As a young boy, Saturdays were my special days. Often, my dad would take me to lunch at a tiny downtown café where the specialty was chili dogs. I always had mine with cheese, onions, and extra mustard. To this day, those were the best chili dogs I have ever eaten.
The owner, a humble man with a heavy Greek accent and a gentle smile, would say hi to everyone coming in as he prepared the food and offer thanks when each customer left. As an adult, I continued the family tradition by bringing my boys to eat the best chili dogs in the world until the owner retired.
During weekdays in the café, you would find customers from all walks of life: men and women in business attire, “street people,” and everyone in between. But the owner treated everyone with dignity and respect no matter their status in life.
One day, while I was eating one of those delicious chili dogs, I overheard a conversation between the owner and a customer: a businessman who owned multiple restaurants in town.
The businessman was trying to pry out of the café owner the ingredients for his secret chili sauce by pounding him with question after question. The café owner just continued to smile and shake his head, signaling no while still treating the man with kindness and respect.
The chili dogs were phenomenal, but the businessman was missing the real reason for that café’s success.
My Secret Sauce
There are a lot of reasons for my successful business, and over the years, I personally have received much credit for that success. But my success is really due to our “people”, the folks who “made the railroad run every day.” That is my secret sauce—People, People, People!
Every Leader can achieve success in their organization by cooking up a secret sauce that contains two important ingredients.
So what makes a secret sauce, well, secret? The ingredients! And when it came to my business, I had two secret ingredients in my recipe for success: “what” I said and did along with “how” I said and did things.
Secret Ingredient # 1
Secret sauce ingredient #1 was what I said and did (as I drove for results). You can break this ingredient into two unique parts:
- What I said: Asking the right questions. What is the goal? Are we making progress?
- What I did: Working on the “things” of our business—strategies, tactics, performance goals, product and service offerings, policies and procedures, organization structure, operating practices, facilities, equipment, financial statements, and so on.
Secret Ingredient # 2
Secret sauce ingredient #2 was how I said and did things (by enhancing relationships). This ingredient also breaks down into two unique parts:
- How I said: Saying encouraging words to people, thanking them, and praising them.
- How I did: I combined this part of the recipe in two distinct ways that focused on the “people” in our business.
1. Doing acts of kindness for people, patting them on the back, and shaking their hands (while I was thanking and praising them).
2. Doing by consistently involving our people in the decision-making process. This proved to be the game-changing part of my secret sauce recipe! This is a key part of participative leadership (Engage2LeadTM).
For years, I thought I had these two ingredients down. Our company was growing, people enjoyed working there, and we were successfully profitable.
However, it was not until I discovered how to combine the second part of doing—participative decision-making—that we created a company in which people thrived and profits soared beyond my wildest dreams.
I believe these are truths that can help any leader create an award-winning secret sauce for his or her organization!
Although it took me a while to discover these principles, I want to help you to implement these strategies in your own organization—and to do so much faster than I did by learning from the School of Hard Knocks.
And I am excited to share with you the details in future blog posts actually implementing the Engage2Lead participative leadership strategy.
This approach becomes even more important as an organization grows, and the leader gets farther and farther away from the people on the front line. That’s when the problems really begin to crop up.
What sets your organization apart from the competition? Do you know what’s in your secret sauce? Have you struggled to get your people to support your decisions? Please share your comments <here> and share this blog post with a friend and/or a co-worker.