The Apprentice 5 Weekly Performance Review, Episode 13by Brian Towers -- 05/24/2006
For new readers, in this series of articles about The Apprentice, I focus on the business actions of each player and give a brief “performance review” for each applicant each week.
I think I’m on a teeter-totter here… this late in the season, we suddenly have two subjective tasks in a row! Normally, I like to see subjective tasks earlier in the game and then a mix of other tasks in the more significant stages of the game.
But this one was the kind of a subtle task I like to see on the show. What was complex about it? Four unrelated uniforms to design, only a single teammate to act as an aide, and a complex presentation process to arrange that involved folks such as models and designers often thought to be “high-strung.” Finally, the judges weren’t the usual ones (executives) but a crowd of regular Joes.
An aside, sorta off-topic, or not:
In my area, the broadcast of this episode was followed (on a different channel) by an episode of the Brit show, Project Catwalk. For the majority of you unfamiliar with that show, it’s essentially Project Runway, Euro style. The reason I bring that up here is that this week, their brief (translating, that means, “their task”) was to design a maid uniform!
So, what key factors developed on Project Catwalk? Be simple, make something functional and flexible, and allow for the fact that these women are all sizes. Key quote? From one of the maids, “We’re here to do a job, not be sexy.” And you know what? Those folks didn’t “get it,” either!
OK, back to our regularly scheduled program.
Again this week the lads exhibited fine teamwork skills. It seems simplistic to ask the person doing the work what needs to be improved in their environment, and with prompting from the Embassy executives, both teams did it. Regrettably, only Gold Rush was carefully listening to the responses. Lee and Sean exhibited superior communication skills (specifically, showing empathy for their audience and actually listening to the responses), and that was key to their victory.
It’s not exactly clear who uncovered the information that cooks wanted venting in their uniforms and valets needed clothing that accommodates the changing seasons, but these were key facts the other side didn’t grasp.
Lee: I can’t even wait… you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to type this for somebody, anybody… “Lee’s rating is EXCELLENT!” Phew.
Much of the team’s success was due to Sean’s efforts this week, but it was Lee’s turn to lead this week and he didn’t shirk the role. Trust me, one of the best skills a leader can exhibit is to know when to get the heck out of the way and let a competent aide stride forth. As a result, Lee has upped his record as a PM to 3-1.
Mind you, Lee exhibited many positive traits on his own. Although they did talk to the execs, Lee quickly and correctly shifted focus to the right audience, the staff. In those interviews with the Embassy staff he remained approachable and picked up that subtle uniform changes were all that was required.
Basically, he avoided over-engineering the solution. He worked well with all the other parties and kept focus on the objective. Sometimes, simpler is better.
b>Sean: As good as Lee was this week, Sean was even better. He showed us a new side of himself this week – his metrosexuality – and it carried the Gold Rush micro-team to a one-sided victory.
When Gold Rush met with the executives, they learned the importance of branding and company image. Branding didn’t seem to re-emerge in this episode, but understanding and applying the concepts of being stylish yet practical led them to the win. I thought Sean worked well with both the designer and the models. He was clear in conveying what he wanted without being condescending.
Sean definitely earned his EXCELLENT rating! In fact (though there was a dearth of competition), I’d say this was the most effective display of the Apprentice 5 season.
Going into the finale, Sean’s record as a PM is 2-0. Additionally, he has only been brought to the Boardroom once.
When task assignment starts out with Trump giving you a slap on the wrist for questionable behavior in that last Boardroom, is that a good thing? No.
There have been a couple of “fashion” tasks in past seasons, and a female lead has always won. Given that both ladies dress very well, I can only guess their expertise with clothes starts at the hanger?
Where the ladies went wrong was that although they talked to the people who did the work, they seemed more interested in pushing their solutions on them than actually listening to what they heard. It was never more obvious that when they spoke to an obviously intimidated group of maids and told the maids what they thought. Not listening is always going to be fatal in this game.
Let’s talk Boardroom. Both ladies talked over each other continually – was I watching The View? That’s not intelligent debate, that’s just kindergarten. No wonder you left on such good terms, neither of you was listening to the other.
The biggest mystery of the week has to be that 37 Embassy staff members preferred Synergy’s designs better. That’s about a quarter of the total – perhaps Allie was right and the front desk crew really did want skirts after all? It can’t have been the chefs!
Allie: By being single-minded, very self-assured, and irritating others, Allie continued to let her “inner Andrea” come out this week. Even before the opening credits, referring to last week’s Boardroom Allie told Roxanne, “I was totally trying to mediate y’all.” Umm, no, you were shown busting a gut to not get involved. Musta been the editing.
Let me briefly address the topic of Co-PMs. Been there, doesn’t work. It’s not the kind of thing to have Ivanka call you out on, either. Despite all the carnage of inappropriate material and color combinations, there was one good idea buried in Synergy’s design – the culottes. However, in the Boardroom she did not own up to her idea. A maid’s job involves a lot of potentially ungainly bending and reaching, and culottes are a smart and modest alternative to the usual skirt. However, for the same reason, low necklines are not appropriate!
The uniform designs were primarily Allie’s vision. In a cameo she even expressed that she chose style over function. Regrettably, it employed color and material inappropriate for the work to be done. Pre-Boardroom, she said, “We nailed it,” showing that even at that late stage, some of the complexities of the task eluded her. For example, “sexy” for the maids was completely inappropriate. If I saw that look coming down the hallway, I’d either assume she was a time-warped hooker or that she was a maid who kept her plungers in her shoulders!
Contrary to Roxanne’s comments about her being “rude,” I think Allie’s comments to the designer were completely appropriate in both content and nature. The sleeve cuff did look hideous. The designer made mistakes using wrong material and she pointed them out in a professional manner. This was a positive for Allie this week. Well, it could have been, had she’d gotten his name right at the end…
There is another slight amendment to that last paragraph – when Allie gives instructions, she often lapses into a tone somewhat reminiscent of second grade teachers who have just discovered all the erasers are missing. Even if that’s not something Allie can easily control, she needs to be aware how she is perceived.
The rating for Allie is, of course, UNACCEPTABLE, not only for this week’s activities but for sins accumulated in weeks gone by.
Roxanne: As bad as Allie was, Roxanne was in some ways worse. Before the opening credits, Roxanne exhibited bad traits by getting her nose out of joint because she was the one Tammy chose to attack in the Boardroom last week. Funny how that happens when you don’t try too hard to win the task!
This week, Roxanne either agreed or, more often, sat there mute when Allie talked to the designer. Sitting back and refusing to contribute, then claiming in the Boardroom that she did make her feelings known, was simply untrue and unprofessional.
Before going into the Boardroom, Roxanne promised she wouldn’t throw Allie under the bus. Yet it happened, showing inconsistency.
At the top of the game Roxanne was one of my favorite players. No longer! She may not have completely deserved her firing based on this week’s efforts, but she has shown many undesirable traits in the last couple of weeks and her rating must also be… UNACCEPTABLE.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other recent Apprentice articles:
Brian lives in Toronto where he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He spent a couple of decades working in middle management at The Prudential, primarily hiding unsuccessfully behind the coffee machine to avoid his pointy-haired bosses. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email.
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