Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Friday, 16 October 2009

Apprentice week 3 analysis, RWAs: Team Leadership and Setting a Team Culture

Summary: This post reviews episode 3 of The Apprentice Australia and offers Real-World Applications (RWAs) on integrating new team leaders and building a strong team culture.

Review of Episode 3

This week saw a trade in team leaders, so the "boys team" Pinnacle was led by Amy and the "girls team" Eventus by Gavin. The end result was a victory for Gavin's team, which made nearly triple the profit of Amy's team and resulted in Amy's elimination. This week I'll talk about some interesting personality matchups of "like with like" in both teams, about Amy's departure, and comment on the Boss himself, Mark Bouris.

Like with Like: Personality and character matches this week

This week's task was to create, market and sell a new flavour of savoury pie. There were three interesting matches made of "like with like" personality and character:

Carmen & MaryAnn
During the production process Team Eventus had only two people making the pies which meant progress was slow. With just one pie machine in the factory, Team Pinnacle couldn't get their pies made until Team Eventus finished. Carmen sought to maximize her team's pie production and put Team Eventus at a huge disadvantage by monopolizing the machine until the final production deadline had passed, while her partner MaryAnn wanted to put a cap on their pie production to give Team Pinnacle a fair go and get their pies made. Carmen's response: "No, we're not going to do that! What were you thinking?"

Later in the Boardroom Diane Stone said Carmen and MaryAnn were a "super-cohesive team" and for the most part they were, thanks to their shared behaviour of forceful, charge-ahead action that had ironically set them at odds in episode 1. The contrast between them in this case, though, was that MaryAnn is better at connecting with other people (she has better access to her Heart) while Carmen is exclusively task-focused and loses all perspective of the other people involved (she relies primarily on Head). We see this in particular during the sales at the market, when Carmen, never having tasted one, said Team Eventus' pies were "tough and gristly, made with the cheapest cuts of lamb to save money" and when confronted by Blake said simply, "We're in this to win!" and "You need to go in hard and aggressive - there are no rules!" This attitude would come back to haunt her in the Boardroom, though I think not nearly as much as it should have done (of which more below).

Sabrina & Gavin
In her post-show diary Sabrina said simply, "Gavin gets me and I get Gavin." These two are almost identically matched in both personality and character. You can imagine being on their team would be a lot of fun, so long as things were going well. If things get tough, however, which in this case would mean: reputations on the line and appearances at stake, Sabrina in particular needs to be mindful of the Boardroom warning she received about trying to relativize Carmen's clearly unethical behaviour (see below). Otherwise this week's task let the two of them focus on their strengths: persuasiveness in getting free marketing materials and wooing people with charm as when they were selling pies from the van at Darling Harbour. Getting a late start and having a whole load of unsold pies in the van suggests that a focus on practical outputs remains a development point for them both. Look for more fun and a continued focus on the team dynamics from this duo in weeks to come.

Heather & Amy
Due to illness Heather did not figure highly in this week's episode, but in an aside at the very end she pronounced her deep admiration for both Amy's gutsiness and ethical behaviour. It seems these two are quite well matched in personality and character as well, though at this point we won't see this develop any further.

That someone as focused on ethics and integrity as Heather would speak so highly of Amy gives us an insight into Amy's behaviour in the Boardroom. Amy remarked straight off that it was "nice to be on the side not attacking each other," a reference to all-female group dynamics in Team Eventus to that point. When her team's loss was revealed she did not relativize or waffle: she immediately put her hand up and took reponsibility. Later in her exit interview she said simply, "if we failed as team it's because I've failed them."

I think Amy is actually being too hard on herself. Some development coaching I'd offer her during the task would have been: don't be intimidated by the blokes in Team Pinnacle, continue to swiftly address problematic behaviour (like Sam's moodiness at the outset) to assert authority as project lead, and to nominate a loyal and responsible lieutenant like John, whose quiet leadership came to the fore this week.

Nevertheless, Amy's accountability is to her credit. I'd expect it will serve her well in the real world as she continues to grow her Melbourne-based recruitment company. But that same accountability proved to be the kiss of death in the "one-strike-you're-out" world of the Apprentice Boardroom.

This poses an interesting question for Mark Bouris: two weeks running he's insisted that he wants people to take a stand, that he has no time and no place in his organization for "shrinking violets" who sit on the fence. Then when presented with someone who takes steps up to take responsibility, he says "I applaud you for putting your hand up"...and fires her, claiming that her accountability "left me nowhere to go."

However this was not the most serious error in judgement that I think Mark Bouris made this week. Carmen beamed with pride in the Boardroom as she took credit on behalf of her and MaryAnn for the marketing of the pies in the organic market as "home made". In fact the pies were factory-made and while early on Diane wondered aloud if this presented a possible "Trade Practices problem" Carmen cheerfully said, "in this case, perception is reality." This is not a clever case being made of the added value of perception since every other comment Carmen made clearly indicates her sole focus was winning and maximizing profit. This is someone who just doesn't get it.

And Mark Bouris' response as business leader and future Boss? Though this was "a clear case of being deceptive...[and] you don't play around with things that aren't correct in terms of your marketing" he concludes: your conduct was a "technical breach, which we will overlook on this occasion."

A fish rots from the head down

It's as if the names Enron, Andersen, WorldCom, Bear Stearns, AIG, Adelphia, Parmalat, Tyco, Cendant, Putnam Funds (and the list goes on...) have taught us nothing at all. As if the GFC hasn't produced serious questions about the pursuit of profit/shareholder value above all else and about how business people are trained in elite institutions.

