Blog Entry by Chris Rawlinson, Managing Consultant, A&DC

Undignified, petulant, aggressive. Not qualities looked for in many job roles, but displayed in buckets last night!  Melissa’s chronic lack of self-awareness (Emotional Intelligence) caught up with her this week, although she probably wouldn’t agree with me on that. She didn’t seem to agree with anyone on anything, appearing to have no idea how her interpersonal skills came across as aggressive, bulldozing and inflexible.

Other than making great television, Mel’s tendency to make-up her own words were her greatest contribution to this year’s Apprentice. ’Professionality’ and ‘Manoevrement’ will surely become legends in the world of business speak.

Enough about Melissa. This week the teams had to select two products from a number of options and then sell them to trade businesses. In Lord Sugar’s words a task all about “matching the right product with the right retailer”.  Both teams made fundamental mistakes on the commercial side (demonstrating a lack of Intellect and business acumen), by agreeing to sell their product significantly below the manufacturers set price and by trying to sell shower heads and garden tools to a major department store.

There were two sub-plots to Week 4 on The Apprentice, with issues familiar to most organisations.

Firstly, the issue of the ‘f’ word: feedback. More specifically the challenge of how to provide, handle and respond to difficult performance feedback. Lord Sugar stopped Melissa in her tracks when she remarked “I appreciate your feedback”. As we all know, ‘appreciating’ feedback isn’t sufficient. The bigger questions are: what will you do with the feedback? How have you/will you behave differently? Can you demonstrate Learning Agility to learn, adapt and improve based on your experience? Earlier in the task, Jamie did well to ‘pull’ Melissa from the pitch team, but fell short of providing constructive, specific feedback to her for the reasons why – in order to help her improve.

Secondly, the issue of how organisations set targets and capture individual performance data that is aligned with the broader team/organisational goals. In the Apollo team, the girls just couldn’t quite agree how they would operate to assign/ share individual sales with Laura, Paloma and Sandeesh bickering throughout, culminating in the highly unprofessional “rolling brawl down Old Compton Street” (Nick Brewer – genius!). Laura in particular demonstrated her strong sense of Values and need for fairness that might be her downfall, as others take this as a sense of weakness and continue to exploit her sense of fair-play.

Jamie has demonstrated glimmers of great potential across a range of key elements of leadership. In particular he appears very self-aware and able to manage his own Emotions, and in his own words being very “calculated” (part of Intellect) and demonstrating Learning Agility e.g. thinking “nimbly on his feet”. He also demonstrated a smooth, passionate selling style with a real focus on listening and responding to customer needs (something that Melissa failed to do) as well as calm negotiation style, but Lord Sugar has given him a clear message to “toughen up” his “management skills’ (his ability to Drive results through others and in particular manage difficult colleagues).

My current favourite to win? If Liz can excel in the Project Manager role as she has done in selling, she could go all the way. Her sales pitch style appeared authentic, controlled and warm and this ultimately won the task for Apollo. Jo is another with the potential to succeed, but only if she can re-channel her aggression into positive assertiveness. Other contestants remain firmly skating on thin ice. I’m predicting Sandeesh, Stuart and Laura being on their way out soon.

Enough from me, I’m off on a shopping trip to Old Compton Street to buy a new T-shirt (for a friend).

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