The Apprentice Week 4 – Muck and Brass

The Apprentice Week 4 – Muck and Brass

courtesy of BBC

courtesy of BBC

The teams assemble at Surrey Docks Farm in East London, with the girls desperately in need a win having lost 3 on the bounce. However, the teams are mixed with Uzma and Natalie going one way and 3 of the lads going the other way. At least some of the girls will win.

The task is to open a Farm Shop, source stock and sell it. Biggest profit wins. Both teams seem to miss the point of a Farm Shop and instead go for the more profitable “takeaway” market.

Luisa gets the nod as PM for Evolve, and they go for meat (buffalo burgers), jackets and soup. Neil leads Endeavour, as he’s “a born leader”. As he’s been leading from the back (according to himself) this should be a breeze. Kurt has some experience of dairy and Neil goes for his idea of milkshakes. No discussion allowed.

Each task is always about leadership, and we saw an excellent example of this last week from Jordan. This week we have the autocratic style of Neil versus the democratic / laissez-faire approach of Luisa.

Research and stock purchase follow. Buffalo is different, expensive and high margin at £159. At the dairy, Alex rushes the numbers and everyone is confused. They get it for £40 for 100l of Jersey milk, if they bottle it themselves.

The Evolve sub team is given £40 to buy veg for “window dressing”. They end up spending £146! Miles railroads Luisa, who caves in. Then they go for Apple Juice, and despite Miles wanting to spend more money, Luisa finally says no. There is no clear strategy or communication between the sub teams in Evolve, and Luisa comes across as indecisive.

The Endeavour sub team buys fruit, with a budget of £100. Kurt disagrees but Neil isn’t listening. Kurt is reluctant to spend and only buys a small amount of stock, using only £33! He is banking on the shake being profitable and promises to sell 200 units.

There is no clear strategy or communication in Endeavour, either.

Next day it is all about the selling. The shops are located at Broadway Market. Luisa gives a pep talk at Buffalocal, but Neil is frustrated that the sub team bought so little fruit and veg. The shop (Fruity Cow) is still not ready 45 minutes after opening time. Neil’s leadership style has shifted from dictator to more dictated to.

Early feedback on the Buffalo is that it is expensive and there are no early takers for lunch of soup and jacket potatoes. They have nearly 350 servings to move, in addition to the buffalo, which eventually starts to shift. Miles (of course) suggests the soup etc. is put on display outside of the shop. Eventually they start to move, but Miles is unhappy with the aesthetic of the jacket spuds, and blames Jason. Increasingly, it is Miles, not Luisa who is seen to be leading the team. Luisa recedes further into the background

The milkshakes start to come in thick and fast.  As stock moves, Kurt suggests buying cheap apple juice as a new line. By mid afternoon, Neil is looking to get rid of stock, but is unhappy with Uzma’s contribution (what contribution? I hear you ask). Both teams are left with unsold stock, but Neil is (of course) confident.

In the Boardroom, strategies and tactics are scrutinized, especially the takeaway angle from both teams. Miles sticks the knife into Luisa, and the support from the rest of the team is muted to say the least. Neil’s leadership style is also examined and Kurt is especially lukewarm about it.

The numbers for both teams come in and Endeavour have a profit of £539 to Evolve’s  £630. Neil loses by £91. They didn’t sell enough milkshakes (113 v a target of 200). For Evolve, Luisa was a poor, indecisive PM, and Miles is happy to take the credit for rescuing the team. From the edit, he may be right.

In the autopsy that follows, Sugar questions Neil’s inability to change direction when things started to unravel, but Kurt is given credit for the fruit juice initiative. Eventually Uzma comes under the spotlight as well, and her contribution is deemed to be lacking. Neil principally blames Kurt, but brings Uzma as well as she was the weakest person in the team.

Uzma puts up a spirited defence to Neil, who is accused of being “cocky” by Sugar. Kurt is criticized for offering to sell 200 milkshakes, but he did contribute a lot of the profit. Uzma says Neil should go, and Neil says it should be Kurt. Sugar inevitably fires Uzma, but not before scaring both Neil and Kurt. It is the right decision based on the first 4 tasks, but Neil could have gone for his poor leadership.

This week both PMs were poor leaders, but for different reasons. Luisa listened too much and eventually, Miles took over, possibly rescuing the team. Neil was autocratic, especially over the strategy, but then was weak and indecisive when things started going astray. It was Kurt who adapted the strategy, but he was over confident to get stuck with a large sales target.

