The Apprentice – The Country Show (Episode 8)

The Debacle of “Hot-Tub Man”

Following Lauren’s departure last week, we are down to the final 9 contestants. You may think that Lord Sugar has separated the wheat from the chaff at this stage of the game and that there is limited chance for comical errors. You would, of course be mistaken. This week’s episode brought lies, arguments and a landslide victory for one of the teams.

The challenge set for the teams this week seemed like a straight forward sales one. They were tasked to set up shop at the Royal Bath and West Show in Somerset where they had to choose one main product which was an already proven seller at the show and also introduce two new items to sell alongside it. Felipe put himself forward as project manager for Tenacity, while James stepped up to the mark for Summit.

For Tenacity, Felipe and Mark stayed in London to decide on the two new items to sell while Katie and Daniel headed west to Somerset to choose the main product. It quickly became confusing as to who the actual Project Manager was, with Katie having to step in with advice for Felipe after he and Mark failed to consider the need to negotiate a lower selling price with the supplier of their chosen items. She again stepped up to the plate with some advice for Daniel after he went into complete overdrive while talking to suppliers at the show. His buzzword of the day was “passion” and he flung it around in a completely passionless and inauthentic manner. This was greeted with some epic dead-pan reactions of people who were wondering who this man was and whose idea it was to let him out of London for the day. Katie managed to pick up the pieces, by explaining to Daniel the importance of understanding who they were pitching to and what sort of approach they needed to take, showing a good understanding of the importance of Emotions when it comes to influencing others.

For Team Summit, Bianca, Sanjay and Solomon stayed in London to select the two new items. Thankfully, these guys remembered to negotiate a lower retail price with the suppliers. However, they may as well not have bothered as James steamrolled their decision by instructing them to go with two different items based on the descriptions he had read and his “gut sense”. Not only was this a waste of three of his team members’ time but it showed his complete lack of insight into how frustrating they  would find this decision as he didn’t provide any clear reasoning behind it.

James’s inability to listen once again came to a head in one of my favourite moments of The Apprentice to date when the hot-tub supplier opted for Katie and Daniel partly because James had called him Derek twice when his name was actually Anthony. James has shown a consistent inability or unwillingness to listen throughout the whole competition. This particular faux-pas really highlighted that weakness. His decision to hide what happened from the rest of the team made a bad situation even worse. When Roisin questioned his decision to do this, his  response was “it’s important what I wanna do, innit”, evidently placing himself before the team and  showing questionable Values by shirking away from holding his hands up to his own mistake. His excuse that he didn’t want to affect the morale of the team was flimsy as he had no qualms about putting a dint in the morale of the team earlier in the day by overruling their decision. Something, he showed again later on in the episode when he inexplicably lost his temper with Roisin after she made a sale, leaving her looking as if the last drop of morale was draining away.

Back on Team Tenacity, Felipe entered a showdown with Daniel after announcing that Mark and Katie would be selling the hot-tubs for the day while Daniel would be selling the “quirky” flat-cap handbags.  The pair continued to bicker for the day much to the amusement of the locals (and a random sheep), and threw any semblance of professionalism they once had to the wind. Thankfully, Mark and “Voice of Reason” Katie were in control of the hot-tub selling. When a customer announced that he was going to buy seven hot-tubs, Mark momentarily stopped breathing and it was evident that victory was sealed for Tenacity.

So, who got fired?

In the boardroom, Daniel highlighted his phobia of Learning by trying, once again, to claim something as his own by saying that he had recognised that he needed to change his approach in speaking to suppliers when, in reality, he was clueless until Katie pointed it out to him.  He has been called out on numerous occasions now for doing this but the message does not appear to be sinking in for him. Unless he can drop the act, I would imagine that he won’t have much longer left in the competition.  On Team Summit, James’s little “omission” came to light and his team seemed more perplexed than angry as to why he hadn’t told them about the “Hot-Tub Man” incident. At the end of it all, Team Tenacity romped to a landslide victory with sales of over £30k, in comparison to Summit’s more reserved sales of under £5k. Daniel looked like he might cry even though he was on the winning team, clearly still in a strop over Felipe’s decision not to let him sell the hot-tubs.

