The latest series of The Apprentice reaches a conclusion next week and another £250,000 investment will be decided based on the performance of the best team led by the remaining finalists. The long-running BBC franchise has seen 13 series since 2005 and retains its popularity, and high viewing figures, despite some complaints of format fatigue. The Apprentice is a brand we love because, like all good brands, it consistently delivers against its promises. So like Pavlov’s dogs, we salivate at the prospect of toe-curling encounters in the boardroom, startling verbal put-downs and bitter internecine struggles between candidates with their eyes on the prize.
We know that every year the candidates are split into two teams and given business tasks which they are duty bound to complete in the interests of keeping themselves out of the firing line. And we also know that they can be reliably relied upon to ignore the simple principle that team work will gain them a win that keeps them well away from Lord Sugar’s pointing finger.Failing to build successful teams is a classic failing of many organisations. But it goes far beyond pulling together with your immediate colleagues to achieve sample tasks. Your brand is delivered by a wider virtual team which includes your staff, your customers and your partners. Only when they all win can you achieve your goal to beat the competition.
Winning hearts and minds
Make sure your team has the right balance of individuals with complementary skills and pay attention to the value of diversity. You may think that cloning your hardest working team member is the answer, but have you got flair and creativity covered? You need to put the structures in place and set the norms that enable your team to perform as a homogenous unit. Behaviour that supports common goals should be rewarded, whether it brings success the first time or not.
Take a look at your partners and suppliers to make sure that you are not squeezing them unreasonably in the interests of your business success. Partnership working pays dividends when everyone feels that their contribution is valued. Rewards for reliability and good service will be returned with future commitment, and your partners will pull out the stops to help you in a crisis. Teams are increasingly virtual with everyone involved in your business having a valid role. Bring in your associates to review ideas wherever you can, to gain a broader perspective of the market.
Perhaps the most important members of your team are your customers. Ultimately, your brand is created and evolves as customers respond to the way you deliver against your brand promises. Track their perceptions carefully and encourage engagement so that you keep in touch with the reality of how your brand is being experienced. Cherish complaints and what you can learn from them, and take full advantage of what goes wrong to create future brand advocates.
In the final analysis, all the members of your team work together in symbiotic relationships that keep the business successful. Focus on making sure that everyone in your team wins before you even start to look at the competition and you will be ‘hired’ while the others are fighting it out in the boardroom.