The OPPrentice - Episode 11

Posted 15 Jul 2011 by TeriSmith

Lord Sugar had tasked the teams with creating a fast-food restaurant, coming up with a concept and a brand, producing the food, and serving it to customers. Helen and Tom’s concept of ‘My Py’, a traditionally British fast food chain selling mini pies and mash, with a strong focus on quality, was a great success. This was in contrast to ‘Caracas’: Jim, Susan and Natasha’s rather mashed-up attempt at Mexican food. The failure of Caracas ultimately led to Natasha’s, perhaps much awaited, departure from the boardroom.


Last night’s episode showed us some very clear contrasts between the two teams in terms of leadership, team dynamics and business acumen.


There was a marked contrast between the leadership styles of the two Project Managers: Helen and Jim.


Product strategy and business acumen


Helen was organised and methodical from the start, creating a business plan to show costings and prices, and how many customers they could expect to serve per hour. The strong focus she placed on quality meant that the pies were a winner with both the customers and food critics.


In contrast, Jim demonstrated very ineffective leadership, failing to give his team a clear sense of direction or strategy in this task. None of Jim’s team recognised the need for a clear business plan or consideration of costs and profit. Jim failed to explore how long each dish would take to prepare and whether, given the ingredient costs and preparation time, this would actually result in a profitable business concept. When it came to the pitch, the team’s lack of planning around costings came back to bite them, with Jim floundering when quizzed on the financials.


Leading the team


Helen showed a collaborative leadership style, taking into account Tom’s desire to be in charge of the branding. Despite having initial misgivings, Helen responded by allowing Tom to take on this role, briefing him clearly on the need to keep in contact. This strategy worked well and Tom blossomed under this trust in his abilities, coming up with a very strong brand name and product concept. It also resulted in the two candidates working very productively together, with Tom’s creative flair and Helen’s slick organisation making the perfect tag team.


If we look at the relationship between Helen and Tom in terms of interpersonal needs, as measured by the FIRO-B questionnaire, we can see why this strategy proved so effective.


The FIRO-B interpersonal styles questionnaire measures three core interpersonal needs: control, inclusion, and affection.


The FIRO–B interpersonal need for control refers to an individual’s desire to exert control and influence over others (expressed control) and their desire for others to exert control and influence back (wanted control.) Helen’s interpersonal style demonstrated a high ‘expressed’ need for control. However, this was combined with a moderate ‘wanted’ need for others to take control. This was complemented by Tom who, in this task, showed a strong desire to share in the responsibility and decision making, displaying a medium level of ‘expressed’ control.


The FIRO-B interpersonal need for inclusion looks at an individual’s need to seek out and interact with others, including them in their plans and decision making (expressed inclusion), and their desire for others to include them (wanted inclusion). Whereas Helen’s collaborative behaviour met Tom’s ‘wanted’ need for inclusion, Jim showed little inclination to make his team feel valued.


And as for affection… well we won’t even go there!


Another issue for Jim’s team was the ongoing conflict between Natasha and Susan. Natasha again demonstrated a defensive and hostile attitude towards her team mates, particularly Susan, when they disagreed with her ideas. Jim did little to address this issue and, perhaps unwisely, left them to work together. Again, use of the FIRO-B tool can offer insights into why Natasha and Susan may have clashed as individuals.


They both show a high ‘expressed’ need to take control, combined with a low ‘wanted’ need for others to have any influence or control. This similarity in their profiles means that they won’t meet each other’s interpersonal needs unless they seek to modify their behaviour to be more inclusive of others’ ideas. In addition, Natasha showed lack of inclusion in her decision making, meaning that she clashed with Susan’s high ‘wanted’ need to be included by others.


Despite her dispute with Natasha, Susan showed the strongest evidence of learning agility, i.e. learning from previous mistakes, out of her team. It was she who spotted the flaws in the queuing system and pointed out ways in which they could improve it. Natasha, on the other hand, displayed very poor learning agility, refusing to apply her prior knowledge of the industry from her degree, and failing to come up with any strategies for improving on her team’s dismal performance on day one.

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