Audio version 8’30” (it’s quite good this week, added a bit of the ol’ Celebrity Apprentice audio drama)
Or listen on Spotify:
Good Morning, Lord Sugar
Celebrity Apprentice has drawn me back to free TV, and I’m enjoying it enough to pay the price: ten thousand views of the same Koala mattress ad.
Seeing as both Celebrity Apprentice and this blog work at the intersection of business and junk culture, it’s review time.
No matter how many times I hear it, I find the name Lord Sugar hilarious. And you hear it a lot, given the fawning required of the contestants. “Good morning Lord Sugar. Right away Lord Sugar.”
It’s like the campest pantomime stage name ever. With a garnish of Cluedo suspect in a smoking jacket.
“Lord Sugar, in the butler’s pantry, with the bisque ladle.”
The Lord has a long, legit business track record, starting as a street hustler selling electronics out of a van in London.
All business graduates should be made to sell stuff out of a van for three months before they start at PwC or Google. To understand that creating revenue is hard.
On-screen, Sugar’s at his best in old-school business-dictator mode, being annoyed by the stupidity unfolding around him. He brings a strong eyebrow-knitting game to the boardroom scenes.
Who of us hasn’t yearned to say “Just. Stop. Talking. Now!” in meetings?
Feelings And Humour: There Is A Limit
There’s a lot to be said for listening to people’s feelings. EQ is an essential management attribute now. But there is a limit.
Some people’s entire life is a non-stop broadcast of their feelings at every moment. The Celebrity Apprentice cast is well-stocked with those people. In situations like these, you need a Vice-President of Shut The Fuck Up or nothing gets done.
(Which is not to suggest Lord Sugar swears at all, that job title is a state of mind.)
Lord Sugar carries the burden of scriptwriters who force-feed him half a dozen creaky comedy lines per show. They have a strong Simpsons in Australia energy, and his comic timing is a bit like he’s reading out Xmas cracker jokes:
“If I have to listen to any more of this I’ll out-do Van Gogh … and cut off both my bloody ears!”
There has always been this strange idea that speeches and presentations must open with a joke. No. If that’s not your personality, it’s fine to just avoid it.
Here’s an alternative opening for the next series. The boss calls his joke writers into the boardroom and fires them, then hosts the rest of the series in Normal Sugar mode.
How Hard Does Your Business Punish Errors?
If you’ve not watched the show, two teams fight out a business challenge. The losing team gets grilled in the boardroom on what went wrong, and who was to blame. One must be fired.
It gave me terrifying flashbacks. I have worked in places where middle-management goblins held all errors to account via a weekly Inquisition. This is not motivating for staff.
Celebrity Apprentice is TV, not business. Nobody wants to spend Sunday night watching projects come together in calm, collaborative fashion.
We want conflict, madness, and reality-edits that cut to a tight close-up of contestants in a massive mood, torn from a completely different context. Designed to make them look like the Worst People In The World.
I wish those post-project inquisitions, focus on failure and witch-burnings were a wild exaggeration of the real world.
Conversations with readers who have jobs suggests that plenty of it still goes on.
Be Your Best Self In The Scapegoat Battle
If someone must burn for an error, blame-evasion isn’t a great tactic.
Wippa shows the way. Calm in a gale of finger-pointing and shouting, he said,
“I was as much to blame as anyone for what unfolded.”
Even though he clearly wasn’t.
This is a strong scapegoating move. Taking responsibility for the mistakes of others is classy. Your maturity highlights the naked self-interest of the people around you, who have turned into kids in the back seat seven hours into a road trip.
So, ironically, it’s the best way to pursue your own self-interest.
Entrepreneurs: The Path To Success Is Finding A Great 2ic
Most of the really successful businesses I know got there because they have a great 2ic. They give the owner the time and mental space to grow the business.
They bring a closer connection to staff and clients, and take the edge off the crazier ideas.
Lord Sugar brings that classic boss need to be right about everything, including areas where he knows … not much.
Here’s a 74-year-old man handing down judgement on the value of artwork by and for young people:
“The frame’s not worth two bob as far as I’m concerned,” he tells influencer Alex Hayes.
Give him a Rothko and he’d say “Blimey, couldn’t you afford more paint colours?”
Lorna-Jane Clarkson and Janine Allis bring a sane balance to the Lord’s reckonings, and haven’t made a wrong call on any of the shenanigans so far.
Either of them could run the show easily if it weren’t for the ratings gods’ need for a dominating, cartoon-character CEO.
Follow The German Military Grid
A while back I wrote of the simple personnel management grid, developed (or so legend has it) by World War I German general Kurt Von Hammerstein-Equord.
He divided personnel into a 2×2 matrix, though the emojis are mine:
The worst quadrant is stupid and energetic. They come up with dumb-ass plans and bulldoze smarter people into compliance. They talk over the top of everyone, and have unshakeable confidence in their own rightness.
The result: catastrophic time and resource wastage.
The first half of Celebrity Apprentice has been a glorious show of the stupid/energetic quadrant in action. Because their antics make excellent television.
These people are not so great in your own business, which is not a TV show.
When you’re in the real boss chair, you can’t say “You’re fired!”. You must say “I’m issuing you with the first in a series of warnings, at the end of which you may be sent to an empathy training course. It may be online.”
But you can say, this job candidate is super-confident despite being plank-thick, let’s not hire this dickhead.
Keen to hear your predictions of who will win. My greatest fear is that it’ll be Ross Noble, so by law he must become Chief Innovation Officer of Sugar Industries, and we’ll never see him perform again.
But if I had to bet I’d predict a too-close-to-call Wippa vs Scherri-Lee final*.
Find out who survives *bass drone, massive music sting* but first … … … … … … KOALA MATTRESS.
* I wrote this Monday afternoon and Scherri-Lee got fired Monday night, what do I know?
Hey guess what I’ve got a book out NEXT WEEK! The nice people at Penguin Random House built me this sweet book fortress and now all of them are signed and on sale here.
Buy it NOW or YOU’RE FIRED!
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