If the top man in an organization fails to model the values that are expected of his reports and team members, there's not much hope that those values will take root. So again, this week Mark Bouris made two errors in judgement:
  1. He eliminated the one person who's thus far shown leadership and accountability exactly the kind of behaviour he's said he expects and wants.

    In my view it should have been Sam who left; his body language in his video diary was moody and downcast, saying "If I'm still here next week," his behaviour was tetchy and his actions were mostly fence-sitting - all of which Mr Bouris has said he doesn't need. He wasn't just out of his depth in this task, I'm afraid he's in too deep overall and through no fault of his own - he simply lacks the life experience needed to better manage his emotions and tap into his gifts in stressful business settings.

  2. He's overlooked clear breaches of ethics and of good old Australian "fair go" sportsmanship.

    In my view, Team Eventus ought to have had their profit decreased by the amount of whatever fine would normally apply for deceptive trade practices and/or had a penalty applied for unethical conduct.
Of course we need to bear in mind this is not reality, this is TV. Below are the number of hits on each person's Episode 3 video diary (including Amy's exit interview) on The Apprentice Australia website. The figures tell the tale - the audience loves a good scrap:
Amy - 3538
Carmen - 768
Blake - 565
Gavin - 331
Sabrina - 272
Heather - 202
Sam - 195
Morello - 176
John - 146
MaryAnn - 145
(figures current as of time of writing this blog post)

Real-World Applications (RWAs): Team Leadership and Setting a Team Culture

There was confused leadership this week, from both project leads suddenly leading new teams and from Mark Bouris whose contradictions and errors in judgement send mixed messages.

How does your organization clarify the leader's expectations of their team and create a team culture that sets team members up for success and high performance from the very start?

RWA#1: "Leader-Team Foundation" session puts you on course for success

In the US Navy when a new Captain assumes command of a ship there's a recognition that you can't simply swap one Captain out and a new one in. Each Captain has his own personality and leadership style and each ship has its own culture and way of doing things. Navy vessels are considered to be on war footing every time they leave port, placing servicemen and women in harm's way on a daily basis and leaving no margin for error or misunderstanding between Captain and crew. The Navy manages these leadership transitions with a formal process called a New Reporting Relationship (NRR) session, which provides some useful tips for the business world.

Similarly, a new leader in an organization can engage in a facilitated process to manage his/her leadership transition, in the form of a Leader-Team Foundation session. This helps make explicit the nature of the leader's new leadership style and expectations of the team.

Some typical goals from a Leader-Team Foundation session:
  • Clarify a new leader's vision, mission, and goals for the group as well as expectations of his/her direct reports.
  • Inform the group of the leader's preferred leadership style and decision-making approach.
  • Begin/continue to install explicit productive behavioural norms in the group.
  • Alert the leader of concerns, barriers, issues and strengths facing the team.
  • Expedite the development of the new team (in the “forming stage”) by learning about each other and promoting clear, open communication.
Desired outcomes of a Leader-Team Foundation session:
  • Understand the leader's vision, goals and expectations for the team.
  • Provide the new leader with the information needed to make sound and efficient decisions while setting priorities, policies and procedures.
  • Clarify the role of each team member in relationship to the new leader and each other.
  • Clarify concerns, priorities, and expectations of all members.
  • Identify and discuss dilemmas and challenges facing the group.
  • Identify mutual needs and identify actions needed to move forward.
  • Discuss any constraints facing members or the group to take such actions.

RWA#2: "Team Culture Foundation" session creates high-performing teams

Whether a team is newly-formed or already existing, get your team pointing in the same direction with a facilitated Team Culture Foundation session. The session involves individual reflection, interviews and group dialogue aimed at finding answers to the following questions and, where differences arise, agreeing on ways to resolve them - both now and in future:
  • What's the timeline of the team and where are we now?
  • Who are the heroes and villains of the past?
  • What are the five rules - spoken or unspoken - that you remember from first joining this team?
  • What are the team rules?
  • Who makes those rules?
  • How are they enforced?
  • How easy or hard is it to change them?
  • How does this team interact with the rest of the organization?
  • What are the three most helpful team patterns?
  • What are three least helpful patterns?
  • What are the behaviours that are banned/encouraged in our team?
  • How do we induct new people into the team?
  • What's our team's value proposition?
  • Is there an agreed code of conduct for our team?
  • How can we track how we're doing as time progresses - do we have regular check-ins?
Note that you can add the Heart element as well, for example with a 500-Word Story Exercise (details of which in a future post).

For details on how tmc can help you to run facilitated Leader-Team Foundation and/or Team Culture Foundation sessions, email me.

Note: For those of you outside Australia who wish to view the episodes of The Apprentice Australia that I'm discussing in this series of posts, you can find them on YouTube here. Meanwhile if you're in Australia you can see not only the episodes to date but also post-episode video diaries on the Nine website here.

Related previous posts:
Analysis of episode 1, RWA: Foundation & Force
Preview of episode 2, RWA: Conflict Management
Apprentice week 2 analysis, RWA: Giving/Receiving Feedback using Head & Heart

With materials and insights from Jack Fontaine & Jean Baumann; Peter Burow.
Amy & Sam photo credit:


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for this series of posts, im enjoying the insights