Gary Winters

Coach  Workshop Facilitator Author

Go on, give ‘em the Kool Aid!

One of the most important tasks for a leader is to get followers to marry their personal self interest with the organization’s self interest.

When done well, amazing things start to happen

Early in my career, I was a humble “outside sales person” working for a furniture rental company. Nothing very sexy about my job – I called on apartment managers to encourage them to refer tenants without much furniture to our showroom.

My teammates and I had the good fortune of working for Sally, a sales manager who had several interesting “quirks” about her: she refused to hear the word “problem” and taught us to convert it to “opportunity” (perhaps a cliché now, but not in 1976!), she explained that the organization chart she believed in was an upside down pyramid (leaders work to support followers), and she taught us that the only limits to our performance were in our own heads.

We drank the Kool Aid, and got so enthusiastic about our work that we met on our own time after work to figure out ways we could help each other. We became obsessed with furniture rental and saw ourselves as “missionaries” on a quest to put rental furniture in every apartment. We set company records, and several of us rose to much higher levels in the organization.

A few years later, I watched an astronaut touring an electronics company which supplied parts to space vehicles. At one point, he paused by a department of assemblers, most of whom spoke English as their second language, and asked them, “Do you know what this part does?”

No one knew. All they knew is that they assembled it and passed it along to another department.

The astronaut served up some Kool Aid there and then: “This part,” he said carefully, “keeps me alive.” And then he explained how.

You could have heard a pin drop. Afterwards, the supervisor (who’d never thought of putting the work in context) said that every measure of productivity and quality went up and he attributed it all to the astronaut’s visit. These humble assemblers had married self interest to something much bigger than themselves.

A few years ago, I was meandering through a park in San Diego, and was approached by a tree trimmer who was bristling with enthusiasm.

“Did you know,” he said, “that you can camp in this park?”

No, I didn’t. Hadn’t even occurred to me. But the tree trimmer’s enthusiasm was unmistakable, and his pride in “his” park was contagious. One rarely sees “humble” tree trimmers acting as ambassadors for their parks, but there he was. He saw his role in a grander scheme of things – creating places for people to experience nature close to home. I couldn’t help but conclude that someone had offered him some Kool Aid, and he had enjoyed a glass or two.

So what’s this “Kool Aid” of which I speak? It’s the vision, it’s the mission, it’s the purpose of the organization, expressed in a way that allows people to connect what’s near and dear to them with something even more important. It’s what gives us meaning.

I know it’s fashionable to speak of “drinking the Kool Aid” in a negative way, as though it’s a form of brainwashing performed by malevolent leaders. Maybe it’s time to change that perception. I don’t know about you, but I like Kool Aid. And I especially like following leaders who can help me see how what I do connects to the larger goals and aspirations of the organization.

What’s the Kool Aid for your team?

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is the sequel to the very popular “What Your Boss Never Told You.” Packed inside are more tips, techniques, and insights about the challenging, but rewarding leadership position.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is written in a conversational tone, as though you and the author were enjoying a cup of coffee and talking about the issues that emerge for new leaders. It stands alone, and/or could be read before or after the first volume, “What Your Boss Never Told You.” You can start with any chapter and read in any order you like.

if you search for a book on management, you’ll find a staggering 600,000+ books currently available. How can you narrow that down? “What Your Boss Never Told You” is the best place to start.

No textbook here – this book is short and sweet. It’s designed to help you “unpack” your new job and be effective from the first day with your new team. It contains twenty-one chapters filled with the wisdom Winters has gathered from real managers – effective, successful leaders in organizations much like yours.

Leaders make decisions every day – big and small. Most know that if they include others in the decision-making process, the quality of those decisions – and the commitment to them – will likely improve. That said, they also know it’s impractical, if not impossible, to include others in every decision they confront.

“To Do or Not To Do” tackles the question of when to make decisions on your own, and when to involve your team. It gives you a deceptively simple but proven method to determine, when you are facing a difficult decision, how to decide how to decide.

Far too many meetings are dreadful, mind-numbing, energy-draining, productivity-sapping, colossal wastes of time. As someone once said, “To kill time, a meeting is the perfect weapon.”

Here’s the deal: if you’re willing to learn and apply the techniques in “So, How Was Your Meeting?”, you’ll call fewer meetings, while vastly improving the ones you do lead. They’ll take less time, have more balanced participation, produce better decisions, and result in concrete action items for follow-up afterwards.

While there are thousands of books written for people about to retire, this may be the only book for people who manage soon-to-retire employees. Written in a casual, conversational style, “Managing the Soon To Retire Employee” will give you everything you need to know to move forward with confidence and grace.

You can be successful with Sooners. It won’t happen by chance, and it’s not a matter of pulling some management “trick” out of your hat. But you can learn how to do it, and you can apply what you’ve learned right away.

Managing friends or former peers can be awkward. When you become the boss, everything about these relationships can suddenly be uncomfortable. There’s a new set of ground rules to establish – as manager, you are going be accountable for the work performance of friends or former co-workers on the team, and they are going to have to adjust to the fact that they now report to you. Everyone involved can feel awkward and hesitant about the future. 

Have you been approached by management with an offer to promote you to supervision? Or, are you mulling over the possibility for the future? Find yourself not sure whether to accept the promotion?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Help! They Want to Make ME a Supervisor will help you sort out a very big question: Should you accept the offer to become a supervisor? Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be confident that you’ve made the best decision for you and for your organization.