The new season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” premiered a couple weeks ago with 18 celebrities competing to win money for their chosen charities. It’s easy to dislike many aspects of this show – Donald Trump and his hair, the infighting and backbiting among the contestants and the nonstop gratuitous name-dropping.
I’ve never been a fan of Mr. Trump’s personal style. He’s always struck me as arrogant and ostentatious. And the Apprentice franchise’s connection to the realities that most of us face in the workplace is tenuous at best.
But I do appreciate the obvious passion most of the celebrities involved have for the causes they’re supporting. And I think there are a few lessons we can all learn about work and business from the first couple episodes of Season 12 of “The Celebrity Apprentice:”
1. Everything you say and do matters
No matter what, at the end of the day you must account for your actions. And you will be judged in the workplace for how you conduct yourself. That judgment probably won’t be as overt as having your performance debated in the open and you being told, “You’re fired,” in front of millions. The unfortunate reality is, most people’s judgments of you will be made silently and unknown to you. That’s why it’s important to keep your promises and live by the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.
2. You have to learn to work with people you disagree with
Like your family, you don’t usually get to pick who you work with. A lot of emphasis is placed on the personality clashes on the show, and the producers play those clashes up to create tension. But the big lesson is that you have to accept everyone you work with as they are and get the job done. You don’t have to be friends with everybody, but you do have to work together to accomplish your team’s goals.
3. Big deals make a big difference
In any business, the 80/20 Rule is in effect and it only takes one big deal, one big customer, one big sale to put you into a different category. This is an ongoing theme of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and it played out in dramatic fashion in the season premiere two weeks ago. The men’s team was behind during most of the challenge, but they kept talking about how all they needed was one “whale” to put them over the top. They finally found their whale when one of Paul Teutul Sr.’s friends made a $300,000 donation. That not only won the challenge for the team, but it set a new Celebrity Apprentice record.
4. It’s not enough to be liked in the workplace
Cheryl Tiegs, the first celebrity to get fired, was universally liked. But she did not demonstrate a sense of urgency in her work. People respect and appreciate a sense of urgency in your work. And you have to be competent at the tasks assigned to you. Ultimately, Cheryl was fired because she worked too slowly and didn’t demonstrate a strong competency in her work.
5. Cultivating a strong network is invaluable
As unfair as it may seem, sometimes in life the guy with the richest friends wins. The mega-donation that Paul Sr. secured to give his team the victory in the first challenge was just one example of the power of a strong network. The women’s team, even though they lost that first challenge, did an amazing job of persuading their network to donate to their cause. They didn’t find a “whale,” but they collected consistent donations from their friends and ended up with over $100,000 – a Celebrity Apprentice record until the men’s total was revealed.
6. Setting an audacious goal can set you up for success
In that first challenge, Paul Sr. put a lot of pressure on himself and his team when he told Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, that his team was going to raise “at least five” – meaning $500,000. They didn’t get there, but they did raise more money – over $300,000 – than any team in the history of the show. In my own work, I’ve found that having a big goal (and a deadline) creates a sense of urgency and spurs me to find creative ways to get the job done. And even if you don’t get all the way to your audacious goal, what you do accomplish is often a quantum leap for the organization.
7. Pitch in and pull your weight
Cheryl Tiegs got the ax in the first week, but Victoria Gotti (yes, the mafia don’s daughter) came close. Some members of her team felt that she wasn’t pulling her weight because she spent a lot of time taking personal phone calls and she left in the middle of the challenge to do an interview. No matter what kind of work you do, the other people on your team want to feel like they can count on you to do your share. Even if the task at hand isn’t something that’s really part of your job, jump in and help. People appreciate the effort.
While I’m not saying you should devote your Sunday evenings to watching “The Celebrity Apprentice,” it might be worth catching a couple of episodes to see who learns these seven lessons and succeeds and who ignores these tenets and fails. What about you? Have you seen any of these principles at work in real life?