The phrase “secret sauce” comes from the idea that there are ingredients in and about you that make you unique, remarkable, successful and valuable. The Big Mac without the secret sauce isn’t as tasty. Given the choice of a Big Mac with or without the secret sauce, I harbor to guess that the multitudes would say “With!” We want people to say the same thing about having you on the team. We want them to say, “With!” Not because they are nice, and you are nice, which is all very nice and largely irrelevant, but because you will make the project better, the team better, the company better.
How each of us achieves success lies within our secret sauce. It’s our secret in that it is our very own blend of amazingness, but we don’t want to hide it. We want to identify it, leverage it, share it – and even sell it. It’s a difference-maker.
As we close the door on Project Butterfly, wrapping up our final week with thoughts on what we’ve learned about what makes us effective and successful, let’s talk about strengths and our secret sauce.
The foundation of our ability to have a positive impact in any given situation is grounded in our strengths. Hopefully, now that we’ve spent some time exploring them and focused on how they manifest themselves in our world, we have an appreciation for the fact that we don’t have to be everything to everyone. In fact, we are supposed to be different (thanks to my colleague Lydia for sharing a TEDx talk on that very topic). We can accept the fact that we are different, and let it guide us toward our better future.
Let’s look at an example from the Olympics. I saw a situation where one man’s secret sauce “won the day.” I believe we can learn from it.
If you look at the numbers, T.J. Oshie is a “good” hockey player. He’s a right wing forward, so he’s offensive minded. Scoring goals is how he earns his money, yet he had never scored more than 19 goals in a season. It’s good, but not great. Last year he scored only 7, though it looks like he played hurt. So, why was T.J. Oshie one of 25 professional hockey players selected for the US Olympic team?
Well, the coach played through a number of scenarios in his mind, and one of those was a tie game. If no one scores in overtime, it goes to a shootout – one player shooting against the goalie, with teams switching back and forth until one team scores more than the other.
One-on-one, in any sport, is about as competitive and pressure-filled as it gets. Guess which United States hockey player has outperformed all others in shoot out situations? T.J. Oshie.
Talent is fickle.
The coach was clever. He realized that the international hockey “shoot out” rules are different from the National Hockey League rules. The difference was that he could use the same player multiple times against the opposing goalie. And that’s exactly what he did.
T.J. Oshie went one-on-one against the Russian goalie six times, scoring on four of them. This was not only an excellent success strategy for T.J. Oshie (asking him to do what he does best, over and over again), but it was also a good offensive strategy.
Imagine how the poor goalie felt seeing Oshie coming at him over and over again, scoring 66% of the time. It is a form of Chinese water torture for the goalie, waiting for Oshie to skate back out on the ice, dreading it, fearing it, hoping that this time he could stop him, only to fail. A person can recover from one or two of those. Beyond that, it’s a mental battle more than a physical one. It got to the point where Oshie had one leg hanging eagerly over the boards, indicating that he knew he was going back out. Trust me, the Russian goalie was watching. Oshie got inside the goalie’s head, and won the game there. Then, he went out and won it on the ice.
T.J. Oshie, a relative unknown last Sunday, is now a household name (at least if the household watches hockey). Oshie is not the fastest skater, he doesn’t score the most goals, he isn’t all that flashy – in fact, if you haven’t seen him, click here to watch a 1.5 minute video collection of his six shots – relaxed, peaches and cream skin, no sign of anxiety. He was thoughtful, deliberate, and effective. Not your normal goal-scoring hero.
T.J. Oshie’s secret sauce manifests itself best in one-on-one shoot outs against a goalie. That’s what he’s great at. But he’s also “good enough” at the other hockey requirements. On top of that, he is also a caring teammate, has a strong work ethic, and is eager to share the glory with those around him. It’s a pretty darn good package.
During Project Butterfly, did you learn anything about your secret sauce? What is it? How does it manifest itself in your world? How and when do you have the most impact? What are you great at, and what are you “good enough” at – so that you are, like Oshie, a pretty darn good package?
Once we know the answers to those questions, and can communicate them with confidence and clarity, work becomes a lot more like play. The odds increase in our favor to be selected for roles where we will shine (kudo’s to the U.S. coach for selecting a “special situation sharp-shooter” – it sure paid off when that special situation reared its head.) It didn’t hurt that it was against Russia – like any other intense sports rivalry, the stakes always feel a little higher and the wins a little sweeter.
I believe in honoring excellence, so I send congratulations to my Canadian friends – this morning, Canada won the hockey Gold Medal against Sweden (my condolences to my colleague, Per, who is Swedish). I wish it was us, but if it can’t be us, then I’m okay with the win going to Canada. This is about as diplomatic as I get. (Diplomacy is NOT part of my secret sauce).
What’s in YOUR secret sauce? Inquiring minds want to know!