Apprentice Week 9 – Getting in tune with Lord Sugar

Apprentice Week 9 – Getting in tune with Lord Sugar

I think I’ve been missing the point in this series of The Apprentice. Lord Sugar is not looking for someone who is a good team player, has persuasive, influential communication and is a natural leader. He’s looking to back an entrepreneur, someone who is so driven and single minded that they won’t allow anything to get in their way. Meet Melody, who seems to fit the bill. If this is what Lord Sugar is looking for, then she is tailor made. I’ve obviously been singing from the wrong hymn sheet in this blog. Time to get in tune with Lord Sugar and understand the Melody.

According to Lord Sugar’s autobiography, “What you see is what you get”, entrepreneurs are born not made. It comes from within, not from outside. Natural entrepreneurs see opportunities where others don’t, and have the drive to see it through. Lord Sugar must see something in Melody that I don’t, because she represents everything I despise in business; she’s been shown to change the facts to suit herself and she doesn’t care about anyone else. Notice how she always positions herself at the front when Lord Sugar is present. Last night, she even insisted on quickly getting dressed and looking presentable when Lord Sugar descended on the house unexpectedly. It amazes me that Lord Sugar’s lap dogs, Nick and Karen don’t seem to see what the TV audience sees. Perhaps they do ,and it’s me who’s got it wrong?

And yet, Melody does have some good business instincts. She was quite correct last night that Zoe’s team Logic biscuit “Bix-Mix” had unclear marketing – the messages were contradictory, and the target customer confused. However, Melody contributed to Logic losing the task. She and Tom were despatched to a biscuit factory to produce a recipe and try it out on a focus group. The pair could not agree on a recipe, so took several choices to a focus group. Melody’s idea of “biscuits are the new popcorn” bombed and she sulked. Tom’s second choice of a 2-in-1 biscuit prevailed. Melody declared “I don’t like that”. She was right; it was poor, but her abrassive style failed to get her point across, and Melody was this week’s most hated person for Zoe (she has a new one every week) so she was over ruled.

Zoe, as PM had wanted to go to the factory, after all this is what she has been successful with before The Apprentice (a drinks factory). Zoe allowed herself to be bullied out of this, and when team Logic lost the task, it was due to a poor product. I suspect that Zoe and Melody were happy to be as far apart as possible. The decision not to go to the factory ultimately cost her, as none of the 3 supermarkets placed any orders and Zoe was fired. The fact that Logic had used a bizarre role play to start their pitches, another of Melody’s ideas, didn’t help.

Tem Venture were led by the redoubtable Helen, now undefeated in 9 weeks and outright favourite. Helen has the drive of Melody, but has the influential communication skills to bring others with her. Helen and Jim seemed to be on the same wavelength, but Natasha seemed to be pushed to the margins. Ultimately, the task to design and sell a biscuit was won by Venture thanks to some outrageous promisess made at a pitch to Asda, who demanded exclusivity and ordered 800,000. Lord Sugar seemed unhappy with Jim’s tactics, but he couldn’t disagree with the outcome.

Was it right that Zoe was fired? Yes, because she never got to grips with Melody. She should have put personalities to one side and gone with Melody to the factory. She would have been in an environment she is familiar with, and could have kept an eye on Melody. But Zoe is very emotional, and quite prepared to challenge others. Except Melody, who she disliked but couldn’t bully.

So, the series is shaping up ino a battle of the driven ladies. The contrast in styles between Helen (influential communicator, assertive) and Melody (single minded, win at all costs) is plain to see. But which style is best suited for Lord Sugar’s business partner?

Time will tell.


The Apprentice Week 8 – See Paris and get fired

The Apprentice Week 8 – See Paris and get fired

The most amazing thing about this week’s Apprentice, was trying to work out who would get fired. Most of the candidates were in the firing line. Only Helen looked truly safe.

The task this week was to identify 2 items to sell in Paris. Tom got his first chance as team leader of Logic. Helen joined Venture, where team leader was Susan. Half of each team headed to Paris, to find retailers to sell to. The PMs and one colleague stayed behind to choose 2 items 10 products currently not on sale in France.

Susan managed to demonstrate how young, naive and ignorant she is, and gave us the quote of the week; “Do people in France love their children?”

