I've been a big fan of the new TV show, "The Apprentice," appearing every Thursday night on NBC. This new show is co-produced by Mark Burnett, producer of the incredibly successful "Survivor" reality show, and billionaire real estate mogul, Donald Trump in Manhattan. Though I love the business lessons that come across each week, I cringe at the contestants' terrible leadership skills. So in this article, we explore the show and offer some tips to Project Managers, present and future, in the show and in the world, who may benefit from a few reminders about "synergizing" your groups to get the most out of them and have fun doing it.

After months of perusing 200,000 applications, Trump chose 16 candidates, and then split the group into two separate teams. Each week, they are presented with a new business challenge over which they compete as teams. The losing team must come to the boardroom where one is chosen to be fired and must leave the show and the competition. Ultimately, one person will survive and become Trump's Apprentice to run one of his companies at a healthy six-figure salary.

As we viewers watch the slow elimination of applicants, there are many lessons we can learn about the business world from Trump's obviously successful perspective. Among these lessons are: know your customer, create good working relationships, research available data, ask lots of appropriate questions, preplan with your team before heading out on a group project, be loyal to your team, keep an upbeat and winning attitude, stand up for yourself when necessary, and sex appeal sells.

I really love observing how the apprentices think through, or don't think through, as is more often the case, each business problem. But what I find particularly fascinating is how these groups are truly clueless with regard to group process and leadership skills. After several weeks of watching the show, it appears, thus far, that no one has shown any ability to facilitate either as a member of a group nor as the appointed project manager.

If the bottom line is money, you might be able to justify a strong leader that doesn’t facilitate. But because these teams continue to work together week after week using the same broken process, I would wager that the group who learned some basic facilitation skills would move past the other.

So, to the Donald, the bottom line mogul that you obviously are, we know that you will continue to address the business and people skills required of your yet to be chosen apprentice, but we strongly urge you to use this opportunity to educate the American viewers (and there are many, it is the top rated show presently) and future applicants, that good facilitative leadership skills can unleash the full synergy of any group to evolve and maintain a strong team. One that will stand head and shoulders above the competition in any entrepreneurial effort.

So What About Group Process?

Every Project Manager on the show so far has missed the mark when it comes to group facilitation skills. Here are some suggestions for future contestants, for those still in the game, and for you project managers out there who may benefit from a facilitative tip or two, and want an edge on the competition.

Who are you competing with? Sure this is ultimately an Individual competition. Only one winner will take the final prize. But for the majority of the game, until you're down to two or three people, this is a team competition. Check your egos at the door and get this! You'll have far less visits to the boardroom if you put the team ahead of your own self-interests, at least for a while.

Is your process working? It's funny, but week after week, you keep running the same patterns and I never see you debrief your "process" so that you might improve it. We humans are programmable. We learn a habit and stick with it unless we get conscious about it. So you continue to repeat the same broken approaches. Stop! Your bottom line ...winning the game...is at the end of a "winning process." That is, you can evolve the way you work together so that your process gets better, not worse, over time. Get this and you win, if not the game, at least a whole new approach to leadership.

Who's good at what? You frequently miss lots of simple details and things fall through the crack. On every team, each person has different strengths. Figure out who's good at what and let them run with that. If you don't ask or notice, you'll continue to screw up and waste lots of energy. Every team has a creative genius, an accountant, an integrator, a connector, etc. Get to know your strengths and stick with them.

Project managers don't have to know everything. I often see the project manager make uninformed or unsupported decisions on behalf of the group. Come on now, you're not the king, you’re the catalyst! Lead your people, not with a bridle but with a vision. Believe in them, challenge them, reality check them, brainstorm them, and tease out the synergy at your fingertips!

Validate your people. Each week, you Project Managers myopically focuses on the task, often forgetting about the relationships and the tender egos in your charge. I've seen on many occasions undue criticism of creative ideas in a brainstorming process, or the shutting out of contributions made by other participants. This irritates people off and causes them to withdraw, even sabotage your efforts. You don't need that. Make sure everyone has their due. It doesn't take that much effort. And sometimes, the last person who you think can offer anything constructive, just may pop in with a magical little whisper of an idea that will give your group wings.

Check out your assumptions. Sure, you Apprentice contestants are young, bright entrepreneurs. But you're also very naive at times. Like many teenagers, you often make an observation about someone, adopt it as fact, and hold onto it for dear life. Come on folks, you aren't gods, outside your own worlds anyway. Open your eyes to the assumptions beneath your "facts." They're always there. Doing so, and helping your teammates do the same, will really free up energy that you spend arguing 90% of the time.

Bottom Line: Project Managers need basic facilitation skills. To a large degree, a project manager's success has to do with their ability to balance tasks with relationships and group processes, i.e. facilitation skills. However, their education is primarily technical. Wherever you can share this point with leaders you touch, you will benefit everyone involved.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Davis, M.A., M.S., is an Facilitator's Coach, Infoprenuer, and free-lance human, helping facilitators, organizational leaders, educators, trainers, coaches and consultants present themselves confidently, access their creativity, empower their under-performing groups, enhance their facilitation skills, and build their business online and offline. Does leading or participating in groups frustrate you? Subscribe to the free weekly ezine for group workers at http://www.MasterFacilitatorJournal.com. Contact Steve atmailto:steve@facilitatoru.com.