Nine Principles of Human Communication

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“Generally, when verbal and non-verbal messages contradict each other, people tend to believe the non-verbal more than the verbal messages”

New Horizons

courtesy of De Gruyter publishing

 

In my previous blog, I looked at 7 Myths of Human Communication, and how they relate to leadership & management. In this blog, I will focus on 9 Principles that underpin effective communication.

The source of information for both of these blogs is an excellent book that I have recently read called “New Horizons in Patient Safety: Understanding Communication by, Hannawa, Wu & Juhasz (published by De Gruyter).

These principles remind us just how difficult it is to achieve a shared understanding with another person. One has to wonder if we ever really understand what is intended by another person.

Principle 1: Communication varies between thought, symbol and referent

According to Annegret Hannawa, human communication is “fundamentally an interactive meaning-making process”. Put simply, we use the joint creation and interpretation of symbols (words, gesture, images etc) to try to achieve shared understanding. So, our thoughts are encoded into symbols and behaviours (which have no intrinsic meaning of their own). This leads to the first challenge of “making meaning”, as there needs to be enough “common ground” for both parties to achieve a shared understanding.

Principle 2: Communication is a non-summative process

“Human communication is an interpersonal process that involves much more than the mere sum of its components” (Hannawa).

The assignment of symbols happens within an individual, but the meaning-making process (i.e. communication) happens between people. Because of this, communication cannot “breakdown” as it was not guaranteed in the first place. However, it can malfunction and the wrong meaning can be attributed to message being transmitted.

Principle 3: Communication is functional

Communication works best when it is purely factual but the nature of human relationships is such that often people are not interested in communicating purely factual information. The introduction of humour, sarcasm, persuasion etc. makes it more challenging for a true “shared meaning” to be achieved.

Principle 4: Communication is more than words

It is often said that “the meaning of the communication is the response it produces”.

Communication is more than just an exchange of words. We cannot “not” communicate. Silence can communicate just as much as words. In everyday interactions, we are interpreting both verbal and non-verbal symbols or signals. Generally, when verbal and non-verbal messages contradict each other, people tend to believe the non-verbal more than the verbal messages (Sellers & Beall, 2000)

Principle 5: Communication entails both factual and relational information

“In the same way that verbal messages are always accompanied by non-verbal messages, factual messages are always accompanied by relational messages” (Hannawa). The relationship between those communicating (social, status etc) plays a crucial part in how the communication is interpreted. It is not just what is said, and how  it is said, but the relationship between the individuals that will impact upon the “meaning” for the recipient

Principle 6: Communication is contextual

The meaning of a communicated message largely depends on the context in which it is encoded and received. This builds on Principles 4 & 5. Hannawa describes 5 different contexts that can come into play:

  • Functional (the goals of the interaction)
  • Relational (see Principle 5)
  • Environmental (the physical setting)
  • Chronological (the timing and sequencing as well as the timeliness)
  • Cultural (including beliefs)

These factors are particularly significant in interactions between line management and their reports

Principle 7: Preconceptions and perceptions vary among communicators

“Our individual life experiences contribute to idiosyncratic preconceptions and perceptions of communicated messages and behaviours” (Hannawa). Communication is an interactive negotiation to bridge these idiosyncrasies and establish “common ground”. This is the foundation for co-constructing a shared understanding.

Principle 8: Redundancy in content and directness in channel enhance accuracy

The appropriate repetition of content (see relevancy, primacy and recency) can enhance communication. Choice of communication channel can also have an impact, with direct face-to-face communication being superior to more indirect channels. It seems that having access from as many senses as possible can have an impact on achieving a shared understanding. this is un-surprising, given that we tend to trust non-verbal over verbal messages.

