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Time to remix and drink your Kool-Aid
May 11, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
As kids, we loved to drink Kool-Aid. Just water sweetened with sugar, tart fruit flavors, artificial coloring and absolutely no nutritional value, it was just fun to drink. Maybe that’s why “drink the Kool-Aid” became a metaphor for a group’s shared belief in some intangible thing. If you drink the Kool-Aid, you believe and instantly become a group member. If you don’t drink the Kool-Aid, you’re with the non-believers.
When we were kids, mom mixed the Kool-Aid … and it tasted good. In business, leaders mix their own Kool-Aid for their followers to drink … and that first sip tastes so good. It tastes so good because the mixture embodies the leader’s vision, passion and drive to create a company that stands for something special and unique. That Kool-Aid captures the imagination of like-minded people. A dynamic culture evolves that is innovative, energizing and seemingly invincible. To be part of such a company, or group culture, is a privilege and a life experience that resets and raises your belief in your own potential. And it all started with a sip of Kool-Aid.
The lasting effects of Kool-Aid are unfortunately short-lived. Companies grow, get stuck and disappear. Key team members move on because someone else’s Kool-Aid tastes better and has a bigger kick to it … or it’s just time to mix their own Kool-Aid and find their own followers. New team members come onboard and hear stories of the mystical Kool-Aid but never get to taste it.
Here are some No-Compromise Leadership strategies on how to mix and prescribe Kool-Aid for a variety of essential situations:
- Mix it for today: The Kool-Aid mixture that got you and your company started, is not the mixture to keep it vibrant, engaged and determined today. That mixture was full of vision and promise. Today’s mixture is about endurance, tenacity and getting the work done. It needs the understanding and discipline of creating and refining systems, procedures and standards. It needs a solid foundation of shared values. Today’s Kool-Aid mixture is about getting better and going the distance. And the final ingredient; it needs a preventative for entitlement, indifference and apathy.
- Mix it for tomorrow: This Kool-Aid mixture is heavy on innovation and differentiation. It is formulated on the premise that “Past successes are no guarantee of future success.” It embeds the “innovate or die” mindset to keep the company as far ahead of competitors as possible. This mixture creates the shared thinking that being different is about doing what the competition is too short-sighted, inept or too lazy to do. It also instills a sense of pride that being on the cutting edge of delivering an extraordinary service or product is earned, by building and innovating a better tomorrow, in the work you’re doing today.
- Mix it for newbies: Newbies are your future. Newbies will carry the company torch into the future when their moment arrives. This mixture of Kool-Aid is about investing in the company’s future by preparing and nurturing new talent today. This mixture is as heavy on culture, thinking and behavior, as it is on skill development. It has ingredients that diligently promote mentorship and the handing down of skills and qualities of the company’s most experienced and talented team members. This mixture is all about getting newbies up to speed and engaged in the company culture as quickly and efficiently as possible. The newbie Kool-Aid is about sustainability.
- Mix it for key staff: This Kool-Aid mixture is specially formulated for those individuals that have gone the distance for the company, the team and all that the company stands for. They embody the vision and values of the company and what makes it special. And during the daily fight to push the company forward, they are also the ones that can unintentionally be taken for granted. The ingredients in this Kool-Aid mixture are heavy on appreciation and rich on culture and pride of accomplishment. Key staff need a regular dose of this Kool-Aid because it reminds them that all their work and their contribution to the company has been worth it, recognized and appreciated. Leaders are advised to take a shot of this mixture on the same cycle as key staff.
- Mix it for yourself: As the leader, you are susceptible to all the stress and emotions that are part of growing a company. Wins lift you up. Failures, bad decisions and setbacks wear you down. This rare and precious Kool-Aid mixture is for the sole purpose of keeping you grounded and functioning in your role as leader. This mixture contains high doses of fairness, integrity and belief in people. It also includes ingredients that support consistency, accountability, attention to detail and balanced communication. The very last ingredient in the leader’s Kool-Aid supports healthy optimism and the ability to manage what’s on your plate. It is recommended for daily use.
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