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In business, there are many buckets in which we can categorize people. One of my favorites is Chef or Cook.

  1. Chef (AKA Strategist) – A Chef is creative. They are motivated by intrinsic forces That is they are driven by satisfying the internal need to discover, to learn, to do that which has never been done, to create. They do what makes them happy. Great startup, entrepreneurial CEOs are usually Chefs, they have a unique vision, the need to do what hasn’t been done. They don’t follow the well-worn path, they blaze the new path.
  2. Cook (AKA Executioner) – A Cook is an operator. They are extrinsically motivated. They are motivated by external rewards or avoidance of punishment. A cook doesn’t mind doing the same thing over and over again. If there is a pot of gold at the end of the task, they will do that task over and over again and do it well.

Being A Chef is a good thing. Being a Cook is a good thing. One is not better than the other just like an Apple isn’t better than an Orange or just like a 3rd baseperson (there goes Mr. PC Cranky) s not better than a Left Fielder in baseball. Each type of competent, hard-working, honest human being has a role to play. It’s important to ensure that you have your players in the right positions. Positions in which they are well suited and afforded a high probability of succeeding.

Love him or hate him and most people hate him, Uber Founder Travis Kalanick was a Chef… not well suited for the Cook role. Uber had to hire a Cook. Apple founder, Steve Jobs was a Chef… appropriately enough, current Apple CEO, Tim Cook is a Cook.

My former father-in-law was a Chef. We had rented a beach house on the outer banks and invited him to spend the weekend with us. One night he looked at what we had in the refrigerator, and he took a big block of swiss cheese, a honeydew and who knows what else. Put it all in a blender and voila, we had a delicious cold soup. A Chef knows how ingredients work together, interact. They understand the relationship of sweet to savory to umami and why Feta Cheese and Watermellon make such a great summer salad (especially when sprinkled with cilantro). That’s a Chef.

Cooks require a recipe. They follow those directions, execute perfectly and they reproduce the same dish the same way every time. Just as the recipe called for.

When a company develops a new product for a new market. It’s time to hire a Chef to develop the sales recipe. The Chef can look at all the ingredients, figure out what spices may be missing. Experiment. Apply heat and develop a winning recipe for a sale. A Chef Sales leader walks into your kitchen, or your market and looks at all the ingredients. She asks,

  • What type of companies should be approached?
  • Who is the right person to contact in that company?
  • What is in it for that person to take the risk to switch from what they are doing to what you are selling?
  • What’s the best way to approach them?
  • What questions will they ask and what are the answers to those questions?

From that, a Chef develops a sales cookbook. Just don’t ask that Chef to cook the same dish over and over. Get them to document the recipe and build a team of cooks. Have that Sales chef recruit, train, and coach the cooks that will follow that recipe.

To the Chef, figuring out the puzzle is the prize. For the cooks, closing deals and making payments on their shiny new BMW is the prize.

Some large complex services, non-repetitive products, sales require Chefs for every deal. Most simple products require cooks who will grind away following the recipe and celebrate when they win.

Are you a Chef or a Cook? Are you surrounded by the right mix of Chefs and Cooks? Want to discuss this further? If you run a business and you’d like a complimentary coaching session, press that little red button down there to schedule a no-obligation, 1-hour, online coaching session.