Principle 9: Communication is equifinal and multi-final

Reading principles 1-8 you might conclude that communication is random, but it is not. In fact, these principles tell us that there may be many different ways to achieve a shared understanding. With experience we can learn to choose the best route to achieve the desired result. For instance, sometime a person in authority needs to use that authority (tell assertive) to avert disaster (e.g. the chief surgeon in the operating theatre). However, in a different context a more persuasive (ask assertive) approach may be better (e.g. as a supervisor helping a junior with their career plan). No single tactic works all of the time.

There are many possible paths to the same outcome (equifinal) and many possible outcomes to the same path (multi-final).

Excellent communication requires us to be as aware of, and as open minded as possible to these 9 principles.

Mark De Cosemo is a Consultant, Trainer & Coach teaching influential communication across a variety of business sectors.

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The Apprentice Week 8 – Emotional Incompetence

The Apprentice Week 8 – Emotional Incompetence

Your fired

courtesy of bbc.co.uk

There was a tangible emotional component – both too much and non-existent – to this week’s episode of BBC’s The Apprentice. We have discussed Emotional Intelligence (EQ) previously in week 2 but it reared up again this week.

The task for each team was to organise an event from scratch and without funds. The team that made the biggest profit would win.

Fresh from it’s first win last week, team Nebula were given Madame Tussauds as a venue for their event. Paul prevailed over Jessica to be PM, and immediately chose Frances to work with him. By way of compensation, he gave Jessica the role of sub-team leader, working with Sofiane, and Trishna. Paul has built a reputation for a very direct, autocratic style of leadership. On the plus side he is very decisive, on the negative side he has had a tendency to emotional outbursts – uncontrolled rage in his case. Jessica and Frances have shown that managing their own emotional state is a challenge for them, and both have been reduced to tears in the past when stress levels have built up. That said, Frances did an excellent job as PM last week. It was no surprise when Paul decided the theme (casino night) and the (initial) ticket price of £65. He got obedience rather than support form the team.

For Team Titans, Dillon assumed the role of PM and immediately allowed his creative side to dominate proceedings. Titans used the London Aquarium as a venue, and a theme of “Under The Sea” (and The Little Mermaid form which the song comes). Courtney and Grainne were reunited as a sub-team. They work well together, but not always with great success. Dillon’s style was less obviously autocratic, but his listening was just as poor as that of Paul.

Success in this task relies on a clear strategy of theme, ticket pricing (to fund the event) and careful planning of ensure maximum return on investment for things like food and entertainment. Lets be honest, communication was appalling in both teams, with personal grievances and a lack of trust throughout. Titans had a clearer pricing strategy, and crucially stuck to it. Nebula had no real pricing strategy, and Jessica as leader of the sub-team selling tickets was a complete maverick. Not only did she not communicate with Paul before she unilaterally reduced the ticket price, she didn’t even tell her sub-team! This resulted in Paul replacing Jessica on Day 2 with Frances, who had declared her undying devotion to Paul as leader on Day 1, but sided with Jessica against Paul once the team lost the task.

For Titans, there was some cohesion and planning and the team received 100% satisfaction from their customers, despite some major cock-ups (Grainne and maths do not go together; Courtney as VIP tour guide; the star fish had more charisma), but they still won the task with double the profits of Nebula.

Nebula were all over the place and their canapés were so poor they had to give 10% of the ticket price back AND give the food for free.

It was no surprise that Nebula won the task, and having stabbed everyone in the back, Paul  found it hard to decide who to bring back alongside Jessica, to whom he attributed the failure of the task. He settled on Frances, presumable believing she would support him. In the final three the lack of strong emotional intelligence (EQ) in all three was on display. Paul got angry and even criticised Lord Sugar 3 times! Jessica and Frances took turns to cry, but it worked. The combination of Paul’s appalling leadership and his anger management problems resulted in hime being fired. It is very hard to disagree with the choice.

EQ is defined as “the recognition, management and use of emotional state – both your own and that of others”. In this respect, Paul failed, but Frances and especially Jessica need to find strategies to mange heir own emotional state.

