The Apprentice 2016 Week 4 – Departure Store

liberty-london

Liberty London courtesy of wikipedia

The Apprentice 2016 Week 4 – Departure Store

The current series of The Apprentice continues to surprise and disappoint in equal measures. This is the result of the candidates who have been selected for this year’s competition. In Week 2, we had Nathalie who was fired and confessed that not only was it the right decision, but that she had never even watched the programme before! This week, we had business consultancy owner, Aleksandra King walk out of the programme. The timing of her departure was strange as it was before the task had even got started. However, her reasons – missing her family – were very fair. She later admitted that since starting her family she no longer accepts work that takes her away from them. So why come on this programme? Along with the emotional intelligence problems we have seen from Jessica and Karthik in previous weeks, it does beg the question; are these really the best 18 candidates you could find?

This week’s task involved running a department in Liberty London. Each team could identify one item to sell, as well as the pre-existing range and also had to run a “personal shopper” service. In theory this task should bring out the best in both the more commercial and the more artistic candidates. For Nebula, make-up studio owner Grainne McCoy put herself forward as PM, with children’s clothing company owner Frances Bishop as sub-leader. For Titans, sales exec Sofiane Khelfa was assisted by the invisible man – sales manager Samuel Boating.

The success of the task hinged on a couple of things; choosing the right product to promote in the shop window, and then selling as much stock as possible. For Nebula, the team was heavily influenced by the strong opinions and experience of digital marketing manager Mukai Noiri. They chose a bag, over the safer option of printed scarves, something that is more associated with Liberty. Mukai also had a huge influence over the design of the window display. There was clear tension and a lack of trust from PM Grainne towards Mukai throughout the task. For Titans, they went with cat-themed scarf prints, took the advice to have a person (Jessica) as part of the window display.

The personal shopper service gave us insight into a couple of key principles in effective selling;

  1. You have to build up Trust with the customer. This requires rapport between both parties, and you are unlikely to sell anything if you do not achieve this. It helps if the customer likes you and that you can demonstrate that you have something in common (tastes, upbringing, interests etc). The principle is “If you are like me, I will like you”
  2. You need to Understand the needs of the customer. Frances illustrated how to do this by telephoning the personal shopper client the night before meeting them and ascertaining a few things (budget, preferences, past experiences etc.). Alana adopted a more hands off approach, but failed to find out the level of detailed information. The more you understand what the customer is looking for, the easier it is to satisfy those needs with your products or service.

In the end, there wasn’t much between the 2 teams (probably only one high ticket handbag), but it was Nebula who lost. With the departure of Aleksandria, the team was facing the prospect of 2 departures in the same week. In the end, it was no surprise that Mukai was brought back by Grainne, as he pushed for the handbag and was instrumental in the poor window display. However, Grainne was also at fault for not listening to the store about placing a person as part of the display. Karthik was also brought back (though Grainne changed her mind twice), but he had a quiet and effective week by his standard. Mukai, in the final three for the third successive week (and this is only Week 4) was fired and it was hard to argue against the decision. Let’s hope that the changes observed in the behaviour of Karthik and Jessica, as well as the departure of inappropriate candidates means that this competition can finally settle down and we can see some good quality tasks. I’m not hopeful, but what do you think?

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The Apprentice 2016 Week 3 – Brighton Rock

The Apprentice 2016 Week 3 – Brighton Rock

southend-rockAfter the disaster that was Week 2, Lord Sugar took control of things this week and mixed up the teams. He also appointed the PMs for a task that involved the design and selling of confectionary in Brighton. This time, the team with the biggest PROFIT would win.

For the newly re-constituted teams, cake-company owner, Alana Spencer, was given the PM role for Titan, and for Nebula it was sausage distribution business owner, Oliver Nohl-Oser. Both have experience in related industries, but would it be relevant enough to bring them success? The early team discussions were notable for 2 things;

  1. Neither PM was very decisive or assertive. Both team have members with big personalities (egos), so it is crucial that the PM find ways of allocating and controlling individuals such as Karthik, Paul and Sofiane. The early signs weren’t promising, with Paul insisting that he be in the same Nebula sub-team as PM Oliver
  2. A lack of any obvious strategy in either team. These 2 factors would prove crucial later in the task.

The leadership expert John Adair defines leadership as being about getting the balance right between the Task, the Team and the Individual in his Action-Centred Leadership model. Both Alana and Oliver were poor on each count.