Melody, part of team Logic demonstrated that she is not a good team player. She influenced PM Tom’s choice of preferred product because she did not fancy it (despite not seeing it) – a car seat that could be carried by the child as a rucksack. Melody didn’t like this and backed it up with some very dubious market research (sample of 4) suggesting no one in Paris drives their children! Melody wanted the teapot / light, not the rucksack. Melody also lied about how the teapot would be received, so rucksack rejected. Leon, who was with Melody did nothing because of language problems(most people spoke English, but he still did not do anything!)

So Venture took the rucksack and a device for attaching a phone / iPod to car vents. Logic took the teapot and some postcards that folded out into 3D models and cress was produced from.

Once the teams were reunited, Melody bullied Tom and gave him and Natasha only 1 out of 8 appointments. She and Leon had also done no research on La Redoute, the lead set up for them by Lord Sugar. Melody went off and did a good job selling to her appointments, with Leon doing virtually nothing. Tom and Natasha played “rock-scissors-stone” for the honour of pitching, and promptly made a mess of it. They did not realise how big an outfit LaRedoute is (the minimum order they asked for was 10. La Redoute expected to order thousands). Helen, on the other hand, did a brilliant job with the rucksack (yes that rucksack) for Venture.

Susan, for all of her naivity, had a good team and especially Helen, the only decent candidate, to save her and she did, gaining the biggest order in Apprentice history from La Redoute, worth £240K!

Tom was very democratic, clear in his instructions and laid back. His biggest problem was not raining in Melody, who both cost the team the task, and was also the only person to sell anything of note!

So to the Boardroom. Venture gave good feedback on Susan, but for Logic, Leon complained about Melody taking over the team. Melody defended her “market research”.

In the end, it was Helen’s success at La Redoute (Tom and Natasha sold nothing there) that won Venture the task. Tom chose to bring Leon and Melody back to the Boardroom.

Tom put the blame on Melody. Lord Sugar said he should have gone with his gut instinct over the rucksack. Lord Sugar then rounded on Melody for her approach to the task, and on Leon for not contributing. Things looked bleak for all 3, but surely Melody was most vulnerable? After all, she had contributed most to the team’s failure. But no, Lord Sugar praised Melody for this and she was saved. Tom was given a reprieve and told to be more assertive. Leon was sacked. Even his defence in the boardroom was weak and his cumulative failure (3rd visit to the boardroom, vs 1 for Tom) proved decisive.

Once again, Lord Sugar went with his gut instinct and contradicted previous things he has said about team work. Melody did not perform well, but maybe her unscrupulous approach (win at all cost and damn the consequences) is what Lord Sugar is looking for in a business partner. Time will tell.

Favourite: Helen’s position seems even more certain now, as she is the only decent candidate.

Lord Sugar – Social Style Profile

  Lord Sugar – Social Style Profile

In Social Style terms, Lord Sugar is often used as the typical example of the Driving Style. This is borne out when profiling him. Lord Sugar (AMS) is high on the “tell assertive” axis, with strong eye contact, a direct approach to communication and a tendency to tell you what he thinks, rather than ask what you think. His verbal communication is relatively fast, and the voice is used to emphasise key points, often in combination with hand gestures, such as finger pointing. Generally, tell assertive people are relatively higher energy in their body language, in comparison with more ask assertive types.

When we focus on the responsiveness axis, we see that AMS is towards the Task rather than People side. This is evidenced by relatively smaller size of gestures, a more monosyllabic vocal style and a tendency to get right down to business without the need to “get to know you” first.

This combination is called the “driving” style, and AMS shares it with Margaret Thatcher.

The Driving Style has a need for results. They like to have options, are willing to accept risks and want to move quickly. They also need to have the final say in decisions. In relationships they may appear uncommunicative, independent and competitive. Drivers seldom feel the need to share personal motives or feelings. They tend to initiate action and like to provide direction. This is part of their nature to seek control over their environment.

To get the best from the Driving Style;

Let them feel they are in control

Don’t work around them

Focus on the issue or objective

Get to the point

Minimise excuses by others

Make their life easier

Realise they are impatient

Be timely in all things.

