The Apprentice 5: Why Dan Lostby David Bloomberg -- 03/28/2006
This week’s firing could have gone one of two ways: Dan or Tarek. Trump, however, seemed to think it should have been Lenny. Was that really enough of a reason to fire Dan instead of perpetual screw-up Tarek? Was there something more? Was Trump right or wrong? Why did Dan lose?
Usually in this column, I don’t question whether Trump was correct in who he fired, we just go through What ‘Apprentice 5’ Applicants Should Have Learned to see why it happened. In this case, though, I think Trump had at least one bad reason for firing Dan – though we will soon see that there were plenty of good ones.
The first rule gives us the first good reason to fire Dan – he failed to show very good leadership. Early in the task, Dan was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. Yes, they only had three hours. Fine. Then take a few minutes to make sure everything is laid out right and go from there – don’t just start randomly throwing around orders without time to think. That kind of “leadership” just makes people shake their heads in dismay.
Another good idea might have been to perhaps actually use the people on the team instead of just taking over everything himself. Dan had Leslie, whose background is in broadcast journalism. Yet from what we saw, he assigned her… nothing. We didn’t actually see her step up and tell him she wanted to do more, but we did see several people back her up when she talked about it in the Boardroom and Dan denied it. I think she came off as the winner of that debating point. Also, she wasn’t the only one underutilized. When there is minimal time, it is more important that everybody should be doing something productive. As another example, if Dan felt all Lee did was talk to Bill and Carolyn, perhaps he should have assigned something to Lee.
If we look up two paragraphs, we can already see that Dan also messed up the second rule, staying cool under fire. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off is not cool. ‘Nuff said.
The third rule says to have a backbone. Dan had a backbone, but not at the right time. He initially didn’t seem thrilled with Lenny’s idea, but decided to go with it when everybody else appeared to like it. Then, when Lenny told Tarek his idea of not using a voiceover sucked and Tarek got mad, Dan essentially just gave in to what Tarek wanted.
The only real time we saw Dan use his spine was when Trump suggested he bring Lenny into the final Boardroom and then chastised him for not doing so. Dan stuck up for Lenny, saying it may have been Lenny’s idea but the group agreed on it, so Lenny didn’t deserve to be there. Frankly, Dan was 100% correct, but that was not really the right time to suddenly grow a backbone (we’ll discuss that more in the tenth rule).
It’s unclear just how well Dan did on the fourth rule, which says scheming and plotting don’t usually work. On the one hand, Tarek told Dan he’d have his back. On the other hand, Tarek told Dan he had no friends in the Boardroom. On the third hand, Dan said he wasn’t going to bring Lenny into the final Boardroom in part because Lenny and Lee would gang up on him. On the fourth hand, he later said that wasn’t the reason. Let’s give this one a big question mark and move on, because there are plenty of other reasons anyway.
The fifth rule tells contestants to play well with others. There were certainly issues related to this over at the other team (hello, Andrea), but Dan seemed to get along fine with people. If Tarek had been fired, as I expected (I was already writing “Why Tarek Lost” in my mind), it would have been an issue. But here, not really.
What about the sixth rule, focusing on the long-term. Well, Dan gets a mixed review here. During the task itself, he needed to worry less about the specific success of this particular task and more about himself as a leader and how he would appear to Trump & Co. He was so focused on the task that, as already discussed, he went a bit helter-skelter. Trump wants somebody who, in the long-term, can deal with pressure. Dan didn’t show that.
However, Dan did show some moral fortitude by sticking up for Lenny even when Trump said he shouldn’t have. Mind you, he was punished rather than rewarded for this, but what can you do.
The seventh rule tells players to understand the challenge. Here is where Dan – and the entire Gold Rush team – had a bit of a problem. Synergy understood that the point was to show how Norwegian Cruise Line differed from other cruises. Gold Rush just wanted to show off how many cool things a person could do.
I didn't like Gold Rush’s idea from the get-go. No, not for Trump's reason (that people would associate a castaway with problems at sea), but because of course a castaway rescued from a raft would find anything to be great. It was much better to compare a standard cruise with their cruise, which was the whole point. Synergy compared apples to apples, showing why one was better than the other. Gold Rush failed to do that, and Dan was the leader who took them down that wrong path.
The eighth rule tells applicants to be creative, but not insane. The castaway idea was creative. It could have still won if Synergy had screwed up. But the all-text idea, while not quite insane, was a pretty bad one. The fact is that most people these days don’t just sit and stare at the TV when a commercial is on. So without a voiceover, anybody who didn’t would be lost. Beyond that, though, the ad was described by the executives as confusing. While they didn’t specifically link the lack of voiceover to the confusion, I'm certain it helped because without Dan's introduction, which he gave to the executives, there is no way anybody would know that the castaway was supposed to represent a person being stuck in everyday life or whatever nonsense he was piling on. The commercial simply didn’t provide that information.
Ninth is to not be one-dimensional. Dan tried to be the producer/director/editor/writer/etc. for the commercial. What he left out, though, was leader. Trump isn’t looking for the best commercial producer. Yes, that was the task at hand, but it’s not what The Apprentice will do when s/he wins. Trump needs somebody who can do the work and lead others. Dan failed to show he was that person.
Now we come to the key reason Trump apparently fired Dan, which I think was the worst reason for Trump to have fired Dan. The tenth rule says players need to use common sense. Part of that common sense specifically described in the rule is that “Project managers … 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.” That describes what happened with Dan and Lenny perfectly.
Trump obviously wanted Lenny brought back, but Dan refused. It was somewhat admirable that Dan stood up to Trump and told the truth rather than just trying to pin it on Lenny, but the problem is that Trump doesn't want to be stood up to – he wants to be kissed up to. If Dan wanted to win, he needed to put aside his sense of what was right and wrong and simply do what Trump hinted at.
So there were numerous good reasons to fire Dan. I believe Trump considered several of these in his decision, and some were even mentioned after the firing had occurred. Unfortunately, it came off as if Trump was only concerned about the fact that Dan had failed to bring Lenny into the Boardroom with him. This is ridiculous, because Lenny just threw out an idea that everybody latched onto. Good or bad, it was the team decision. A person should not be penalized for making suggestions. Later, Lenny was the one who said they should use voiceover, but was shot down. That was not a team decision, and Tarek should have paid for it.
But neither Tarek nor Lenny was fired. Dan made a mess of things from the very beginning, failing to maintain his cool, failing to lead properly, failing to use his people well. He topped it all off by failing to take Trump’s significant hints about who should have been in the Boardroom. That is why Dan lost.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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