- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

In Season 3’s Final Three episode, we learn that for picking people, there is still no goofy game, calamitous contest or silly sport quite as revealing as an interview. The three remaining Apprentices, Kendra the collegiate and Tana and Craig the street-smarties, all ran the grilling gauntlet with 4 top executives: David Brandon, Chairman & CEO of pizza giant Domino’s, QVC President Darlene Daggett, Prudential Real Estate Chairman Howard Lorber, and Burger King Chairman & CEO Greg Brenneman.

Craig’s interview performance was rumbling, bumbling, stumbling, and crumbling. To the inquisitors, Kendra came off as a young, aggressive whippersnapper whose answers sounded scripted, but whose rough edges could be smoothed. Tellingly, real estate agent Kendra’s biggest champion was Prudential realtor Howard Lorber, who said Kendra was a potential superstar. As for Tana, the Burger King boss questioned whether she could become a leader while the QVC head praised her entrepreneurial skills. Others called her solid and honest.

Then there was Craig. Whether the question was “were you flying under the radar?” or “tell me about your leadership style?” Craig got tragically tongue-tied. While his brilliant smile initially impressed, this hard-boiled bunch found Craig’s answers horrifyingly substance-free. Craig failed to make the grade and the shoeshine owner who had beaten 15 others to reach the next-to-final contest, heard Trump say “You’re fired!”

Right away, Trump addressed “the task of all tasks” that will decide a winner between book-smart Kendra and street-smart Tana. The two would manage separate media events, with the winner being the better manager. Kendra drew the Best Buy Video Game Championship and Tana got the NYC-2012 Athlete Challenge at the Chelsea Piers to promote NYC’s Olympic bid.

The events themselves are challenge enough. But then Trump saddled each of them with 3 of their most difficult-to-manage former Apprentices. Tana got former Street Smarties bad-boy Brian, anger management victim Chris and foul-mouthed Kristen. Kendra was handed mood-swinger Michael, song-and-dance man Danny, and Erin, the beauty-contest-winning lawyer. Tana futilely asked Trump’s henchman George if she could trade members. George said no, adding that the challenge is to succeed despite degrees of incompetence.

The ineptitude appeared quickly. Kendra’s pre-event meeting with her Best Buy sponsors was nearly blown by dim-witted Danny until Kendra arrived to take charge. Tana’s team was effectively halved when Chris and Kristen, the clueless twosome, failed to find parking in Manhattan making them AWOL for the client meeting..

Episode 16 Turning Points

While the challenge outcome must wait until next week’s one-hour finale, Tana’s event seems manageable, assuming she can avoid being derailed by her squad’s incompetence. Upon hearing her slate of co-workers, Tana immediately announced her willingness to terminate terrible teammates. She knows that the final round is an individual sport—since they have already been fired, her new and former street-smarties have no vested interest in her victory.

Of the two challenges, Kendra’s appears the most daunting. For one thing, her 3 squad members are certainly one dream short of a dream team. In addition, while Tana has one very needy sponsor, NYC 2012, Kendra has two, video gaming giants EA Sports and Sony’s Playstation2. And worse yet, her event facility, the quirky Webster Hall in NYC, puts EA’s event on the main floor, and Sony’s in a gruesome basement location so dreary that the Sony executive has threatened cancellation.

Lessons Learned

LESSON ONE

Bosses must fire at will. Being boss means holding the ultimate responsibility for success, and for cutting out cancers. With her lame-brained employees Chris and Kristen, to win, Tana will almost surely have to act on her self-stated fire-at-will policy. Kendra was able to rescue her client from demise at Danny’s daffy hands, but she too may need to whack a member or two.

LESSON TWO

Depth matters. Craig’s shallow performance in the interviews is a reminder for all Trumpologists that a leader needs lots of clubs in the bag. Craig’s smile got their attention but his lack of focus, clarity and ability to communicate why he should hired cost him the real money shot.

LESSON THREE

Use disgruntled employees as doers, not as thinkers. As evidenced by Danny’s dumb-headed presentation to Best Buy and Kristen’s outburst-while parking in NYC “I don’t care who wins or loses. My %&! is no longer on the line,” returning former employees who were previously fired should not be asked to think, create or develop…just to follow orders.

Next week, the finale. And only one thing is certain: Season 3’s Apprentice will be the first-ever female. Stay tuned.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles and careers. Email your questions and comments to trumponomics@aol.com.

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