The Apprentice 9: Hard Luck stories and Soft Noses.

The ability to negotiate, to spit on your hands and shake on a deal marks you out as a player in Lord Sugar’s world. That was hard luck for Stella and Laura. (who got fired), They suffered from confronting some of stoniest negotiators going. Buying tartan they faced a man whose hard-faced negotiating stance made Bob Crow look like the Emir of Qatar spreading the welcome mat before FIFA in Zurich last week. The women’s team were certainly on the softer nosed side of the negotiation spectrum and admitted that their quest to find the items took precedence over the main task. If there is a management lesson here it’s very clearly understand the task. The task was get the items but beat the sellers down on price. That’s why netting out the fines and the missing plank, the guy’s team still won. Jamie Lester who developed the strategy of not paying above 70% of asking had an excellent number to motivate for his headstrong team. So even when they got diverted as they did over the blue book, they were focused on driving down the cost.

Therre was alson an issue about hard and soft skills. Stella it’s fair to say is one of those people whose air is of authority and competence. Perhaps this quality makes her slightly "wooden" or "corporate" She will need to switch on some charm and chutzpah because Lord Sugar does like it. In CIPD's recent Head and Heart at Work report t we look at the link between technical skills like Stella’s and the softer skills and emotional intelligence which help you play the game at work.

 Stella was possibly to coin a phrase, less interested in being liked than being right. This may prove an Achilles heel, though I think she will adapt. Arguably negotiation skills are both soft and hard, but you need to use both.

The men used soft skills and hard in equal measure. They used charm and downright fibs to bring down the price.  The idea of posh Chris having a brother, who needed the "blue book" of London cabbie knowledge, might actually have been a heartrending example of downward social mobility from the recession. But the gigantic whopper worked. As did his fictitious Scottish Granny who somehow wanted a length of tartan when he attended a "Scottish wedding." He didn’t have a tearjerker for truffles except that he was a down on his luck posh boy trying to buy expensive fungi maybe to go with the plovers eggs. Chris has an air of improvised laconic bravado which conceals a good brain.

Anyway somebody had to go and there was no way it was going to be the very strong Liz and the equally solid Stella or Joanne. The fall girl was going to be Laura. She tried to take down Stella because she lost a few quid on the deal but she was casually waved aside. The fact that Stella and Liz had both done well and carried light teams was the reason it was Taxi for Laura. Only three weeks to go and my money is still on Stella, though Liz blotted her copybook, Chris is also on. Jamie I think swerved the firing finger but for how long?

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