For our Group Exercise we chose the show The Apprentice UK. The Apprentice UK is a TV-show which covers a business contest with a reward of a six-figure salary job as Lord Sugar’s apprentice. It sets the candidates a procession of challenges, with Lord Sugar firing at least one candidate after each task. Each task is set to improve and discover the creative and business skills of the individual candidates, in addition to their ability to work productively in a team. We have chosen to cover episode one of season one – Wilting Blooms. In the show multiple groups are featured because each week the candidates are divided into two teams namely a man’s and a woman’s team, but all striving towards an individual objective, the six-figure salary job as the apprentice of Lord Sugar. We decided to observe the woman’s team because in general women are more emotional because they think intuitively and they tend to build relationships which are very important during team tasks. The women’s team consists of 7 women with a different cultural, educational and business background. During this episode their task was to buy and sell flowers within a specific time frame and to make more profit than their competitors, the men’s team.
Our impressions about the first episode of the Apprentice UK showed some similarities and some differences. Everyone had almost the same opinion about the impression of the members of the women’s team, some of them seemed very strong business-woman and some of them were very quiet and more followers. We also seemed to agree on their goal and what motivates them. It is not only the fact that they want to win the job but also the competition with the other team, the women want to be better than the men. The only thing that really differed were our opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of the women’s team. Some of us believed that their communicational skills to be good while others said that they lacked of really strong communicational skills. Finally everybody seemed to agree on the point that they are highly motivated and want to sort out every detail so it will be perfect; however, this proofs difficult as they tend to overreact emotionally in stressful situations.
During the observation of the team, we looked for specific aspects. We looked at how the team interacted, elaborated and approached the task. The evidence we used to form our impressions of the group, are the observations on the specific aspect we looked for. To form our impressions we looked how the girls communicated with each other and which communication strategy they used.
Other evidence we used, are our feelings toward the different team members. These feelings were based on the behaviours of the team members. Negative feelings arose when the girls talked about each other behind their backs and if the members did not put much effort in the teamwork. Positive feelings arose when they collaborated well.
Stereotypes also influenced our impressions of the team we observed. Our stereotype view of women is that women are more emotional and therefore have less potential of winning against the men. This is also what the men team thought of the women.
There were also prejudices between the team members. The team leader Saira was screaming a lot and displayed a bossy and strong opinion. This led to prejudices about her from her other team members. The other members thought that she was not a good leader because she did not communicated well, she only screamed and she did not change her opinions even if there were better ones. In the end prejudices from Adenike against her team leader led to her being fired.
Overall, the girls judged each other about how they sold their flowers and how they acted towards each other. However, it is important to note that not all girls led their judgement influence their collaboration.
The various backgrounds of the girls team (social, educational, etc) is bringing diversity to the group and as a result of that many ideas, this for example can be seen when the girls have to come up with a name for their company.
As the opposition of the men in the show, the women seem to more easily form a bond with each other and therefore seem more like a group. For example, they make a lot more physical contact (for example: a women stroked the cheek of another team member to comfort her).
The commonality that it is a pure girls team, sometimes, works against them, as they tend to be more emotional and react stronger to disputes and discussions. For example, when the ladies do not agree with each other, they do not negotiate but started shouting at each other, which caused the problem to grow bigger and not be resolved.
Their differences in background influences the way they work together, because people who have a business background that matches with the tasks tend to excel and are therefore more up front. Because of these disagreements, the ladies sometimes refuse to hear each other out and do not let each other finish talking.
The individual objectives of the ladies to earn the desired job are more important than their team goal, which made it harder to accomplish goals as a team instead of individually.
1. A) What would you argue was the observed group’s biggest weakness or problem? Please describe this problem and provide evidence from your observations. (Remember: do not identify particular members- identify team level problems)
The biggest weakness of the girls’ team is that they have various different backgrounds, including educational, social and work.
Like mentioned before, people who have a business background that match with the tasks tend to excel and therefore try to lead the group. Members of the Girls team which match these descriptions are often convinced that they exactly know what the best for their team is. However, they spend too little time hearing the other group members out and if they do, they rarely take these arguments under consideration. As a result of that, the other group members feel left out and try to make their ideas heard by shouting and interrupting other members. The “leading” girls respond by doing the same and therefore a proper discussion is made very difficult to achieve. This, as seen in the episode, will take a lot of time and causes a lot of frustration within the group. As far as evidence is concerned, this time loss and frustration can best be seen with the fact that the girls team lost the task of the episode to the boys.
B) If your team was called in to improve the performance of the group you observed, what strategies would your team suggest on the basis of your team’s observations? With your team, please brainstorm a list of ideas for solutions for this problem and include the list in your report.
The observations that our team made are suggesting that the girls team performance can be raised on different levels. First of all, we observed that the team was put together within a couple of seconds, which definitely was not helpful to the team building process, furthermore there have been certain issues within the team which can be dissolved by the ideas our team has put together:
1. Team building exercises, meaning a series of challenges that the group has to solve together to increase trust within the group and create a “we can do it” feeling.
2. To increase sales performance we are suggesting a split in human resources, meaning that half of the members are selling flowers at a stationary point and half of them are supposed to go from house to house and actively promote and sell their product.
3. The main reason why they lost the challenge was that they sold the product at a low price, hoping that more customers would buy, if they would have followed this strategy they should have, in the end, bought more flowers and sell them as well.
4. Finally, the communication ways were often quite confusing for some team members, our recommendation for this problem is that all the necessary planning should be done before the actual competition started, so that no time is wasted for planning and performance is increased.
C) Which strategy do you think would be the best and why? Please describe this strategy in more detail.
We believe that the best strategy in the case of this particular girls’ team is the first one. Team building exercises have in the past proven to be very helpful to raise the trust within the group and in the long term increase performance.
A good example of this would be football coaches, who before every season do some of these exercises with the team to built the trust for each other, this particularly has worked in the season of 2005-06 for Thomas Doll at Hamburg, who managed to build the team up from the scratch and lead them into the Champions League.
We therefore believe that team building exercises, if they are taken seriously, are very helpful to a group. As far as an example is concerned one can think of a game called “Mine Field”, where random objects are placed on the ground of a large area and one person has to verbally guide another person, which is blindfolded, through the area.
This example of a game is just to illustrate the kind of activities which can be done by the group. After these exercises trust and also respect for each other will help the team to perform better in the task.