The Apprentice – Home Fragrance (Episode 3)

Published October 24, 2014

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.

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Author: Jordon Jones

    Read more in Leadership & Management Development (Bespoke)