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Cook up a recipe to model success

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Nicknamed “The Father of Advertising,” David Ogilvy learned valuable lessons as a 20-year-old chef. At the time, Ogilvy had left college for a job as an apprentice chef at a prestigious Paris hotel.

Ogilvy (1911-1999) worked for the head chef, Monsieur Pitard, who ran a tight ship. When France’s president visited the hotel, Ogilvy was preparing frog legs in a white sauce when he noticed Pitard staring at him.

Growing nervous, Ogilvy kept focusing on the task at hand. Then Pitard signaled for the other chefs to watch Ogilvy at work.

After a long pause, Pitard said, “That’s how to do it.”

Relieved and exhilarated, Ogilvy felt a deep fondness for his boss. Decades later when running his ad agency, Ogilvy followed suit and looked for opportunities to shine the spotlight on an employee’s excellent performance and use it as a training tool.

Ogilvy also learned from Pitard to roll up your sleeves occasionally and do the actual work that you ask underlings to do. Even though Pitard was an executive chef who spent most of his time handling billing and administrative duties, he’d leave his office once a week to cook something. Ogilvy and his colleagues would observe the master chef in action—and learn from his example.

Similarly, Ogilvy continued to write advertisements himself even as he became a powerful executive atop a huge company. He sought to showcase his work habits as a way to inspire copywriters, just as he marveled at Pitard’s visits to the kitchen.

— Adapted from “David Ogilvy’s Contrarian Management Advice,” Gregory Ciotti, www.helpscout.net.

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