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

Where to start? Smug (did you see ‘that look’ the moment he realised he had won) and ungracious in victory (as he left the boardroom, saying to the losing team “we’ll have some [champagne] on ice for you guys”), Stuart ‘The Brand’ Baggs reinvented his brand in a despicable fashion last night. His team somehow managed to edge a victory in this week’s task, but this was in spite of rather than because of his leadership style, which was characterised by a blend of chauvinism, poor values and appalling judgement.

This week the teams had to create ‘a personal experience’, by making and selling DVDs at London’s largest shopping centre. The fundamental flaws in Stuart’s leadership were clear right across the board and were the main feature of the show. Nick noted that Stuart had him “trembling with irritation”.

For me (as an occupational psychologist), it illustrated some monumental leadership flaws quite beautifully:

Stuart demonstrated a complete lack of appreciation of the value of differing working styles in the team. For example, in failing to appreciate the value of Stella’s organised, methodical approach to DVD production. He also had no interest in any feedback, or gathering views from his team (unless they were to endorse or agree with him).

Stuart is very proud that he makes decisions purely based on his ‘gut’ sense of judgement and has a total refusal to write things down because he can “remember everything”. He does, however, reserve the right to change his gut-feel whenever suits him (e.g. his reversed decision on focussing on the adult market, to then focus on children). He also showed a total lack of planning or commercial analysis on pricing strategy.

So much to choose from here… with a number of integrity violations e.g. increasing the cost “because we’ve got a queue of people”. He was lacking in dignity (e.g. having won); patronising (e.g. telling Laura that she might want to step off the Brands Hatch racing track); and ageist (e.g. making an issue of Stella’s age). All of this, with a consistent theme of arrogance (that his view is always right), immaturity (e.g. failing to value differences) and dare I say, sexism? (I wonder if he would have facilitated his team meeting in the same way with male colleagues present.)

Stuart’s dreadful communication style was most evident in the opening ‘team brainstorm’. There were so many examples to choose from here that illustrated a complete lack of ability to engage with others, build relationships and influence or lead the team. His “put your hands up if you agree…is your hand up? Put it properly up” approach was bulldozing and created disharmony in the team. I can just picture the 11-year old Baggs selling Yo-Yos in the playground….”put your hands-up if you want a Yo-Yo. Is your hand-up? I can’t see it. Is your hand properly up? I know you ordered a green Yo-Yo, but have a yellow Frisbee instead.  £5? That was the 10am rate, the 11am rate is £7.50”.

He did seem to show a glimmer of self-awareness following a call with his team (“I bet I know what they’re saying about me”…and he was right). However, he totally failed to use this awareness to any positive effect or adjust his approach accordingly to respond to their concerns.

Stuart totally failed to deliver results through his team. His style was one-dimensional and aggressive. His focus on finding someone to blame was shocking. For example – to Laura “I just want to make absolutely sure that you understand if this goes wrong, you and Jo will bear the brunt” and then questioning “who’s fault is that?” (yours actually Stu, you’re in charge of Quality Control) when DVDs were found to have mistakes on them (the wrong children, yikes!). Stella’s closing comment back at the house that the other team should have won spoke volumes of Stuart’s inability to create a sense of shared purpose, unity or positivity in his team. Hardly the stuff of an inspirational leader.

And what of Sandeesh? Lord Sugar seemed almost apologetic in firing her, but her departure seemed inevitable once her team lost. The boardroom discussion was the most dignified yet with Liz and Chris both showing composure and making measured contributions (Emotion). To her credit, Sandeesh left with her reputation enhanced (uniquely for this series so far?), emphasising her integrity, honesty (Values) and her hard-working nature (although not quite dynamic leader) on the way out. Her key mistakes on the task were on not managing her costs (Intellect) through buying too many DVDs (a shame, because at least her team actually made this decision based on some analysis (Intellect), rather than Stuart’s ‘gut feel’ decision). She also organised her team inappropriately (moving colleagues into DVD production although they hadn’t been trained, which resulted in an hour of lost selling time (more poor commercial awareness, part of Intellect). She also dropped her price somewhat randomly and without proper analysis.

So, who shone last night? Liz once again demonstrated her strong ability to apply new knowledge and experience (Learning), for example by investigating what the other team were doing and applying that knowledge by buying appropriate props to boost sales (good commercial awareness, Intellect). Jo seems to have adapted her behaviour from the first two weeks of assertiveness spilling into aggressiveness, and continues to show an authentic selling style and pragmatic, sound commercial sense (Intellect). Maybe she simply has an intolerance of poor performance, and most of the obviously poor performers have now exited, she’s more comfortable working alongside other colleagues.

I’m backing the Baggs to be ‘Bagged’ (please), along with Laura (‘it’s all just sooooooo UNFAIR’) over the next two weeks. My favourite to win remains Liz, but she’ll face tough competition from Stella and Jo.

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