Good leadership requires clarity over the task (better in Evolve) with the team pulling in the same direction to deliver the task (both teams failed here) and with every individual contributing. Uzma failed in this respect, but Jason is another yet to show any real talent. Jordan remains the most impressive of the boys, with Leah (quieter this week) the best of the girls. Miles may be annoying and vain, but he did make a solid contribution this week.










The Apprentice 2013 Week 2 – Flat Beer

The Apprentice 2013 Week 2 – Flat Beer

MC900441795-1After yesterday’s firing of Jaz before the candidates had even moved into the house, tonight the programme settled into its more regular routine.

Today’s task involved selling Beer. Each team has to come up with a new flavoured beer.

For this task, the girls of Evolve are given Tim as PM possibly as a reward for his speech in the boardroom last week, whilst the Endeavour boys are given scouser Kurt. This is a new twist, with Sugar choosing the PMs for both of the first 2 tasks.

The teams start brainstorming ideas for flavoured beer. and straightaway Tim gets resistance from the girls, who possibly resent him being foisted on them, especially after his speech at the end of the last boardroom session. He responds by agreeing with whoever spoke last!

Kurt appoints Jordan as sub team leader. Zee resents his role in manufacture, due to his religious beliefs.

Both teams are still displaying “Storming” behaviour.

Evolve set off with no clear strategy and an indecisive Tim under pressure from the stronger female egos. The taste boys of Endeavour go for a chocolate orange flavour in amber bitter. Kurt ignores feedback from the manufacturing team who prefer stout to amber.

Evolve go for rhubarb and caramel. Luisa and Uzma clash over the label, in front of the professional. Luisa sulks. This sub team is in full Storming mode, and Tim seems unable to control the egos on display.

The maths of scaling up the recipes proves to be a challenge for both teams, but especially Evolve. In the end they just “go for it”. and get it wrong. Thirty litres wasted. Then another. This will prove to be costly later on.

So, Evolve has no direction, no product and no leadership. “I know it sounds terrible” says Tim, with complete under statement of reality.

Meanwhile, Endeavour are ahead of schedule.

Products finally finished, tomorrow they sell. Endeavour like what they have, Evolve love the packaging, but there is chaos in who is going where and Tim forgets to appoint a sub-team leader. Rebecca is eventually appointed by phone.

Jason is given logistics responsibility and makes a point of confirming this.

Endeavour go for a premium price of £4 per pint at their busy beer festival. Meanwhile at the Kent Beer Festival (actually a pub), evolve find it to be very quiet. By 2pm the festival is in full swing. Sales start to pick up and the product is liked.

Rebecca’s sub-team also has some early success selling to the Trade, getting £300. The Endeavour trade sub-team go to the same pub WITHOUT SAMPLES. Amazing that no one thought of this earlier. Finally armed with samples, the boys pitch high to sell barrels. Jason cannot resist jumping in and undercuts his own team. Then they discover that they have no pump clips with them. Again, the price was dropped to get a sale, reducing profit margin to a minimum.

Rather than drop the price, with no-one wanting to pay £4, the main Endeavour team give it more time. Eventually they decide to change location, but have they left it too late?

When sales dry up at the festival, Tim is persuaded to look elsewhere. Luisa can’t resist having a dig at Tim for not knowing it was a pub. They end up trying to sell in a wine bar.

Frantic activity from both teams. Endeavour turn up late at a food festival and sell it for more than £1.50 less than earlier in the day.

As the clock runs down, prices are dropped to get rid of stock.

Both products have been enjoyed, and there has been some sales success. But Leah saves the best till last, selling 2 casks for £90 each, the best price of the day.

In the boardroom, Kurt is taken to task by Sugar for the debacle over Zee and the lack of samples, as well as the decision to drop prices. Jason is criticised for interrupting negotiations and complains about being sworn at and the use of unfair sales techniques.

For Evolve, Tim, who wants to build a drinks business, is taken to task on the maths problems in the manufacture. He is challenged over the choice of locations to sell, but is generally praised by the team for his job as PM. The task is won by Endeavour by over £400, despite the ego problems and Kurt’d leadership.

Sugar focuses on the maths problems and the wasted ingredients. Arguments ensue  about who was responsible for the Kent Beer Festival and it descends into a bitching match between Rebecca and Luisa. “I’ve never seen such a bloody mess in the first 2 weeks of the contest”.

