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I recently enjoyed watching season 7 of the TV show Celebrity Apprentice. At the end of the competition, the grand finale, it came down to Geraldo Rivera and Leeza Gibbons in which one of them would become the Celebrity Apprentice.

Celebrity Apprentice starts with two teams of eight people who are given challenges. They have to complete certain tasks, such as baking a unique pastry combined with fundraising, writing and filming a commercial within a time limit and a target which required close working relationships among the team members. Each team picked a project leader who would head up the team.

I think there are a number of ways to look at the interaction with the people involved and the communication and leadership styles employed throughout the show. Here are a few excellent examples of communication skills − both good and not so good that I believe are worthy of closer examination.

  1. Different Strokes for Different Folks

It was very interesting to watch the different styles of communication and leadership exhibited by both finalists. The difference in styles between Geraldo Rivera and Leeza Gibbons was very dramatic and pronounced.

Initially I did not connect with the concept that the variety of participants including a journalist, baseball player, actors, talk show hosts, singers, snowboarder and gymnast were going to achieve much with “baking cupcakes” but then I started to see it wasn’t about baking the cupcakes. It was about the participants working together to complete an assignment, how they communicate with each other and the leadership ability of the project leader.

Geraldo had a “do it my way” style of interacting with his team. He took the approach of “if you do not perform the way I want you to, then I will do it myself.”

As they worked on their tasks, many members of his team displayed open disdain for Geraldo’s style of communicating which included abrasive comments he would make to team members. Lorenzo Lamas’ comment was an eye opener when he said: “Geraldo’s like a cold wind — you kind of have to shelter yourself at first because it’s snappy.” One might think from this statement that after a bit of exposure to this type of oppressive leadership, one could get used to it and perform well. However, I believe in today’s world, this style of leadership does not often work.

On the other hand, Leeza communicated with a softer, supportive approach. She was involved in the major aspects of the project and took an interest in each of the team members. Once assignments were given out she was there to assist and make recommendations. This approach lead to a more involved, productive team that worked together to successfully achieve the team’s goals.

  1. Ability to Influence Team Members

The ability to work with and influence others is necessary for achieving results with your team. There are different ways to go about this and throughout the show different styles were utilized. Some were more effective; some less effective. It is important to note that there is no one style of working with others that works every time.

During the finale the two finalists were given support from former team members who had previously been fired by Donald Trump before the final round. They were asked to come back and help either Geraldo or Leeza.

I observed that Leeza’s democratic style of leading by example had a direct, positive impact on the results the team achieved. Her participative style showed the positive impact of encouraging everyone on the team to work together toward a common goal.

If one of Leeza’s team members had a problem with their assignment she helped and guided them in a supportive manner. This attitude helped her and the teams she was on win most of the competitions.

Geraldo interacted with his team in an autocratic style (centralized power and decision making in the leader) micro-managing to the extent that if his team members’ assignments were not progressing in the direction that Geraldo felt they should, he would quickly step in and take over. It is important to note that regardless of his autocratic style, he was successful in reaching the finals and generating a large sum of money for his charity.

Different styles of interacting and communicating can be successful but I believe the end result of understanding and supporting your team members far outweighs the time and effort it takes. The effort encourages teamwork and keeps all focused on the objective rather than on any one individual team member.

  1. Make Your Communication Style Work

Each team had a mixture of personalities with a variety of communication styles. As you might expect, there were a number of clashes during the show. Not everyone responds well to a leader who uses a direct blunt approach. Not everyone responds well to a more democratic leader. It depends on the communication style of the individual. Some individuals prefer to follow, some individuals prefer to lead.

As a coach for the Everything DiSC profile assessments, I can help you understand the value in knowing your own preferred style of communicating and the style of each of your team members. Armed with this knowledge, you can “flex” your communication style to the communication style of each individual and still maintain your unique style of communicating.

The bottom line is that to be a more effective communicator and leader you need to become skilled at flexing your communication style.

  1. Focus on a Shared Goal 

Leeza’s Care Connection helps people with Alzheimer’s and other disabilities. It’s personal for Leeza because she lost her mother to Alzheimer’s and decided to start this charity 10 years ago. Efforts by Leeza and the teams she was on, led to winning close to three-quarters of $1 million for her charity.

Geraldo’s Life’s WORC, is a charity that strives to make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities and the families who love them. He is actually the founder of LIFE’S WORC, somewhat driven by the scandals he exposed through his investigative reporting. In the late 1960’s, Rivera uncovered the cruel, inhuman treatment and neglect that people with developmental disabilities had suffered at the hands of staff in New York government-run institutions. Geraldo was successful in raising over $725,000 for his charity.

So what does this all mean?

The show was not so much about winning as it was about reaching the shared goal of all the participants to raise money for very worthwhile charities. The road to raising a successful bounty required each member to focus and work as a team. This type of focused team effort is required whether you are working to raise money for your favorite charity or working to achieve a company goal.

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Linda Trignano provides coaching and consulting to managers and teams to improve communications and increase productivity. Through her firm, Trignano Consulting, LLC, she helps create communication programs that transform the way people and business groups communicate, connect and collaborate with their customers utilizing DiSC assessments. She focuses on three critical areas – how you speak, how you come across to others and improving your online image. Depending on your needs, she will customize programs to include one-on-one consulting, workshops, seminars and keynote speaking. She may be reached at ltrignano@trignanoconsulting.com