Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Apprentice – Episodes 5 and 6



After the cull during Episode 4 and the sacking at the end of Episode 5, there are fewer people in each team.

With fewer people you can really observe the team dynamics, the way people communicate (or not), their body language, their support of each other or lack thereof.

Granted, we don’t see three whole days of planning and team interaction; it all has to be edited to make good telly, but we see enough to make a whole lot of assumptions.  Who’s full of BS; who does their homework; who rolls their eyeballs….a lot; who’s an ameliorator; who still can’t listen to other people’s input, and so on.

Episode 5

My colleague Tina Lamb wrote about Episode 5 - the coach trips - in terms of Negotiation Skills with great insight.

I’d like to write a few words about the Customer Service provided….or not.

We are really big on Customer Service here at Impact Factory.  I’ve written a couple of blogs about it and I imagine I’ll continue to do so because I feel passionate about it and because so much Customer Service is so ghastly.

Team Tenacity won the task – deservedly.  They were clear about their offer; Lauren was outstanding in the way she presented the tour of Blenheim Palace, mostly it was a joint effort and their customers overall seemed satisfied.

The worst bit of the tour was their mean, mingy lunch.  Anyone should know that even if there are hiccups along the way, if people are well and generously fed and watered they will feel far more forgiving of the odd mistake.

Note for the future:  If Jamie Oliver can produce a nutritious, good looking school dinner for under 40 pence per child, then a group of six creative people can produce an attractive, plentiful lunch and give people a free bottle of water for goodness sake!

Team Summit deservedly lost the task.  As a matter of fact, even if they had won on bottom line (extremely unlikely the way they were managing the task), I would have failed them for their lack of anything near good Customer Service.

What made it so abysmal?  They just didn’t take care of their customers.  Particularly awful was the ‘sing-along’ on the coach.  Was that appalling or what?  What made it appalling wasn’t the idea of a sing-along – given the right group of people, it might have come off.

But it wasn’t the right group of people.  What it was, was James ploughing through and imposing his will whether his audience wanted it or not.  So not only was he blind to what his customers needed or wanted, he completely ignored a shout from the back of the bus, “This is torture!”

Now if someone said to you that something you were doing was torture, mightn’t you pause for breath, find out why, change your tune as it were?  Mightn’t you even apologise for getting it wrong and try something else?

Not only did James do none of the above, he kept right on going, but none of his team mates intervened to rescue their punters. Their eyes were so focused on themselves and winning the task that they completely ignored the needs of their Customers.

We at Impact Factory make mistakes – how could we not?  What we do do is recover, make amends and keep the relationships with our customers focused on what they need, not what we wish to give them.


Episode 6

What shall we focus on from Episode 6?

This week the tables were turned and Team Summit won the game of the games through excellent negotiations skills (Bianca’s ‘giveaway’ boo boo notwithstanding), a good idea well executed in the time allotted and pretty good team-working.  James softened his negotiations approach and Sanjay was negotiating like a pro – good to see.

Team Tenacity fell down a great big hole.  There was Pamela in the first instance rolling her eyeballs and I could tell that there would be trouble up t’mill from the off.  Aside from creating a truly ghastly board game, this was a team that clearly couldn’t communicate with each other and was bent on settling into a blaming game quite early on.

The most difficult issue for me to watch was the non-existent listening skills that many of those team members displayed. Everyone was so intent in getting his/her point of view across that they simply talked over each other.  Or, if they didn’t like what they heard, they ignored it.

Having hit the heights in the previous episode by working as a team, this time it was a team divided, unable to use even the most basic listening skills to facilitate better communication.

Why do I bang on and on about Listening Skills?  If you can stop talking long enough to hear what the other person is saying you have a far greater chance of understanding where they’re coming from.

Even if you don’t agree with what someone else is saying, by really listening, you should be able to find something in their argument that you can use to find common ground.

What is so apparent on The Apprentice is that when these aspiring apprentices talk over each it’s all about getting their voices heard rather than using every opportunity possible to create dialogue.  It is only through dialogue that resolution can be reached.

Another form of poor listening skills is all about blaming someone else for anything that’s gone wrong and not taking responsibility for it.  Bianca made a major mistake and at least saw her mistake and its implications and took ownership of it.

No one on Team Tenacity put up their hand and said, “We screwed up and my part in it was….”

Instead accusation was heaped upon accusation and absolutely no one was listening to anyone else.

The question is, will that change as we moved past the half-way stage?  If I were Lord Sugar, I wouldn’t want to go into business with anyone who didn’t know how to keep their mouth shut when appropriate and listen to what others are saying.



Check out Impact Factory’s range of Communication, Presentation and Project Management Skills Training.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

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