On BBC One’s The Apprentice last night, team leader Charleine Wain fell victim to something many of us can experience in business: the halo and horns effect.
After being appointed to lead her team in the task of writing, publishing and selling an original children’s book, one of Charleine’s very first decisions was to make fellow candidate Richard Woods sub-team leader.
Charleine made this decision for very negative reasons: rather than appointing Richard as her deputy for his strengths, she did it as a means of controlling him.
“Richard thinks he is better than everyone else,” said Charleine when justifying the decision to camera.
“The reason I have made Richard sub-team leader is because I know Richard is really hard to control, and if he didn’t feel in power he would throw his toys out of the pram.”
Charleine made sure Richard didn’t have any real power by appointing fellow candidate David Stevenson to report back to her with all of the market research findings from Richard’s sub-team.
Charleine was suffering from a common ailment that can prove fatal to business success – the halo and horns effect.
This effect is a cognitive bias that assumes if someone is “good” or “bad” on a particular characteristic or activity, then they will be “good” or “bad” at everything else.
For example, during interviews candidates who are well-presented and well-spoken are often rated more highly on all assessment criteria than those who are not.
– Click here to view more posts on the current series of The Apprentice –
Charleine clearly saw something bad in Richard and allowed the horns effect to cloud her judgement when managing him.
This proved particularly disastrous when deciding which three members of her team should pitch their book to major bookshop Foyles.
Charleine didn’t include Richard in the pitch and the team failed miserably, recording zero sales (the opposing team, led by candidate Sam Curry, managed to successfully sell 50 books to Waterstones).
Businessman Claude Littner, acting as advisor to Lord Alan Sugar in this series of The Apprentice, didn’t mince his words: “You had the wrong team selling to hard-nosed buyers.”
Likewise Alan Sugar was less than impressed by Charleine’s poor judgement: “You may have a disagreement with someone like Richard but I think one thing he has demonstrated in the last few weeks is that he can sell, and you needed to take your strongest pitchers to the most professional people you were pitching to, and you didn’t. Bad management decision I think.”
We are all human, and we may all at times have to work with people that rub us up the wrong way – or, indeed, in the case of the halo effect be so blinded by someone’s strengths that we fail to see their flaws.
The only way we can avoid the halo effect and horns effect when managing people is to make sure to make sure we have a clear understanding of where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
This can be done through an objective process such as the Talent Gene Unique Strengths questionnaire. This questionnaire has been informed by our over 20 years of working with businesses to develop their talent, and helps employees to identify their core seven strengths from a list of 30.
- Dr Amanda Potter is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist, and the CEO of Zircon Management Consulting and Talent Gene.