Well, here we are neck deep in the intellectual carnage that is The Apprentice.  At least Lord Sugar gave them a lie-in this week waking them up at a more reasonable 6am – just as Thomas was neatly organising his Croissant…what?!

I have been having fairly robust conversations with a number of people recently about suits and ties – needed or not?  Given I haven’t worn a tie for over 10 years, I know which side of the fence I sit.  I really, really want one of the boys to turf up in "smart casual"; it’d make great television and/or give Lord Sugar a heart attack, neither event are mutually exclusive, of course.

This week’s task was about Negotiation and Timekeeping; although in hindsight I’m not actually sure it was.  It was definitely about negotiating – if clubbing people over the head, making ridiculous arguments as to why you need it cheaper and frankly ludicrous claims from sellers (the tea lady had obviously watched the show before),then it was about negotiating.

What gets me is this; have these people never watched the show before?!  We all know this task is about being organised, setting a price and not going above it, we’ve all seen it done well and badly…but still our beloved, yet challenged executives say things like, "yeh, we’ll offer him a fiver"…just before they negotiate 1p off a £400 top hat.  Pure class.

Actually, from the PM perspective this was a classic case of know your strengths and play to them, don’t try to be all things to all people and use your team appropriately.

Let’s take Susan for example, her strengths are obvious, she is clear of purpose, organised, articulate and for these reasons creates an atmosphere of respect and authority.  She set out the project clearly to the team, gave a little bit of headroom, but ensured the first part of the exercise was orderly and efficient. 

In this part of the task she was clearly playing to her core strengths.  What she should have done then was stepped out of the bloody way!  Her behaviour – whilst reflecting someone who is comfortable making decisions – does not take in to account the qualities needed for good negotiation.

In short, Susan is too emotional to negotiate; her emotion clouds her judgement.  Leon, of course, was too much of wet blanket to negotiate, however his rather laconic style might have completely put the seller off their stride and they may have buckled under the weight of his sheer vacuous expression. 

What Susan should have done was just turned over the responsibility for negotiation to Felicity.  One person responsible and the gravity hits hard; Felicity would never have bought the tea without the other two.  In this instance, Sue got it wrong.  She was not playing to her strengths or using those in the team.

Where she did get it right was putting Jim in charge of the sub-team.  The man currently is a rock-star; his negotiation skills are fantastic and proves negotiation is not about "hard balling".  It’s about empathy, relationships and just pushing it a little further.  The negotiation of an extra tenner off the meat was a masterstroke.  Take note, he uses physical contact to reassure his sincerity.  However, the reason he is currently succeeding where the others fail is his respect he has for others.  Watch his body language when talking with people (noticed I didn’t say "to people"), he leaves space for them, he judges how far he can go and physically brings them in closer at just the right time. 

Furthermore, he respects his colleagues.  When Glenn was negotiating the £8.50 Cloche Hat (at the Garden Centre, sorry that was team Logic) you could see Jim was dying to jump in – but he didn’t. He kept his own counsel, applauded his colleague and encouraged the team on. 

Which can’t be said of the utterly repulsive Vincent. OK so Ellie and Zoe (or Dumb & Dumber) are not exactly ladened with charm and intellect but they are, in this instance, colleagues. Talking over them, ripping the phone from them and belittling them is not going to either get the task done or leave them swooning (I suspect this is his real motive for his caveman like behaviour).

So if Jim gave Susan a masterclass in negotiation, she reciprocated and gave the wrought but "chilled" Gavin a lesson in organisation and authority.  If you remember our Model (Intellect, Values & Motivation, Behaviours & Experience) looks at predictors of success for an individual in a role. 

Well, leadership requires something called Authority; it is your approach to decision making in the workplace.  High Authority (like Susan) and you make decisions with speed and independence, very useful for providing clear direction with utter conviction.  Or you can be like Gavin with Low Authority and dither, procrastinate and start every decision with a proclamation that "right, chill out I am going to make a decision…". 

Sorry, but the fact you’ve said it means you probably aren’t and that you’ll collapse at the first challenge and change it.  Gavin then proceeded to lose complete control of a disrespectful bunch of louts in business suits.  Apart, of course, for the affable Thomas – is he really a cartoon?

Gavin deserved to be fired, not because he’s not a good human being or even a good businessman, but because for what big Al’ needs, he misses the mark.  This is an important point, just because he’s not right for big Al’, doesn’t mean he’s crap, just he’s not right for big Al’, nothing more.

The truth is that the tasks so far have been all about speed.  Your ability to work at speed and be confident in your own ability are currently the defining selection criteria.  Those who have read my blogs before know I believe this plays to a certain type of individual and not necessarily one you should go into business with. 

Has the process "nailed" the right individuals so far, yes without a doubt.  Should they vary the tasks so that those who have other strengths can shine? Absolutely!