Apprentice
Decision Time (2)

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Flair, Care, And The Dirty Chair

A conversation between two random guys we have never seen before who have just experienced their peak in life, notoriety-wise, exposits that it's a power problem, and that "someone that knows the building" will need to figure out what they need to do. Jen meets up with X-Box John, who tells her that his company has put a lot of money into this setup, so it needs to be figured out. "I understand; what can we do to help you?" she says. No, no, Jennifer. You aren't helping him. This is your problem, not his problem. This is where you say, "I'm going to call the building engineer immediately, and I'll get back to you in five minutes." And then you do, and you do. Impatient with her watery "What can I do for you?" approach, X-Box John responds, "Get power." He goes on to tell her that what he needs is for her to take over the problem. "The best thing I can do right now is to contact the engineer," she says. "If you think there's something further I need to do..." He cuts her off. "What I need you to do is make me feel...just make the problem go away." It makes sense to me -- it's not just a matter of what he wants her to do, it's that he doesn't want to get that "Well, all I can do is X" response that she's giving. He wants her to adopt the problem as her own. She's essentially giving the customer-service response you give when you're lowering expectations at the luggage office at the airport and you want people to understand that you will try to find their bags, but you can't promise anything and it's not your personal mission. "All I can do is this," you know? What she needs to give in this situation -- as the manager of the event for which this sponsor put up so much cash -- is the opposite: the "I will take it as my personal mission to get power on, and it will happen" response. A bit later, X-Box John breaks the news to Jen that there's also no power to run a couple of neon signs that are supposed to be operating. Jen turns on her condescending, annoyed little smile (tooootally the wrong face to wear) and says, "I understand that your focus is power. I want to get that for you. So if you let me focus on that, I'll make it happen."

And if she had left it there, Jen would have still been in the realm of reasonable judgment. But she doesn't. She has to add, "But if we sit here and argue, I can't make it happen." So, you see, it's his fault that it isn't solved. As he correctly points out, however, he's not arguing. He's telling her what the problem is. It's just so transparent that Jen doesn't make it her goal to solve the problem. ["I think that's the main problem with the way this show is set up, with the project managers having to hit the boardroom when they lose: it trains the weaker, dumber people to prepare their victim story even as the task is happening and there's a chance they might not lose; we saw Ivana doing it all season. Now, of course, the strongest people don't succumb to it, because they've already learned how to be good managers at other points in their lives. But the strongest people don't end up on this show because they're already out having good careers." -- Wing Chun] Jen's goal is to constantly remind people what the limits of her responsibility is, and all the factors that are someone else's fault that are causing the problem, rather than just saying, "Fuck it, put me on the hook, I'm going to solve it." That's how leaders operate, in my experience. I think of Bill going to dig around by the dumpsters himself to look for that sign last year. It's a guess, but I think Jen would not have done that. I think she would have said, "Signage is the responsibility of [x], so [x] needs to find that sign right away," and she would have called up and yelled at whoever it was. But would she push herself to the point where she would doggedly keep after it personally until they found the sign? Would she go down to the dumpster just on the weird off-chance that it had been accidentally thrown out? Doubt it. Once she felt she had someone else who was more at fault than she was and she had a story in which she had done everything that it was her job to do, she wouldn't actually, substantively care if anybody actually found the sign.

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Apprentice

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