Read and Right
As we approach the midway point of this year’s “The Apprentice”, this week’s episode allowed us to study the art of Leadership. The task required each team to design a children’s book and audiobook and sell it. The team with the highest sales would win. However, the real focus was on what makes a good leader.
Personal Tutor Sam Curry was drafted into Connexus by Lord Sugar with a strong hint that he should take on the role of Project Manager (PM). The team got the message and accepted Sam’s offer to be PM. For Versatile, Charleine Wain (Hair & Beauty salon owner) pushed for the role of PM on the grounds that she is a parent. This resulted in two contrasting styles of leadership.
Sam’s undergraduate studies in English Literature meant that he had good subject expertise, though less so in children’s books. Charleine’s practical experience as a mum gave her a different type of expertise. But, whereas Sam’s theoretical knowledge made him indecisive (or brought out his indecision, as we would see later) Charleine’s practical approach gave her the confidence to be too decisive, to the point of being autocratic.
Neither approach got it right – Connexus were stuck in “analysis to paralysis” with too much democracy, and Versatile were run like a dictatorship.
Lesson 1 – a strong leader will listen to the views of other people, but has the capacity to make a quick decision when the team is unable to reach agreement. This is an illustration of the work of Bruce Tuckman’s Team Development Model. Both teams were demonstrating “Storming” behaviour, so a “Let’s talk, I decide” approach is needed.
As the design task progressed and each team split into 2 sub-teams, Charleine’s autocratic style became reinforced. As it was not possible for her to control both sub-teams, she appointed Richard as a false sub-team leader. I say false, because she gave him no authority and wouldn’t allow him to communicate with her. Instead, David was the “voice” of the sub-team. Charleine demonstrated her fear of Richard, who has been very successful so far, but likes everyone to know it.
Lesson 2 – a good leader has to recognize the strengths that individuals bring to the team. Allowing personal differences to cloud judgement creates resentment and failure. Charleine demonstrated her fear and resentment of Richard by her actions and members of the team were laughing at her behind her back.
When it came to pitching to leading book retailers (Waterstones and Foyles), Charleine again decided that she needed to be in control. Her team gently tried to persuade her to allow Richard to lead the pitches, but Charleine put herself forward. It was a complete disaster. Natalie did some of the pitching for Connexus (along with Sam) and was also awful.
Pricing strategy was also unclear in each team. When negotiating with retailers, it is imperative that those involved in the negotiation agree their WIN positions in advance and then stick to them;
- What do I WANT (good result)?
- What would be IDEAL (best result)?
- What do I NEED (minimum result)?
Both teams had muddled pricing strategies, and in the end went to get rid of stock at any price. Selina and Natalie were particularly poor in this respect. Natalie (Connexus) lost an order for her team because she did not have the discounts (as percentages) to hand. Selina (Versatile) requested an order of 150 which was refused and immediately suggested 50 instead. She should have asked the customer how many they were prepared to buy and put extra discount against higher volume.
In the boardroom, it became apparent that a piece of individual success for Charleine got Versatile the win. She persuaded a smaller retailer to take over 100 books and this proved to be the difference between the teams. Sam, on the other hand, took his team to Charing Cross Road where there are lots of book sellers – but it was the wrong market and nobody bought.
Having lost the task, Sam was able to give another illustration of his indecision as he struggled to decide who to bring back into the final three. In the end, he chose (reluctantly) Natalie for her poor negotiation and disastrous pitch and Brett for no obvious reason.
So, in reality it was between Sam and Natalie. Lord Sugar showed rare compassion – he fired Natalie, but saved Sam. In truth, either could have gone, or both. If Sam is to survive, he needs to become more decisive. He was in tears as Natalie was fired, and he seems too nice to survive. Charleine on the other hand needs to watch her back, as dictator’s rarely live out a full life.
The Excel Communications Apprentice 2015 blog is written by Training Associate – Mark De Cosemo