The current series of The Apprentice is currently running in the UK. For those not familiar with it, it is essentially a group of people doing a number of business projects over 12 weeks to try and secure a job with Alan Sugar on a six figure salary. People work in teams on each project, one team wins and one person from the losing team gets fired. So what six things can we learn about management and leadership from the apprentice.
1. Focus on the market
This week teams had to design and pitch for a range of new greeting cards to the major companies in the sector. Trouble was the teams put all of there energies into the design and concept and seemed to miss answering the obvious question of who was going to buy it. Replies were given like everyone, yet it is pretty difficult to sell to a customer group called everyone. If you are going to be bringing something new to the market, you need to know who it is for.
2. Listen to differing views
The candidates for the job are obviously very driven and want to get their ideas across which is understandable. Yet sometimes in challenging situations you need to take a few minutes to understand differing views rather than just talking over people. What has happened in some of the episodes of the current series is that some people are being assertive bordering on aggressive and as a result not all views and ideas are fully explored. When you fail to listen, you run a huge risk of missing a great opportunity and idea. How would you rate yourself as a manager or leader when it comes to listening?
3. Think about the barriers to success
Yes we all want to be upbeat, optimistic, glass half full managers and leaders but sometimes we need to spend just a little bit of time thinking about the barriers or obstacles that will get in the way of success. This need not be a long or drawn out process. Having identified these barriers, steps can then be taken to address or minimize the impact.
4. Preparation is key
The teams were pitching to the two biggest card retailers in the UK. One of the teams’ presenters spent a huge amount of time on creating and practicing their pitch. The other teams’ presenter did not make a start until a few hours before the pitch. Unsurprisingly the winning team sold something to all three retailers while the less prepared team sold to just one. The message and learning here is that if you are a manager and leader who needs to make presentations, preparation is key to success.
5. Retain common sense
In the excitement, frenzy and adrenaline rush, it is all too easy to forget about common sense. This was illustrated in one of the first tasks when a whole lobster was priced for sale at the per kilo cost. As a manager and leader, take a few minutes just to step back from the situation and ask if the decision you are about to make appears sensible.
6. Self awareness
As a manager and leader you need to have self confidence and you also need to be self aware. There will be things that you are good at and things that others are much better than you at. Being unable to recognize this led to one of the candidates presenting to the retailers who was clearly not the right person getting fired. If you want to succeed as a manager and leader become self aware and know where you excel and where there are others stronger than you.
While The Apprentice is obviously about entertainment, there is some serious learning that you can gain as a manager and leader. So what can you learn whilst being entertained?
Subscribe to our Project Management newsletter to get the latest news and articles delivered to your inbox!