Monday, 20 October 2014

The Apprentice - So What’s New?


Communication Skills Course
We’ve all snuggled down to two episodes of The Apprentice now.

Anything new?  Aside from the double firing on Episode Two, things seem pretty much the same:

Candidates stack up as the usual suspects, squabbling sets in pretty early on, everyone choruses “Good morning Lord Sugar” in what seems like well-rehearsed unison.  There’s lots of sighing and eyeball-rolling, grimacing and finger pointing.  Blaming is the order of the day as is ducking and weaving.  Communication overall is fairly abysmal.

Nick Hewer seems to feel that this is the most chaotic group he’s seen in ten years.  Possibly; though I’ve seen some humdingers in past series that were pretty shambolic.

But again, that’s what keeps us watching – same play, new cast.  It’s all familiar and yet with new twists each episode.

What I really want to talk about is the whole issue of Project Management.  In the first episode Felipe and Sarah appointed themselves as Project Managers and then of course had to face evisceration in the Boardroom at the end of their tasks.

The girls’ team (why don’t they call them woman and men??) won by a whisker so Sarah didn’t have to face a complete disembowelling, but Felipe sure did.  Needless to say, by task two everyone was passing the buck as fast as they could and the task ended up being fronted by two people – Nurun and Scott – who were reluctant to say the least, each one claiming that fashion wasn’t one of their strong points.

So here is where I completely disagree with anyone claiming something is or isn’t their strong suit.  Project Management isn’t about knowing the product or industry inside out.  It’s about finding and playing to the strengths of the individuals in your team, delegating not bossing, being well-organised, having terrific communication skills, being able to juggle loads of information coming in and going out, inspiring and motivating the people you are working with.

Now, I know about telly:  a ton of stuff is edited out in order to create the most viewable programme possible so people will keep watching; obviously that means a ton of stuff we never see.  Not only that, this is a competition and even though each team wants to shine and win, individually people are competing against each other so there’s bound to be a bit of deliberate undermining going on.

Having said that, every single candidate should be ready, willing and able to volunteer for any task that Lord Sugar sets them instead of waiting for the one they think will put them in the best light.  Good Project Management, whatever the project, will make them shine.

Here’s a good example of what I mean.  My husband and I bought a house in Greece a number of years ago that needed major renovation from top to bottom.  We weren’t going to be there for much of the build in the early stages so we hired a friend who lives there to be Project Manager.  Gill is an artist, not a builder.  She didn’t know the first thing about electrics, plumbing, earthquake collars and so on.  But she was brilliant at finding ‘a man who did’ and she was fantastic at ensuring the building team were looked after.  She fielded problems and suggested solutions and she was always open to hearing what everyone on site had to say.

Was it easy?  No it was not.  Was she successful?  Absolutely; we have a lovely house beautifully restored.

Project Management is about having great people skills, getting buy-in early, defusing conflict and intervening when there are personality clashes, getting the best out of each team member and giving praise and acknowledgement to keep motivation high.

How much of that did we see during the first two episodes?

As the show progresses I look forward to at least one Project Manager being part of a winning task not because the other team failed dismally but because they managed their task with flair and professionalism.

Should I hold my breath?

Check out our Impact Factory's Communication and Project Management Courses

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Impact Factory Director

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