What we can learn about team building from The Apprentice - and AVOID practicing in our own business

It’s that time of year again. Dust off your wheelie suitcases and brace yourselves for a barrage of ‘blue sky thinking outside the box’ platitudes and brutal boardroom firings. Yes, you guessed it, The Apprentice is back for 2019.

Yet again, Lord Sugar is on the prowl for a new business partner, with one winning candidate anticipated to set up a business with the multi-millionaire mogul.

One of the things us Marmaladers most look forward to once a new season begins is when the contestants are split into opposing teams (outlandishly ambitious name essential) and assigned their impossible to execute tasks. 

This is when the fireworks really ignite and we start to get a true feel for the personality traits of our contenders; what makes them tick and what gets under their skin? All of which makes for explosive viewing, while affording us the opportunity to pick our favourite - or even better - most loathed characters.

We know the drill too when it comes to observing people trying to find their feet amid this intense corporate environment. There’s always a cocky so-and-so who offers themselves up for project manager in a heartbeat. It’s pretty much consistently the case that we cringe on our sofas as their attempts to reign supreme backfire spectacularly.

Then there is the retiring wallflower who plays it safe and stays silent, again inevitably incurring the wrath of Lord Sugar after the indignity of being spied upon by his eagle-eyed minions; Karren Brady and Claude Littner.

Everyone in between typically sneers at one another’s ideas, talks over their counterparts and moans behind their team member’s backs, all before figuratively throwing them under a bus once ensconced inside the boardroom.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll see how these conflicting characters all join forces, carefully balancing their own self gain with the undeniable need for teamwork in order to progress in this battle to be top dog.

Fortunately team building in the real world doesn’t have to follow The Apprentice MO. This is because the scenarios in the The Apprentice, despite it being coined a ‘reality’ TV show, in no way replicate what workers should ever be asked to do in their day-to-day working life. 

To avoid any Apprentice-like problems in your business, here are our top tips for creating a cohesive team that doesn’t fall apart at the seams at the first sight of trouble.

Treat each employee’s ideas as valuable. Remember that there is no such thing as a stupid idea.

Be aware of employees' unspoken feelings. Set an example to team members by being open with your employees and attuned to their moods and feelings.

Be a good influence. Look for chances to mediate and resolve minor disputes to stay true to the team’s overarching goals. 

Communicate clearly. Be careful to clarify directives to avoid costly mistakes which could affect both your reputation and bottom line. Set an example by remaining open to suggestions and concerns, by asking questions, offering help and by doing everything you can to avoid confusion in your own communications.

Establish trust and co-operation. Remember that the relationships which team members establish among themselves are every bit as important as those you cultivate with them. As your team begins to take shape, pay close attention to the ways in which they work together. Take steps to improve communication, trust and respect in those relationships.

Encourage team members to share information. Emphasise the importance of each team member's contribution and demonstrate how all of their jobs operate together to move the entire team closer to its goal.

Delegate problem-solving tasks. Let the team work on creative solutions together.

Establish values and goals. Be sure to talk with team members about the progress they are making toward established goals so that employees get a sense both of their success and of the challenges that lie ahead. Address teamwork in performance evaluations.

Set ground rules. These are the norms that you and the team can establish to ensure efficiency and success. They can be simple directives (team members are to be punctual for meetings) or general guidelines (every team member has the right to offer ideas and suggestions). You should make sure that the team creates these ground rules by consensus and commits to them, both as a group and as individuals.

Encourage listening and brainstorming. As a supervisor, you should stimulate debate. Remember that employees are often afraid to disagree with one another and that this fear can lead to poor decisions. When you encourage debate you inspire creativity and that's how you'll spur your team on to better results.