No Soggy Bottoms: 7 Team Building Lessons from ‘The Great British Bake Off’

Let’s Bake!

Every year, a handful of the United Kingdom’s best amateur bakers pile into a tent for a good-natured competition of pastry prowess. The Great British Bake Off (also known as The Great British Baking Show in America) is a TV phenomenon, showcasing personable contestants, mouth-watering baked goods, and Paul Hollywood’s gruff man-bear act. The show also offers excellent examples of how to succeed in the workplace, whether as an individual or as part of a team. Here are 7 team building lessons you can learn from The Great British Bake Off.

Keep a Cool Head in the Face of Unexpected Challenges

Every episode of Great British Bake Off features three challenges. Bakers know about the first task, the Signature, and the third, the Showstopper, ahead of time—giving them time to prepare. But the middle task, the Technical Challenge, is always a surprise designed to test the bakers’ skills and ability to think on their feet. When the challenge is unveiled, the bakers are usually baffled…momentarily, anyway. Then they get to work! When a surprising challenge or obstacle pops up at work, do as the bakers do: Scratch your collective heads if you must, and then buckle down and barrel through.

In a Crisis, Slow Down

Many a crust has cracked and a cake tier toppled as frenzied bakers let the ticking clock get to them. Whether you’ve got 15 minutes left to decorate a cake or a single day to deliver on a major project, remember to take a breath now and then. No good can come of a sloppy rush job.

Don’t Give Up

Bakers often find themselves overwhelmed in the tent. In the most recent season, for example, Rosie was sure she was flunking a Technical Challenge, and Michael once had a literal panic attack. It looked like they might throw in the towel, as one baker famously did a few years ago. But they didn’t give up, and their perseverance was rewarded with edible bakes and high praise. So remember: When your team is feeling the heat, don’t get out of the kitchen—or the tent, as it were.

Remember to Take Care of Each Other

Great British Bake Off is a contest of individuals—but the bakers are still incredibly supportive of each other. They’ll offer a helping hand—or a shoulder to cry on—during another contestant’s difficult bake, and they always cheer each other on for winning Star Baker or a coveted Paul Hollywood handshake. Embrace that team spirit. Be your co-worker’s helping hand, your employees’ cheerleader. It works as well in the office as it does in the Bake Off tent.

Believe in Yourself…But Be Open to Feedback

After 10 seasons, Great British Bake Off has countless examples of bakers who stuck to their guns and came out on top. But now and then, you get bakers who are stuck in their ways—they don’t listen to the judges’ exhortations that they mix things up, move out of their comfort zone, try something new. And they inevitably get eliminated. Don’t be that baker. Bring your awesome ideas to the table and advocate for them, but always keep an open mind. Your work could be one suggested tweak away from a showstopper.

Put a Bit of Yourself into Everything You Do

If you’re not approaching a project with at least some level of passion and personality, it’ll be a bad bake. Be a Kim-Joy, who wowed the judges week after week with whimsical, animal-filled designs. Or be a Helena, who just this past season infused her pastries and pies with spooky, goth designs. No one wants a stodgy project any more than they want a stodgy cake.

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Some of Bake Off’s best moments come when the bakers can laugh at their own mistakes or let their hair down a little. It might be running around the garden outside the tent or juggling lemons. Remember to take time to ease off the gas a little and appreciate your team. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all just cake.


Lead photo by American Heritage Chocolate on Unsplash