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Failing to prepare is preparing to fail


Sir ALeadership expert John Fay starts an Apprentice blog today. The candidates must reassess their skills after last week's performance, he says, and realise that being a strong leader isn't always enough to win favour with Sir Alan.

Sir Alan Sugar was left with no other option than to fire two contestants on last week’s Apprentice.

We are now in week seven of the contest and it is worrying to see how the apprentices are behaving. Their leadership and general business skills are lacking and it was no surprise this caused multiple casualties last night.

The 10 apprentices were sent to Morocco's Marrakesh markets with a 10-item shopping list from Sir Alan. Jenny Celerier and Jennifer Maguire, both from losing team Renaissance, were sent home after displaying some worrying business and personality traits.

Jennifer was appointed team leader and, despite advice from her colleagues, decided to start shopping ahead of researching where the requested items would be found. This was an illogical move and they paid heavily for it, as team Alpha proved by researching and winning the task.

A business leader does not wait to see what each working day will bring. The future success of a business relies on forward planning and thought and Jennifer failed to acknowledge this. The old adage 'failing to prepare is preparing to fail' is certainly true in this case.

Jennifer's lack of attention to detail was also her downfall. Sir Alan requested a green alarm clock, and even presented the team with a photograph of this, but Jennifer purchased a white version and was left racing against time to correct her mistake.

Her competitiveness and drive to win the task made her neglect simple attention to detail, an error which is tantamount to disaster in any organisation.

Jenny, on the other hand, was sacked because of her lack of integrity. She was shown as being underhand, by bribing a shop worker to scupper the Alpha team's chances by delaying stringing their tennis rackets. This 'snake' like tendency was criticised by Sir Alan.

Jenny's second error was failing to take responsibility for the team's failure to buy a kosher chicken. She claimed in the boardroom she had no idea what kosher was and relied on team-member Michael. Sadly she was caught on camera discussing a range of religious ceremonies.

This was an interesting development in the programme as Sir Alan did not fire Michael Sophocles, despite the self-confessed 'arrogant' apprentice claiming he was a 'good Jewish boy'. This revelation was shown to be false when he couldn’t define 'kosher'. Sir Alan excused Michael because of his age and his desire to impress.

Jennifer failed because of her lack of organisation, attention to detail and because she failed to keep control and focus on the task in hand. Jenny was fired for being deceitful and for not taking responsibility for her part in the group's failings.

There are many training issues to be addressed among the apprentices but perhaps also some life lessons need to be learned. Lying and deception are not traits which will be welcomed in any business and the remaining contestants should bear this in mind.

The apprentices must now reassess their skills and realise that being a strong leader is not always enough to win favour with Sir Alan. Managerial attention to detail is also compulsory. Sir Alan needs a great leader, with strong managerial and essential organisational skills so the embarrassment of this week is not repeated.

Leadership expert John Fay was awarded an MBE for his work teaching leadership, confidence and citizenship skills to young people during a 10-year period. He is the founder of SFL, a change management, leadership and development company. For more information visit


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