What Can We Learn From The Apprentice?

This is the title of a piece in a LinkedIn conversation.  Here is my perspective:

I think we need to be careful about what we learn from The Apprentice and other reality shows in the ‘business genre’.

‘Cost control’ is paramount in some organisations and in really simple tasks that only have to work in the very short term.  Keep costs low and con your way to a victory.  As long as you can keep finding new ‘marks’ you will be ok.  In the real world, appropriate investment and tolerance of ‘failure’ in the right market experiments is vital if you are looking to encourage creativity and innovation.

We could learn from The Apprentice that lying, backstabbing and cheating work.  As does staying off the radar for as long as possible.  All great tactics for having an ‘OK’ career in a traditional bureaucracy, but not what I would recommend to many of my clients who are interested in exploring their potential though and doing ‘good’ work.

Why do so many bureaucracies still reward such behaviour?  Because they are too scared of sacrificing the short term gains that they achieve in order to build long term value.  Managers often lack the courage, or do not know how, to do what is right.  I meet this situation OFTEN – especially in sales teams!  I also meet a lot of sales trainers who train this type of approach!  In fact I have seen highly successful teams that specifically recruit to this mode and just cull the worst performers every year.  It works a treat to shift units.  The costs in distorted and broken lives are externalised – so who cares….

What we can learn from The Apprentice depends very much on what we are trying to do and what ideas, models and values we use to frame it with.

My worry is that for anyone who has not been involved in ‘business’ they just learn that we are lying, cheating, money grabbing, backstabbing, environment wrecking, delusional dummies.  That business is about snake oil salesmen and the short term pursuit of cash and profit over any other value.

For aspiring ‘business people’ who just want material rewards as quickly as possible I think it legitimises a completely inappropriate set of behaviours that we should be sniffing out and eliminating.

For many managers it leaves them questioning whether they should maintain their faith in working with good, compassionate caring individuals – or whether they too should recruit from The Apprentice mould.

More perspectives inspired by the Apprentice:

Tre really is on another level

Management, Dragons and Apprentices

“Partnership working?” What the hell is Partnership working”?

This has been my favourite tweet of the last 24 hours!

It caused me to pause and reflect.  It made think about how poorly it is defined and what a mess most partnerships are.  Many people find it a Herculean proposition to drive change in a single organisation.  What hope for progress in a partnership?

Yet few organisations or individuals can achieve what matters without involving others in some way.  If you need the support, permission, co-operation or resources of others to achieve what matters to you then you will have to work in partnership.

In my experience the best partnerships are formed when each partner:

is very clear and open about their self interest

has enough power to make things happen and is adept at using power to manage win/win negotiations with other partners.

In the worst partnerships, partners:

  • are unclear about their self interest, or keep it ‘under the table’
  • have little power or autonomy either in their own organisation or with partners
  • are inept at negotiating win/wins and partnerships are characterised by slow (if any) progress

My best guess is that if you work in a partnership and progress is slow, you are suffering from one or more of these symptoms.

The solutions:

  • Clarify and ‘go public’ with your self interest – if you are not prepared to go public then you are selfish rather than self interested.
  • Work on building both trust and power so that you can negotiate win/wins effectively and efficiently.

Good leadership and great development for partners can help partnerships to become significantly more effective.

Some people get very uncomfortable with  the idea of negotiating their own self interest rather than ‘co-operating’ and ‘serving’.  There are a lot of reasons behind this.  This article sheds light on some of them.

BGT Still Providing Management Lessons

One of my very early posts featured Paul Potts on Britains got Talent.

Well BGT proves itself to be the reality show of choice for the progressive managers looking to learn.

Forget The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den.  For lessons in authenticity, body language, hidden talent, and managing expectations.

Watch the video on youtube here.

