How Does Your Team Compare to Cookies?

With the holidays just around the corner, I look forward every year to making cookies with my children. I am normally responsible for the chocolate chip cookies while my wife and her siblings handled the sugar cookie creations.

If you know me and have spent time with me, especially working with me, you will know that my mind flows in a million different directions at any given time. It is no different when doing things around the house including baking cookies. When making cookies last year, I noticed the various ingredients spread across the kitchen counter, ready to be mixed for the next batch of batter when I thought, “Is the team of people I work with like a cookie?” At that moment, I began to want the team I work on to be a cookie.

Consider this…

Think about it. I have rarely met a chocolate chip cookie that I didn’t like! The combination of the crunch with sugar supplemented by chunks of chocolate – blending perfectly across your tastebuds and leaving you wanting more – amazing, right?

A cookie is a combination of specific quantities of particular ingredients. My favorite chocolate chip cookies include:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Nothing on this list is out of the ordinary and is pretty standard for chocolate chip cookie recipes. What started me down this road of thought was the specific quantities of ingredients. As my kids “helped” me organize, measure, and combine ingredients, I cautiously made sure they counted with me and that we followed the recipe because I knew that if deviated too much, the quality would deteriorate rapidly.

Consider a successful team – is this team exclusively made up of a single personality or a single basis of knowledge? It would be fair to say that the team is a combination of many characters and skills?

Team Roles

In 1969, Dr. Meredith Belbin began a study of team behavior. In his 1981 book, Management Teams, he describes eight specific team roles, eventually becoming nine specific and important roles. They can be generally described as:

ShaperChallenges the team to improve
ImplementerPuts ideas into action
Completer FinisherEnsures thorough, timely completion
CoordinatorActs a team-leader
Team WorkerEncourages cooperation
Resource InvestigatorExplores outside opportunities
PlantPresents new ideas and approaches
Monitor-EvaluatorAnalyzes to the options (quality)
SpecialistProvides specialized skills

Each ingredient has a different and specific purpose for contributing to the total cookie. When considering team members, many of these ingredients could play multiple roles depending on your interpretation. This is no different than team members who fulfill multiple roles when needed to assist the overall team’s success. Too much or too little of any one ingredient will change the cookie as it will the team.

IngredientPurposeTeam Role
Baking SodaPaired with an acidic ingredient like chocolate, it’s a leavening agent causing the batter to rise.Monitor-Evaluator
SaltPreservative and adds flavor.Completer Finisher
ButterAdds flavor and moisture to the batter.Shaper
Granulated SugarContributes to the texture and adds flavor.Resource Investigator
Brown SugarContributes to the texture and adds a unique sweet flavor.Plant
Vanilla ExtractA sweetness and often enhances other flavors too.Team Worker
EggsA sweetness that often enhances other flavors too.Coordinator
Chocolate ChipsTypically a binder holds things together.Specialist

From Batter to Cookies

Contemplate the transition the freshly mixed batter takes to become an amazing cookie. A freshly compiled team, a combination of people formed for a specific purpose will probably look amazing on paper, just like the batter tastes. I had to smack away the fingers of my kids who both wanted to keep eating straight batter throughout the afternoon of cooking – because, after all, it was good!

The batter is moved from a bowl to the cookie sheet and into the oven where it is baked for a period of TIME before it comes out a cookie. A transition for success takes TIME! A newly formed team may hit the ground running but it still takes time to find the true success it wants to achieve. Roles are organized, shared, reconfigured, and distributed to accomplish a common goal. Leaders emerge with the influence and support of others and the team cycles through intermediate processes to ultimately reach an end product.

Enjoy the diversity of your team and what each team member brings to the table, just like you enjoy those warm cookies straight from the oven!

If this resonates with you, let’s continue the conversation! Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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