The Apprentice – Online Video Channel (Episode 4)

Another week of fighting and arguing was witnessed this week on the apprentice.  The task set by Lord Sugar was to create an online video channel to stream on You Tube.  The task, once again, was simple: produce videos that people want to watch.  The team with the most views wins.

Ella-Jade was the project manager for Tenacity and Solomon headed up team Summit.  This is a task that should have been tailor made for Ella-Jade, as it follows the route of her business idea that was pitched to Lord Sugar.  It was clear she was feeling the heat from the start, when in the taxi, she stated that her mind was going crazy thinking of doing “something professional and classy; something entertaining”.  However, the first bombshell was dropped on her admission that she had no experience of You Tube, coupled with the apparent lack of idea generation.

During the brainstorming sessions, the two teams could not have been any more different.  Ella Jade was seen to be overpowered by her team’s suggestions (especially by Pam), whilst Solomon was very directive in how he dealt with his team, telling them what was going to happen and assigning roles.  On balance, given the fact that neither of these two teams is fully functioning at the moment, Solomon’s direct ‘tell’ approach was probably the right one to take.

Both teams set about producing what were essentially poor quality videos that did not connect with the target markets.  Tenacity even went so far as to over egg the derogatory term ‘fat’ with their Fat Daddy character.  This was obviously an awkward moment, as even Daniel picked up on the lack of emotional intelligence shown in this approach.  Not something that has been on display for Daniel so far this series.  For the subject of emotional intelligence, once again, Sarah managed to show that this is not a natural quality in us all.  We do know that it is developable and forms an essential part of the a&dc LIVED Leadership model and development programme, but Sarah seemed to be unaware again that she was being prickly with the others, particularly by elevating her opinion of her capabilities.

In fact, this was an overriding theme for this week’s episode.  We managed to see very high levels of Self Belief; one of the aspects measured in the a&dc resilience questionnaire.  Self belief is clearly important in having a healthy balance of resilience, but in overdrive this can be as damaging as not having enough.  From the world of Cognitive Behavioural Interventions, people are often helped to perform better through the exploration of their faulty thought patterns and beliefs.  It works on the basis of thoughts, feelings and behaviours.  Thoughts drive feelings, which in turn manifest themselves in behaviours.  There were six prominent examples of this in the programme:

  1. Solomon stated that he had done everything he could to get ‘hits’ – Everything?
  2. Sarah said that she was a good project manager, because she won her task – By default
  3. Stephen said he had learnt from the advice Lord Sugar had given him in previous weeks – disputed by Lord Sugar
  4. Sarah stating (after being fired) that Lord Sugar was not the right business partner for her – although this could also be a touch of self esteem maintenance too.
  5. Team summit telling themselves that their video was ‘funny’ even though the experts told them it was not.
  6. Stephen, in a piece to camera on the you’re fired show, suggested that he is perfect in every way – I doubt he actually is.

These stories we tell ourselves can help shape how we think and feel about ourselves and therefore act.  Often in cognitive behavioural therapy, one works on faulty thinking that is preventing performance.  However, there is a case last night for attenuating thoughts and beliefs, as they appear to be a little high for some, which is leading to a visible level of delusion about true capability.  This is showing itself in behaviour of most, through the arguments, bickering, finger pointing and back covering activities we see week in, week out.  Never before has it been highlighted more than this week through the unprecedented firing of three candidates in one week, Sarah, Ella-Jade and Stephen.  Seems that the veneer did not fool Lord Sugar as he appeared to be tired of the talk without the action to back it up.

Find out more about a&dc‘s LIVED™ model here > >

Author: Lance Mortimer

The Apprentice – Home Fragrance (Episode 3)

This week, the candidates faced what Roisin called “by far the most complex task we’ve had to date”, or what Lord Sugar called “a task so simple, anyone could do it”. The concept of creating and selling home fragrance products clearly defined a comfort zone for some and a daunting vista for others. Therefore, a highly mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses emerged among the group of prospective Apprentices. The result? Lord Sugar gained more clarity on who are the truly viable business partners and, for the second week in a row, exercised his newfound power by firing more than one candidate. However, the infamous index finger of rejection could have been pointing in an entirely different direction, given that the difference in Summit and Tenacity’s profits was a mere £14.77, so let’s take a look at how each team approached this complex yet simple task.