Trishna did well this week, especially on the VIP tour she led, but no one really stands out. For each candidate, it seems like one week it is 2 steps forward, with 3 steps back the next!

 

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.

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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 2015 – The Final

The Apprentice 2015 – The Final

Your firedIn the end, the Apprentice 2015 came down to a battle between the traditional and the new to acquire Lord Sugar as a business partner; either plumber Joseph Valente or dating app developer Varna Koutsomitis. To help Sugar make the decision, each finalist was asked to develop a digital billboard advert and promotional video before pitching their idea to a selected audience. They were assisted by a motley selection of 2015 ghosts of candidates past.

The two finalists seemed to adopt different strategies for selecting their teams; Varna prioritised going with individuals that she respected rather than liked (such as Richard Wood) selecting individuals with a good track record, whereas Joseph went with his mates, choosing relationships over past success. It didn’t seem to make too much of a difference, as it was obvious that neither candidate had a fully formed business strategy going into the final.

For Varna, the challenge was to persuade Lord Sugar to invest in a business that could be seen as speculative (there are apparently 15 new dating apps per week, and 15 failures) where the prize money could disappear within the first few weeks. Joseph wanted to transform his successful local business (in Peterborough) into a national brand. To do this he would need to identify a USP.

The promotional videos strayed into familiar territory. The addition of a juggling metaphor transformed what could have been a very traditional dating site advert into something resembling Cirque Du Soleil. Joseph only just avoided producing “Confessions of a Plumber’s Mate”. Neither was particularly inspiring. The issue was trying to get the essence of the brand each team was trying to sell. For Varna there was the challenge of selling the scientific profiling in the form of gaming. Joseph had based his idea on the “green” revolution, but was informed by focus group that this was not going to make money for the next 15 years (in a subtle dig at government policy). Credit to him, though, he latched onto the idea of investing in smart phone technology to control central heating and shifted his proposal accordingly. In doing so, he actually made the final a battle of the apps, at least on one level. Similarly, Varna realised from her focus group that the thorny issue of funding was not going to go away. She also repositioned her pitch to be an initial investment to prove her unique idea could win and use this to attract further venture capital.

Back in the boardroom with adverts, videos and pitches completed and past candidates dispensed with, it was decision time for Lord Sugar. It was here that Joseph played his trump card; he cited Sugar’s autobiography as a major inspiration and reminded him that he also came from humble roots. In other words, he showed Sugar how alike they are. It is true that Joseph has grown and evolved across the series, even down to his appearance. He has also shown himself as being prepared to listen and learn, two traits that Sugar values. Joseph was also able to dangle the carrot that a rival business in London had grown to a multimillion pound business.

Varna on the other hand has grown less through the process, having started from a high base. She remained focused and confident, with good knowledge of her business area. However, here business plan represented a riskier proposition.

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And the winner is…Joseph. Photo courtesy of BBC

In the end, Joseph and his plumbing business were the safer option.  To choose Varna, Sugar would have to speculate on new product that is untested and, crucially, he would not have control over unless he added significant extra funding. This fact, coupled to Joseph playing the “I’m just like you” card (Sugar’s achilles heal) secured the win. Sugar is going into the plumbing business.

It is interesting to note that Joseph represents the 5th business partner that Lord Sugar has taken on as a result of the revised format for The Apprentice. I remain unconvinced that this is the best format (see my earlier posts) and I am critical of the candidate selection this year, where good TV is more important than business credibility. I really hope that the production team give the format a real overhaul before series 12 next year. That said, good luck to Joseph Valence and his plumber’s mate, Lord Sugar.

 

The Apprentice 2015 Week 10 – Last Orders

The Apprentice 2015 Week 10 – Last Orders

images-2In another first across 11 series of  The Apprentice, the result this week was a tie. Both teams failed to take any orders, so both teams lost.