Tim brings back Francesca and Rebecca. Francesca for her poor maths and Rebecca for choosing the Beer Festival.

Rebecca defends her argument with Luisa and Tim is challenged over his lack of strength with the girls. Tim blames Rebecca for the failure of the task, but Sugar points out that she sold more than anyone in either team. Rebecca and Francesca both point the finger at Tim. In a possibly veiled reference to Stella English, Sugar says he is concerned about Rebecca’s sensitivity but ultimately it is Tim who is fired. He wants to start a drinks business, but has shown very little aptitude for this task.

Tim proved to be a nice guy, but he was too weak and paid the ultimate price. I think his card was marked with his speech in the boardroom last week. He was a weak candidate and was rightly fired. According to John Adair, good leadership requires a balance between clarity of task, building a team, and getting the best out of individuals. Tim didn’t really manage to get any of these right.

What the “Vettel Incident” teaches us about Leadership

courtesy of

courtesy of

What the “Vettel Incident” teaches us about Leadership

The hot topic in leadership this week (or at least one of them) concerns Sebastien Vettel in the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix. If you are not familiar with the story, you can read about it here.

The simple fact is that Vettel ignored team orders and put himself ahead of the team in a desire to finish first. This is a laudable characteristic in a winner – you want them to be competitive. But not at the expense of the team. What Vettel did reminds me of when I was recruiting as a sales manager. To get an insight into the character of the person I was interviewing, I used to present them with an apparently impossible choice;

“Would you rather be the top sales person, or a member of the top sales team?”

To answer “top sales person” may suggest you would put your own interests above the team, but you are probably a self starter. To answer “tops sales team” may suggest you lack drive and could hide behind the success of others. Neither answer is particularly desirable, as both may say negative things about you. There was an answer I was looking for, but I’ll share that with you at the end of the article.

The psychology behind a winning mentality and why we hate being told what to do is explored really well in today’s Metro online . What interests me, though, is the leadership challenge now facing Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner.

I go back to my favourite leadership model- the Action Centred Leadership Model of John Adair.

Adair breaks Leadership down to getting the balance right between Task, Team and Individual.

TASK – there may be a conflict in the mind of Vettel, as his task is to be world champion, but the team task is to win the constructor’s title. What Vettel may have been demonstrating is a lack of alignment between his personal ambition (and value) of being champion and the team task of winning the constructor’s title. Vettels’ behaviour gives a hint as to his priority.

TEAM – For Horner, he has the task of creating a united team, all pulling in the same direction. This is called Inter-Dependence. But of course, although everyone in Red Bull is united in wanting to win the constructor’s challenge, there are 2 sub teams in the pit lane, each supporting either Vettel or Mark Webber. It is hard to see how Sunday’s incident will help unite the team.

INDIVIDUAL – The third circle involves getting to know and work with the individuals. Horner has a real challenge here, because if he is not seen to deal with what happened in a fair way, he stands to lose one or both drivers. The challenge around Webber is particularly tough, as his contract is up this year, and Horner has to decide how much he wants to placate Webber. Vettel is, after all, three time world champion.

Of course, Vettel is going to need Webber (and vice versa) if he is to be champion again this year. Clearly, trust between the two has been damaged. Can it be repaired?

What price Webber taking Vettel out  at a crucial point towards the end of the season and costing his 25 points? Better keep checking those mirrors, Seb.

And the answer to my “impossible choice”? Not so impossible really, the ideal answer for me is; “I want to be in the top team, but within that team I want to be the top sales person”. I wonder what Christian Horner wants?

What do you think?

Young Apprentice Week 5 – Child’s Play

Your firedYoung Apprentice Week 5 – Child’s Play.

As we enter the second half of this year’s competition, we have 8 candidates left. David, Steven, Andrew and Patrick remain for the boys, with Ashleigh, Lucy, Navdeep and Maria representing the girls.

The task this week was to design a new children’s activity and pitch it to  several holiday providers. Sugar mixed up the teams (Steven and Andrew swapped) and the first task was to agree on PMs. After last week’ experience, Ashleigh had obviously decided that there was no way David was leading again, and she forced persuaded Platinum to give her the role. In Odyssey, Maria suffered a similar fate to David and was overlooked in favour of Navdeep. Lesson: a true leader needs to inspire confidence and in a democracy if you don’t, you’re out. Neither David (opinionated, but backs down and has no business sense) or Maria (a bull in a china shop) inspire.