James rightly decided to bring Sanjay back to the boardroom as his sales were the lowest and he didn’t seem to have any real impact on the task. However, his choice to bring Roisin back was questionable and not well thought out as she proceeded to slay him with her newly found voice. Everything she said held water as she highlighted that he had shown no ability to manage the team effectively. James’s stint as the court jester had come to an end with Lord Sugar letting him go with a tear in his eye (almost) and some encouraging words. There’s no denying that James possessed Drive in abundance, he knew what he wanted and he wasn’t afraid to go after it. However, he didn’t show any real capacity for Learning, not taking the time to listen to others or take on board the useful feedback they had to offer.  His Values and understanding of team dynamics were also called into question with this final task as he wasn’t upfront with his team members and left them confused, frustrated and unmotivated. While he was entertaining to watch, he wasn’t yet the well-rounded leader that Lord Sugar was looking for.

Looking forward to next week’s task, it looks like Sanjay and Daniel are hanging on by a thread while Roisin and Katie are gaining momentum with the final almost in sight.

Author: Mary Mescal

The Apprentice – Advertising in New York (Episode 7)

The Ego has not landed

Week seven was where the remaining contestants take on the annual task of producing a product and then marketing it. Some were fortunate enough to be in the part of the team that took off to New York for 4 days. A ploy built in to the task well by the production team as it was a good test of team cohesion. Indeed, team Summit managed to display that it is not quite at the 4th stage of the Tuckman model (performing) as it was clear there were tensions between Project Manager Bianca and Sanjay, with Bianca suggesting that Sanjay was being negative on 3 occasions. However, they did manage to win the task, but it was mainly due to the fact that the other product was just worse.

This highlighting of negativity in itself seemed to be a little odd as it also displayed that the team was not communicating effectively, neither did it show that Bianca was in any mood to listen to feedback and learn from that. Learning is something that we at a&dc uniquely recognise and measure as one of the essential elements of future successful leaders, and forms part of our LIVED leadership model. Lack of learning was also displayed by both teams in the production of the TV advert they had to produce. This has huge overlaps with the task from a few weeks back when they had to produce visual media for their You Tube channel. Feedback that was provided in that task around suitability and engagement with the audience would have been very useful this week, but no reference was made to drawing on past experiences.

One of the most striking psychological aspects from the show for me was Daniel’s inability to show that he has his Ego fully functioning. The Ego is a part of the psychic apparatus that is made up of the ID, your basic instinctual impulses and inner desires, the Superego, your internal policing system that seeks to ensure that we live by the rules and regulations that society has imposed upon us and the Ego, which looks to mediate between the ID and the Superego. In the case of Daniel last night, his Ego failed to land. This resulted in his ID being able to show itself a little more than was needed. Of course with Daniel, this is not a new feature. He has displayed basic needs outbursts in the past and been warned of them, but his Ego has failed to heed these and mediate his internal mechanisms sufficiently.

Early on last night we saw him attempting to give himself some self-gratification by suggesting that his branding was great and that Lauren was ‘doing nothing’. Further displays of defence mechanisms were evident such as projection (saying Lauren is not a pitcher, when he has shown in the past that he is not much good at it either), fantasy (saying the brand was great) and denial (not believing Lord Sugar when he was told that the brand was bland, and let us not forget his statement from last week that he is complete in business – didn’t we see a similar character a few years back by the name of Stuart Baggs?). Arguably, all of these are put into action by Daniel to protect his self-esteem.

Houston, we have a problem

This is an aspect of Daniel’s make up that he needs to work on. He is in a process where some of the less capable candidates have been eliminated and he may well be starting to think that he has found his level, and we are only half way through the process. Throwing allegations around about other candidates’ perceived gaps is a way of deflecting the inner discomfort that he may be feeling about his own potential. He is displaying signs of self-esteem maintenance at the moment.

It will be interesting to see over the coming weeks how Daniel adapts his style. If he does not, he may well not make it through to the end game. He would do well to take a good look inside and start being more authentic. When he is true to himself, he is more likely to be a better candidate, outstanding for the right reasons.

The LIVED® leadership solution

You might not have heard of the term, but the acronym VUCA is increasingly being used to describe the operating environment for businesses. It stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – and basically means that the world is going through incredible change at an ever increasing fast pace.

Business leaders are having to grapple with a world where VUCA is the new normal and accept the fact that this dramatic rate of change is here to stay. As a result, companies need to make sure they are equipped to cope with the challenges this presents.

This demands certain qualities and attributes in leaders, such as flexibility and agility in how they cope with these unanticipated circumstances. Essentially, what organisations need are leaders who are comfortable being uncomfortable and able to learn from their day-to-day experiences.

