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Jo Keeler

Belbin Associates


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When is a team not a team? Lessons from The Apprentice 2013


When is a team not a team? Lessons from The Apprentice 2013

1. When it’s a group.

The words “team” and “group” are used to describe all manner of collective endeavour, but in Belbin terms, they have specific meanings. A team consists of about 4-6 people working closely together, whereas a group – although it may still share common objectives – is larger and has completely different dynamics and psychological characteristics to those of a team.

Proof? Whenever a task is set, the group splits into “sub-teams” (or simply “teams” in our view!) in an attempt to increase productivity and to avoid a “too many cooks” effect – sometimes to no avail!

2. When members do not share a common goal.

In The Apprentice, each individual is governed by something which overrides the goal of team success: the objective of individual victory.

Proof? During any given task, their enthusiasm and efforts are tempered by a desire to eschew responsibility and place blame to ensure survival in the boardroom.

3. When the people in the team do not fit the task at hand.

Lord Sugar apparently wants to go into business with an entrepreneur, but so far he has selected people for the process whose primary focus seems to be on sales. Additionally, whilst the individuals may have the Team Role propensities for entrepreneurship (lots of Resource Investigator and Shaper behaviours are evident), when they are put together, this makes for an unbalanced, malfunctioning team.

Proof? Each task so far has been centred on sales, with “Who sold the most?” taking priority over the question of who has the ingenuity and drive to start up a new company. None of the tasks so far seem to shed any light on the merit of individual candidates as entrepreneurs.

4. When claims overpower contributions and no one admits weakness.

The hyperbolic introductions to the candidates at the beginning of each series have become a trademark of The Apprentice. Whilst they might make for good TV entertainment, these claims are more likely to be seen as bluff and bluster, rather than to promote success in business.

Proof? Candidates set themselves up for a fall by making grandiose claims. It is often their own words, read from their CV verbatim by Lord Sugar, which come back to haunt them in the boardroom.

5. When everyone tries to play the same role.

With all the candidates fighting for attention with a dominant style and sales patter, lower profile, “back room” jobs are seen as undesirable: a hospital pass from the Project Manager for the poor unfortunates involved in manufacturing or logistics.

Proof? In the first episode of this series, Uzma had to defend the importance of her strategic role scouting locations to facilitate sales. Because of the lack of other Team Roles, embarrassing mistakes are made and confusion reigns.

6. When clashes and conflict hinder communication.

Although The Apprentice is designed to be entertaining, it also claims to promote business. However, most professional organisations would not tolerate the way individuals in the programme interact with one another, with personal insults and shouting matches demonstrating little respect for, or understanding of, the contributions of others in the team.

Proof? The Apprentice “teams” do not last: they are simply a pressure-cooker designed to provoke individuals to extreme behaviour and are not conducive to the success of a real working team.

What do you think? Are you a fan of The Apprentice? Share your thoughts with us by contacting us at: Contact Belbin

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Jo Keeler


Read more from Jo Keeler

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