Tenacity was led by Katie this week, who struck a more measured and composed figure in the Project Management chair than her four predecessors from episodes one and two. While she could have made more effort in defining a strategy that added more detail to the initial objective of selling at high margin, she drove this expectation forward with the group and ensured everyone was clear around this aim. Her leadership style was generally more open and accommodating of others’ viewpoints, but decisions were still made about the team’s direction before the sub-group, led by the incisive questioning style of Lauren, could feed back data from their market research. Decisiveness is a key quality in leaders, but the candidates are making decisions far too quickly and with far too little consultation. When are they going to learn the true values of teamwork?!

Which brings me on to another point about specific members of Tenacity; Steven and Daniel. The phrase “There are no I’s in team, but there are five in individual brilliance”, coupled with his statement this week suggesting all he could do was “concentrate on himself”, sums up his significant development issue. By cutting people up in both task and Boardroom, eg calling Steven “deluded”, he’s trying too hard to prove he’s the best. Daniel’s idea of the best leadership and commercial acumen, however, is ironically deluded in itself. In taking a stubborn approach with little flexibility and adaptability to the challenge the client was putting on him, ie when pitching to sell their diffusers, he risked negotiating the deal into the ground. His attempt to take autocratic charge in sales pitches in yet another example this series of how not allowing others to contribute can seriously harm the resolution of decision blockages and challenges.

So how did this team pull the win out of the bag? In terms of Intellect, the team came up with some creative ways of getting their products on the market, eg clubs and pubs did not initially spring to mind as places of quiet relaxation usually associated with fragrant candles, but they racked up some significant profits by taking their products to these buyers. There was also more Drive and positive energy coming from Tenacity, eg Felipe consistently said things like “Guys, you’re doing fantastically there” and “We did a great job”. The team ultimately demonstrated more optimism than their competitors.

Now, on to Team Summit. Roisin stepped up to the plate to lead the group this week and, on several levels, made a positive start in managing the group. She set a clear vision of producing high quality products, which they saw through in their initial problem solving ideas. She also set clear roles based on discussion and actively listening to others in the group around what they wanted to do and felt they could achieve. Despite what was said in the Boardroom, there was also evidence to suggest that she set some expectations on pricing, although her statement “We can be flexible” lacked clarity on negotiation limits (which Pamela in Tenacity made extremely clear). This oversight in contingency planning set the team’s demise in motion to some extent, but there were significant issues in performance among team members that more prominently contributed to Summit’s plummet.

So why did Lindsey and Nurun get the boot?

There were no surprises that Lindsey was in the frame for the chop, given her complete lack of contribution to the success of the team. Her tone of voice, head shaking and slumped body language when saying things like “Yeh, I’m happy for you to do it all”, “We can’t all be intelligent” and “I’ve tried, I’ve obviously just not got the knack” all indicated low self belief and low optimism. She did not rise to the challenge, and did not seek help from others to support her in doing a better job. She completely resigned herself to failure, showed a high degree of stress under pressure and almost selected herself out of The Apprentice, demonstrating a significant development need in Resilience.

For similar reasons, Nurun’s low level of Drive and her tendency to make excuses put her in the hot seat. Instead of learning from Lord Sugar’s feedback from previous episodes, to both Nurun and Lindsey, they appeared to not take on board these messages and did not adapt their approach to this week’s task as they should have, and as a result both got ejected from the programme.

Learning Agility is a vital skill for business leaders and managers and connects all other key leadership capabilities in driving performance forward. If leaders cannot learn from past and present experiences to inform the way they look into the future, and are not willing to learn about the future itself, they simply will not succeed. James is a prime example (“What are you doing?”, with Lord Sugar making a clear example of his “wide boy attitude” as a need for change. His development over the series, if his involvement in it lasts much longer, will be one to watch.

Find out more about a&dc‘s LIVED™ model here > >

Author: Jordon Jones

The Apprentice – Wearable Technology (Episode 2)

The second task of the series saw the groups compete in a design task to create wearable technology. After Lord Sugar explained what was in store for the teams he told Robert that, as a “Shoreditch loving person” he was the typical consumer for the product and was expected to take the project manager role. Robert chose to ignore Lord Sugar and explained that he should not be project manager for the task as he wanted to specialise in “extreme luxury, high fashion retail”. After a lot of shirking, it was left to Scott to step up to the plate for team Summit after being accused of being absent by Lord Sugar during the previous task. He had also somewhat conveniently attended a conference on wearable technology in the 2 weeks prior to starting the process.