And this is where a&dc‘s LIVED™ leadership model comes in.

According to Nigel Povah, chairman, chief executive and founder of a&dc, leadership as a topic has been high on the agenda for organisations “for as long as you care to remember“. As a result, there have been many attempts to define the important qualities in an effective leader.

However, Mr Povah pointed out that for all the leadership models that have been devised, no single one stands out as the best. But when a&dc took a look at each one, it found many common elements and themes and developed the LIVED™ model.

The name is an acronym of the five dimensions we believe make a leader truly exceptional, so let’s look at each one.

Learning

According to Mr Povah, for leaders to be truly effective, they have to be able to adapt in the world that we are living in because of the variety of challenges that come their way.

You only have to look at the history of many organisations. They have periods when they’re doing fantastically well and all of a sudden they might plummet. You need leaders who are capable of handling the good times and the bad times and can learn from their experiences,” he commented.

Intellect

A leader must be able to think incisively, deal effectively with complex and ambiguous information and be capable of seeing issues in a broader context. They can then take sound decisions based on this analysis.

Values

Authentic leadership, with bosses displaying integrity and honesty, is becoming increasingly important to many organisations.

Mr Povah believes this is an issue because people need to know what their leaders stand for, which means those at the top have to behave in a “consistent and predictable manner“.

Emotions

Pure intellect is not enough to succeed as a leader. They must also be able to relate to people well and keep their own emotions in check, so they can inspire and motivate their workforce, as well as third parties, clients and the wider world.

Drive

Leaders must show passion and determination, as well as possess a strong focus on achieving results in a decisive way.

The acronym LIVED™ tells a story in itself, because in essence you’ve got to draw upon the experiences you have had in the past,” Mr Povah commented.

It is an acknowledgement that while something may have worked in the past, there is no guarantee it will work in today’s VUCA world. Leaders must look back and reflect on their experiences and be able to adapt accordingly if circumstances demand it.

The LIVED™ model offers an end-to-end assessment and development solution to help businesses find people who can operate in this environment.

Organisations can use the LIVED™ model to identify future leaders and improve skills gaps among those who are already in senior roles, from managers to executives on the board, and make them better at what they do.

Harold S Geneen, the famous president of the ITT Corporation, once remarked that “leadership cannot really be taught – it can only be learned“. It’s a thought worth bearing in mind for anyone who wants to meet all the criteria the LIVED™ model lays out.

Our assessment process has a wide level of application, depending on where an organisation is at the moment, and can be a great way to assess individuals to see where they fit in with its culture.

It could be the key to ensuring a business is able to stay ahead of the curve in a VUCA world and can cope with whatever challenges come its way.

The Apprentice – Board Games (Episode 6)

This week saw Lord Sugar’s contestants designing, creating and selling a Board Game.

James and Pamela were the Project Managers, Pamela somewhat reluctantly.  Afterwards Pamela said that she took the role because it required ‘passion’, even though it was evident that it had been thrust upon her.  In relationship psychology, Duck (1992) suggests the final phase when a relationship ends is known as the ‘grave-digging phase’, where each partner makes a public version of events that does not jeopardise future relationships.  In this sense, Pamela creating her story about taking charge helps to protect her self-esteem.

The first stage in the process is to create an idea and present this to focus groups.  Pamela’s team were focusing on a game for adults.  The groups said that they were interested in sci-fi themed games and they did not like the team’s idea about a game based on relationships.  So what did Pamela decide?  She decided to go with the relationship game of course! Trouble continued to brew as the sub team proudly revealed their cover image for their aptly named board game, ‘The Relationship Guru’. In true apprentice fashion this simply wasn’t good enough for Pamela and her team – a divide amongst sub teams?! Who’d have thought it!

James’ team’s opted to design a fun yet intellectually challenging geography game aimed at children, which they named ‘GeoKnow’. Without any surprises James flourished in the role of bumbling dictator.  We have seen this series as in others that the Project Manager must be decisive; however James took this to a level where he antagonised his fellow team members and simply did not demonstrate effective listening.  The Project Manager, like leaders in all organisations, has to finely balance meeting the needs of their team and the needs of the organisation – in this case, Lord Sugar.

Once designed, the Relationship Guru received feedback that the game was “sexist and subjective”, this of course caused a great deal of issue when attempting to flog it!  However Mark positioned the game as fun and easy to play (avoiding the sexism element of the game), and managed to sell a number of units.

