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Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay delivers motivating power on the season premiere of Fox's MasterChef.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

You might not think you could derive management lessons from a cooking show, but I was recently struck by the motivating power of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay on the season premiere of Fox's MasterChef. The opening sequence alone served as a master class in how to rev up a sales team.

Here is how Mr. Ramsay gets his contestants prepared for battle:

1. Build them up. Let your sales staff know you interviewed a lot of people, and they are the chosen elite. As such, you're expecting great things from them. Mr. Ramsay begins by reminding the semi-finalists that thousands of people auditioned for their 100 slots. "They failed, and you succeeded!" he raves. From the start, each contestant is made to feel like a winner.

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2. Create anticipation. The contestants wait in a darkened room for Mr. Ramsay and his fellow judges Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich to arrive and tell them about the contest details. When the doors finally open and the judges enter, the room explodes, before Mr. Ramsay has spoken a word.

3. Command respect. These contestants aren't invited to call these elite chefs by their first names. They learn quickly to answer: "Yes, chef." This isn't a relationship of equals. It's clear Mr. Ramsay is the sergeant, and they are ready to take orders.

4. Tap into their drive to excel. Everyone wants to feel they are the best at what they do. "Do you have what it takes to make it to the top?" Mr. Ramsay asks, and the contestants practically roar their assent.

5. Give clear, simple instructions. Mr. Ramsay lays out the results he wants in simple terms. The judges don't care how contestants are dressed, where they're from, or what they were doing in their lives before this moment. "We care about one thing," he tells them, "what you put on the plate."

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6. Define expectations. If you were wondering how much energy contestants are expected to put into this contest, here's Mr. Ramsay: "Cook every dish as if your life depended on it."

7. Make it worth their while. This isn't a competition for the glory alone. There is $250,000 and a cookbook contract waiting for the winners. Your business may not be able to offer that much, but too many companies skimp on the bonuses they should offer to get sales staff truly motivated.

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