The task was for each team to design and pitch a new healthy snack. In a battle of the ex-navy candidates, hair salon owner Charleine Wain took on the role of PM for Versatile, with Brett (the builder) Butler-Smythe assuming the role for Connexus. With only 3 people in each team, this inevitably meant that sub-teams could consist of only one person. Digital Marketer Richard Woods jumped at the chance to finally be in complete control of branding for Connexus. Charleine took sole responsibility for product design (ingredients and production). In reality, this was where the problems started for each team; the lack of a second person to counsel or challenge meant that both Richard and Charleine made mistakes that cost the their respective teams orders. For Charleine it was an anarchic approach to adding ingredients,  which meant that it was impossible to make any health claims about their health bar! For Richard, he chose to ignore the fundamental USP of their healthy alternative to crisps – they are raw and dehydrated, not cooked. It could be said that this is down to the PM, and in that situation, as PM, I would prefer to be able to move between the 2 sub teams to coordinate and implement the vision and strategy. I’m not sure if it is a practical or logistical problem, if it is not allowed in the rules, of if they never think of it, but it happens week after week.

In the end, both products were poor and rightly got no orders. The non-crisps were too oily (thanks to Varna) and the health bar too dry. Both teams had problems with their health claims, and Joseph even resorted to lying (though I think he missed the subtlety of ex- Tesco man Gary Poulton telling him that not mentioning facts was not same as misrepresenting them) in one pitch.

There are some interesting (and possibly controversial) points to be made about education in this series. Or at least communication skills. Richard is clever and seems to intimidate some of the more poorly educated colleagues. Stand up Brett, who effectively fell on his sword rather than blame Richard for a fundamental and arrogant decision NOT to include the term “raw” on the branding. Brett sounds like a TV copper from the 1960s giving evidence in court “on the evening of the 5th I was proceeding in a northerly direction…”. He is a very poor communicator, and comes across as poorly educated. Similarly, Charleine does not always communicate well, but she does have a fighting attitude. We saw the stress getting to her this week as she thought she was getting fired. Any other week she would have been. Joseph is nice but his lack of education or even intelligence led him to lying in the pitch. It is difficult to see these three surviving the interviews next week.

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Brett preferred being fired to blaming Richard. Laudable or Naive?

One person who definitely won’t be there is Brett, who as PM took the bullet for his team’s failure. He left “with honour” but nothing else. I’m surprised he has survived this long.

My money is on Varna and Richard for the final, depending on their business plan of course, but they seem best equipped to survive cross examination. As for Gary, Lord Sugar keeps referring to him as “corporate”. I’m not sure why this is a problem for a man who runs a corporation, but it seems his card is marked.

 

The Apprentice 2014 Week 10 – The Business of Failure

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of bbc.c.uk

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of bbc.c.uk

The Apprentice 2014 Week 10 – The Business of Failure

We reached the quarter final stage of the Apprentice this week, with seven candidates remaining. Next week there are the much anticipated, or dreaded, interviews, but to get there the candidates had to survive one final traditional task.

The task this week was to produce a new premium / luxury dessert and sell it to three supermarkets (Asda, Waitrose and Tesco). Lord Sugar mixed things up by moving Daniel Lassman to Summit with Sanjay Sood-Smith moving in the opposite direction. He then appointed Katie Bulmer-Cooke and Roisin Hogan as PM of, respectively, Tenacity & Summit.

The task served to identify a losing team (Tenacity) but played only a small part in deciding who got fired. It was an interesting task, and the two PMs were chosen because food is central to their business plans. Here are some of the highlights from the task;

  • Katie experimenting with weird and wonderful ingredients, such as saffron, without a clue as to what they bring to the finished item (trifle). And this was despite a leading chef telling them that the public will only buy what it recognises
  • Mark and Katie in one car, with Sanjay in a separate car (why?) allowed Mark to manipulate Katie into allowing him to do the key pitch (by potential orders) at Tesco. Mark then failed massively in the task
  • Daniel receiving clear, unambiguous instructions from Roisin not to interrupt in a pitch, and completely ignoring her
  • Classy branding for their tea-cheesecake product from Summit (Roisin and Solomon) helped win the day over the insipid branding (Mark & Sanjay) of Tenacity’s trifle

Once in the boardroom, Summit won the task by securing more orders, principally a large order from Tesco. Tenacity only secured a good order from Asda, but nothing from the other two. Summit secured orders from both Tesco and Waitrose.