The Apprentice Week 7 – Lord Sugar engineers a firing

The Apprentice Week 7 – Lord Sugar engineers a firing

This week’s Apprentice task involved the teams designing a new, free glossy magazine (called Fremiums) and selling advertising in it. Lord Sugar appointed Natasha to lead Team Logic, and moved Jim to lead Team Venture, with Leon moving in the opposite direction.

For once the task proved to be as bit of a red herring. Yes, it determined which team lost, and yes, there was a clear difference in Leadership style, but it had no direct bearing on who got fired.

Natasha has a very tell assertive, directing leadership style. She decided her team was going to do a lads mag, and over ruled or simply ignored the work and advice of her team. Had they lost, I’m in no doubt the team would have rounded on Natasha.

Jim’s style was a complete contrast, very consultative, ask assertive, ensuring that he was less exposed by making sure everyone was in agreement. Team Venture targeted the Over 60s market. And yet, Jim still made some key decisions that ultimately lost the task. Jim refused to negotiate in the first pitch, ignoring Susan’s concerns and then changed his approach with the next 2 media companies.

In the Borardroom, with Venture losing the task, Jim started to apportion blame, and looked vulnerable. As in previous weeks, Jim came out fighting rounding on Glen for not being willing to do the pitching, and Susan for claiming she was not behind all of the team’s decisions. In relation to negotiating, this was backed up by Nick.

Jim brought Susan and Glen back with him and found his style described as “passive aggressive” Karen and Nick. He was also described as “manipulative”.

Things were looking bad for Jim, but Lord Sugar had a card up his sleeve and fired Glen because he’s … an engineer! Yes, Lord Sugar informed us that he’s never met an engineer who can turn his hand to business and fired him. Lord Sugar hadn’t seen enough fron Glen, and amazingly Jim survived.

So, in the end the firing had nothing directly to do with this week’s task, and more an accumulation of observations against Glen and a prejudice against engineers.

Quite simply, this week the wrong person was fired. Early favourite Jim has been exposed and should have been fired.

Current favourite to win – Helen, who still hasn’t lost a task.

The Apprentice Week 6 – Leading from the front.

Edna finally made a reappearance in Week 6 of the Apprentice after hardly being seen for the last few weeks. It is clear to see why Executive Business Coach and Multiple Degree holder Edna has been missing, as she promptly got fired amidst claims of her taking credit for other people’s successes. Many people would say that this is exactly what an Executive Coach does!

Edna was part of team Venture, and had never lost a task. Venture was lead by Zoe, who assumed the role of leader as she wasn’t prepared to spend time discussing it. This proved to be indicative of Zoe’s approach to this task and her leadership was found wanting. Zoe misunderstood the strategy for securing the contracts on Day one, Consequently Venture failed to get either of the 2 contracts. It was noticable that Glen, not Zoe, gave the motivational talk to get the team focused for Day 2. Zoe had ended Day 1 in tears. Ultimately, Zoe survived despite admitting her mistakes, but its the last chance saloon for her.

Team Logic adopted a high risk strategy of paying nothing to remove the rubbish in the hope of maximising profit from the sale of recyclable items. Led by Helen, who also hadn’t lost a task, they secured both contracts. In the end they were lucky to win  (by only £6).  Jim, severely criticised by Lord Sugar last week, adopted a low key, low risk approach. He and Tom gave great impressions of Rag and Bone men as they scoured the streets of London in search of metal.

So, in summary, Helen’s team Logic had focus, took risks and apart from nearly overstretching themselves finally got Tom his first victory. Zoe’s team Venture lacked a cohesive strategy on Day 1 and Zoe’s leadership style was at best questionable, especially where Susan was concerned. Susan DID understand the strategy for securing the contracts, but was shouted down by Zoe. To lose by £6 from this setback ( the lowest gap in The Apprentice history) shows how well Venture did on Day 2, when the team pulled things back.

In the boardroom, Zoe appeared to align herself with Glen.  Zoe chose to bring Edna and Susan back in front of Lord Sugar. Zoe came out fighting, and in the end Edna’s bandwagon-jumping approach and MBA speech (Lord Sugar seems threatened by highly educated candidates who try to use their qualifications as a reason to stay) rescued Zoe. As leader, Zoe  probably should have been fired, but at least she owned up to getting it wrong on Day 1. Lord Sugar gave her credit for this, but warned Zoe he would not be so forgiving again. Edna dug herself into a hole, when she tried to justify her part in the task with “coach speak”. What Lord Sugar is looking for is a business partner, a do-er, not a coach or consultant. Edna never looked like the right type of person for this task.

