At CIPD’s Annual Conference next week (#CIPD11 on twitter) Marcus Buckingham will give our final plenary on why you should build on your strengths but not overplay them. Our young contestants could certainly learn a lot on that score...
This was a designing and pitching task and it exposed a worrying tendency seen in the adult apprentice that if you don’t grab all the limelight you will look like a loser. However at another level this is just about them being teenagers, though character trait and behaviour are also important
Maybe In an X factor world people don’t stand aside and they all want the spotlight. No surprise then that Gbemi as PM wanted to pitch, yet the buyers were so perplexed by her poor pitch that they had to ask her to explain the product at the end. When confident Hiya put herself forward Gbemi had no alternative but to accept. Hiya pulled it off and Mothercare bought product big style. Hopefully Gbemi will realise that her assertiveness is a strength which has become a weakness in the wrong context. If I were mentoring Gbemi I would supportively challenge her over her manner and I would probably find that a deep lack of real confidence is in there somewhere. I would challenge her to be tactical and adept at how she uses her assertiveness which just looks like anger and impatience most of the time.
Lewis is more malleable but was an aimless project manager. Though lewis did show some self insight when he delegated final pitch after three bumbling experiences in contrast to Gbemi who had to be challenged. Gbemi and Lewis also need confidence in the basic skill of presenting as do many people but his confidence is also an issue. Talking of confidence despite Harry M’s attempts to claim paternity over the hippo when it was the joint effort of all of them is a bad sign, as was James bombastic attitude to his PM. Anyway, they all escaped the boardroom blade because under-confident Ben was slow to defend himself. Even on the YP you can’t stand back so expect to see a big fight to be PM next week!
Having said all this; the fact is that they are teenagers is hugely important. The latest neuroscience explains how these assertive and risk taking traits are advantages to a teenager. We should cut them some slack as much of what they are doing is about deep change in brain function. The research suggests this is going on form age 15-25. Scans show that teenagers make less of brain regions which spot errors, monitor performance, plan and stay focused. Scans also show an emphasis on reward over risk. Hence maybe Gbemi and Lewis though the risk of both being unskilled in presenting (presuming they knew this), would have been outweighed by the glory of triumph. (see the October 2011 edition of National Geographic).
Harry H is my early tip to win. He's mature beyond his years, likeable, listens to people and involves them, and plays down his own role without abdicating responsibility. He shows that youth doesn’t need to be accompanied by immaturity and gaucheness. His approach on the pitch was excellent, showing excellent “soft” skills. He relived stressed Lewis of the pressure of pitching but supported him if he wanted to do it. Though Lewis at least had developed the self awareness to know that pitching wasn’t his forte, it was clear Harry H was the favourite of all of them and a real leader. To me that is the role of a good PM in this sort of task. Harry M had his card marked but I expect an improvement they are all learning after all!
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