Task – although on the surface, both teams were busy, there was no clear strategy outlined by either team, especially in relation to pricing and negotiation

Team – the format of the task with 2 sub-team makes it difficult to co-ordinate the activities of all members, but I’m always amazed at how “hands-on” the PMs are. Better to be able to communicate (two-way) with each sub-team than get overly involved in the task

Individual – Managing personalities, from the passive to the aggressive, makes for great TV, but there are some individuals (see above) who are maverick to the point of destructiveness.

There were more tears this week, this time from Alana who demonstrated that she does not have the emotional resilience (EQ) to handle the pressure. Both Oliver and Alana are probably too nice to last long in this competition.

The Brexit negotiation team should note the lack of success this “bull in a china shop” approach can have

The task unfolded with the lack of focus we have come to expect from this year’s contestants. Apart from Alana’s tears and shortcomings, Titan at least worked as a team, though sub-team leader, sales executive Sofiane , worked hard to lose the task, especially in his “hard” negotiation style with Brighton Football Club. The Brexit negotiation team should note the lack of success this “bull in a china shop” approach can have. For Nebula, marketing agency owner Paul chipped away at PM Oliver from the outset. First he was criticising him from within the same sub-team, then he manoeuvred himself into a different sub-team for Day 2, took the huff and opted out. Paul comes across as controlling. He had some good points to make, but played his card of self interest first all too often. The rest of the team are now alerted to his tactics.

It was only a marginal surprise that Nebula lost the task, but less surprising was the dithering that Oliver demonstrated in choosing who to bring back into the “final three”. It was brave to bring Paul back, but it would give us a chance to see if Oliver could be assertive and stand up for himself. He couldn’t. Oliver also brought back Mukai, who was once again ineffective and, after he failed last week as PM, was on a warning and looked vulnerable. The fact that Oliver was fired and both Mukai and Paul survived was very telling. On this week’s performance alone, Oliver deserved to go as he was most responsible for the failure of the task (he had no pricing strategy) but Mukai was very lucky to survive. Good guys don’t last long in this programme, but hopefully neither do bullies such as Sofiane and Paul.

 

 

 

 

The Apprentice 2016 Week 2 – M.A.D.

The Apprentice 2016 Week 2 –  M.A.D.

jeansM.A.D – Mutually Assured Destruction – was a phrase coined in the Cold War to describe the consequence of nuclear war. It could also be applied to describe this week’s episode of The Apprentice. This week’s advertising task resulted in that rare thing – a tie. But this time, both teams managed to LOSE the task, such was the poor standard of their campaigns!

Digital Marketing Manager Mukai Noiri seemed the perfect choice to lead the “Titans”, but over in the girl’s camp there was a battle between Online Fashion Entrepreneur, Jessica Cunningham, and Design and Marketing Agency owner, Rebecca Jeffery. Manic Jessica won out thanks to dodgy voting not seen since the Labour Party leadership election. Both were (technically) within the rules.

jessica-cunningham

Jessica Cunningham

So, what led to the disasters that each team put forward? We should start with the leadership from each PM. Jessica had already shown us that she is “high energy”, but I don’t think that the girls were expecting the emotionally unstable wreck that they got, especially on day 1. Jessica was autocratic, unfocused and demonstrated such low Emotional Intelligence (EQ) that it required other members of the team to take over at certain parts of the task. One aspect of EQ is the ability to manage your own emotional state. Jessica struggled to do this.

For the boys, Mukai was the exact opposite; in place of the manic energy of Jessica was the emotional engagement of The Terminator (especially on Day 1). Mukai, was the embodiment of coolness, from his clothes to his manner. The problem here was that he was beyond aloof- he was absent. Mukai was autocratic with the sub-team he led, but abdicated all responsibility for Dylan’s sub-team. Again, this approach is reflected in his EQ. Unlike Jessica, Mukai was completely in control of his own emotional state. However, another aspect of EQ is reading and managing the emotional state of others. This is not conducive to an abdicating style, as he failed to read the frustration of other members of the team.

Good EQ requires a leader to manage both their own emotional state and that of others. For Jessica, she needs to identify a strategy to manage her emotional state. I cannot see how she will be able to do this, given the stressful nature of the competition. For Mukai, he did eventually start to become aware of the feelings of others, but he needs to be more emotionally engaged with his team if he wants to build trust and get the best out of people.

