FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinThe Secret Sauce

by Norman Lanier, Ph.D, Corporate Psychologist & Executive Coach

For those of you who were able to delay gratification, we have John Ray’s Secret Sauce recipe and we are going to share it—including all of the ingredients.

As you may recall from last time, years ago I was consulting with a company in Talladega, Alabama. It was a three-shift operation, and its leader had built a high-performing team of managers. He talked over and over about the importance of teamwork. He painted a vision of what the expectations were, and repeatedly emphasized that as a team:

“We will win for the company;
We will win for the great state of Alabama;
But most importantly, we will win for each other!

Vince Lombardi and other athletic coaches have been credited with the quote, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing!”

It may be extreme for corporate leaders to say things like this, but I do think they could learn from effective athletic coaches. Most effective coaches are very passionate in trying to inspire and to motivate their teams.

What I admired about the Talladega leader was that he emphasized that constantly doing one’s best in striving for excellence constitutes a profound commitment to one’s fellow team mates.

Winning in the Company was simply defined as meeting goals and objectives for the month—safety, quality, delivery, productivity and cost containment. A very identifiable result of winning was Employee Appreciation Day, which the company achieved almost 10 months out of every 12. A tangible reward, above and beyond the wonderful sense of accomplishment, was having a free meal catered on Employee Appreciation Day.

Of all the caterers that had been engaged in the area, John Ray was far and away the favorite, the winner. He was such a favorite that the company, before solidifying the next Employee Appreciation Day checked with John to see if he was available. John had the recipe that made everyone’s palate and sense of well-being feel good.

But John Ray, for a while the mentor to Dale Earnhardt (but John only mentioned this if asked), never quite shared the full recipe for his steak sauce. He left out two of the ingredients, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Here is the real recipe for John Ray’s Secret Sauce:

Select nice, juicy rib eye steaks.
Marinate for 12 hours in John Ray’s Secret Sauce—50% Cattlemen’s Barbecue Sauce and 50%
Dale’s Steak Seasoning. This mix can also be used as steak sauce later while eating the steaks.
Preheat grill until hot, to sear the steaks quickly, sprinkling each side with garlic powder
and pepper.
During the grilling, sprinkle or brush the steaks at least once on each side with straight Dale’s
Steak Seasoning (unmixed with Cattlemen’s).
Grill to perfection!

Interestingly, John had not mentioned to me the Dale’s Steak Seasoning or the garlic powder. He had suggested using salt along with the pepper, but he himself never included salt on the steaks.

I never told John that I had been told his recipe by an employee who had helped out during one of the catering jobs when John’s helper had not shown up for work. My friend was something of a “mole”, and had watched every move John made, and every ingredient John used.

I knew that I really liked John Ray, and had liked him from the moment I had met him. I truly respected John, even though I didn’t really know him in any deep sort of way. I felt good whenever I was with him, and always looked forward to the prospect of seeing him next time.

I got so I scheduled my visits to Talladega on Employee Appreciation Days whenever I could, knowing it was a safe bet that John would be there.

I guess I never told John that I had the recipe for his secret sauce because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, or embarrass him. Surely, he must have known he was leaving out the Dale’s Steak Seasoning and the garlic powder when he gave me the recipe.

I began to think further about my interactions with John. Why were they so powerful? What was it about him that made me like him so instantly, to respect him so much when I hardly knew him? This, in spite of the fact that he hadn’t been completely forthcoming in giving me the recipe for his Secret Sauce?

I decided to try to find out. I wanted to know what John Ray’s “Secret Sauce” for human relations was.

Next time, I will tell you what I learned from John about human relations.

© Copyright Norman Lanier, PhD, 2015