Chair’s Corner: How Do You Make the Cookies?

By Teresa Snow, MU Health Care, Women’s Network Chair

Making a major career change seven years ago from television news to strategic communications at MU Health Care forced me to adapt and change my workstyle. For decades, I sat with people who approached their work pretty much like I did. We were creatives who faced a daily deadline to wrap up multiple stories. There was often not a lot of time to fully explore our creative side, but not a lot of time to make an extensive plan to get the job done either. In my new role, deadlines can come up quickly but often they are months away and the work is more complex. While my current co-workers share the same mission, there are vast differences in work styles among hundreds of different people, working across many different roles. After first finding the change frustrating, I am now learning to embrace the different personalities and styles each person brings to a project. There is definitely more than one way to make the cookies!

A trusted business coach used this illustration to help me appreciate differences in work styles. Think about the experienced cooks you know: they may go to the pantry and grab flour, butter, sugar and other ingredients as needed and combine them without carefully measuring to create their sweet treat. Your grandmother may have added a pinch of this or a scoop of that to make the delicious cookies you remember so fondly. On the other hand, the famous cook Julia Child will measure exact proportions of ingredients carefully and follow a precise plan so her viewers can duplicate her delicious cookies. Despite their differences, both plates of cookies will taste great in the end.

When a creative team is tasked with following a strict plan you may get the desired result but requiring that they stick to that requirement may also backfire and frustrate the team, possibly even hindering their creativity. Employees may even feel that they aren’t trusted to execute what’s assigned. Creatives may require having the freedom to make changes to the plan along the way. Planners desire more certainty, and after seeing success repeated, like to follow a tried-and-true method. Creative folks can really frustrate planners and vice versa.

I have found that people tend to fall into one camp or the other. But here are some ways I have learned to bridge that gap:

  • Start with a simple plan. Teach the creatives to list major project milestones, the major ingredients of a good plan, and slowly introduce more detail.
  • Assign one skilled team member the job of managing the fine details of a project, giving others the freedom to work with less structure.
  • Outline a project RACI.

This chart can help with communication between teams that work differently. Outlining who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed during a project will help increase trust that everyone involved knows their role in getting the job done, no matter their work style.

If you would like more experience working with people from diverse backgrounds, volunteering with a Women’s Network committee or on the Leadership Team is a good way to watch how others approach problems. Instead of finding their differences to be frustrating, you may learn to appreciate new work styles. It will no doubt help you enjoy the sweet taste of success no matter how the plan comes together. Now go bake some cookies!

Teresa Snow

Chair, Women’s Network 2021-2022


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