All three members of Tenacity are called back, and Katie is praised for her organisation, but her lack of expertise in the kitchen/lab severely undermined her credibility and she is fired. In reality, she was fired

Katie Bulmer-Cooke was fired. Courtesy of BBC

Katie Bulmer-Cooke was fired. Courtesy of BBC

because her business plan (a chain of healthy restaurants, starting in Sunderland) is not likely to be something Sugar would take a risk on, and Katie demonstrated no expertise in the area. Katie’s firing is deserved but is still a real shock as she has been a consistent performer, and it is right that she goes “with regret”. Under the old format she would have made an excellent “Apprentice”, but this business idea and her lack of experience were never going to appeal to Sugar.

That left Mark, who was very poor on the day but who has been good throughout, and Sanjay. It is no surprise that Sanjay is fired, but it is interesting that it is Mark, who has success in digital marketing, who is able to plant the seed of doubt into Sugar’s mind by his strong assertion that the numbers don’t add up. Again, a website / social media for fitness freaks doesn’t sound like a winner, and is not in an area Sugar is likely to

Sanjay Sood-Smith was also fired. Courtesy of BBC

Sanjay Sood-Smith was also fired. Courtesy of BBC

go for. Sanjay is fired, and Mark enters the last chance saloon. It will be interesting to see what the interview panel and Sugar make of Mark’s as yet unseen internet marketing plan.

So we are down to 5 candidates, and it is an open field. The rest has been preamble. Next week we get to see what business plans the candidates bring in everyone’s favourite episode.

I would just like to make a comment that I’m not a fan of the greater contributions from Nick and Karen. This has ranged from disclosing private conversations in the boardroom (Sanjay’s comment about Bianca) to twisting or misrepresenting facts. They may have always done this, but I preferred it when I didn’t see it.

The Apprentice 2014 Week 6 – Relationship Woes

board-48117_640The Apprentice 2014 Week 6 – Relationship Woes

At the end of last week’s exciting episode of Soap Reality TV show The Apprentice, the hostility between team “mates” Mark Wright and Daniel Lassman was out in the open. It was always going to be interesting to see how it would impact on this week’s task. We weren’t disappointed. Instead we were treated to a clash of 2 different strategies, played out in almost Shakespearean tones. Or Cane and Abel if you prefer a biblical reference. Mark is not alone in team Tenacity in not trusting Daniel, but he is the one stoking the fire. For his part, Daniel is so blunt and direct, it is easy to see how he unites his team against him.

The task this week is to design a board game, and Mark manages to manipulate branding assistant Pamela Uddin to lead a task nobody wants to. Tenacity have their PM. After last week’s narrow escape, multiple business owner James Hill chooses to become PM for Summit and immediately demonstrates his style – decisive and paternalistic – by choosing the type of game – fun and educational for the family.

Meanwhile, back in Tenacity, Mark suggests a game based on relationships. Sub teams are set, with James again showing his decisive, direct style. Half of each team  go off to do at some market research, half start to design the game.

The challenge in marketing here is that if you take one idea – like both teams did –  and it isn’t liked, then you have nowhere else to go and you’ve lost a lot of time – so either go out with an open mind and no fixed idea, or give the focus group some choice and measure preference. Both teams opt to take out a single offering. Summit’s idea about a geography based family game is well received, Tenacity’s idea of a dating game is not. Tenacity PM Pamela, in a fatal error that will ensure no brand assistant manager loses the word “assistant” in their job title, decides to ignore the market research and go with their idea “The Relationship Guru”. This is her first mistake. Her second is to allocate Daniel to write the questions (which are based on subjective, not objective data, so are guaranteed to annoy and cause argument) without checking every single one. In these two decisions, Pamela has almost guaranteed that she will be fired if Tenacity lose the task.