Next the teams had to decide upon a theme. Maria didn’t let the small matter of not being the leader stop her from forcing persuading Odyssey to go for a Space theme. Ashleigh  used her well known intuition (at least to herself, “it’s never wrong”) to force persuade her team to go for an eco-art theme. These two ladies are not short of confidence and self belief, but can railroad their ideas through, if allowed. Lucy in particular was concerned about the art theme, preferring a dance approach. She argued skilfully, as any aspiring lawyer should, butt ultimately she gave  in to leader Ashleigh. To her credit she did this with good grace and got behind the project.

Ultimately, this task proved to be the unstoppable force (Maria) against the immovable object (Ashleigh). Both ideas had some merit and some flaws . For Odyssey it was the costings, which were guessed at. Ashleigh did not make this mistake, as accounting is her thing. What she demonstrated this week is that she has no real creative flair. The art idea was copied and more thorough market research (say parents rather than children) might have revealed that collecting your children from an activity all covered in paint would not bee popular!

In the boardroom, Odyssey’s Space theme took off, whereas Platinum’s Art theme came crashing down to earth. Odyssey won by a massive amount.

Ashleigh chose to bring back David (inevitably) and Andrew (surprisingly) as he was the one person who (reluctantly) supported her. Lucy was spared, as Ashleigh possibly recognised that she should have listened to her colleague.

David was fired for being generally useless and Andrew’s card was marked for possibly being someone Sugar may not like! Ashleigh escaped major criticism, though she did not perform well here. She will make an excellent Finance Director, but not a Managing Director.

Of the rest, Lucy is quietly impressive with the best communication skills. She is my bet to win. Steven may run her close. Navdeep was found lacking this week, with Maria driving thee project. Maria is probably more effective in this back seat driver role, but her brash nature means she will find trust hard to acquire.

Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party

Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party.

It’s half way in the race to be Lord Sugar’s latest Young Apprentice, and we have 8 candidates left. Nine became eight, this week as “egg farmer” Alice Smith departed. Alice was PM of Odyssey, and paid the price for some poor leadership.

This week’s task was to design a themed Afternoon Tea. Alice pushed for a 1940s theme, whereas Platinum, helmed by David, opted for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party theme.

In truth, both PMs were poor, and if Platinum had lost the task there is no doubt David would have been fired. He showed no leadership or organisational skills at all, and it was trainee Accountant Ashleigh who drove the team on. Once it was revealed that this task was about profit, she organised the ingredients (cheap), the menu (basic) and the pricing (under £7  per person, so cheap again). But it worked.

So, where did Odyssey go wrong? If we assess Alice’s leadership against John Adair’s “Action Centred Leadership model“, we can see where it went wrong. Adair says a good leader has to get the balance right between clarity of TASK, building a strong, interdependent TEAM and every INDIVIDUAL being clear about their role and committed. Alice managed to have failings in all 3 areas;

TASK – as stated above, the task is about maximising profit. Alice wanted to go “High End”, but was unclear about her target market. The team knew they would be selling at a well known tourist location (Blenheim Palace), so where is the guarantee that “High End” punters would be there? What they actually found was a lot of older people, who were attracted to the 1940s theme, and families. Evidence was shown of people, especially families, being put off by the high prices (£16). In the end, Alice reduced the prices, but the damage was done. Reducing prices bit into profit, but the real error was a poorly thought out Marketing Strategy, one that Alice pushed for.

TEAM – lets be honest, Alice inherited Maria, who is going to be a challenge for anyone. Yes, she modified her abrasive behaviour to people’s faces, but instead made sure to brief against them (especially Alice) behind their back. It was no surpries that Maria was brought back into the boardroom, but she survived for another week because the fault in the task was more to do with Alice. Maria can’t possibly survive another boardroom (nor can David), as even Nick Hewer admitted to her face he is not impressed!

INDIVIDUAL – to compound the errors made above, there was a general lack of role clarity, especially in the sub team doing Market Research. Alice gave the sub team a clear mandate to do research, but they seemed unable or unwilling to make decisions. Alice needed to be much clearer about who was doing what, and what the limits of their authority was. Alice seemed to believe she had given more autonomy to the sub team than they seemed comfortable with. The other aspect of this is commitment. The nature of Young Apprentice is that it is competitive, but you are guaranteed to survive if you win the task, so inter-dependence should be assured. Watching this series, our candidates don’t seem to have worked this out!