For the newly named team Tenacity, Nurun was somewhat coerced into being project manager as no one else wanted to take the opportunity, or put themselves in the potential wake of Lord Sugar. Nurun was quite quickly exposed as lacking insightful judgement and courage as she could not decide between all the ideas that were being generated so decided to go with all of them. After a very confused design meeting Team Tenacity were left to wait overnight for their prototype to be produced. They woke the next morning to find a note explaining that their prototype was not ready, which was not surprising considering that the garment was more complicated that Inspector Gadget’s anorak and nowhere near as fashionable. Fortunately for Nurun, team Tenacity were able to deliver one reasonable pitch once the product arrived and get orders from one prospective client and therefore beat team Summit for the second week in a row. Bianca was called out by Lord Sugar in the boardroom for not taking the opportunity to be project manager, if she learns anything from the results of this task she will be putting herself forward for anything of any relevance in the future.

When Scott was initially appointed project manager he explained his idea was to create something that you would wear all day to monitor your diet, I assume this was more complicated than a belt. The group did not like this idea and suggested a jumper that could display a picture taken from a mobile phone. When Scott realised his idea would not be taken forward he announced “from now on, I’m putting this back on you guys” and true to his word was absent for much of the task. However, he did supervise Robert and the rest of his sub-team in their creation of a grey jumper (although Robert ensured the material was Italian all by himself). When the other sub-team met with the designer it quickly became apparent that their concept would not work within the time-frame and were again forced to show some creativity, on the spot. They didn’t. They therefore ended up creating a jumper with a camera located around the chest area, obviously lacking the female perspective during that brainstorm. When it came to the pitches Daniel clearly explained that he would not wear the product in public, Robert barked “privacy is dead” and Steven tipped the laptop on its side when asked if it was possible to rotate the image. This sterling team effort was sufficient to ensure that the jumper received no orders at all.

When it came to the boardroom Lord Sugar wanted to make sure that Robert was not made a scapegoat for failing to take the responsibility of project manager. He did this by immediately firing Robert, showing that the Apprentice process truly is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous…..but mainly Uncertain. Whilst Solomon had correctly pointed out previously that Lord Sugar can do whatever he wants, the group may not have realised he can do it whenever he wants. Scott decided to bring Solomon and Daniel back to the boardroom but despite some quite irate and aggressive rants was not able to save himself from the chop.

So why did Robert get the boot?

Robert made the grave mistake of going against Lord Sugars suggestion that he would be perfectly suited to project manage this task. Lord Sugar is looking for someone who is willing and able to adapt to new environments and challenges by drawing on learning and feedback from previous experiences. Robert was not able to demonstrate this as he was not prepared to project manage any task that was not “extreme luxury, high fashion retail”.

Robert also showed a lack of insightful judgement during the first task when he insisted that the hotdogs had to be sold in Shoreditch and they had to source gourmet toppings in order to do so. This meant they spent more in producing the hotdogs, which cut into their profit margin. Furthermore, they spent approximately an hour purchasing these additional ingredients and therefore missed a significant portion of the lunch trade.

However, Roberts’s demise was at least partly attributable to his inability to build relationships. Throughout the two episodes there were countless examples where he looked to clarify just how superior he is. My personal favourite was his metaphor for Lord Sugar’s comment that he was suited to the task, suggesting “it is like saying you can ride a canoe but can you ride a luxury yacht in the south of France, Cannes” because a luxury yacht is not luxury unless it is in the South of France, Cannes.

So why did Scott get the boot?

Scott did actually show some willingness to adapt to new environments and challenges as he took the opportunity to be project manager after Lord Sugar suggested he was absent from the first ask and described him as the “poodle of petticoat lane”. However, even though he had conveniently attended a conference on wearable technology he was not really able to bring any useful knowledge or insight to the task.

Scott also lacked the ability to lead a team from an emotional perspective. He was not able to influence others or build relationships. During the brainstorming sessions he tried to gain attention from the rest of the group by saying “wait” at least 10 times, this didn’t work so he switched to “guys” for another 10, which was not successful either so went back to “wait” for a final 10. In fact he was barely able to manage his own emotions for the most part, demonstrated best during his furious rant on the merits of the two individuals he had taken to the boardroom, which undoubtedly angered Lord Sugar further.

