Blimey time flies. The rutting season for wannabe entrepreneurs is upon us and once again The Apprentice has dished up a smorgasbord of egos, preposterous suits and girls who all weirdly look alike.

Anyone who read my posts last time will know I do not admire Lord Sugar’ management style. He is a leadership dinosaur. But one thing I can say about him is he is consistent and does not compromise or change much. Like…dinosaurs really! 

So when he says "I’m not looking for a friend but a partner" he means it; not really understanding that a "partner" generally ranks slightly higher in the relationship food chain than a "friend". The references to Lennon & McCartney were also lost on me, weren’t they friends?  Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer, the founders of M&S, were also friends.  Make up your mind, Alan!

Anyway to the task. This week it was to take blank items, T-Shirts, Mugs, etc, brand them and sell them. Simple! Unless of course you are split in to single sex groups and you happen to be in the all girl group.

Team Phoenix – the boys – was led by Nick.  Nice guy actually. 

In fact, the only person who made an early play for "idiot in boy’s trousers” was Ricky Martin (really?), or the "reflection of perfection", as he describes himself – and guess what his job is? Yep , it’s recruitment! Aaaarrgggghhhhh!

So the boys did what the boys groups always do in the first week; they bonded, no-one made a play to be Project Manager because they did not want to project their ego early. It was a happy playground on the surface.  

This is so analogous with what happens in the work environment. All male groups tend, on the surface, to be fairly collaborative and easier going than all female groups. 

However no real relationships are developed and the reason for the lack of conflict is no one tries to form any. The lack of conflict is the direct output of a lack of emotional participation. 

Compare that with the screaming banshees in the all girl group! But why the difference? 

The truth is the girls cared more, they cared more about the design, they cared more that everyone contributed, they cared more that they personalise their items, they cared more that they were seen in a good light.  Not only did they care more, they thought about it more.  In the end this was their undoing, Gabrielle (I like her) cared too much about avoiding conflict to be authoritative; she was proud that she had avoided argument, more so than missing the task outcome.

However I don’t think it was just down to the girls caring more, the upside to the caring was their brand idea was more developed and the printing was executed with care (unlike the boys). 

The downsides to the girls were actually opposite of a behaviour you would associate with caring; simply that the girls – who were sent to London Zoo – had no empathy (they also had no plan, I mean for Pete’s sake, why didn’t they split up? Was it only me screaming at them to "bloody well separate!").  

Example of lack of empathy 1. 

If you want to "connect" with a child, drop to their eye level, don’t tower over them in your ridiculous heels screaming "d’you want a puzzle?" and if you want to connect with their parents, back off, don’t approach in a pack!  

Example of lack of empathy 2. 

Just WHAT were they doing to that poor woman in the shop? Barking at her, talking over her, refusing to listen to her albeit meek objections – only for Bilyana to call her a "waste of time".

The definition of Creating Empathy is to "understand the true thoughts and feelings of another" and the girls failed to understand their buyers, resulting in a paltry £225 of sales.

A couple of moans before we get to the firing.  

In a recent survey 9/10 entrepreneurs don’t wear ties with their suits, unless of course you are a dinosaur (Alan) and/or your customer (who you are being empathetic too) insists on one.   

In another survey 9/10 women at work enjoyed being themselves; not some stereotype of what a serious businesswoman acted like, on say The Apprentice.  

Two serious points, proper business in 2012 should be fun, you should be you, there has been so much research on the "mask you wear at work" and how this negatively impacts performance.  

Your performance at work is dependent on your ability to be yourself, be responsible and control your own destiny within a clear organisational vision. For a great book on this read PEAK by Chip Conley (yep he’s American!).

Bilyana was fired, talked herself in to it, actually, because Kate was right in his sights. She should have been fired on the spot for the "waste of time" comment in the shop, so it was the right decision in my opinion.

This year HR Zone asked for a key learning at the end of the blog, so here goes:

Apprentice Week 1 – Key Learning – Honesty

Be honest (seriously, never compromise on this), always with staff, suppliers, customers and everyone else you interact with in business.  

The boys made the mistake of trying to deceive a shop owner; they sold bags by hiding dodgy goods, it backfired and she rejected all the goods. If they had been upfront with her, they could have sold all the other items and taken a hit on the dodgy bags.  

Mark Twain was quoted as saying, "If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything". In my business life, being honest ALL the time is probably the hardest thing to do, however without it you have no integrity and as the boys found, without integrity you have no business.  

Roger Philby

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