In the boardroom it was revealed that Odyssey had lost the task by a considerable margin. Alice brought Maria (expected) back and Navdeep (unexpected) back. The 2 girls in the sub-team ganged up on Alice, and the lack of a clear reason from the task (Alice aluded to Navdeep’s general unsuitablility to business) reinforced her poor judgement and she went. It was the correct decision for this task.

Of the remaining 8 candidates, Andrew looked good this week, in the losing team. Patrick was barely seen, so probably did little. Navdeep is yet to show anything (Alice may be right there). Maria is a liability, and along with David surely can’t win? Ashleigh has good business sense around numbers, but lacks creativity and is hard to warm to. Steven is another who has yet to show anything, but he does at least contribute. For me, Lucy and Andrew impress most, but both have flaws. These 2 are the best of a poor lot. This series have been grat (car crash) TV, bit the candidates are poor.

Young Apprentice Week 2 – Poor Leadership Proves to be a #recipefordisaster

Young Apprentice Week 2 – Poor Leadership Proves to be a #recipefordisaster

There was a theme of mixing things up in Week 2 of Young Apprentice. Firstly, Northern Irish -Firebrand Maria joined the boys, and Steven joined the girls. Then the task was revealed to be to produce a Recipe book and persuade 3 leading retailers to stock it. What became immediately apparent was that personality was going to play a big part.

For Odyssey, Maria made an immediate pitch for world domination Project Manager, but the lads rallied around the (safer?) choice of “the world’s youngest publisher” Sean. Maria wasn’t happy, but wasn’t going to allow this to stop her. She went on to use her considerable self belief and personality to ensure that Sean did (just about) everything she suggested, and the team lost the task.

Over in Platinum, “bossy” Lucy got the nod over Alice.

Both teams set about dividing up to do research and design. In Odyssey, Maria got her wish for a recipe book focused on the Professional Woman. The research suggested this was a bad idea, and Sean demonstrated poor leadership by allowing Maria to bully persuade him to stick with her idea. This not only created a split in the team, but is a repeat of a mistake made just last week.

Platinum came up with the idea of targeting students with the clever title #wheresmummy. This leads not only into possibilities of extended branding, but would give focus to potential social marketing. Despite this, the team was dysfunctional, “bossy” Lucy was a poor PM; decisive yes, but a poor listener and with a gift for pissing team mates off. The end product was shoddy to say the least. It looked good, but was full of spelling mistakes, in what was a terrible advert for the literacy of 16 & 17 year  olds. #cantbeleivetheywon.

So, battle lines were drawn. In Odyssey, Maria got most of her own way, ignoring both outside and internal counsel, but the product looked good. For Platinum, there was disharmony, but a good idea poorly executed. These points came to bear in the pitches to Sainsburys, and Waterstones. Maria (of course) led the first 2 pitches for Odyssey, along with Andrew and they came across well. Unfortunately, the product didn’t. For the final pitch, Sean showed weakness again, allowing Patrick his wish to pitch. It was a disaster. Why change a winning formula? Platinum came across well in their pitches, the product was liked, the spelling errors wasn’t. #gettingawaywithit.

In the Boardroom, it was revealed that Platinum got over 7000 orders to Odyssey’s 800. Two retailers did not order Odyssey’s “Professional Woman” book. The feedback was that the market was too narrow. This echoed what had been found in the focus group.

So, despite being dysfunctional and at times “catty”, Platinum won again. #bloodylucky. For Odyssey, Sean accepted that he had made mistakes, but blamed Maria’s push for the niche market. He then reinforced his poor judgement by bringing David back with Maria. David hadn’t done much wrong this week. In fact he hadn’t done much and was very subdued. Sugar was amazed that David, and not Patrick who was a disaster in the third pitch, was called back. It was no great surprise that Sean was fired, despite Sugar teasing Maria to the point that she was nearly in tears. Sean displayed poor judgement and was too easily swayed by strong personalities and wanting to be fair. This led to a poor product and business failure.

Although at times this week, the candidates showed their age and lack of maturity, we have seen similar behaviour in the “adult” Apprentice. Good leadership requires a level head but an assertive personality and sound judgement. Both “bossy” Lucy and “weak” Sean were poor leaders, one too strong the otther too weak. A true leader sits somewhere in between.

