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The Apprentice Assessed: Final – A Stella performance, but last orders at the bar for Chris

20th Dec 2010
R&D Director a&dc
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In spite of Chris’s best efforts, Stella English became this series’ winner of The Apprentice. It was certainly a hard fought battle, but I can’t help wondering whether the unquantifiable nature of this final task allowed Lord Sugar to justify his decision either way.

Having claimed at the outset that he wasn’t looking for “Steady Eddies or Cautious Carols”, Lord Sugar’s final two had both put in 12 weeks of considered and steady performances, which just goes to show that whilst The Apprentice format needs the like of Baggs the Brand™ and Melissa the Mouth to keep the entertainment factor high, it does have the ability to identify the best candidates in the end. A big tick for the power of behavioural assessment! Not that we at A&DC are biased.

This week’s task was to create a new alcoholic drink, producing the drink itself, designing the bottle, filming an advertisement and delivering the pitch. The finalists were joined by some their fallen foes, allowing for some score settling as they picked teams. (Paloma was the last to be chosen, with Shibby being selected before her … ouch!).

Chris and Stella started well, enthusing about their amazing teams and how delighted they were to be working with them (high Emotional Intelligence). And then the brainstorming process started... Once again, this episode touched on one of Alex’s many specialist areas, with him confidently advising Chris that this year’s “hot fruit is the pomegranate”. Liz also got stuck in, commenting that gooseberry might be an option, having had it once in a pie. (Now you see why they were fired!)

The product naming process put both team leaders under pressure, with ideas being generated in the car on the way to the bottle designers. Chris wisely dismissed “The Crown Jewels” (envisaging the potential for highly inappropriate marketing slogans), opting instead for ‘Prism’ (and a very creative bottle concept as a result). Stella came up with the name ‘Urbon’, at the very last minute. Her ability to generate this creative idea whilst under pressure was a demonstration of both Intellect and Emotional Intelligence, in terms of her ability to stay calm and think clearly despite the obvious pressures.

Showing some lack of judgement, both Chris and Stella chose to delegate the actual production of their drinks to others in their team. Shibby and Liz (despite Chris’s instructions for the drink to be clear) concluded that pink was fine for a unisex drink, with Shibby posing in front of the mirror with the drink to assist with the decision, striking a camp pose and commenting that “pink is the new blue” (how many men would be convinced by that?). For Stella’s team, Chris and Melissa’s drink was evidently just a bit revolting, although she defended her decision for delegating this task to them, due to their ‘drinking experience’.

Stella used her team well, involving Paloma, with her marketing experience, in the development of her pitch (Intellect). However, as Stella’s team descended into squabbling over the content of the pitch, she managed to remain incredibly calm, commenting “this is going to get us nowhere”, and off camera she actually seemed amused by her team’s behaviour (high resilience/Emotional Intelligence).

Both Chris and Stella appeared calm and in control throughout the pitch. Chris demonstrated Learning Agility by attempting to address his monotone delivery with some coaching from Jamie, a big improvement, but “no Richard Burton” (Nick). Both candidates dealt well with the questioning; thinking on their feet and responding in a calm and controlled manner (high Emotional Intelligence).

Back in the Boardroom it really didn’t feel like the task had a huge amount to do with Lord Sugar’s decision, which ultimately came down to experience. There was a critical moment where the good Lord asked “do I need the aggravation” (of employing an inexperienced Chris). Rather than Chris speaking up, Stella jumped in, demonstrating a real ruthless streak and putting Chris down by claiming he didn’t have as much “passion” as she did (low Values or high Drive?). Chris rightly stood up for himself, demonstrating strong Values and commenting “I didn’t talk about you … you can’t tell me how much passion I have”. Fortunately for Stella, this wasn’t enough to change Lord Sugar’s opinion of her and she received the instruction ‘you’re hired’.

So that’s it for another series. Whilst we wouldn’t necessarily agree the 16 were “Britain’s brightest business prospects”, we have certainly seen some excellent demonstrations of how not to behave in the workplace. Well done to Stella, a deserving winner and tipped by us from the start. It will be interesting to follow Chris’s progress though as well, as he showed very good potential … let’s hope for Lord Sugar’s sake he doesn’t become the one who got away.

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By Charlie Duff
20th Dec 2010 16:00

I was glued to the final last night, and absolutely beside myself at the choices of the teams' choices: 'A fruit flavour? It won't be a versatile mixer' and 'It looks like a perfume bottle' and 'Pink? Hmm.'

I personally didn't see much in Chris; I didn't feel he was a steady enough influence but felt Stella was a good people manager, especially when she was clearly in charge. I did notice 'Lord Shug' using the word 'younger' a lot while discussing Chris: if that was truly a job interview he may well feel aggreived as it almost sounded like he was 'too young' for the position: not ideal!

I would also like to thank you for writing this blog so well and so consistently: and to congratulate you on being voted Blog of the Year. It was well-deserved.

Best wishes for a fabulous festive season

Charlie Duff

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