More lessons from MasterChef – Can you take the heat?

As the saying goes, “If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen”. Once again MasterChef has served up some great life lessons. Last year I wrote about the great leadership, coaching and mentoring we can learn from MasterChef. Again Garry, George, Matt and the other guest chefs showed us how to excel in this area of leadership.

On this occasion, I want to comment on ‘Resilience’ and dealing with setbacks and challenges, and how MasterChef gave us a window into how people handle stress and demanding situations. The time pressures and increasingly difficult tasks set for the contestants showed us how well they were able to manage themselves under pressure and produce the goods. You could often see the demands of a given situation getting to a number of the contestants. It was unrelenting at times. Those who were able to hold it together and ‘manage’ themselves on every level when under added strain performed better. The constant practice enhanced their skills for sure, but it also taught them how to deal with pressure which is just as important. Prior to the final episode, we saw Adam, Claire and Callum put under pressure and it was Adam and Callum who held it together better than Claire. Claire is an extremely talented cook but got rattled more than the others thus affecting her performance. Unlike Jonathon who survived eight out of nine elimination challenges, Claire had only been in one before and you could tell. She wasn’t ready for it.

Luckily for the MasterChef contestants they were only subjected to this for about three and a half months. Working chefs are required to take the ‘heat’ everyday albeit in environments they can control. This got me thinking about those professions where every action and the outcomes of those actions are scrutinised every day, placing pressure on those to perform at their best. Professional Chefs and Sports People, Air Traffic Controllers and Surgeons come to mind and I am sure there are several others. With the exception of weather for both the Air Traffic Controllers and some Professional Sports People, for the best part, all of these professions allow their people to work in environments they can directly control and influence.

Sales people also have the scrutiny of performance in common with these professions however, they are often working in environments that are not of their own making or design. They need to be able to deal with, and adapt to things outside of their control, i.e variable conditions and new environments, meeting new people, going to new places, uncovering new issues; variables of many kinds. And unlike recipes, which if executed correctly should turn out like they were intended, sales people are often presented with the ‘Mystery Box’ (same ingredients different outcomes) on a daily basis several times a day. They have to be able to think on their feet, and create outcomes their clients need and want. They need to know how this goes with this to that.

How do they handle the stress? How do they develop their resilience to perform at higher and higher standards every day without cracking? How do they pay attention and make sure every client feels like they are special and important when you have listened to 5-25 people already that day?

As sales people, our actions are assessed by ourselves, our managers and our clients. We deal with acceptance and rejection of our offering every day. Our activities are tracked and mapped. There are league tables, etc.

Any self respecting, self managed, self aware sales person would be able to tell you where they are at each day. They will also tell you that they have learned not to take ‘No’ as personal rejection – that’s a fatal mistake made by many a new sales person. Selling is the ultimate ‘thinking on your feet’ and ‘doing’ job. Like athletes, we need to be continually exercising and getting fitter, developing our skills, knowledge and mindset all at the same time.

Why don’t we teach ‘How to Build Resilience and a Healthy Mindset’?

A healthy mindset is just as, if not more, important as product knowledge and selling skills. However, most businesses usually only train their people in business skills, product knowledge and processes. What we need to do is help people become more emotionally aware, intelligent and resilient in a number of ways. We need to work with the whole person and provide people with access to a range of tools, processes and techniques which give them insight and teach them how to manage their emotions. We need to teach people how to develop healthy and resilient attitudes so they can take the heat and really excel.

We can’t all go on MasterChef to have our resilience and cooking skills tested, nor do all of us have the opportunity to be elite athletes and learn what it is like to work under obvious performance pressure however, we can learn how to develop resilience every day in small ways.

Higher performers, unlike many other people, have searched for and found tools, processes and techniques that help them develop strategies to enhance their self awareness and emotional resilience, and allow them to make the most of their capabilities and the situations they find themselves in on a daily basis.

Developing a Healthy and Resilient Attitude

The first step to becoming more emotionally aware, healthy and resilient is the acknowledgment that there is room for improvement and taking the time to learn more about yourself. It’s about honest, constructive feedback and learning not to take things personally. That is what MasterChef is all about – continuous self improvement and self awareness. That’s what MasterSelling is about!

Next week we will look at some of the tools, behaviours and attitudes that help build self awareness, health and emotional resilience. If you want further information about this, please contact us directly.

Thanks to MasterChef for another excellent season – truly inspiring stuff!

Finally, Mary Anne Radmacher’s words sum up for me and probably many sales people and entrepreneurs our lot: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I’ll try again tomorrow’.”

Remember everybody lives by selling something.


'Selling is everybody's business and everybody lives by selling something' so says Sue Barrett, sales expert, writer, business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur. Sue founded Barrett in 1995 to positively transform the culture, capability and continuous learning of leaders, teams and businesses by developing sales driven organisations that are equipped for the 21st Century. Since inception, Barrett has worked with hundreds of Australian companies c...

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