Whipping up a Masterpiece

Before you even start reading, let me guess what you’ll say! Will it be “what is she thinking?”

Believe it or not, I'm thinking, “What a great theme for the month of March!" The Lead Change Group theme for March is "tell about a time when you broke the rules or did things differently.”

Well, how about now? Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, asks “Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to remember someone’s point when they wrap a story around it?” Well, here’s my story.

We all know how things get done. It’s a rare occasion when anything great is accomplished by a singular human. "It takes a village" is a common theme these days; "it takes a team" is a common thread in every project. Teamwork is how things get done.

To work productively a team needs to have mingled talents, vision for the finished product, well-defined common goals, reasonable expectations, outstanding communication skills, and homogenous personalities. OK so that bit about homogenous personalities just makes it easier to connect the dots. Teams and projects are complex and complicated, characteristic of many moving parts. The elements of teamwork could take days and pages to develop, but let’s skip all that and go with the story. Putting together the Ingredients of Fine Teams is like baking a Texas Sheet Cake using an award-winning recipe and premium products. If you read to the end, you have a take home treat.

Flour – This is the team itself, their reason for existing.  Maybe it’s a group of individuals who are together for this one project. The reason this team exists is the flour. Flour is the main ingredient in most baking. Without it there is no substance, no texture, and no solid foundation.

Water – Water is the pool of talent, creativity, flexibility, and acceptance of diversity among team members. Water is colorless and nondescript on its own, but the nature of the team is dependent on it.

Cocoa – Think of cocoa as the vision and specifications defined as the goals for this team. Vision is what we want for our final result. Specifications are the guidelines and rules for how the team works together. It’s like a roadmap everyone can follow, even while working separately on their individual tasks.

Sugar – Enthusiasm in large doses. Remember Mary Poppins and her song about a spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down? Of course you do. Sugar is a crystalline substance that sparkles, especially when dumped in ample quantity into the dark ingredients. Teams get weary, they get bored, enthusiasm wanes, and dare I say it? Tempers can get a little bit exasperated – or a lot. Bring on the sugar, not in teaspoons but in heaping cups of enthusiasm.

Sour cream – It’s not what you think. Sour cream is the added effort of research, fact-finding, logic, analysis. Teams can be divided on these principles. At what point do you stop researching and cease analysis? This can become the sticking point between the overthinking and the underachieving. Sour cream, when infused and integrated into the right recipes, stabilizes and even boosts the quality from mediocre to premium because it’s there. The added study and extra effort improve the results. Do you have sour cream on your team? How are they being valued and used productively?

Soda – Attitude – When soda is combined with moisture and ingredients like sour cream and chocolate, the result produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand when heated in the oven. If not used immediately after the soda and other ingredients mingle, the reaction fizzles and the product falls flat. We need positive, effervescent attitudes. We need them often and we need them now.

Salt – Marketing – Fact! Every project, every idea, every team, and every member is being marketed in some way. Salt is the mainstay of flavor in nearly every recipe. Too much salt and the end result is ghastly. It’s bitter, unappealing, and inedible. But used with the right dimensions, within tolerance, the results are appealing and tasteful while exerting a gravitational pull.

Butter – Education – This is where the results are sustaining. Butter is the metaphor for a well-oiled team. Most commonly found in its solidified form, the block is easily recognized, measured, and useful. But butter can also be softened, pliable, and spread thinly across a broad area to be even more effective. Education can be contained or it can spread beyond boundaries while maintaining its purpose and meeting the needs of the team and the enterprise.

The Ingredients of Fine Teams.  Bake these thoughts well and prepare to flourish as a team. Recognize individual characteristics and applaud unique qualities each member brings to the team. The result will be a delicious blend of strengths, talents, skills, and personalities to make your next project a masterpiece.

“What is she thinking?” Now you know. There’s a side of me that loves surprises. Actually in my multi-sided self, most of me loves an element of surprise, surrounded by fun, and baked in warmth of relationships.

When you form a team for a specific objective, add in talent, knowledge, personalities, idiosyncrasies, mix well and shake it into a plan, you get a delectable finished product. When you take fine ingredients, mix well, and shake it into a pan, you get a delectable finished product.

Now, if all this baking talk has activated your sweet tooth, you can put this recipe to use while reflecting on the sweet outcome of successful teamwork!

Texas Sheet Cake


  • 1 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream


  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • In a large saucepan, bring the butter, water and cocoa to a boil. Remove from the heat. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; add to cocoa mixture. Stir in the sour cream until smooth.
  • Pour into a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x  1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • In a small saucepan, melt butter; add milk and cocoa. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Whisk in confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Pour over warm cake. Cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 15 servings.

Recipe Credit:  Taste of Home magazine, February/March 2003

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