You’re Fired!
Week Three: I Want to be the Thimble

Life is not a board game. It is messy and unpredictable requiring the flexibility of Gumby and the imagination of Mr. Potato Head. You don’t get to collect $200 each time you pass Go, there are no Get Out of Jail Free cards and buying Trump Tower is not as easy as buying Baltic Avenue.

Playing the Game

This week’s challenge peeled back the layers further to reveal one of the major differences between the traditional educational experiences of the Book Smarts/Magna Team and the hands-on learning experiences of Net Worth. Traditional education thrives on teaching students to “play the game.” They are expected to sit quietly and absorb information, provide input only when they have the correct answer and work independently. Team Magna, champions at the education game, weren’t as successful at The Donald’s real-world game. This week they quit, loafed, capitulated and lost. Let’s look at what happened.

Take Your Toys and Go Home

Before Verna wheeled herself and her luggage off the show, Danny tried to get her a free pass. Surprisingly, Verna seemed willing to accept it. “That’s not team work. As a team you either win together or you lose together.” exclaimed Zach Milt, a senior at Fisher High School and alumnus of Champaign County’s High Tech Edge Capstone Program. Tim Knapp, CEO of Nextant Systems added “In the MBA Program I had some painful experiences with team members but I have to say, I never ran into a situation where someone just gave up.”

Coffee, Tea or Me

This week’s challenge was to develop and execute a marketing campaign for Nestle’s Taster’s Choice. Despite Danny’s lack of judgment regarding Verna, Bren nominated him as team leader. “How can people get to this level and not know anything about leadership or brainstorming or team work?” wondered Sharla Sola, marketing expert with the University of Illinois. “Danny’s leadership was spectacularly absent.” Gabrielle Martin, a broadcaster and personal development trainer for Carle Hospital and Sporting Chance Training and Consulting commented, “Danny wasn’t a leader, he was a manager. Leaders inspire and motivate while exuding confidence. Danny only reacted to problems.” Magna certain had plenty of problems, including their previous leader, Michael.

Last week I suggested that one of the keys to effective learning is establishing the student’s expectations. Danny’s response to Verna may have established Michael’s expectations because he used his exemption like a playground pass. He played with the markers, twirled in his chair and suggested using sexy European models to sell the coffee. “I don’t think there’s any way possible he could have thought that was the right idea.” said Knapp. Much like the class clown, Michael was simply a distraction. Sola explained that the team’s reaction was similar to what often happens in the classroom. “Rather than focusing on the task, Magna used their emotional energy trying to combat Michael’s negativity.”

Danny was ineffective in confronting Michael and everyone suffered as a result. Martin suggests that “Danny’s problems dealing with confrontation stems from the fact that he didn’t deal with it.”

Are We Having Fun?

While Michael was the only one having fun in Magna’s camp, Net Worth was a different story. Angie offered herself as team leader and suggested an All American Taster’s Choice campaign. “Sometimes, enthusiasm goes a long way towards instilling confidence and Angie had a lot of enthusiasm!” said Martin. Her enthusiasm set the team’s expectations. Net Worth rallied around Angie and her suggestion and went to work. Ideas were thrown around. Some were tossed out; others were kept. Martin praised their teamwork. “Net Worth was nearly the model of a high performing team. They had the enthusiasm and savvy to get the job done.” Angie was decisive and inclusive. This is a great combination in any leader whether in the classroom or the boardroom. Angie exhibited high emotional intelligence.

“Emotional intelligence is learned through experiences ” explained Sola. Those experiences, which can be taught effectively in a hands-on learning environment, are in sharp contrast to the “education game.” Project-based learning experiences allow educators to not only teach content but also to include the experiences of learning to work in teams, establishing trust, being willing to risk failure, dealing with confrontation, searching for resources, employing creativity while maintaining integrity and evaluating outcomes. The all important combination of learning standards and work place skills are included in well crafted examples of project-based learning.

I’m Sorry, That’s our Policy

“The only time we saw Magna working as a team was when they conspired to have Michael fired.” said Sola. In the boardroom, the team suggested that Trump rescind Michael’s exemption because of his “lack of integrity.” Trump disappointed us by acting like the 1950’s school principal. Instead of confronting the team about their collective responsibility for the loss and using the opportunity to model effective leadership, he pulled out the rule book. “In business” the Donald said “you have to live by the rules. Danny, you’re fired!”

You’re not out of the woods yet, Michael. While they’re not very creative, your team members know how to solve problems on the playground.

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