Year-End Lessons…from the Holiday Baking Championship

On a recent lazy Saturday, I happened to turn my TV channel to the Food Network and found a marathon of the Holiday Baking Championship. For anyone who’s a foodie (like me), loves to cook (like me) but generally detests reality TV (like me)…you can probably relate to the idea that tuning in for 20 minutes seemed sufficient. But – alas – no dice. I actually spent hours sucked into the world of this reality competition and it made me ponder why this show was so oddly compelling.

I realized that this show resonated with so many things I’ve experienced over this past year with clients as we partnered together on our change efforts. So, in the spirit of the season, here are my lessons learned reminders to take forward in to 2019:

    1. Aim high, but be realistic. Sometimes lofty goals and big dreams just cannot translate into reality in the timeframe you have. Make sure your expectations and your vision align with the amount of time you have to do things effectively, even if it means compromising to end up with the best you can do.
    2. Plan your pace. Know your milestones and must-haves along the way; watch yourself closely and give yourself an honest appraisal of how things are going at each step (along with enough contingency to avoid jamming something half-baked in at the last second). Implement a good solution, then create “Phase 2” to build in the bells and whistles.
    3. Diversity counts. This show had professional chefs, grandmas and amateur do-it-yourselfers – with a healthy variety of people from different regions & styles of cooking. The diversity of perspectives, skills and styles created such a great outcome and each person was inspired by others’ creativity as well. My favorite experiences this year have been with clients and colleagues who do not think like I do, who have very different skill sets and challenge my perspective, enabling growth and a better solution.
    4. The best laid plans…are good plans. You have to have a strong, detailed plan from the get-go or you are in serious trouble, especially when the surprise ingredient that you have to add to your entree is a chicken candy cane (yes, that is actually a real thing…check it out!)
    5. Be confident. There were at least 3 chefs whose presentations were epic fails (an overly designed cookie that fell apart when touched, a tart that didn’t set up, under-cooked meat, etc.) The best part of the show was how they actually stood behind their presentations, admitted mistakes and made the best out of them (one memorable line was about creating blue mashed potatoes for a “blue Christmas” effect…)
    6. Expect a curve ball. I have no idea if the chefs knew ahead of time what the “mystery ingredients” would be in their baskets, but it reminded me that the only thing you can count on happening during the course of your change effort is that something unexpected will happen. Executive sponsors will leave, the business may take a dramatic sharp left turn – and you’ve still got to deliver. The more you build in flexibility, the better you’ll be able to absorb the impact of the unexpected.
    7. Listen to the experts. Ask for areas where you could have improved and really seek to understand how you can do it better the next time. Sometimes your “experts” are your sponsors, but often they are the network of impacted employees who know what will and won’t work (and how to adjust as a result).
    8. There’s only so much multi-tasking you can do before you burn something. Trying to achieve every single outcome in perfect order upon implementation is just unrealistic. Focus on nailing the 3 most important goals, for example, instead of halfway achieving 10.

Finally, when in doubt, remember to drizzle some chocolate over it (chocolate fixes everything 😉)

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.