Why Kool Aid Determines Your Career Path

Your career situation lies on one question: do you drink the Kool Aid or not?

kool_aid_man_wavingThere are two groups of people at every company: those who drink the Kool and those who don’t.

Translation: you’re either “sold out” (all-in) or not.

There are exceptions; those who may not fully engage in the vision, but are satisfied enough to take the good with the bad. To me, that sounds like complacency, but to everyone their own.

In order to stay at a company for a long period of time you have to believe in the mission. Purpose is still a magnetic trait that companies have. If you don’t bleed for what a company stands for it’s not a matter of if, but when you exit.

For those who reject the Kool Aid, it’s revealed in the language they use.

Mainly “I” vs. “We.” Subtle, but very powerful.

“I” statements separate from the greater whole, while “we” statements identify with the organization.

It’s not as simple as making a language change…

The determining factor is how much you buy-in. That doesn’t mean you agree with every detail or decision made, but you’re willing to associate with the team more than your opinion.

Some say entrepreneurs escape Corporate America for freedom, but most do it for a dream.

Business comes down to two types of dreams: yours and others.

Owning a business supports yours and working for a company supports theirs.

Your job is to choose whose dream you’re on board with.

Millennials in particular live for making a greater impact. Job hopping is as much about identifying with a greater mission as it is about getting bored. Adding value is as much feeling valued as it is contributing to it.

In your current role, you will eventually have to make the same decision sooner or later: do you drink the Kool Aid or not?

It may not be as simple as “yes” and “no” when it becomes part of your financial livelihood, but the bigger question is how long can you deny it?

Life is too short to support a dream you’re not in agreement with. Social impact draws new followers daily because of alignment of personal and corporate values.

If a company has a high turnover rate it’s probably a Kool Aid issue.

So in your current position do you drink the Kool Aid or not?

The answer to that question shapes your career path.

Are Great Managers Truly Unicorns?

The number one reason why people leave their jobs is because they feel unappreciated or under-valued. Translation: lousy boss.

One of the main reasons I’ve left all my past jobs is a terrible boss (best boss I had was as an entrepreneur – he was great, but the pay was inconsistent).

At the core is a skill problem. Let’s start at the bottom:

As a technical worker you are paid to produce results quickly. Once you prove yourself you move up to leadership. The issue here is what made you a great technical worker won’t help you be a good leader.

At the leadership (management) level your job is to bring out the best in your team. It doesn’t matter how well you performed at your previous role because the job description is completely different.

This is rampant in Corporate America because seniority normally equates to promotion. But most managers don’t know the first thing about motivating/treating people. Managers talk to their employees as if they’re stupid or incompetent. The disrespect is tolerated at first, but over time disengagement and morale drops.

Productivity keeps a business running, but poor leadership can halt growth. Companies with high turnover are similar to below par rated restaurants on Yelp. Even if you have a great product, customer service is what you’re ultimately judged on.

Most businesses believe treating the customer with the utmost respect is good enough, but when employees feel the cold shoulder of management internal strife starts to build. When the work environment becomes sheerly political the internal trust deteriorates and your best talent already has one foot out of the door.

I understand the argument from the company’s perspective that hard, objective decisions need to be made in order to scale, but you can still treat people well and get great results. People filter their perception of leadership through interactions. Once you feel unsafe as a worker, it’s time to start applying for jobs elsewhere.

That’s why when you do find a manager who cares about you, brings out the best in you and ultimately looks at his position as service treasure him/her. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience it once in my career and during that tenure I felt I could do anything.

For some complete autonomy may feel like macro-management, so it’s important to understand what type of boss you thrive under. Culture is viewed as the thermometer, but core behaviors are the true temperature.

These days companies can pay you lip service about their environment, but only the employee experience truly defines what the culture is.

So if you have a great manager think twice about the grass being greener on the other side. Like grass most of the time if you turn it over it’s actually brown.

Corporate America’s Missing Ingredient

empathy

There’s something missing in Corporate America, but it’s not what you think.

Technology gives us the opportunity to work remotely and scale businesses.

Outsourcing labor multiplies growth while saving massive amounts of time.

Investors provide the resources to transform a hobby into an empire.

But the one thing that retains the top talent worldwide is: empathy.

In a broadcast-driven society, rarely do people put themselves in other’s shoes.

Managing egos and customizing messaging is the difference between success and failure.

Here’s why:

Even with the best technology you still need people to run it. Salaries are competitive, social impact is rampant and perks are plentiful. Therefore how you treat people defines their company loyalty.

Take for instance managers. The top reason most people leave their jobs is because they feel disrespected or undervalued. Simply viewing the impact of your decisions from the receiver’s point of view makes all the difference in the world. Most managers are ill-equipped to lead others. Just because you’re a great widget maker doesn’t translate well to a manager of widget makers.

Empathy is a learned skill (although it can be argued some have a higher ceiling than others). Kids are taught at a young age to think about how their actions affect others. Somewhere between preschool and adulthood that lesson is forgotten. Money and power corrupt our ability to serve.

Personally I’ve witnessed many conflicts started because of a failure to empathize. The same reasons countries go into war on a macro-level happens to co-workers at a micro-level. Stress has a tremendous drain on productivity and the majority of it can be avoided by showing empathy.

The downgrade of soft skills will only continue to get worse and at the core of the deterioration is a lack of empathy.

Empathy is not something HR can teach or a motivational speaker can inspire you to do. It takes making a commitment to servant leadership. Stop thinking positional leadership puts you on top. Instead understand supporting others from beneath actually pushes them to reach their fullest potential.

Will you do your part?