Posts Tagged ‘Lee Bienstock’

Meritocracy vs. In-Group Loyalty: Two Methods of Team Building

April 17, 2011
The Apprentice 5 Finalists

Sean Yazbeck (left) and Lee Bienstock (right)

In the Season 5 Finale of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice (see video), two male finalists, Lee Bienstock from New York, and Sean Yazbeck from London, used two completely different methods for choosing their final teams from the previous fired cast members.  These two methods are illustrative of opposite values often espoused by different cultures.

Sean assembled his “dream team” covering all the bases in marketing, sales, and event planning, while at the same time making sure to pick team members who all like each other personally so that they could work well together.  Sean’s meritocratic method was illustrative of individualist cultures, such as the United States (in spite of Sean being British of Lebanese Arab descent).

Sean then expressed total confusion at Lee’s choice consisting of cast members who were fired early on.  Lee (an American from New York City, of Jewish descent) went for a totally different approach, that of choosing team members who liked him, and would be loyal to him, who he was sure wanted him to win.  Lee expressed his opinion that it would be useless to have someone brilliant, but who secretly wanted to sabotage him.  Lee’s approach was illustrative of in-group cultures (such as the Middle East) where who you are, and your relationship and loyalty to the top man, is more important than your particular skills.

The two teams were then to coordinate two high-profile charity events. Sean’s team was given the task of staging an Atlantic City rock concert featuring the Barenaked Ladies, while Lee’s team was given the task of of organizing a celebrity hockey event.

So, which team-choosing strategy paid off best?  I felt Sean’s strategy was closer to my own, but only 38% of the audience agreed that he had the better team.  Sixty-two percent felt that Lee would win with his team–even though Donald Trump expressed surprise in the boardroom at the team Lee chose, with members who had been fired early on.  Donald said, “I hope Lee knows what he’s doing!”

Donald Trump

The final two candidates are challenged to coordinate two high-profile charity events. Lee works with the returning Lenny, Pepi, and Roxanne to organize a celebrity hockey event. Sean works with the returning Tammy, Andrea, and Tarek as he tries to hit all the right notes while staging an Atlantic City rock concert featuring Barenaked Ladies.

In the process, Lee displayed some weak leadership and his team members did not perform strongly.  However, in the end, the event came off well.  Lee felt sure he had won.

Sean’s team worked well together, but hit a snag when one team member had a medical emergency.  Sean felt his team was outstanding and worked well together.  He said, “I’m so, so pleased that I surrounded myself with the best people.”  Sean also felt sure he had won.

Sean was hired.  Three months later, Lee was also hired.


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