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! 


  1. Great post Maureen. I think the US coach was very courageous (and non conventional) to put Oshie up so many times in the shoot-out when the stakes were so high. Had it got the other way, he likely would have been blamed for the loss. (Unfortunately). Dave

      • Maureen Monte

      • 10 years ago

      Hi Dave, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts – you’re right, had the strategy backfired, the coach would have taken the heat. I like that he focused on data, and trusted that Oshie’s record of success in the same situation (albeit not with the same opponent) would work. It’s like putting your best pitcher on the mound when the stakes are high, or best free throw shooter. As someone how in Individualization, the story was plain old fascinating to me. Hence, my need to share! :-)

  2. Maureen, I can’t believe Project Butterfly is coming to a close. I missed last week’s post completely – so I’ll be doing a bit of catch up (not ketchup!). The bottle holding my secret sauce has a big heart on it. What makes me unique is my willingness to put my heart and soul into the things that I do, even when it’s not cool or accepted. I believe that aliveness, joy, and fun are always possibilities and boldly claim them for myself (and others). There’s a pinch of fearlessness and authenticity in my secret sauce, too.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 10 years ago

      Hi Vicki! No worries on catching up or Ketching up! :- ) Your secret sauce is so wonderful – look how many people you’ve inspired to focus on their success – and your new role, and being selected as one of the best Technical Leadership Exchange’s best speakers of 2013! So your big heart holds all of us inside of it, and gives us courage and hope that we too can learn and grow. Seriously good stuff!

    • Thorsten Busch

    • 10 years ago

    Maureen, thanks for sharing some of your secret sauce! So as a leader, it is so important to discover and know the secret sauces of your team. And to create the environment/the team culture that different sauces are well accepted within and outside the team… Phew….

      • Maureen Monte

      • 10 years ago

      Hi Thorsten! I’m so excited to see you here! What a GREAT POINT you make – what is your team’s secret sauce!! And do you have the culture that allows that sauce to grow into perfection… with the unique spices that each person brings to the mix. I love your perspective! VERY hard to do, yet so rewarding. In sports, it is why one talented person dies one one team, but when traded to a different team, becomes a rock star. It happens in business, too. It takes a special leader to allow yet mold the cooking process… great point!!

  3. Maureen, I have a LOT of catching up to do, but I will do it.
    I don’t know what my secret sauce is. I am ordinary, I am the very definition of ordinary because things that are different, are different from me. Don’t we all feel that way? Perhaps ‘normal’ would be a clearer word than ordinary. I see that you are different and have a Secret Sauce, and the same for Vicki and others, but until you started working with me on Strengths, I didn’t see my own at all.
    I think perhaps the mix of Deliberative, Context and Intellection might be my Secret Sauce – a secret sauce wouldn’t have just one ingredient after all. Let me explain with quotes from my StrengthsFinder report.
    ‘… you approach each day with a matter-of-fact and practical attitude.’ (Deliberative)
    ‘You are determined to create a framework of facts so that you can put things in perspective.’ (Context)
    ‘When you choose to expound on a topic that interests you or pose pertinent questions, many individuals listen carefully to every word you utter.’ (Intellection)
    I have noticed in the last few weeks that my manager will ask my opinion on topics that he knows I am new to. He is involving me in some very interesting work because of my Secret Sauce, but I am just being the same old me that I have been forever – the difference is that I enjoy my work more when I am being asked to use my strengths.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 10 years ago

      Hazel, I so admire your ability to see what’s happening! Of course, I have to challenge you on the “ordinary” thing – nothing could be further from the truth, but it does reflect the fact that we see the world through the eyes of our strengths. So for you, your view is “normal.” For the rest of us, it’s anything but. I hope you read Thorsten’s post above – I think your manager is falling into the category of Rock Star Leader because he is seeing that YOU bring something to his team’s special sauce – something important, and because it’s based on patterns of excellence, he knows he can trust it. Can’t wait to hear more about it, and glad to see you being “valued” for being the “same old you that you have been forever.” :-) When you were presenting to the masses last week, nobody left that webinar and said, “My goodness, that Hazel is so normal! That Hazel is so ordinary!” They were buzzing with what you’d taught them. I loved seeing your strengths in action, then and now!

      1. Maureen,
        I saw Thorsten’s post after I posted, and yes the team leader makes a huge difference when they take the trouble to understand what talents they are working with.
        My point about me being ordinary/normal, was not one of modesty, but more that it is too easy to believe that what you know in yourself can easily be taken for granted and unappreciated. We value rare things, so the things that make you so great are easy to overlook from the inside.

          • Thorsten

          • 10 years ago

          isnt ordinary just depending on the level of insight?
          If somebody does not know you beyond level 1, has not benefitted from you, it is easy to be considered ordinary…
          But on higher levels, there is nothing like being ordinary.The more you know and experience a person, the more you get proven facts that this person is everything but ordinary.
          My 2 ct :)

            • Maureen Monte

            • 10 years ago

            Hi Thorsten, your point is very valid… (your two cents are worth MUCH more than that.) It is fun to work with someone and get to know them better, and find delight in little surprises about them that either they share or you reveal on your own. :-) None of us are ordinary…

          • Maureen Monte

          • 10 years ago

          True… great point about seeing the world through the lens of our strengths, and assuming that others have the same lens; therefore, it’s not big deal. You’re right – from the inside we are what we are, and we might simply think it is “normal.” It is normal for you, but the odds of it being normal for someone else are 33 Million to 1 from a top 5 strengths standpoint. :-) I’m just thrilled you’re being valued by your leadership!