From an Action-Centred Leadership Approach we can see that Helen scored highest on the three parameters of Task, Team & Individual:

Task – Helen was clear and focused, Zoe was not.

Team – Neither leader did particularly well, but both were strong in the face of challenge. Unfortunately, whichever leader lost was likely to find the team turn against them.

Individual – Zoe should have listened more to Susan, as she was the only one who understood what was needed to secure the contracts. Helen allowed Melody to challenge both herself and Natasha, but remained strong throughout.

So poor leadership from Zoe should have resulted in her being fired. She survived because everyone in the team agreed that Edna had a tendency to claim glory from other people’s successes. This had already been pointed out by Nick and Karen. Lord Sugar said he couldn’t see how he could work with someone like Edna. In the end this probably counted most. What Edna failed to realise is that it may be ok for a coach to sit in the back seat, but a leader has to lead from the front.

Favourite to win : Natasha, but Susan’s stock has risen this week.

The Apprentice Week 5 – Double Jeopardy

The Apprentice Week 5 – Double Jeopardy 

A double firing this week with 2 candidates leaving The Apprentice. Yet again, the leadership of the teams came under scrutiny, as well as the tactics used to progress in the competition. 

This week’s task involved creating a new brand of pet food and a TV commercial to promote it. Each team had to present their campaign and advert to a panel of leading advertising executives.

 Once again, the two Project Managers / Team Leaders were appointed by Lord Sugar. Vincent led Team Logic, and Glen took the helm of Team Venture. It seemed that Lord Sugar wanted to test the mettle of the lads, Two of whom, Vincent and Tom, had lost all 4 of the previous tasks. This point was to be borne out later in the boardroom.

 The 2 teams were targeting different pet markets. Vincent’s team went to the dogs, and Glen’s team were more catty in nature. Immediately, the pattern was set for what would be the inevitable outcome:

In Team Logic, Tom was a lone voice concerned that the brand “Every-dog” was not niche enough.

 In Team Venture, Glen upset his sub-team by completely disregarding the feedback from their focus group research and going with Cat Size ( a play on cats eyes) and targeting the “healthy” eating part of the cat food market. Leon in particular was unhappy here. It was also noted that Vincent was leaning on Jim a lot, according to Nick. And so Team Venture became increasingly dysfunctional. This all came to a head when Leon put together a poor presentation (?deliberately), despite having 5 hours to prepare. It didn’t look good for Glen.

 Increasingly, Jim looked to be the leader of Team Logic, with Vincent melting into the background. Logic’s pitch was a polished display by Melody. Things were looking good for Logic.

 So, to the boardroom and the opinion of the experts was that Venture had identified a unique selling point (USP,) but put together a poor advert. Logic had poor marketing, but a good advert. In the end it came down to Lord Sugar, who decided that “The Every-dog name is wrong” . This meant Tom and Vince were on the losing team for 5 weeks in a row. Had Venture lost, it is difficult to see how Glen could have survived, but they didn’t lose and neither did he.

 Tom was immediately vindicated by LS for challenging the branding, but Jim was targeted for having taken responsibility for the name “Every-dog. The mood in the boardroom suggested that Jim was looking weak, but, amazingly Vincent decided NOT to bring him back, but went for Natasha and Ellie (who was anonymous for the second task running) instead. This proved to be a tactical error. Firstly, Natasha had directed the successful ad and was prepared to fight her corner. However, it looked like Vincent had miraculously survived when LS elected to fire Ellie, only to be fired himself as a warning to the rest of the candidates. His loyalty to Jim, described as a “bromance” cost him dear. If Jim had come into the boardroom it is likely that Vincent would have survived. As it is, Vincent has gone and Jim’s card is now marked by LS. Woe betide him if he loses another task.

 So, the poor leadership of Glen survives because his team won the task, But Vincent paid the price of misplaced loyalty. In the end, there are no friends in this process, just a common need to be successful in the task.

 Natasha has emerged as the new favourite. Jim could now be a dead man walking.