However, once again Lord Sugars trusted aides who got to see first-hand Scott’s approach to leading his team delivered the one-two knockout punch. Karen Brady quickly interjected during another of Scott’s rants and requested that he spent “more time answering questions and less time covering your arse”. Later Nick Hewer offered another perfectly constructed criticism, explaining that “Scott is a slippery character; he passes the buck like it is a grenade”. When you consider this lack of integrity in combination with his aggressive style you can see why Lord Sugar decided it was best to steer clear of working with him in the future.

 Find out more about a&dc‘s LIVED™ model here > >

Author: Ross McGarrigle

The Apprentice – 10 year’s of selling (Episode 1)

So the Apprentice Series 10 kicked off this week with a bang!

In a special 10 year twist it was unveiled that the competition would now start with 10 men and 10 women (four more than previous years); however, it would still last for the customary 12 rounds. This should increase the chances of a credible individual being selected at the end of the process but more importantly provide four more opportunities for Lord Sugar to waggle his index finger and utter those infamous words; “You’re Fired”.

For the third year running the prize is a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar, for a 50% stake in the winner’s business. This should (in theory) mean the candidates now represent some of the greatest entrepreneurial minds today. For the next 12 weeks, candidates ranging from a burlesque dancer to a quiz salesman will be split into groups and put through a variety of tasks, for Lord Sugar to evaluate who will provide the best return on his investment.

Very early on in the episode, Lord Sugar explains to the candidates that they will be expected to run their own company as he will not be holding their hands along the way. This means he wants to find someone who is an effective and well-rounded leader to drive all aspects of a successful business. The dynamics of today’s business environment means that change is now the only constant, and leaders have to grapple with an increasingly fast-paced world where Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) is the new normal. Interestingly two of these words could also be used to quite accurately describe Lord Sugar himself, I will leave you to decide which.

When the chips are down it is the organisations and individuals that are equipped to handle the ever increasing challenges of the VUCA environment that will thrive and succeed. a&dc’s LIVED™ model is ideally suited to identifying and developing leaders who can deliver tangible business results and shine in a VUCA world. We will, therefore, use this model to evaluate the potential candidates and as objectively as possible look to unpick Lord Sugar’s selection of his latest victim.

As with previous seasons, we kicked off with a classic battle of the sexes and each group were asked to pick a team manager. Felipe was appointed project manager for the men and Sarah for the women. The first task was all about selling, but not content with any of the previous selling tasks, this time they had the full range of products to shift from previous series, creating more opportunity to lose money…..and dignity. Sarah did not receive huge praise for her efforts and had a very lucky escape as her team outsold the boys by a margin of roughly £50 to remove her head from the chopping block. And even though Felipe’s team was unsuccessful, before they realised they had lost they were very happy with his style of leadership. It was, in fact, sub-team leader Chiles who faced the boot, which was somewhat surprising considering the whole team appeared to have decided Simon was at fault, but great news for fans of people who speak about themselves in the third person.

So, why did Chiles get the boot?

Chiles’ demonstrated a lack of Intellect with the t-shirt printing task. As you watch the group jogging towards the printers, Chiles announced “We haven’t even got the t-shirts guys”. The group then sprint back to the van together to pick up a box of t-shirts, along with everything else that had to sell, that they could carry. When they arrive at the printers Chiles decides that they should all take 30 seconds to think of an idea, which leaves you to wonder what they were talking about during the car journey to the printers and their pre-meeting warm-up. Unsurprisingly the ideas are all rubbish and they end up going with quite possibly the worst idea in the history of ideas; a t-shirt with the slogan “Buy this T-Shirt”. However, this was all irrelevant as later on Chiles announces that he has “made a fundamental decision” to go to the balloon shop as they couldn’t afford to wait around for the t-shirts to print. If only there was some way of making some money with those buckets and sponges whilst waiting. This ultimately meant the t-shirts were left with the printers, which was an unforgivable decision from Lord Sugar’s perspective.

Chiles also demonstrated a lack of Drive throughout the whole task. He did not appear to take any of the opportunities to pitch so, as pointed out by Karren, he “did not contribute £1 in sales”. He showed enthusiasm and commitment to his own ideas but was not to be committed to the success of the group. For example, when James was trying to offload the “Paris Mipers” possibly named due to their association with French fries, the camera panned to Chiles who did not even appear to be listening let alone ready to jump in and correct James, albeit no one really did.

