is to show leadership. In general, Chris was a good leader. He knew the team had to meet with the client; he knew how to delegate tasks; he knew that some of his team members were more able to do complex jobs than others; he did his best to keep tabs on crazy Markus.
But Chris also let his fellow players have a fair amount of freedom. He put Mark in charge of the print ad campaign and from what we saw, never once asked him to justify his decisions. As Chris would later say in the Boardroom, he agreed with Chris and therefore, “his mistake is my mistake.” This is a good quality in a manager in the real world – you shouldn’t sell out your employees just to keep the heat off you, you should take the blame and then go kick their asses if they need it. But The Apprentice is not the real world (that’s a totally different show on MTV – sorry, bad joke), and in the Boardroom you sometimes have to sell out your coworkers if you want to advance.
Indeed, Chris tried to sell out Markus – and, frankly, he probably deserved it. Unfortunately, Chris did a very poor job of explaining why he was trying to get rid of Markus. He tried to explain that he had to babysit Markus, but all that came out was an admittance of “marginalizing” him. Well, yeah, he did marginalize Markus – but that’s what Markus needed! How else do you handle a guy who is specifically told by the Project Manager not to bring something up in front of the client, and then who does exactly that? If he worked for me (again, in the real world), there would have been a serious ass-whoopin’ after that meeting was over!
Poor leadership was not the reason Chris lost, but a poor explanation of why he did certain things as the leader may have contributed.
The second rule advises contestants to stay cool under fire. From what we saw, Chris had no problem here during the task. When things weren’t going his way (for example, the aforementioned issues with Markus), he dealt with them. In the Boardroom, Chris didn’t exactly collapse under pressure either. However, as I just discussed, he did get a bit flustered and unable to fully explain his reasoning for how he treated Markus.
Third is to have a backbone. This didn’t really come into play during the task, as Chris wasn’t fighting against his team – just one member. In the Boardroom, Chris definitely showed that he had a backbone by standing up for who he believed should go in with him. Unfortunately, that was the wrong time to make a stand.
The fourth rule tells players that scheming and plotting doesn’t usually work. Guess what? Chris plotted with Josh (at least – possibly others as well) to take Markus. OK, so it wasn’t much of a surprise, but by making such plans, Chris closed himself off to other, better ideas. We’ll discuss this a couple, but it is important enough that it needs to be said at least twice. Chris tried to get everybody to point the finger at Markus – and almost everybody did. But this isn’t Survivor, so a voting majority doesn’t matter. Trump didn’t buy it.
The fifth rule says to play well with others but to stay professional – and looks at both positive and negative emotions. Chris did well in keeping his negative feelings about Markus mostly hidden during the task. Like I said, if an employee had done to me in a meeting what Markus did to Chris, he’d have faced a seriously angry manager. But Chris kept that in check.
The positive side, however, caused him a problem. In particular, Chris decided that he would not take any of his pals into the Boardroom with him – he would only take Markus. This was in direct contradiction to what Trump & Co. had indicated he should do, and everybody knew it. Carolyn knew the decision was personal. Trump said it was emotional.
Sixth is to focus on the long-term. I think Chris really tried to do this, but he went about it the wrong way. Getting rid of Markus is indeed the best thing for the team, long-term. But Markus was not really the reason they lost this week. Chris could have walked away from this one as the loser of the challenge, but living to fight another day. However, as we’ve discussed, that’s not the way he chose to go.
Part of the reason, I think, was that Chris didn’t follow the seventh rule – understand the challenge. This particular task tested their creativity. Carolyn even pointed out in the Boardroom that a lack of creativity is the reason they lost. They were so busy patting themselves on the back that when Markus – not exactly a team player – spoke up with questions and concerns, they shot him down or ignored him completely.
As an ad guy, Chris should know that ads need to speak for themselves. Yet he had to explain everything. Like a joke, if an ad needs to be explained, you’ve missed your mark. And Chris missed the point.
The eighth rule addresses creativity specifically, and also notes that people should not go overboard. By putting in all the extra symbolism that meant nothing without explanation (such as the water), the men went overboard.
Ninth is an admonishment to applicants that they can’t be one-dimensional. Ironically, Chris, the ad guy, lost the ad challenge. So that doesn’t speak very well even for his chosen profession. But moving beyond that, Chris did not show that he could necessarily show versatility. As already mentioned, he failed to explain his leadership decisions and he was not particularly creative. Put it all together and it doesn’t not add up to a multidimensional candidate.
Finally we have the rule that says to use common sense – which Chris utterly failed. Part of this rule specifically addresses what to do in the Boardroom: “you should use common sense when you are the Project Manager deciding who to bring with you into the Boardroom.” It continues, “Project Managers and others need to listen to Trump … during the first phase of the Boardroom and pay attention to what he says about people. Several times, Trump gave big hints that he wasn’t happy with certain people, but the Project Managers failed to pick up on these.”
It’s like that was written directly for Chris. I don’t know how Trump could have made himself clearer – he did not want Markus to be brought back. Chris ignored him. He did want Mark to be brought back. Chris ignored that as well. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Chris’ team lost because of a lack of creativity and an excess of overconfidence. But Chris tried to blame that loss on the one person who wasn’t busy patting himself and everybody else on the back. Is Markus going to win? Hell no. Is Markus a disaster? Hell yes. But did Markus cause his team to lose? Nope.
So Chris made a poor decision by bringing Markus – and only Markus – into the Boardroom. We have seen before that Trump judges potential apprentices not only by how they act during challenges, but by whether they make proper decisions in the Boardroom as well. Chris made mistakes during the task, but his biggest and most defining error was in ignoring Trump, Carolyn, and George when they practically told him who to nominate for firing. Chris tried to save his pals and eliminate the crazy man, but instead he ended up sealing his own fate. That is why Chris lost.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other Apprentice 4 Episode 2 articles:
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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