Our enviable ‘secret sauce’

September 14, 2015 | (6) Comments

I’ll admit I don’t cook much. I grill, of course, but I’m smart enough to leave most of the cooking to my wife Shannon, who is phenomenal in the kitchen, especially when she bakes. She’s always turning out something amazing. And she’s one of those cooks who is so good she can improvise with or without a recipe. She tosses in a dash of this, drops in a scoop of that, and it’s perfection every time.

One of my favorite things Shannon makes is chocolate chip cookies. Everyone lucky enough to taste one of the cookies wants to know what she puts in them and how she makes them taste so good. Like most good cooks, Shannon has some “secret” ingredients that make her cookies different and better than the norm. She figured out that using real butter, cream cheese and pure vanilla extract in her recipe makes a superb chocolate chip cookie – a cookie that others want to eat and emulate.

The same thing happens in industry. When you make a departure from the norm, add something special and different, you often end up with a winning combination, a successful structure or business model that others want to emulate. Usually it’s because of a combination of ingredients that are not easily accessed or replicated. Organizations like this have what I call a “secret sauce.”

Here at Texas Children’s we’ve got a lot of secret sauces, and one of the most potent is our shared leadership model, thanks to six very special “ingredients.”


Andropoulos portrait
Dr. Dean B. Andropoulos, Anesthesiologist-in-Chief
Dr. Michael A. Belfort, OB/GYN-in-Chief
George Bisset portrait
Dr. George S. Bisset III, Radiologist-in-Chief
Dr. Charles D. Fraser, Jr., Surgeon-in-Chief
Dr. Mark W. Kline, Physician-in-Chief






2k9-0493-DSC_8453 Dr James Versalovic
Dr. James Versalovic, Pathologist-in-Chief












Before these six medical leadership roles existed, Dr. Ralph Feigin was our sole physician-in-chief, and he and I worked together to lead the organization. Our relationship laid the foundation for the shared leadership model we have today. After Dr. Feign passed away, Dr. Kline became physician-in-chief. And soon after, we established the surgeon-in-chief and ob/gyn-in-chief roles, assumed by Drs. Fraser and Belfort, respectively. Most recently, we rounded out the leadership team with Drs. Andropoulos, Bisset and Versalovic as in-chiefs over our three hospital-based services.

Having these six leaders in their formalized roles has created a distinctive and powerful dynamic at Texas Children’s. All are making enormous strides in developing their divisions to be of the highest quality and caliber and of a standard essential to our continued commitment to excellence. Each of them brings a unique and brilliant perspective to the table, and it is of tremendous value to me, to the executive team and to the organization that we have this clinical leadership team in place.

The strength of our leadership model really shined through a few years ago as we worked through the renewal of our three-year operating agreement with Baylor College of Medicine. Having the in-chiefs at the table was incredibly helpful, each one providing a different guidepost that we needed to make critical decisions related to our academic partnership. I was able to introduce and represent their best thinking and ideas, their divisions’ needs and must-haves and, ultimately, advocate for the things that would ensure the best outcome for the organization.

Our shared leadership model looks very different now than it did in those early days with Dr. Feigin and me. Today, that model cascades to leaders at all levels across Texas Children’s. We embrace and practice collaborative, shared leadership between our administrative and clinical leaders across the organization. Other health care organizations may look like that on paper, but ours demonstrates it daily. We work together at every level, and it’s a true partnership. We make decisions together, not just unilaterally. That’s our secret sauce, and it all starts with the remarkable relationship I’ve been afforded with our six in-chiefs.

You know that my Maxim no. 4 is about having a leadership definition, and you all know that my definition is “Vision + Structure + People, with people by far being the most important element.” The in-chiefs breathe life into that definition. Our shared leadership model demonstrates how we’ve taken a great vision and a really smart, appropriate structure and populated it with incredible people. Each in-chief “ingredient” in our secret sauce is unique, but they all share a common attribute – an intensely focused passion for our one mission at Texas Children’s.

When you’re cooking with this kind of clinical leadership team’s knowledge, experience, focus and investment in our mission, it makes for a pretty enviable secret sauce. And with their help, we are serving up something pretty amazing, every single day.

And about those chocolate chip cookies … Shannon said we could share her recipe with the organization. Now everyone can know the secret to delicious cookies.

Shannon’s Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 cup unsalted real butter (NOT margarine)*

1 T Philadelphia Cream Cheese*

¾ cup white sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tsp high quality vanilla extract*

4 eggs

2¾ cup all-purpose flour (may need to add up to 3 cups)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda (make sure it is fresh*)

2 cups 100% milk chocolate chips (the large ones if you can find them), NOT semi-sweet; Ghirardelli is my favorite brand.*


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mixing the ingredients by hand is best, but optionally, you can carefully use a Cuisinart with the dough attachment.
  3. Cream together butter, cream cheese, white and brown sugars and vanilla extract.
  4. Beat 4 eggs and add to cream mixture.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix all-purpose flour, salt and baking soda.
  6. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet.
  7. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
  8. Drop dough by the spoonful onto un-greased baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees. Keep an eye on them due to variances in ovens. Cooking time will also vary depending on the size of spoon used.

For giant cookies, I use an ice cream scoop sprayed with PAM, and the recipe will make about 12 with a slightly longer cooking time.

Remember cookies continue to bake after they are taken from the oven so take them out just before they are the color you want them to be.

 A different twist:  Mark really likes these with chopped up peanut butter cups too!

*Denotes the specific touches that I have found contribute to a superior cookie.


6 Responses to “Our enviable ‘secret sauce’”

  1. Paula M. Zimlicki

    I moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take my job, moving away from family and friends. It was difficult to move away and start over but my decision was made easier by believing I was going to be working at a great place. And my belief has been proven right. I think one way you can tell whether a business has a great leadership structure is by how happy the employees are. And the employees I encounter here all seem to be happy to work at Texas Children’s. I have confidence in the hospital’s leadership at all structural levels, and that is a great feeling. Thank you, Mr. Wallace, Drs. Fraser, Andropoulous, Belfort, Bissett, Kline, Versalovic, and all other leaders! And, please thank Shannon for her chocolate chip recipe!

  2. Marlene Moulder

    Great blog! The right ingredients do make a great partnership! Texas Children’s has all the right ones. Thank you for sharing and special thanks to Shannon for her cookie recipe. Never thought about the cream cheese. With the Holidays at our door step, Shannon’s chocolate chip cookies will definitely be on my Holiday table. Chocolate chip cookies are my ultimate favorite too. And come to think of it, I just might have to make a batch (or two) before the Holidays.

  3. Gail Parazynski

    Thank you Mr Wallace for modeling shared leadership right from the top. TCH nursing has great physician partners across the organization. Shared leadership leading to strong patient outcomes.

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