You might actually say this was a conscious decision from Chiles and therefore a lack of Values, or more specifically integrity, not necessarily Drive. I would guess that this view would be one shared by Nick Hewer, who was on hand to offer the most scathing of reviews for Chiles and perhaps the nail in the coffin that Lord Sugar needed. Nick felt that Steven was being used as a scapegoat and seemed to attribute Chiles for this, explaining to the innocent Felipe that “it might well be in Chiles’ best interest to pass the blame off on somebody else”.

It, therefore, appears that Chiles did not have the Intellect to make the insightful decisions required from Lord Sugar, the Values to act with integrity expected from Nick Hewer and the necessary Drive for results in Karren Brady’s eyes.

Find out more about a&dc‘s LIVED™ model here > >

Author: Ross McGarrigle

The case for bringing more women into the boardroom

Company boardrooms can often be male-dominated environments with a highly competitive and testosterone-fuelled atmosphere. But the nature of the labour market is changing, with a growing number of skilled and degree-qualified women assuming managerial roles in all sorts of industries.

Yet very few of these women progress to boardroom level, even though the proportion of male and female employees with university degrees is fairly even at the moment. And estimates suggest that by the start of the next decade, there could be more women than men who are degree-educated.

According to the latest Global Megatrends report from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, the gender gap concerning employment and pay will have narrowed considerably by 2030, while the demand for qualified people will exceed the supply.

So why are so few businesses tapping into female employees’ potential and capabilities – and what needs to change to get more women into company boardrooms?

Pip Clarke, principal consultant and business development director at a&dc, believes organisations need to be much more receptive to promoting women to senior leadership roles and create more of a gender balance at the very top.

However, she said this would require a cultural change and a brand new mindset, as well as a concerted effort to make leadership roles more attractive to women.

Why are women under-represented at board level?

Ms Clarke believes the shortage of women at the top has arisen partly because many company bosses think they are likely to have children at some point. As a result, they will require maternity cover and there is no guarantee they will come back to work.

Furthermore, she said those who do go back to work are often perceived to be unable to perform more senior roles because of their commitments outside the workplace.

However, she insisted this is a “nonsense”, as there are many successful female leaders who have progressed up the corporate ladder after having children, while many of the same issues can also apply to males who choose to be involved in raising a child.

Ms Clarke acknowledged that some organisations have introduced diversity programmes and female-focused initiatives to get more women into top jobs, but warned these can often be a “turn-off” for some of their male counterparts.

Indeed, she said some men view these initiatives as tokenism and think women are getting top jobs because of their gender rather than because they are the best person for the job – even if they genuinely are the top candidate for a role.

Organisations were encouraged to focus less on women and instead on creating more of a balance at the top, as this would help them look at how they promote people in a different way – and potentially stop some women being reluctant to even try climbing the corporate ladder.

Benefits of a more gender diverse boardroom

Some male-dominated boards might need convincing that boosting female representation is a good idea, so what exactly would the benefits be?

Ms Clarke said it has been proved gender-diverse boards are more successful, as they can harness the different skill sets of men and women and bring about more harmony and discussion.

She also noted that women tend to be slightly less competitive than men, while many are good at the art of collaboration, empathising with others and listening to different points of view. As a result, bringing more females into the boardroom could promote better dialogue and reduce the chances of the best ideas getting lost.

By tapping into this pool of talent, Ms Clarke believes organisations could also take a broader look at their industry and create more ideas in order to innovate and be successful in a competitive market.

“If you don’t have that number of ideas, then you will by default come back with poorer solutions and more ill thought through strategies,” she commented.

“The more ideas you have, the more healthy it is for an organisation, as long as the facilitation of those ideas is done in a very positive way.”

Ms Clarke added that women shouldn’t have to behave like men in order to climb the professional ladder, but said more needs to be done to enable women to succeed while still being “authentic to themselves”.

This is an area addressed by a&dc’s leadership model, as it is not gender-specific and instead concentrates on helping people understand how they can be successful while staying within their own skin.

As a result, both men and women are able to develop suitable skills and be treated as individuals, rather than according to which demographic box they fall into.

“One size does not fit all. That’s what organisations need to focus on – having the right skills within the organisation,” Ms Clarke added.