Apprentice: Sir Alan tells big ego to go

By MichaelSophocles, May 7, 2009
Philip (left) paid the price when team Ignite lost the selling task

Philip (left) paid the price when team Ignite lost the selling task

Arrogance is a costly vice. The cliché directed at me by many people I have met over the years in the business world is that there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, and that “you, my friend, have crossed it”.

Contrary to how viewers of the last Apprentice series perceived me, I always tried to look at myself objectively. I wanted Sir Alan to be fully aware that I recognised my faults and was willing to plead guilty to them.

If you look into the psychology, this makes perfect sense. By admitting your mistake before anyone else has a chance to chastise you (in this case, Sir Alan’s helpers, the ever-watchful Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford), you come across as noble and mature. This, in turn, normally leads to exoneration and acquittal — at least, it did in my case.

When it comes to the boardroom, a lot of Apprentice candidates fail to appreciate that owning up is a task in itself. You have to find the balance between being true to yourself and gauging what Sir Alan wants to hear from your trembling lips.

This is especially true when you get to the halfway point in the competition — the process becomes less about putting on a glitzy show for your potential employer, more about letting him see what you are really about, warts and all.

And this week’s boardroom confrontation illustrated exactly how not to mollify Sir Alan.

From the start of the task, I could see his aim was to separate the weak from the resilient. The teams were given 12 products from which two were chosen by each team to sell to retailers. A relatively easy exercise, but one that requires candidates to show off their sales skills.

Team Empire was led by the increasingly bland Mona Lewis (who has been blessed with the most unfortunate of speaking voices), while Ignite was headed up by the enigmatic Lorraine Tighe.

Lorraine reminds me of Lucinda Ledgerwood, an equally mysterious candidate who caused several rows during her stint on the show last year. Lucinda constantly rubbed people up the wrong way with her unconventional mannerisms and her left-field approach to business. When you have somebody who is a little unorthodox, narrow-minded colleagues invariably want to suppress what they cannot understand.

Step forward Mr Philip Taylor. It seems as if Philip and Lorraine have been at each others jugulars since programme one, with the former usually losing out in their feuds.

Both were in Ignite and as soon as it was revealed that their team had lost, I knew we would be witnessing the final, decisive battle between these two fiery characters.

I was not disappointed, and once again Philip lost. His sacking by Sir Alan was as predictable as me wearing clothes in public. In the boardroom, the arrogance and ego he had displayed throughout the series started to verge on malice.

He had been one of my favourites to win the competition but the way he spoke to Lorraine made me change my mind. People who conduct relationships in this way are completely unsuited to holding positions of power in a company.

As for Lorraine, she may be a little too weird to win The Apprentice. Just like Lucinda, she seems too off-centre to end up working for such a mainstream employer.

However, there is a big part of me that hopes Sir Alan takes a punt on a wild card for a change. Here’s hoping.

The Apprentice is on Wednesdays on BBC1 at 9pm

Last updated: 11:20am, May 12 2009