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The Apprentice returns - 5 ways they're getting conflict wrong


This bridge has seen more Apprentice candidates march over it than any other

The Apprentice: it's soon to be back on our screens - Lord Sugar's elegant turns of phrase, Karren Brady's looks of incredulity and Claude Littner attempting (and sometimes failing) not to laugh in the faces of some of the contestants' more ambitious suggestions.


If you've never seen the Apprentice before, spoiler alert - it's more entertainment than business. But there will be some candidates who are already running pretty successful ventures. Having "gone it alone" this year to build up both a legal and a mediation practice, I don't underestimate just how much hard work, self-motivation and self-confidence is required to get anything off the ground.


But the reason I'm writing about the show this week is less to do with the pure business aspects of it, but more related to how the candidates deal with the inevitable conflicts that will arise during the group tasks. The early stages in particular are a cacophony of disparate voices, all jostling for positions.


From an entertainment point of view, this is understandable. After all, the louder the voice, the more air time. But from business, leadership and also personal perspective, it's pretty questionable.

So, what's a reasonable framework for working with and resolving conflict in a group situation? Here's my top five tips:

  1. Identify what you're actually arguing about. It's often not that clear, and different people in the conflict might tell a different story.

  2. Look at the issue from different perspectives. Do you feel that your position or identity is being threatened? How are you - and the other people - actually feeling?

  3. Think about what you - as a group - want to achieve. What will it take to accomplish this goal? And is your (and others') current behaviour going to get you there?

  4. Identify the best possible outcome for the group. Now identify the skills you need (and currently have) to achieve it.

  5. Lastly, think communication. Individual communication skills and styles often let us down in group conflict situations. Changing your usual approach might make more sense.

Let's see how many of these the Apprentice candidates put into practice!