The Apprentice 2012 Week 2 – Girls do a Stirling job of self-destruction

The Apprentice 2012 Week 2 – Girls do a Stirling job of self-destruction

Second task, second loss, and Maria – she of the bizarre eye-liner – pays the price. In reality (TV) we sat observing not one, but two car crashes in this week’s Appentice.

The task was to design a new gadget and pitch it. Simple you might think, but what we really learned this week was that this bunch of “Britain’s Next Great Entrepreneur wannabes” are anything but. This was an opportunity for individuals to shine by coming up with something new or better than is already out there. Remember, this is how Sugar made his name – looking at the market trends and coming up with a (cheaper) alternative and making money out of it. Instead as one of the boys said they “invented the bin” (actually a food waste ecompactor) and the girls ignored the market research and gave children the means to write on the bathroom wall with felt tip pens.

The whole thing was a shambles. For Phoenix, Azhar volunteered as PM and the atmosphere was lively, but upbeat and they quickly agreed to Duane’s food waste compactor idea. Apparently.

In Stirling, Jane and Katie (no doubt aware that she needs to be seen to contribute more) pitched for the role and immediately battle lines were drawn. Jane got it and described her style as “leading not following” and that even her son calls her “bossy”. She lived up to this description. Jane introduced lots of structure to ensure control and focus, as her Driving style tends to do. Unfortunately the girls coundn’t come up with any ideas for a long time, before Laura suggested something to stop water splashing at kiddy bath time. Surely this is what makes kids want to have a bath? The second choice was pillow/cosy/ tap cover.

Both teams set up sub teams to do market research, and promptly chose to ignore what people told them. However, they each did it in their own way. For the boys, Adam led a mutiny against the compactor, not voiced earlier, and suggested scourer-Marigolds. He then selectively ignored any negative comments from the focus group! They fed back that the focus group hated the compactor (they didn’t) and unanimously loved the gloves (they didn’t). PM Azhar ignored them anyway in such way that he reinforced the mutiny! War lines were drawn here too.

For the girls, the focus group loved the tap cosy, but were not sure about the splash screen. PM Jane did not want to hear this, especially from sub-group member Katie, and went with the splash screen.

The end result is two teams following poor process, clear on the task but not really acting as TEAMS and with individuals feeling excluded. This is a perfect example of how best to ignore the Adair “Action Centred Leadership”model that I personally favour.

At the pitches there was a lack of polish in both teams, but the girls had added lack of clarity around a pricing / profit strategy that they managed to share with the clients (Amazon and Lakeland). The boys managed to exclude the most passionate supporter of the compactor from the pitch – Duane who came up with the idea. He eventually jumped into the Amazon pitch and probably saved the day for the boys.

In the boardroom, the boys lack of unity (2 teams not 1) came to the fore, led by Aggrieved Adam, and yet they still won. Jane saw this as an opportunity to bring back outspoken Maria (who was caught taking a quick snooze in the car during one of Jane’s pep talks) and Katie (the lame duck) until Lord Sugar remiinded her to focus on the task and not personal feelings. With this in mind, Jane brought chum Jenna, who made a mess of the costings, back with her and Maria. Sugar was in a real pickle as to how many and who should go, such was the debacle on show. In the end, Jenna backed Jane and Maria was fired. Interestingly, she wasn’t bothered and stated to camera that she will get she funding elsewhere. That is a Real Entrepreneur. And in real entrepreneur style, she will do it on her own.

This week, either team could have lost as they had poor products, ignored the market research, were not united as teams and had poor leaders,. No wonder Lord Sugar was gobsmacked. He must wonder if he can work with any of these people. It is going to be a greast series as, for the first time, we are seeing individuals and agendas on show. Egos will clash.

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.

The Apprentice Week 10 – Sorting out the wheat from the chaff

The Apprentice Week 10 – Sorting out the wheat from the chaff

This week we were down to the last 6 candidates. By the end of this episode, only 3 candidates are still in with a realistic chance of winning.

Tom, Helen and Melody made up team Logic, with Natasha, Jim and Susan in Venture. For Logic, Melody insisted on being PM, something she hadn’t done since week 1, and no one seemed prepared to argue. In Venture, Susan and Natasha vied to be team leader, with Jim eventually siding with Natasha as she had more passion. Yet again, Susan appeared to be dismissed. For many people it is amazing that Susan is still in the programme, and yet many “stronger” candidates have gone by the way.