Making Partnerships and Alliances Work

Great blog post on this topic in today’s Washington Post.  They offer 8 Is for making partnerships work that are worth considering:

  1. Individual excellence. Both parties must have strengths on their own, because weak players cannot prop each other up.
  2. Importance. The relationship must have strategic significance. If it is just casual, don’t bother.
  3. Interdependence. The strongest and most enduring alliances occur when the parties are different in some respects and need each other to carry out an activity they would not otherwise do.
  4. Investment. One sign of commitment is a willingness to invest something in the partner’s success, such as equities or personnel swaps (business “hostages for peace”).
  5. Information. Transparency aids relationship formation. If you don’t want a partner to know too much about you, why are you in the alliance?
  6. Integration. There must be many points of contact that tie the organizations together in joint activities.
  7. Institutionalization. A formal structure and governing board ensures objectivity, and that alliance interests are considered, not just each company’s interests.
  8. Integrity. Trust is essential. Alliances fall apart in conflict and lawsuits when partners do not act ethically toward one another nor strive to contribute to the other’s success.

How many enforced public sector partnerships get even half way to meeting these criteria for success.

This suggests to me that being successful in less than ideal circumstances is going to take more determination, more time and more persistence.

You can read the full post here.

In order to get something different, you must do something different …

For many years I have done very little to actively seek recommendations or positive feedback from clients.  My belief was that my clients are all too busy to appreciate being asked to write about the joys of working with me.  I have happy clients.  None have asked for their money back (although most of my work carries that guarantee).  So asking for references was never a priority.

However, social networking sites made it easy for me to ask for references.  It gave me a gentle nudge and prompted me to try something new.  The results were great.  I now have some fantastic new client references and reading between the lines I can also see patterns emerging in what clients really liked about working with me – and some areas where I need to to more work.  Doing something different has helped me to make progress.

It was easy for me to try something new and see if it worked.  And that is what I try to do with my management training.  Make it easy for managers to try something new – and find out that it works.

Indeed it is always a joy to hear of a manager who has worked hard at putting my training into practice and is now enjoying the benefits.

I  am so delighted to give an endorsement for Mike. He is an enormously gifted and wise man who shares his knowledge and experiences freely. He has the ability to challenge gently and help you to examine ideas and thoughts clearly and objectively. If you have the chance of being mentored by Mike jump at it.

Charlotte Mannion (Director Centre for Professional Development at Great Western Enterprise)

Are You Ambivalent?

Many managers I meet are, at best, ambivalent about management.  Few are passionate about it.

Why do we get into something we have so little passion for?

Why do we expect to be good at it?

Is it just a necessary evil en route to more power and money?

Need help to get passionate about management?

Get in touch!

The Sorry State of Management?

Yesterday I trained a group of around 20 managers all of whom were members of the Chamber of Commerce. It was a free ‘taster’ session – a 2 hour glimpse into the power of real management development to improve performance and relationships at work.

Feedback from the group was VERY positive! There was consensus that if we used the ideas discussed consistently and courageously we could probably expect productivity gains in the region of 25 – 40%.

Yet some of those who attended felt they could never put these ideas into practice:

‘Our directors want us to spend less time managing and more time working. They want to see nothing get in the way of production’.

‘Our directors have cut budgets for training and development – we even had a hard time getting away for free training sessions like this one.’

‘I have a member of staff who always hits targets, but she does it at the expense of her colleagues. She lies and cheats and upsets everybody. I have tried to give her feedback and would like to fire her – but because she sells so well my boss won’t hear of it.’

‘In my job customers ring up and often shout and swear at me. My boss says I just need to be more assertive’.

This is a reality of working life for many in SMEs.  This is why so many SMEs erode quality of life and wellbeing rather than contribute to it for their employees.

It reflects the somewhat sorry state of management and enterprise education today.

  • Why don’t we do a better job of helping more SME entrepreneurs to manage more effectively?
  • Why do so many businesses avoid learning how to manage constructively?
  • Why do people choose to work for such poor bosses?
  • Are we turning into The Apprentice on a national scale? Rude, brutish, short-sighted and backstabbing?