Exclusivity became a problem for James’ team after Bianca, faced with the pressure to achieve a sale, made an error and offered exclusivity to a Westminster store for just 6 units!  This was a great demonstration of how managing emotions and behaviour under pressure is vital for today’s leaders.  In the end this did not matter as the game was a hit with the retailers and they won by a country mile.

So, who was fired?

In the Boardroom, Dan was branded a ‘fantasist’ and ‘delusional’ by Lord Sugar, whilst Mark was accused of not stepping up for volunteering Pamela as the Project Manager.  Pamela brought Dan (who she described as “aggressive and obstructive”) and Lauren (for “sitting on the fence”) back in to the Boardroom with her to slang it out.   Lord Sugar couldn’t see Lauren’s entrepreneurial spirit but in the end it was Pamela’s decision around the game concept that saw her become the latest victim of the Boardroom.

Leaders in today’s business environment need to be willing to listen to feedback from their peers and customers and translate these in to actions.  They require the ability to work in a complex, fast-paced and pressured world and yet display incisive judgement and integrity.  a&dc’s LIVED leadership assessment and development solution provides a platform to identify and develop this exact type of talent – the type of talent to lead organisations in our ever-changing and demanding world.

Author: Kay Lucker

The Apprentice – Coach Tours (Episode 5)

After last week’s ‘night of the finger cull’ who is going to survive this week’s coach trip challenge? Strap in as the candidates take you on a tour of the dos and predominantly don’ts of good business.

As a seasoned viewer of the Apprentice, Episode 5 is typically the point where the seemingly identikit bravado delivering candidates become more recognisable and clearly identifiable. This has been helped out by the very active pointy finger of LordAlanTM. Last week’s unprecedented triple dismissal has opened up the landscape, removing many of the more comedic-leaning and competence-challenged candidates from the process.

As a consequence, I am now capable of referring to some of the candidates by name rather than just by a prominent quality, such as the one who speaks about themselves in the third person or the one with the designer stubble. I will even go as far as saying that the thinning of the herd has enabled viewers to see glimmers of talent within the morass of self-importance and posturing.

This week’s task involved the two teams of Tenacity (RIP team Decadence) and Summit (Please note:  the team name should be said slowly in order for it not to be mistaken for the abbreviation of something) competing on who can deliver a more profitable coach tour. Summit was project managed by Sanjay, a Senior Manager in the banking sector, who decided to build the tour around both history and Kent, England’s garden. Team Tenacity on the other hand was project managed by Daniel, a pub-quiz entrepreneur, boldly claiming he was going to drive them to victory (pun not intended).

As always the key to the task was ensuring a large profit margin and that the costs were controlled. In principle, this seemed to be taken on board by both teams.  However, in action this again proved to be something team Summit didn’t fully grasp with Sanjay very quickly deciding upon a relatively low price point. This showed a lack of Intellect, and arguably this decision alone set up his team for its eventual failure. However, what I and the viewing public didn’t anticipate was how extensive their failure was going to be.

In short, team Summit didn’t just lose this task, they delivered a performance and coach tour so cringe inducing that I spent most of the time watching the show from behind the protective shield of my hands. The main instigator for my wincing is a gentleman by the name of James whose hard selling approach and complete lack of self-awareness elicited bewilderment from the customers/victims and anyone he interacted with.

James’s approach to negotiation was shown to be in stark contrast to the one taken by Mark Wright. Whilst Mark used his Intellect and Emotional Intelligence to get a 60% reduction on ticket prices, James merely seemed to bludgeon his supplier by repeating himself and acting rudely. What made the experience worse was the fact that he has been explicitly warned about his behaviour by LordAlanTM himself. So rather than taking stock and trying to improve as a consequence of his scolding, he seemed to be even more determined to act like a buffoon (that is the technical psychological term for his behaviour). His complete lack of Learning Agility may prove to be a huge issue for his future success, as if he is unable to learn from his experiences, he will carry on making the same mistakes.

Team Tenacity appeared to fare better than team Summit with both Mark and Lauren, in particular, performing very well. Lauren demonstrated Intellect by delivering a tour that seemed to be very well prepared without the aid of any notes or prompts. She also demonstrated strong Drive and Values, because rather than just cobbling together a random selection of words (ahem…Gemma and James), she tried to give the customers a high-quality experience, even though arguably it wouldn’t have greatly impacted the outcome of the task.