The task was interesting, as it duplicated how Lord Sugar got started – buying items and selling them. The aim is to see what sells and keep replenishing stocks to keep the product moving. Neither team seemed to grasp this, despite being told.

“Strategy” such as it was involved deciding where to find suitable punters to sell to. Natasha packed Susan off to sell door to door in Knightsbridge, whilst she and Jim worked a market. Not surprisingly they had the greater success, but were they just trying to get Susan out of the way?

In Logic, Melody & Helen targeted retailers, surely a flawed plan, as they will want to make a margin of their own? Tom (also sidelined?) was sent off to the South Bank, selling “nodding dogs”, with good results.

So here is where the teams lost track of the tasks, with both Jim and Tom telling their PMs they needed to replenish the fast moving items and being rebuffed by their conservative PMs. Chaos ensued.

By the end of Day 1, Susan was off doing her own thing, buying jewellery she knew would sell, but without permission. Over in Logic, things were even worse, with Helen attempting a coup early on Day 2 suggesting that Melody step aside as she had no “strategy”. Helen’s alternative was to target retailers and to try and sell larger volumes. This completely missed the point and the brief that Lord Sugar had given the teams! True to her character Melody refused to step aside. The lady is not for turning.

It was noticeable that both teams were fractured, with people looking out for themselves. Remember my favoured leadership model (Adair – Action Centred Leadership) is about getting the balance ringht between the Task, the Team and the Individual. Both Natasha and Melody were found wanting. It seemed this week’s challenge would be decided by which team lost least.

In terms of individuals, Jim came back in to contention. The man is a natural salesman, and performed best on this task. Helen, who had previously not lost a task, looked out of her depth. Susan and Tom performed well on Day 2. Susan’s jewellery sold well. Natasha appeared to do very little, and Melody too much, as is her style. Neither PM were good at listening, and in terms of “influential communication” scored zero.

So, to the Borardroom.

Neither team endorsed their PMs, with Helen in particualr laying in to Melody and Tom finally fighting his corner and laying the blame on both of his colleagues for not listening to him.

For Venture, Jim blamed Natasha for not reinvesting in stock. Lord Sugar agreed and promptly fined the team £100. The thing to remember here is that Sugar is looking for an entrepreneur. He has this belief, clearly stated in his autobiography “What you see is what you get” that entrepreneurs are born, not made. This task is one that allows Sugar to find someone who has the same instincts as himself; able to “smell the sell”.

In many ways, this task has helped sort out the wheat from the chaff. The result was almost immaterial, it was how individuals rose to the challenge. In this respect, only Jim, Susan and Tom, came out well. Helen was shown to be lacking the instinct for the role, and almost being too “corporate”, something Sugar detests. So far, she has done well on tasks that required good planning, coordination and leadership. I thought at one point Sugar was going to describe her as a secretary, but he stuck with “executive assistant”. Helen has been found out and won’t win. Similarly Natasha. She was completely clueless.

In the end, despite the fine, Venture still won, so Natasha was saved. She surely would have gone otherwise. However, her card is marked, and the team were denied a reward because of Natasha’s decision not to replenish items. Back in the house, Susan bared her teeth and rounded on Natasha. The girl finally became the woman, or maybe a man she certainly showed that she has balls! Susan is one to watch.

Meanwhile back in the boardroom, Sugar focused on the losing team. Once again he reminded Tom that he had been told to be more assertive in backing his ideas. Yet Tom survived. Tom is slowly getting stronger in this process. Sugar sees something in him that he likes, but seems to fear that as a business partner he would be hard work.

It was Melody who eventually went, mostly because no one has any idea what she does. As a consultant myself, I know that you have to be able to reduce what you do to “tangibles”. Clients might like the idea of a “bespoke” solution to their problems, but they like to see evidence of how you operate. Melody couldn’t do this and coupled to her appalling interpersonal skills (she works in communication?) she was fired “with regret”. I’m sure Sugar likes her drive, and if it could be bottled in, say, Tom we’d have the perfect Apprentice. The rest of the nation let out a collective cheer to see Melody go.

So, the winner will likely come from Jim, Tom or Susan. In my opinion, Natasha and Helen are out of it. My money is on Tom or Susan now, as they already have businesses and in the end this may be the deciding factor.

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.