Five leadership lessons from Keshia Knight Pulliam firing on Celebrity Apprentice

Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Rudy Huxtable on the popular television show, The Cosby Show, was the first person fired on this season of Celebrity Apprentice.  The teams were divided by gender and tasked with creating two pies (one sweet and one savory) and selling them for charity.  The team that created the best tasting pies received $25,000 towards their total.  Keshia was the project manager of the women’s team, Infinity.  Her strategy was to use social media to promote and win the taste bonus.  Infinity won the taste bonus which gave them a total of $93,862.  This was not close to the $185,322 that the men’s team, Vortex, raised.  The women were completely dominated.

Keshia was blasted by some of her teammates for not calling her famous television dad, Bill Cosby, and asking him for a donation.  This was not the reason for Inifinity’s defeat.  It was an issue, but it was not the root cause.  Here are five lessons from Keshia’s firing to lead your team to success.

#1 – Understand the objective
Keshia was focused on the wrong thing. Instead of prioritizing raising the most money, her focus was on winning the taste bonus. Even when Piers Morgan, a judge on the show, warned her that the objective was money, she did not take heed.

#2 – Set the bar high
Keshia made winning $25,000 the bar.  She did not think that they could raise so much money that $25,000 would not make a significant difference. Her team won the taste bonus.  That is because people often meet the bar that you set.  Even with the bonus, they barely collected 50% of what the men accumulated.  Keshia should have set a high goal for outreach and fundraising.  Raise the bar for you and your team.

#3 – Research to develop a winning strategy
A big part of Keshia’s strategy was using social media to drive sales.  She did not know that one person (Kevin Jonas) on her opponent’s team had a following on Twitter that was double the presence of all of her teammates combined. Look outside of yourself and understand your competition to develop a winning strategy.

#4 – Work on the plan
Keshia spent a lot of time working on tactics, busy work.  As the leader, it is your responsibility to develop the strategy and equip your team to do the work. When you are in a leadership position, such as chairing a committee, managing a team or owning a company, you must let go of the technical components of the job and lead.  Your team looks to you for guidance.  Work on the business, not in the business. Do not be a busy bee when you are the Queen Bee!

#5 – Use your resources and ASK!
Keshia did not go to her network and ask her wealthy television dad for a donation, not one single penny.  She explained that she felt that it was tacky to ask someone whom she had not spoken to in years for a donation. This is an area where women must improve. LinkedIn conducted a survey a few years ago and only 26% of women said that they were comfortable negotiating. Research shows that we are more concerned with damaging relationships. I have been in Keshia’s shoes.  Uncomfortable to ask because I thought that it was inappropriate or rude. I missed out on opportunities. Not anymore. What changed? Me. I shifted my perspective and focus. I view every ask as an invest opportunity for the person that I am speaking with.  My focus is on my goal, not my feelings. You must get over your fear of asking.

Game on!
Shavannia Williams

Posted on January 14, 2015 at 9:05 pm

Written by

Shavannia Williams

Shavannia is the founder of Heels & Helmets and editor of its e-magazine, She also writes the football column, Gridiron, for the e-magazine. A sports marketing professional with over 13 years of experience, Ms. Williams has worked with the NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, and WNBA. As the owner of a marketing firm, Shavannia’s client roster includes: DC Women’s Business Center, NFL Players and United Way NFL Partnership. Her love for football began at The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, where she worked for Michigan Football and received her B.A. in Sport Management and Communication. She is excited to bring talented women together to provide a resource to help other ladies “join the conversation at the office” and enhance their business relationships. Follow her on twitter @MzGridiron.
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