Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Apprentice--Harlem Graffiti episode--The "Red" Weakness Exploited

This is my first post--devoted to understanding what happened to Tara and the rest on the Apprentice and why. When the episode began, Magma had a losing streak going and were down to 5 team members. Net Worth was on a hot streak. The episode did not cover how each selected their project managers but Alex, an apparent "Blue", was chosen to lead Magma and Tara, a "Red", was chosen to lead Net Worth. Both had their weaknesses exposed but one was able to overcome his by turning to a strength and acting on it.

Tara leaked "Red" from the beginning. Reds like their own ideas and like to take credit for them. Once they have their idea in mind, it is hard for them to take anything in because they think they are right and everyone else does not know as much. This was particularly true with Tara who thought she knew Harlem better than anybody. She even commented at the beginning about how her street smarts about the people and the culture of Harlem makes her the favorite.

Tara formulated the idea even before she met the Playstation executives. She was confident and took in the information about how they wanted to attract the male hip group from 20-34 with the new game. Her focus then became doing something that would not offend the audience's sensitivities--the audience being those who lived in Harlem rather than what would sell the product. That stayed her focus throughout. She was decisive and had the vision. Those are Red strengths. Unfortunately the Red weaknesses proved to be her downfall.

At the beginning Audrey mentioned to her about the current software having all sorts of scenes, not just New York. She did not take it in. She wanted the art to express Harlem changing from mean to something newer and better--epitomized by the brownstone buildings in her graffiti mural. She was convinced she already knew what the people of Harlem wanted but she never checked it out with those living there to see if her idea would motivate them to buy the new product. Tara lost focus of the purposes of her mission--to sell the new game to the Harlem audience.

You hear Tara with enthusiasm state: "My vision right now is . . ." Sony "needs to show respect to the people here." "The last thing Sony needs is something they'll have a problem with." Her focus then became how best not to offend the people of Harlem rather than how best to motivate people in Harlem to buy the product.

Trump's visit and comments even increases her confidence such that when the Playstation executives come to see the mural, Tara uses the first person in taking credit for all that was done. "I did this . . ." I came up with this new slogan--Tear It Up" The slogan was hip jargon but it had nothing to do with the product. It was all about her and not her teammates. Her teammates sensed it but saw how strong she had been in working with them with prior projects so all but Craig wanted to kick off Audrey.

Here is the Red strength turned into a weakness: Her complete confidence in her vision became her Achille's heel because she really did not turn to other input to come up with a better idea. She didn't ask bystanders for their thoughts as to the effect of the vision. It was really interesting that one of the focus group felt that the vision really didn't represent the people of Harlem. Trump emphasized and foreshadowed the whole thing when he indicated at the beginning how important it was to listen. You did not have to go along but you at least needed to find out what you don't know about it.

What you saw was a great illustration of the urge for Reds to reach a decision as soon as possible. They can't dally and wait for all the information to come in. It drives them crazy not to decide and move ahead.

The other Red weakness that helped cause Tara to get fired was the selfishness. When you don't seek the input of your teammates, when you take credit for everything and move boldly ahead, then you may be engaging in self sabotage. Unless you have built up some credits from past experience, the team members may let you hang yourself and that is what seemed to happen here. There is no sense that anyone dared question Tara on her vision.

Alex, on the other hand, took a Blue approach to leading the team. He listened to input from all the sources and waffled in indecision for awhile. Of course, Stephanie, a Red, didn't like that at all and it looked as if Magma was about to crash again because someone could not come up with a direction. The indecisiveness of the Blue was being exposed.

Alex then turned to a great Blue strength. Get the input of those who were there. He recognized he didn't know the mindset of Harlem residents and none of those on the team could identify with it either, so he went to the experts to get the answers--the prospective customers. That one act proved to be the pivotal moment because once they gave him direction, even the creativity of the team started to ignite. Bren came up with the idea about the fist with the money in it and Alex embraced it. The Blue listened and that skill helped him win.

Alex showed his "Blueness" again when he commented how he would show Trump that their ideas were better followed up with a comment about making a few "Hail Marys". Alex did not have the same confidence as Tara, yet he proved to be the winner by listening to others who knew better. That is what all business leaders need to do to be successful. If they fall in love too much with their own vision without affirmatively seeking feedback to get many different perspectives, they will ultimately be compromised in their leadership.

Away from the teammates, Alex was critical of them. He expressed at the beginning of the episode how he wanted Stephanie off--why? Because he clashed with her "know it all" critical attitude. Only when she returned from the Boardroom in tears and with shades of humility and vulnerability did Alex soften and the rest of the team take her back in the fold. Stephanie took in the feedback and decided to learn from it. The question is whether that attitude will remain or will her Red determination to win cause her to stumble into arrogance, abrasiveness and self preservation.

You could tell that Trump wanted Tara to win--a fellow Red. Why would it take so long to meet with the Sony executives when it was so cut and dry in their mnds as to the winner? He really seemed to be rooting for her. It may have been a rouse but he did not know what the Sony Executives would say or the focus groups. Even at the end, he praised her saying she would go places. What he chose to do is apply the leadership principle of accountability by firing Tara--Tara would have taken all the credit for the win so she needed to take the responsibility for the loss. There wasn't enough evidence there to inculpate any other member. He knew it and he had to stick with it.

There are tough undercurrents in The Apprentice. Your teammates want to win but they also want not to be fired if they lose so many strategize how best to have the Teflon coating so that nothing sticks. That may include letting the team leader go with their ideas because it is safer than coming up with something else, having the leader adopt it and losing with that concept.

Tara assumed the leadership mantle but it is too bad she chose to assign the blame to others when her concept failed. A great leader takes responsibility for the mistakes and fully gives credit to others for the successes. Tara had to bring in two people and she chose the two who supposedly withheld information. Audrey, in fact, did not. Tara just wasn't listening. Even if John had repeated the same information, she probably would not have changed her concept. Tara's mind was set and when it is set for a Red, it is highly unlikely it would be open to change based on the information she thought was withheld. Her focus again was on not having Sony offend the sensitivities of Harlem residents. Changing to add more scenary for the road would not coincide with her purpose for the graffiti mural.

Trump probably understood that so he saw no basis for firing anyone but Tara.

Audrey is a potential time bomb. She has authority issues and doesn't seem willing to follow. She emphasizes how she had to take care of herself from age 13 and that Craig has children and she is not going to be treated like one of his children. What color is she? Because she seems to have some psychological issues, that masks her true color. She certainly has an issue with her parents and assumes that when certain people, maybe everyone, tell her to do something, she doesn't have to listen. She refuses to be ordered around. Stay tuned to see if that proves her downfall. The scenes from the next episode seems to suggest a meltdown. I use this color to write about her because I am not sure what is her true color--Red, Blue, Aqua or Yellow

If you are interested in knowing more about the personality colors I refer to or in taking the Personality Cues Profile to see what color you are, feel free to contact me at troytate@torquesolutions.com. Until next time... Be who you are. Everybody else is taken.

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