The Apprentice, Week Thirteen:
Weak Communication Skills Undermine Competitors

If there is one lesson that viewers have learned in the last thirteen episodes of The Apprentice, it is the need to communicate effectively with teammates, customers, and judges. Unfortunately, not all the contestants on the show seem to have learned this lesson yet.

Magna Corp does an excellent job meeting with the judges and assessing what they are looking for. Craig, Kendra, and Tana are effective because they ask open-ended questions and listen intently to the judges’ responses. “Meeting with them in person gives Magna Corp members the opportunity to not only hear what the judges have to say but to observe their expressions and gestures,” says Dr. Carol Dunitz. “Since nonverbal communication accounts for at least 75% of the communicating we do, meeting in person has the potential to deliver much more information than a phone conversation. Magna Corp learns that it is expected to perfect something that already exists. Score one for Magna Corp.

Alex and Bren, the two remaining members of Net Worth, make the misguided decision to save time and connect with judges by phone. Telecommunication problems foil this plan and the two teammates lose the chance to get useful information and establish a bond that might have been helpful later.

Members of both teams recognize the need to have focus groups—to meet directly with Staples customers to find out what office needs remain unmet. Once again, Magna Corp goes straight to consumers, approaching them in a Staples store to find out what they want. The message they receive is clear. Customers want a way to organize clutter. “Craig, Kendra, and Tana understand the need because it is communicated directly and clearly,” says Dunitz. “Magna Corp has the information it needs to successfully complete the task.” Score two for Magna Corp.

Net Worth strikes out in its quest to conduct focus groups over the phone. Bren makes countless calls. He reaches answering machines or people at work who are not interested in participating. Ultimately, Net Worth members has no concrete feedback from judges or consumers as they dive into their task. Alex and Bren brilliantly decide to attack the issue of clutter, too, but they are immediately at a disadvantage because they do not have the important feedback that Magna Corp has.

“When it comes to team communication, Net Worth is out in front,” Dunitz reports. Alex and Bren have developed a strong bond of friendship during thirteen weeks together. They trust one another and work well together. Score one for Net Worth. “Unfortunately, this is not enough to overcome the handicap they have as a result of forgoing earlier meetings,” Dunitz concedes. “They are performing their task in a vacuum.”

Tana observes the tension between Craig and Kendra and remarks in an aside interview how detrimental it is to the team’s success. “This tension has reared its ugly head in earlier competitions,” remarks Dunitz. “It is not a good sign that Craig and Kendra cannot manage to work together in a manner that is of benefit to their team. It is fortunate for them that they will not be teammates again because one of them would, quite likely, be fired,” Dunitz says.

Carol Dunitz is an author and professional speaker who has ten programs that teach people how to communicate more effectively. She generally dresses in costumes for her presentations, sings original songs and tells stories and anecdotes that underscore the points she makes. Programs address issues including interpersonal communication, teambuilding, leadership, intercultural communication, sales and negotiating, customer service, and listening.

Her book, ‘Louder Than Thunder,’ is about a CEO who calls in her three vice presidents to tell them she is about to step down and that one of them will succeed her. She has a riddle for them, “What is louder than thunder, as highly charged as lightning, and more powerful than the fierce North Wind?” Whoever comes back with the best answer will be the next CEO.

“Louder Than Thunder” provides significant insight on how to become a better communicator through a series of vignettes. These vignettes deal with the insights of a young person while coming of age and subsequently achieving lifelong aspirations. The reader is taken on a journey with the book’s protagonist as she learns to deal with the world around her by carefully listening and observing. In the process, the reader comes to understand how to communicate more effectively in every day interactions in and out of the workplace.

‘Louder Than Thunder’ has received excellent reviews in newspapers around the country as well as on the Internet. It was featured on the March 7th cover of Publishers Weekly. David Brandon, CEO of Dominos Pizza, who provided an advance endorsement for the business parable writes, “‘Louder Than Thunder’ is a wonderful book. Carol Dunitz addresses one of the most important aspects of communication...LISTENING! This can only be accomplished through something that is difficult for many…resisting the temptation to talk so much! The parable drives home a point that is a good lesson for all.”

Dunitz is also the principal of The Last Word, a communication and creative services/advertising boutique in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“Louder Than Thunder” is illustrated by award-winning artist Helen Gotlib. It is available at bookstores everywhere or at louderthanthunder.com. A recording on CD by the author as well as the learning guide are for sale at www.louderthanthunder.com.

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