The team also had its fair share of problems with Daniel’s leadership and performance being questioned throughout the task. In fact, despite ‘leading’ the team to victory he was given the greatest stamp of disapproval by the one-two punch of being derided in the Boardroom and then excluded from the post-win hug. Overall Daniel’s performance was at odds with his pre-recorded assertions that he was able to sell anything to anyone and was like a chess player, thinking two or potentially an awe-inspiring three steps ahead. I am pretty sure our CEO Nigel Povah, who is actually a grand master of correspondence chess, would agree with me that two steps are probably not sufficient to either play chess or project manage effectively.

So who was fired?

 Controversially Sanjay let James off the hook and instead brought Jemma and Bianca to the Boardroom with him. I would argue that Sanjay was probably the most at fault on this task due to his aforementioned pricing strategy and being complicit in James’s behaviour. Nevertheless, despite the shambolic nature of Summit’s performance, it seemed that LordAlanTM was feeling in a very forgiving mood with only one candidate being fired this week with Jemma becoming the ninth victim of the infamous finger point.

 With 11 candidates remaining, it is starting to get serious. Next week it’s board games!

 Author: Ali Shalfrooshan

The Impact of Technology and Job Cuts: Lloyds Bank

On my way to work last Tuesday, as I was walking down the High Street, I remembered that I needed to get some cash for the week’s bus rides. As I ducked into the Lloyds branch and headed to the ATM, I typed in my PIN and stuffed the notes into my wallet. I turned to see a Lloyds employee arriving to start her day, and was greeted with an infectious smile. As I left the building to continue on my route downhill, I suddenly stopped and reflected on what had just happened; realising the topical relevance of my actions.

I had just used a machine to provide me with a financial service – an industry where technology is increasingly dictating the strategic direction of high street banks. So much so, in fact, that Lloyds Banking Group announced last week that 9,000 jobs in the UK (or 10% of its workforce) would be cut and 150 branches closed with the intention of investing over £1bn in technological development. I remember seeing that employee’s smile, considering the morning’s announcement, and I wondered whether she had also noticed the symbolism of my actions in relation to her job security.

It’s long been a global megatrend; that advances in technology are happening at an increasingly rapid pace, and that the rate of such innovation will continue to accelerate. To some extent, there are many ways in which high street banks have needed to change given our move to online and mobile banking, and in some ways it is surprising that we have not seen more significant changes.

For example, how many of us have the time to visit a bank during the week, especially as their opening hours inconveniently match a typical 9 -5 pattern? Frustratingly, this means that the banks are heaving on Saturdays and if you are trying to get an appointment to discuss a service, such as provision of a mortgage, you can find yourself booking an appointment weeks in advance. It would make much better sense to stay open during evening hours (enter Metro Bank), or provide increased services and/or extended hours over the weekend. There could even be an argument to significantly reduce opening hours during the week, especially as it is likely that the trend for managing our money entirely virtually will increase.

However, investing in technology is not without its problems. The first iPhone was released in 2007 and, within 5 years, became the most popular phone in the world. Smartphones are now the norm, and the use of apps to control, save and spend our money is completely widespread. This goes to show just how quickly innovation can influence the mechanics of society and can prove unpredictable and too rapid in pace for many to keep up. In this way, how can the banking sector know what technology will look like in 10 years’ time? The answer is that they can’t know for certain, but by looking to the data that exists and the research into global megatrends they can be better placed to decide where to invest and how to ensure their services and working environment stays current. This is a question that is relevant to all organisations. Business leaders should be immersed in this to help formulate their strategies.

The most significant challenge for Lloyds now however, following the recent announcement of job losses, is taking care of their staff motivation and engagement levels. Using assessment centres to manage redundancy decisions is often considered to be the most fair and objective method, although it requires a greater investment than purely using existing performance data. However, the question is what is the greater risk…to make the easy decisions or to make the right decisions, to have employees who can help you navigate the future rather than just operate well in the current reality?

Similarly, it is important to consider the people who remain in the organisation. As Bonenberger, Aikins, Akweongo & Wyss (2014) observed and reported, worker motivation is highly linked to staff turnover, ie demotivated staff are more likely to leave. Research also suggests that those who remain can suffer survivor guilt which in turn impacts motivation and job satisfaction (Campbell, Worrall & Cooper, 2000) and therefore it is critical that such situations are conducted properly and with due sensitivity. For Lloyds’ present situation, transparency, honesty and appropriate investment in their people are three vital tools to ensure that their performance continues on their recently reported upward trend in pre-tax profits.

Author: Jordon Jones