And so it proves to be. In a rare case of everything turning out just as it appears to be unfolding, Summit win the task by almost double the sales to shops and big chains compared to Tenacity. James led the task well, but it helped to have a good idea, well thought out and in line with what the target audience – both retail and public -would buy. In this respect, accountant Roisin Hogan came across well and deserves a lot of credit.

In the boardroom, Pamela chooses to bring Daniel (no surprise) and “glamorous solicitor” (sounds illegal) Lauren Riley back. Despite Pamela trying to push the blame on Daniel, the combination of his direct-in-your-face street fighting defence, and Lauren’s steely cross examination, as well as a poor performance as PM, it is the end for Pamela and she is rightly fired. Both Daniel and Lauren receive warnings about future conduct from the judge Lord Sugar, but they survive. After a poor week as PM last week, and with Sugar’s warnings about his need to take feedback ringing in his ears, Daniel lives to fight another week.

Pamela Uddin, Inept Branding Assistant and PM was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Pamela Uddin, Inept Branding Assistant and PM was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Back in the house, Mark is telling everyone why it is unlikely that Daniel will survive, as the failure of the task and the woes of the world in general are down to last week’s PM. The look on his face is priceless when a humbled Daniel walks into the room. I have been a fan of Mark in this series, and once again this week his salesmanship is outstanding. However, the way he tried to manipulate things this week and his modus operandi in general are now out in the open for all to see. He is as scheming and determined as Daniel, but is pretending to be a team player – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or should that be a dingo? It will be interesting to see what happens when he is PM. And this must be soon, as Sugar has cottoned on to his tactics. Maybe a change in strategy? Cane and Abel Part 3 is next week…

 

 

The Apprentice 2014 Week 5 – Coach Trip

Coach - Bus The Apprentice 2014 Week 5 – Coach Trip

After the shock of last week’s triple firing, The Apprentice now feels like the programme we are used to. Yes, the tasks in Weeks 1-4 have been familiar, but the after contrivance of an unwieldy 20 candidates, pre-chosen PMs and a culling of 8 candidates in the first 4 tasks, this week felt more familiar. For instance, with 2 teams of 6, there are fewer places for people to hide.

This week, the teams had to organise competing coach tours aimed at the burgeoning tourist market, and try to sell as many of the 25 places on each coach. The team with the biggest profit would win the task. I say teams, but this week would stretch the concept to the limit, especially in Tenacity.

Sugar moved Mark Wright into Tenacity to balance the teams. He was keen to be PM, but lost out to Daniel Lassman, who persuaded the team that his experience in organising events would guarantee success. For Summit, Sanjay Sood-Smith got the job as PM. Both teams decided to tap into England’s rich heritage and go for history-themed tours.

The success of this task would ultimately be down to clarity of strategy, especially around pricing and the ability to sell the tour as good value for money. In short, maximise profits by selling a quality product for as much as possible, and minimise costs. The real surprise this week was that the winning team (Tenacity) always looked like winning. So often in The Apprentice we are used to the editing suggesting one winner, but the results showing the opposite.

Tenacity had clear WIN positions for their negotiations on ticket price. WIN stands for;

  • What do I WANT or what would be a good result (£80+)
  • What would be an IDEAL result (£99.50)
  • What do I NEED (later in the day they went as low as £65 to try to fill the bus)

Tenacity also used this price guide to inform their negotiations with the venues around Oxford that they wanted to partner with. It all seemed thought out, but was driven more by Mark than Daniel.

