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

Monday, 16 November 2009

Apprentice episode 8 preview: double trouble

Preview of week 8: double-episode/double-firing

This week's two hour double-episode on Monday 16 November (21h30-23h30) will see two contestants get fired. At this stage I'll dare a few observations/predictions about how things might unfold.

I've already spoken about Gavin and Sabrina in a previous post - they need to come out from behind their masks before it costs them whatever connection they still have with others, notably Mark Bouris.

Of the two I think Sabrina is most at risk; while Gavin is fresh from his latest tongue-lashing in the Boardroom and will seek in week 8 to make amends, Sabrina may have gained false assurance as Team Eventus' victory last week papered over the real conflict between her, Heather and Mary-Anne and did not compel her to examine her own shortcomings as project lead. Either one could end up fired in week 8 - I think most likely Sabrina.

In a post early in this series of reviews I mentioned that Carmen and Mary-Anne shared a forceful directness:
Mary-Anne [...] was shut down peremptorily by Carmen during the first team meeting. [...] she will need to rein in her high-energy competitive nature to win people over rather than confronting them. Her intolerance for what she perceives as incompetence may also be a significant trigger resulting in punitive behaviour, even bullying. The early clash with Carmen (who shares a similar disposition) is a sign of things to come. Triggers: injustice, skirting the issues, others not taking responsibility for their behaviour, being blindsided, lack of truthfulness, feeling weak/vulnerable/uncertain/dependent, losing regard of people she respects.
With Carmen now gone we're seeing more of Mary-Anne's stroppy behaviour: seemingly convinced that hers was the one right way to do things, she showed both doubt and impatience towards Sabrina's competence as project lead during the art task. If she fails to rein in this aggressivenes and intolerance, she'll be fired in week 8.

On several occasions in projects now Heather has been quick to assert herself but looked panicked and almost wild-eyed whenever there she felt a (real or imagined) need to explain and defend herself. The result is she's often overextending herself and, when caught out, tries to skate through. Again, I'd previously written of her:
[...] the challenge will be for her to keep her energy focused and face difficult situations without getting thrown off course. If she does get triggered, watch for her to flip into quite punitive behaviour with a clear expectation of compliance with her rules for conduct. Triggers: dislikes difficult situations or painful feelings, mundane tasks and constraints or limitations, feeling dismissed or not taken seriously, unjust criticism - also, blaming/criticism, violations of team norms, lack of follow-through, lack of commitment (by her standards), deception and lack of integrity.
While these are unhelpful patterns, they've not yet been career-threatening for her. At this point I think she's begun to learn the lesson of not biting off more than she can realistically chew, though she's still got some development to do on things like difficult conversations and being willing to occasionally say, "I don't know."

The danger zones for her in week 8 will be a) getting caught up in a conflict which she fails to manage or b) ending up in the Boardroom and not presenting a convincing case for what value she can add as Mark Bouris' Apprentice. If she avoids these or, as has happened to date, other people mess up worse than she does, I tip her to make it into the final. I have trouble predicting that she'll win because I don't think we've seen enough ability yet; perhaps she'll be the dark horse who makes a last-minute charge for the post.

In contrast to Gavin and Sabrina, I think Morello's got authentic EQ and a lack of egocentricity that enables him to make a genuine connection with people. People are willing to forgive a lot because they genuinely like the guy - which has saved him thus far. Early on I wrote:
his approach seemed less focused on tangible results and more on being personable - essentially "hire me, I'm a good bloke and I'll do right by you." [...] In weeks to come he must show substance behind the warm personality. He may fall down on more strategic tasks if he fails to channel his abundant energy and good cheer into productive output. Triggers: dislikes difficult situations or painful feelings, mundane tasks and constraints or limitations, feeling dismissed or not taken seriously, unjust criticism.
To date none of these pitfalls has caused him serious dramas and I think both tasks in week 8 will favour his personable nature and huge ability to adapt on the fly. Though his age and inexperience mean he lacks the wisdom required for senior leadership, his people management and relationship-building skills are exceptional.

Were I to recommend him for a role, it would be to lead a team of people implementing a strategic plan - ensuring he has close guidance from a senior leader to act as internal mentor to build his grasp of strategic thinking, and a coach to help him develop his particular management style. (On the difference between coaching and mentoring, see here.) Of the remaining candidates, I think he would benefit most from the opportunity to be The Apprentice and I'm tipping him to not only be in the final but possibly win.

Let's see what happens!

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.

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