Our team decided on the UK version of The Apprentice with Sir Alex Sugar. Due to the fact that we wanted to observe the behavior of individuals in a small group we decided on Episode 8 of the 2nd Season. At the end of the series the lucky winner could expect a 6-figure-salary and a job in one of Sir Alan Sugar’s company. Seven business people were left whereas two groups (with 3 or 4 members each) competed against each other which group can gain more profit by selling two different goods which they had to pick before.
The team we observed (“team velocity”) consisted of three people; Syed (who was the project manager for this task), Tuan, Paul and Sharon (who got fired at the end). They all had the same goal; winning this task as no one of the wining group will get fired. Due to the fact that they all had the same goal, they had to work together as a team which meant that various skills were needed within the team: Oragnisation, Teamwork, Leadership, selling skills and last but not least accounting skills. As the teams change with every episode people are not used to another and so there were many inequalities which were expressed in the interviews the group members had.
Although our impressions were mostly the same, there were also some differences within our group. Especially when judging a person’s strengths and weaknesses the opinions varied a lot. The features a “good salesman” should have are according to one’s opinion leading- and organizational-skills whereas someone else said a “good salesman” should be more of a talker. To come back to the group we have observed; the favorite each of us had was also quite different. While someone described Tuan as too soft to be a good salesperson, others said that he would be too aggressive which frightens away customers.
As expected, we all had the same opinion on what the goals of the team was, nevertheless when we discussed the (unwritten) rules of our observed group, the view differed. What qualities should a project manager have? Does he/she really have to be the person who does most of the talking? Finally all of us came to the conclusion that a good project manager should not only have leading qualities, he/she should also be the person at the back who does most of the observing and organizing.
Well, the main evidence is that, what we have seen and analyzed. As Hanna already wrote, we have analyzed team called “Invicto” from the UK famous Business program “The Apprentice UK”. So far, we have seen all trifles and important aspects of this group. This group is a perfect example of group behavior and group’s member’s relation to each other. For example, from “Invicto” we have learned two categories of group behavior. They are:
- “Family” type group- is the group in which partnership and idea sharing is playing a very important role in group relations. Everybody has his own opinion, but he needs to listen to his group-mates opinion and only then this group will find the suitable solution. Members in this type of group respects each other and cooperate with each other.
- “I, me and myself” type group -is the group, whose members do not cooperate with other and make pressure only on themselves. There is no consent, common decision and there is no help for each other. My personal opinion is that this is much more stereotype than a group.
In the episode we observed there was a lot of evidence of prejudice, stereotypes and especially discrimination. Out of the seven potential apprentices the ones who were discriminating the most were Paul and Syed.
First of all, there is Paul who thinks that he knows everything the best and is definitely the best person for the job. He works together with Sharon, but he has absolutely no trust in her. He said:” If there is anyone who can do it, it’s me.” When it came to visiting the potential customers, Paul took the lead and didn’t really give Sharon a chance to say anything. When one of Paul’s and Sharon’s potential clients didn’t want to buy their product, Paul made up the prejudice that:”Most of these people can’t make decisions, even if they think they are actually allowed to.” Only once Sharon was actually able to show what she is capable of and she did a good job. She was able to sell 12 products to one of the retailers. However, when Paul was being interviewed, he said that he would have placed the order at a minimum of 16 units and it was hard for him to admit that Sharon actually did a really good job, as the retailer was already hesitating to accept the order at 12 units. Paul seems to have this stereotype of women being not competent enough to be a manager, but should stay at home and clean the kitchen.
Secondly, there is Syed. He feels absolutely certain that he is “the man” for every kind of job. He works together with Tuan, but he is not really interested in what Tuan is telling him. The best example for this is that Sir Alan Sugar as well as Tuan told Syed not to try to sell their products to large multinational companies, but he didn’t listen to them and in the end Sir Alan Sugar and Tuan were absolutely right. Tuan’s job is to explain the features of the product they want to sell to the potential customers and to do the paperwork and Syed is the one who is mainly trying to convince the client to buy the product by communicating with them which is the most important part of selling a product. On the one hand Syed is the product manager of the team, but on the other hand this doesn’t mean that he is allowed to discriminate the other members of the team and decide everything they are going to do. You still have to work in a team, otherwise your team is going to fail like it was in this case. Furthermore Syed is discriminating Tuan by saying that he is a good planner, but not a good seller in order to make him look bad in front of Sir Alan Sugar. Finally you can say that Syed is discriminating all of his teammates, especially the weaker ones, in order to reach his target of becoming the apprentice.
Last but not least there is Sharon, the only female member of the team, who was being discriminated not only by her team, but even by Sir Alan Sugar. First of all he said that she would rather fit into the world of Disneyland than into the real, tough business environment which is definitely a kind of discrimination. Furthermore he said by looking at her CV (she was a lecturer, a teacher at school etc.):” I don’t think this is your environment.” and he asked her:” Have you got anything else than this teacher style?” This clearly shows that he has prejudice against people who do these kind of jobs and from his point of view those kind of people are most times not the right people to become his apprentice.
The group we have observed – team “Invicta” – has their strengths and weaknesses. Their strengths and weaknesses are outlined below.
- The group is very motivated; the whole group is willing to work hard.
- The group has split up in two teams of two individuals so both teams can concentrate on one product which they have to sell. This method works in an efficient and effective way.
- The group shares one common goal, that is to make as much profit as possible.
- The members of the group are very persistent.
- The group members are not consistent in using one method to reach their end goal.
- The members of the group do not have much trust in each other. They are rather suspicious of one another.
- When there appears to be a conflict it is not dealt with openly and worked out in a constructive manner.
- The group members' resources are not used evenly.
- The member of the group have an unequal say in decision making.
As our observations showed the group was not well balanced, therefore we would argue that the observed group biggest weakness is that the members' resources are not used evenly. In our opinion it's of most importance that resources of the members are used evenly for a team to function well. That is for the following reasons; firstly all the strong points owned by the individual members can benefit the collective. Secondly, the different personalities of the members can complement each other through which possible weaknesses can be disguised. Thirdly for the members' own dignity and commitment, it is of importance that all members feel that they are a full-fledged member of the group who replenish to the collective and cannot be missed.
When discussing the problems of the group we have observed, we came to the conclusion that the members within the group have to change their attitudes against each other rather than adopting a special strategy to improve their performance. As mentioned earlier, members within the group have to get to know each other better as this will improve the performance of the whole group. If one knows about the strengths and weaknesses of his/hers colleague, one can spread work more evenly and everyone can concentrate on his/hers strengths. Due to the fact that the observed group is quite small (4 members) it is not that difficult to get to know each other. Nevertheless one of the main problems is that time is very limited in this case. As the group only has a few days to fulfill the task, there might not be enough time to adopt any strategies and/or get to know more about each other.
In our point of view the best and most important strategy is, as being a team, they actually have to work together like a good team. This strategy involves communicating with each other, in order to make the best decisions possible. Secondly, it is very important that they respect each other and not discriminate each other or having prejudice against each other, in order to improve communication further and thereby improving the team’s likelihood of achieving the its target of maximizing profit. Thirdly, it is essential that the work is split up evenly, so that nobody feels useless or on the other hand utilized. This increases the motivation of the team and therefore performance. Finally, it is very important that the members of the team who did something really good get lauded by the rest of the team and if someone does something not so appropriate the rest of the team has to talk to the person mannerly way. This makes the members of the group feel good as they get the feeling of contributing something useful to the team and it lowers the chance of someone having the impression of being excluded from the group. If a team is able to stick to all these aspects, it is definitely going to succeed and not going to lose like in this specific case.