Does Your Team Drink the Kool-Aid or Make the Kool-Aid?

If a colleague tells you that you drink the Kool-Aid, the likelihood is that the comment is not a compliment. My opinion. You may disagree, and I’ll concede that maybe it’s meant positively. In general, though, drinking the Kool-Aid is pejorative.

What about if you get to make the Kool-Aid? Is it easier to drink it if you make it?

Everyone likes to be taken seriously. Everyone likes to have their opinion matter when it comes to work environments, work cultures. 

Bring your department/office/group together and ask them collectively what the team’s goals should be for 2019. Call it a summit to make it sound special. A mile marker. If you take your team seriously and let them set the goals, you allow them to make the Kool-Aid. 

Have a get-together and make it different than most meetings. Change three or four things, such as where you meet or how you sit or maybe you provide everyone’s personal beverage of choice. Mountain Dew for me please or a vodka tonic if it’s that kind of meeting.

Make the summit stand out in their minds. Identify that the goal for the day is to develop a raison d’etre, a conversation around “What do we want to accomplish this year? “

Then hash it out. Make a list. Vote on top priorities, flesh out the popular ideas. Have everyone contribute. Lots of affirmation in the form of voice votes or star ratings. Make sure everyone’s heads are nodding up and down. No wallflowers. An everyone-has-a-jersey mentality.

The outcome of this summit is a list of their goals for themselves. And for you. For the team. 

You will have some latitude in shaping the goals; whomever is taking the notes sort of owns that prerogative. (Never forget that!)

I bring up Kool-Aid as the New Year signifies the most appropriate time for most supervisors to develop annual goals for the team.  Maybe they will drink your Kool-Aid. A positive work environment can do that. Summits REALLY work with already-engaged teams.

Positive work environments invariably have shared goals, yet I think that statement begs the question, what IS a positive work environment. Reasonable people could disagree on elements, but I believe likely characteristics would be:

  • Each department has goals.
  • Every individual performs tasks which contribute to the team’s goals.
  • Communication amongst colleagues is productive, fresh, and enthusiastic.
  • Professional development is encouraged, and it feels the boss cares about you a bit.

I suspect many managers might hesitate to allow the team to make the Kool-Aid. What if the standards are too low? What if some malcontent hijacks the meeting?

If that is the case, you have some thinning of the herd that needs to take place. Anyone in the first 90 days of employment who is not positive, productive, fresh and enthusiastic has to go. Once you get beyond the 90-day probationary period you get into HR jail too easily. But I digress.

Teams that make the Kool-Aid will drink the Kool-Aid. Then the shared goals and shared experiences, with their schmaltzy connotations, actually mean something. Don’t let January end without doing this. Everyone likes to be part of a high functioning team. It is a captivating feeling and draws people in. Believe in people. Let your team make the Kool-Aid.

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