Young Apprentice Week 5 – Something smelly in the boardroom.

Young Apprentice Week 5 – Something smelly in the boardroom.

So, we enter the second half of this series of Young Apprentice. This week’s episode started with 8 candidates, so with only 3 weeks left we may be due a week of double firing. Either that or the final could be a busy affair. It didn’t happen this week, but one survivor in the programme came out looking decidedly dodgy – Lord Sugar.

The task this week was a familiar one; create a brand, package it, make an advert to promote it and pitch it to an advertising agency. The product was a new anti-perspirant deodorant for the young adult market. No profits or sales to worry about, this week’s task was about creativity and leadership.

The leaders were Zara for Atomic (with resident mouse Hayley, Haya and Harry H) and Harry M for Kinetic (with Gbemi, James and Lizzie). Neither were role models for good leadership. Last week James demonstrated that you can be clear, focused, even opinionated, and yet be a democratic leader. Both Harry and Zara were very clear what they wanted, but demonstrated leadership styles slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun. Neither were popular with their teams. Of the 2, Zara was at least prepared to listen to feedback (eg from the focus group) and make adjustments, and gave some degree of structure and process. Harry M just gave orders and expected everyone to follow them, not question them. Neither PM is a good advert for a priviledged upbringomg and public school eductation.

Leadership is about getting the balance right between task, team and individual (see Adair). Zara concentrated on the first 2. Harry was only interested in the task. Not surprisingly, the result is unhappy teams, with individuals feeling frustrated and outside of the task. For Harry he did manage to create a team – one that was united against him. Never before has it been clearer watching the programme that losing the task could have dire consequences for the PM.

And so it proved to be. The programme followed the usual rollercoaster for each team, with the viewer’s expectations of who will win switching as the editing showed us potential disasters on either side. For Kinetic, Zara’s structure gave a good focus to the 3 components of the task (agree a brand and name, produce the advert and pitch it) with everyone contributing. At each stage, Zara showed she was prepared to make adjustments; the brand values were tweaked through a focus group, the advert storyboard was adjusted accordingly. In contrast, Harry kept everything in his head and was not for being deflected from his chosen path; no structure, no plan, no storyboarding. He did, however, allow the subgroup (including Gbemi who counts design as one of her specialist areas) to design the packaging.

When it came to pitching the 2 brands, both came across as resonably creative. Atomic went with Raw, offering a coherent link between advert and pitch. On completion, Zara told her team she was “dead proud” of them. There may have been some irony lost on Harry M with Kinetic’s brand. It was called Vanity, but was unclear what its brand values were. The product pitch suggested confident, the advert fun (think a poorer version of the Lynx commercials designed by two 17 year old lads for the female market). Harry never thought to thank his team after the pitch. They didn’t seem to expect him to.

After reviewing the commericals in the boardroom, Lord Sugar went with the more coherent Atomic product Raw. In the cafe it became clear that the Kinetic team laid the blame squarely at Harry as PM. He was going to have his work cut out to survive as his leadership had been a disaster. Surely he had to go?

Back in the boardroom again, the feedback for Lizzie on her pitch was good enough for even Harry M to realise that he shouldn’t bring her back. And then there were 3. Gbemi went straight for Harry M, but was vulnerable because Sugar identified the packaging as a major factor in Kinetic losing the task. James also criticised Harry’s leadership and it was here that I expected Nick Hewer to reveal just how poor a leader Harry H had been. It never really happened. Instead, our esteemed Emperor Sugar turned his attention to Gbemi. After all, she is a design specialist. James tried a half hearted rescue, suggesting (correctly) that if Harry had been a better PM the product design would have taken care of itself. This had little impact on Sugar, and despite Harry having lost all 5 tasks, Harry survived (again) and Gbemi was fired. This did not go down well back in the house.

Once again, Sugar proved himself to be consitently inconsistent. Even in this series, individual PMs have been fired because of leadership at least (think Hannah). Crucially, this task was a subjective one; the outcome was not decided by £s. Sugar clearly likes Harry M, as he forgave his crass leadership because he sees talent as a salesman. His drive and single-mindedness, with an instinct for a profit probably mirrors what Sugar is looking for (a junior version of himself). He is not looking for a democratic team player who is well liked (again just like himself). As a commentator on leadership, sales and marketing, this left a nasty smell in the boardroom, one that no amount of deodorant can mask. It’s the smell of hypocracy. It’s hard not to conclude that there was nothing Harry M could have got wrong this week which would have got him fired, even losing all 5 tasks to date. This must be hard for the others to take. I wonder how they will learn from this. Makes great telly, though.

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5 Responses to Young Apprentice Week 5 – Something smelly in the boardroom.

  1. Tim says:

    Hi Mark. As seems to happen every season, Sugar protects one of his favourites who had an awful task (Harry M) and instead scapegoats a candidate (Gbemi) who didn’t cover herself in glory here and suffered for having not really stood out at all throughout, aside from being surly and argumentative. If Sugar had explained that he was looking at the process as a whole instead of just this task, his decision would have appeared more justified. Harry M is clearly more comfortable in selling mode than trying to be creative – fair enough, most people are – and Sugar does clearly see something in him.

    It must be difficult for Harry, as he knows no one in the house likes him. Even so, his autocratic style was appalling – as you rightly say, all task-focussed, with no consideration of team or individual, and he made several genuinely bad calls. He has used up 8 of his 9 lives in one fell swoop.

    Definitely great telly, though.

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/11/22/young-apprentice-raw-potential-wins-as-vanitys-not-so-grand-design-causes-a-stink/

    • markdecosemo says:

      Thanks Tim. James has shown that you can learn, change and win people over. Though as we saw last week he is manipulative and may not be genuine ( in sales? God forbid). It is too late for Harry to change now. He needs to carry on as is. It is clearly what Sugar wants. He needs a win though.

      • Tim says:

        James certainly has a habit of facing whichever the wind is blowing, doesn’t he?

        Harry could certainly do with a win, although a losing record doesn’t necessarily stop a candidate from being a winner. (From memory, I think Tom Pellereau’s win-loss record was 3-7.)

        Harry is what he is. He is too cocky by half and clearly lacks people management and creative skills. But he has a nose for an opportunity, and that ultimately is THE key skill Sugar is looking for in making his investment.

  2. Pingback: Young Apprentice Week 6 – Time’s up for Hayley. Is Harry M “The Chosen One”? « markdecosemo

  3. Pingback: Young Apprentice Week 6 – Time’s up for Hayley. Is Harry M “The Chosen One”? « markdecosemo

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