Reality TV Puts Teamwork in a Fishbowl

Posted by Kristin Arnold on July 2, 2009

Reality TV is a voyeuristic view of teamwork.  The producers take willing subjects, throw them together with a simple premise, and let the fireworks begin.  Each segment is a fascinating case study on team dynamics where we have the opportunity to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My favorite show this season is “The Celebrity Apprentice,” a multiple-week contest where sixteen celebrities vie to be the winner for a large donation to the charity of their choice.  Each week, Trump gives the team(s) a task.  The teams are then evaluated and one member is “fired” with the last person winning the crown.

So far there are several lessons to be learned:

Be Clear.  Trump is explicit about his expectations.  Each week he provides a “dossier” or team charter with a clear objective and some guidance.  One week, the objective was to “set up a bridal gown store and sell as many dresses as possible in a certain number of hours.”  The team who makes the most money “wins” and someone from the “losing” team will be sent home.  It’s an intriguing microcosm for Donald and his advisors to evaluate the celebrities’ business acumen, team skills, and competitiveness.

Be Timely.  After each task is completed, Trump immediately assembles the teams and evaluates the results.  The teams know instantaneously how they did, where they stand, and what he thinks of their performance.  (Note to all team leaders: he didn’t send them an email; he gave the good and bad news face to face.)

Be Decisive.  Donald Trump is known for being able to make decisions swiftly.  After gathering input from his advisors, he alone makes the decision as to who will be fired.

Align with the Culture.  Given the fact that Trump is decisive, direct, and results-oriented, it is challenging to operate with a different approach, especially when you’re in a television fishbowl.  For example, within the Trump Organization, it is better to make the wrong decision than to be wishy-washy.  It is better to be direct and objectively state your case than to assume your actions will speak for you.

Question:  Would Donald Trump hire you?

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