A third individual who has real EQ issues is IT Consultancy Owner Karthik Nagesan. as a Consultancy Owner, I suspect that Karthik probably works on his own a lot. His social skills (another key component of EQ) are appalling. He doesn’t listen, and though he had good points to make, he made them in a way that united everyone against him.

Any one of Karthik, Mukai and Jessica could have, possibly should have, gone. In the boardroom though, having decided that both teams had failed the task, we ended up with 6 people in the “final 3”. Lord Sugar instead focused on Hair and Beauty Salon Owner  Natalie Hughes for her lack of contribution in the first 2 weeks, but especially on this task. One wonders why Natalie came on the programme? On “You’re Fired” it was revealed that she has never watched the programme and seemed uninterested in progressing. It never pays to hide on a task, as this is something Sugar really hates. In that respect, it was the correct decision. She also barely contributed to “You’re Fired”! but there were cases for firing Karthik, Jessica and Mukai too.

 

The Apprentice 2016 Week 1 – Nebulous Titans

lord-sugar4

Lord Sugar courtesy of BBC

The Apprentice 2016 Week 1 – Nebulous Titans

 

It’s back! Another 12 weeks of madness, mayhem and just a little (sometimes a very little) bit of business acumen. On the evidence of the first week, the latest bunch of competitors to be Lord Sugar’s business partner ( and earn £250K along the way) are just as entertaining as in the previous 11 years. But, who is the real deal and who is just there for entertainment value? We will discover this over the next 3 months.

The first episode saw the traditional unveiling of the 18 candidates. Working in gender teams, the task was the familiar variation on “Bargain Hunt”. Both teams were given to a lock-up with many items, some were rubbish, but there were apparently some hidden gems too. Sugar made it clear that the winning team would be the one that made the most money (cash not profit). Of course, to do this you need to know the value of the items, and each team was given the opportunity to select items to get valued by experts in the field.

The first task was to appoint Project Managers (always a bit of a poison chalice in the first week as you don’t know your team). Paul Sullivan seemed happy to take on the role for the boys (who named themselves “Titan”) where as  Michelle Niziol was more reluctant to lead the newly christened “Nebula”. What makes candidates think these names are good??

Many years ago, Bruce Tuckman came up with his theory of Team Development. The first stage of team development (when the team comes together) he called the “Forming” stage. It is characterised by “ritual sniffing” where members cautiously get to know each other. Behaviour is generally positive, but the team looks to the leader to give clear direction, so a direct almost autocratic style of leadership is desirable. Paul took this to heart and led his team with confidence in his own abilities and a very decisive style. On the negative side, he was not too interested in listening to feedback from the team. Michelle, on the other hand, was initially far more democratic in her approach, often steering or guiding, rather than setting a firm direction of travel. Where as Paul was very clear about strategy, Michelle was more vague, at least at first. This was most readily characterised in the approach to valuing and pricing the items. The girls, especially in the Market team led by Alana, had NO pricing strategy. They had no idea of the value of items, so set prices at random and made no attempt to really negotiate. They were definitely going for volume rather than value. The boys approach was the opposite. They carefully priced the items and led by Market team sub-lead Sofia Khelfa and were strong negotiators, being prepared to walk away rather than sell for less that they valued the item.

Michelle did eventually reveal her directive side, when she bizarrely decide to ignore the expert advice to sell to traders at Portobello Road and go to Camden instead! Michelle attributed this, and other decisions to “gut feel” and this approach eventually led to their downfall.

In the board room it was revealed that the girls had lost the task. Some poor leadership, and possibly a bit of fortune for the boys (they were awful in trying to sell to Trade, going to the wrong area (Chelsea) and trying to sell to the wrong people i.e. not the decision maker) cost the girls and all that remained was to identify who would be fired.

michelle-niziol

Michelle was on a sticky wicket (losing PMs in Week 1 often pay the price for failure) but chose to bring back Rebecca who was anonymous in the task, but came out fighting in the board room. She also brought back sub-team leader Alana, who was responsible for the disaster at the Market. Inevitable, Michelle was fired. It was the right decision. Michelle made 2 critical errors; firstly she adopted the wrong leadership style. She needed to be more directive. Secondly, she mistook “abdication” for “delegation”. Michelle was unaware of the disasters at the Market, and as such she was more guilty than the ineffective Alana. What do you think?

So, one task down, eleven more to go. More next week