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The Apprentice Is A Tough Love Lesson Bill Knell

Some educators encourage their students to watch whatever incarnation of The Apprentice happens to be available hoping they will pick up on some of the methods, ideas and solutions presented. Others write the show off as a series of staged events that offer nothing in terms of business education. Both viewpoints have valid arguments, but they are missing the real lessons offered by Donald Trump's reality television show.

The Apprentice is a must-see for anyone who desires to master the art of workplace relationships. Whether producer Mark Burnett and his crew egg-on contestant feuds and squabbles behind the scenes as some claim are less important then the disagreements themselves. They typify the problems that come into play when egos, sexuality, personalities, experience, flirtations, age and education collide in the workplace.

The whole idea of The Apprentice is a fascinating one. People have to work together in teams for the ultimate benefit of just one member. That concept is acted out in real life everyday within the corporate workplace. Everyone is trying to climb the same ladder and it can get pretty crowded at times. The lessons to be learned from The Apprentice are how to remain on the ladder and eventually make it to the top.

The television show makes it easy to spot those used to working as part of a team and the others who can't. It also exposes the various agendas and temporary alliances created to remove undesirable or threatening team members. These are the things you should pay attention to and learn from. Just trying to avoid being someone's target in the corporate workplace is an art form in itself.

There are some obvious solutions to workplace relationship problems that are amply illustrated on The Apprentice. One is the simple concept of Mentoring. As with the television show, a good Mentor is not going to think and act for you. Instead, they are going to guide you in the right direction and give you some straight talk when you screw up. This is what Donald Trump does. Martha Stewart is more polite, but no less forceful in her incarnation of The Apprentice.

Both television shows illustrate the importance of learning to listen. When in a meeting, receiving instructions from a project manager or getting advice from a Mentor, you must be sure that you are listening to what is being said. If you cannot understand the goal, you can't reach it. During the first episode of the Martha Stewart Apprentice, Martha clearly spelled out the ultimate goal of the first project. It was to see how well each team could connect with their customers. The team that failed never had that simple goal in sight to begin with.

Donald Trump is always concerned as much with his image as he is with making money. For him, the two are one, no goal rises above that and he is easily able to communicate this to team members. Despite that, we have seen many examples where teams simple ignore the Trump philosophy in trying to complete their tasks. This leads to failure and firing. Part of surviving the real life corporate workplace means being able to sign on to a corporate philosophy and embed it in everything you do.

Despite the desire to include a wealth of entrepreneurs within the Apprentice wannabees, most are used to being the boss rather then working under one. The successful entrepreneurs we've seen on The Apprentice are those who can marry their ability for creative thought with the need to work closely with others and treat them as equals. Perceptive team members know that the losers will fall off by their own hands. They understand the need to keep a low profile and wait for blowhards and frauds to self-destruct. Those who try to manipulate things by drawing attention to themselves on The Apprentice, usually end up on the short list of those soon to be fired. The same may be said to be true in real life.

American Culture has encouraged individualism for at least half a century. The idea that it's all about ME has become embedded in our education, religious, political and business systems. It's allowed the needless development of personality cults around bogus political, religious and business leaders in place of common sense. The results have been predictable, costly and unnecessary.

If Donald Trump and Martha Stewart can teach us anything, it's that even the most creative and charismatic people must work with a team to achieve their goals. That team should sign on to their philosophy, support their goals and benefit in every way they can from working in such an environment. Those who have come to compete for The Apprentice position and haven't arrived with a good grasp of real life workplace etiquette are unlikely to last long.

Success as part of any workplace team means putting aside personality conflicts, quick tempers and anything that can distract from the job at hand. Individual success often comes at the cost of being part of a successful team. The rewards can be substantial and it doesn't always pay to be the top dog. That is another lesson well taught by Donald Trump and Martha Stewart.


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