Over in Summit, Sanjay plucked the target price of £60 out of the air, and despite his banking background, the rest of the strategy as outlined above, was not obvious. This lower ticket price was to prove fatal for Summit, as they desperately tried to maximise profits by an aggressive negotiation with the venues, this time in Kent. Bianca Miller committed the cardinal sin of informing one group that they were the last chance for a sale, and their price was pushed down to £40 per person. The Summit starting price was lower than the minimum achieved by Tenacity. However, they did sell all of their 25 seats. Tenacity only sold 20 of 25 seats.

The second key factor was being able to negotiate discounts from the venues. In tenacity, Mark again showed his commercial acumen getting a discount of 60% at Blenheim Castle. He did this with a Collaborative Win / Win approach, by linking it to volume. By way of contrast, wide boy James Hill adopted a more aggressive I Win / You Lose Competitive negotiation style, starting off by asking for a ludicrous 80% discount with one venue. This approach might work for a one off like this, but it is not something that is likely to build an ongoing partnership. In the end, he failed to get any reduction above the regular group discount.This is the problem with playing your cards too early and negotiation on a position rather than on both party’s interests.

Tenacity delivered a quality experience but maximised profits by offering a poor quality (cheap) lunch. The highlight was the informative and note free tour of Blenheim narrated by Lauren Riley. Summit were disorganised and offered children’s songs on the bus, and Jemma Bird’s poorly prepared commentary. James again showed his lack of maturity and commercial acumen and resorted again to his “sell at any price” approach.

In the boardroom, it was revealed that though had Tenacity won, the team gave Daniel no credit. For his part, he refused to accept this, despite not selling any tour tickets. His relationship with Mark in particular is strained as the latter continues to calmly stick the knife in at any opportunity.

Jemma was fired for lack of contribution. She didn't seem surprised. Courtesy of BBC

Jemma was fired for lack of contribution. She didn’t seem surprised. Courtesy of BBC

For losing team Summit, Sanjay chose to ignore James’ poor performance, much to Sugar’s surprise. Sugar warned James that he must improve. Sanjay brought back Bianca for her mistake with the group ticket sell, and Jemma for a lack of contribution. Jemma was fired, and it was hard to argue with, as she was anonymous over the first 4 weeks and incompetent this week. However, a case could be made for sacking all 3.

So, Mark continues to shine, Lauren strengthened her position but James and Sanjay look out of their depths.

The Apprentice 2013 – The Result

The Apprentice 2013 – The Result

Apprentice winner, Leah Totton. Courtesy of BBC

Apprentice winner, Leah Totton. Courtesy of BBC

In the end, Lord Sugar surprised us with the brave choice of Leah Totton as his business partner. Brave, not because of Leah herself, but because her idea of aesthetic clinics takes Lord Sugar into unknown territory. The safer option would have been Luisa’s baking wholesale brand. This decision will be seen as just  reward for Luisa who was, frankly, awful for long stretches of this season. Yes, she did improve as the series went on, but when she was bad she was rotten. This possibly accounted for why Luisa only got Neil as her first choice team member ,where as Leah got all of her first choices. I for one am pleased that she lost.

Having said that, we saw a different side to Leah, who so determined and set on getting her way, that she almost ignored good advice from her team around her brand name.

Leah was very clear in her business proposal, and had researched the market thoroughly. She may be new to business, but she has the clinical credibility to see it through. Don’t be surprised to see Lord Sugar get his wish and Leah become not only the face, but the name of her business. “NIKS” could easily become “Dr Leah”. Not only does she have professional credibility, but she is photogenic.

It is probably Leah’s passion and conviction, backed up with solid numbers (something that Luisa was a little vague on) that helped to convince Sugar to go with the aesthetics business. One other factor was Luisa’s vagueness about what would happen to her 3 other businesses. Sugar may be recruiting a business partner, rather than a member of staff, but he expects 100% of their attention in return for his £250K.

It will be interesting to see how this business idea progresses, but don’t be surprised to see The Baker’s Toolkit also become successful, with alternative investors.