It doesn’t take someone with a degree from the Wharton School of Business to figure out that a capable team that works together with a main goal of victory will beat a team that sort of would like to win, but whose main objective is getting one of its own fired.
With those objectives in mind, both teams emerged as winners on this week’s "Apprentice." The men of Excel came up with the best character and marketing campaign for Dairy Queen's Blizzard, and the women of Capital Edge did poorly enough that they got to have Donald Trump axe the one player they all wanted gone.
From the minute Toral escaped execution on last week, everyone else on Capital Edge seemed determined to see her fail. She didn’t give them that satisfaction, because she didn’t actually do anything except evade responsibility and offer vague excuses for doing so.
That got this season’s arch-villain the boot, as well as a vitriolic exit speech from Donald Trump, who admonished her with “You are totally ineffective and you’ve done a terrible job.” But it also showed that Capital Edge remains a cliquey team that spends more time thinking up witty putdowns than it does the actual work of succeeding at its business tasks.
No team in ToralThere have been several teams saddled with dead weight in the four seasons of The Apprentice, but at least in the past it’s been dead weight with comic relief (Exhibit A: Danny from last season’s edition). Toral offered Capital Edge no such benefit, nor anything else of use. To repackage a cliché, there’s no “I” in “team,” and there was no team in Toral.
Had she been in the boardroom after the technology expo task, she’d have almost certainly been fired, but Rebecca, her closest friend on the team, happened to be her project manager and decided to spare her. That turned out to be a mistake, as Toral repaid Rebecca’s faith by again trying to avoid doing anything of substance.
She gave a halfhearted pitch to be the project manager that simultaneously sought to avoid the role. Her prime motivation didn’t seem to be winning or losing, just avoiding looking bad in the process.
It’s hard to figure out what Toral thought going on a reality show like this one would be like. She refused to dress the part of Zip, the Capital Edge-developed Blizzard mascot, saying “I don’t embarrass myself and I don’t embarrass my family.” Both laudable goals, but neither has much to do with dressing up in an inflatable costume. If she was so worried about how her reputation in the investment banking world would suffer, perhaps applying for a job as The Donald’s apprentice wasn’t a great idea.
Rebecca, looking like she wished the task had been to invent a time machine capable of going back and allowing her to pull Toral into the boardroom last time, lamented that “All of these people have made up their minds that she shouldn’t be here, and they don’t want her here any more.” Kristi immediately followed with her own, more succinct opinion: “Toral is a friggin’ goober.”
So Capital Edge became a team with five people moving halfheartedly in one direction and a sixth actively rooting for the rest to fail. Felisha, the reluctant project manager, came up with a hard-to-explain mascot with no Dairy Queen branding and no apparent appreciation of the company’s market demographics.
Contrast that to Clay, the Excel project manager, who ran things with the precision and tact of a tyrant. From the minute he offered his conditions for taking on the role (do what I tell you, and stick to the schedule), it was clear that he was going to be responsible for his team’s success — or failure.
Clay didn’t win any friends with his hands-in-the-middle-of-everything approach, but without the cliques and personality conflicts of the women’s team, he was able to guide Excel towards a cohesive plan that actually took Dairy Queen’s needs, market demographic, and branding into account. He might have been somewhere between Napoleon and Hitler on the dictator scale, as one teammate suggested, but he got the job done.
After her team lost, Toral smirked “I was pleased to see they were finally put in their places.” The resulting “thud” was the sound of all of Wharton’s professors of business strategy smacking their foreheads at once. Despite her attempt to blame (unspecified) religious beliefs as a reason for refusing to play dress-up in the mascot costume, it was obvious at that point that the only one that would be put in her place was Toral herself.
The only thing that could have saved her was Donald Trump keeping her around for the sheer entertainment value her sniping provided. It must have been tempting — and might have been impossible to resist if the show was being broadcast live and he knew the ratings were down — but Trump settled for making Rebecca squirm.
After giving noncommittal or vaguely negative answers to a couple of questions about Toral, Trump pinned Rebecca down and made her say who she would fire. She shook her head, looking miserable, and said “Toral. The team won’t work with her on it, unfortunately.”
Whether it will work now that she’s gone will depend on whether Capital Edge can start focusing on the job at hand, or if it will continue to be a team more worried about fighting each other than solving business problems.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.