Career : Careers and company culture

Company culture ?

You’d worked for the same Company since College, but now you’re changing jobs. At your old Company, you were quite comfortable. Things worked the way they should work, and everyone had the same vocabulary. You had great training and successful management habits, and these were valued and rewarded by your previous Company.

But will you be considered "inflexible" if you change employer ? Haven’t you heard that folks from your Company are built from a mould that the rest of the w orld doesn’t really value? How do you cope with all those years of having one "cultural" mindset ?

Almost all companies try to establish a strong corporate culture. It is one of the keys to sustaining a business over several generations of management. Some companies have stronger cultures than others, and are seen by the external world accordingly. One way or the other, that culture impacts you.

Value system ?

You were (or are) comfortable with your Company, at least partly because the corporate value system and your personal one could happily co-exist. Nike’s "Just do it", "The HP Way", P&G’s "do the right thing", or J&J’s "Credo" suit you. This value convergence is a terrific thing. Never belittle the importance of common beliefs. That is what makes the world go round, and should be celebrated. Great companies have great values.

But, recall that your system of beliefs and values is much bigger than any Company’s. Is there anything in the Company mission statement about what you should do in your leisure time, or how to engage in personal relationships, or what to do when you retire ? And, even inside the Company, are you an "agent provocateur", or a "solid citizen" ? Are you a team player, or a "wild creative" ? What role do you take for yourself ?

If you want a tip to help work your way through this, write a personal mission statement. Be clear what you really stand for, and where you are going. Then use this guide to your own value system to see how you should behave in your chosen Company. Be yourself, because nobody else can do that for you !

Your boss ?

This is the easiest thing to understand of them all. The consumer or your customer is your real boss !! Be objective, focus on the outside world, and see what this means to you as an individual. You’ll then have a much better picture of where you fit, what your best contribution can be, and where your future lies.

Similarities ?

It is unfortunate that people usually look for what is different, before they look for what is the same. Yet, especially today, there are many common principles of business. There is much in common in values, customs and ethics between companies and even across borders ( although that is a topic for another essay ). And, there are many similar customer and consumer habits and needs. Of course, there are many differences, and these are important. But look for common ground, first. It’s a lifesaver.

Right things ?

It is great to work in a Company that you truly respect, and with people that you really respect. But just remember that you are a big boy or girl. You take your decisions, no one else. So, you are comfortable because you are doing what’s right for you. That won’t change, wherever you are.

Future ideas ?

You've got a great track record ( who hasn't ? ), but what really counted to both your previous employer as well as what counts for your new one, is what you will do in future. It’s amazing how great results overcome cultural barriers !      

Your assets ?

We read about portable skills all of the time, and that’s what we all need. So, write down a list of your skills, and your skill gaps. See what you have to offer, and see what you need to learn. You need to be growing all of the time, and that could happen in either your current Company or elsewhere. Start by figuring out what you bring to the party, not just what your Company’s name contributes….      

Real listening ?

Everyone knows that listening is the key to understanding other people. Listening makes for great meetings, and most important, for great leadership. But isn’t it also the key to finding out what is going on in the new Company ? Company culture, just like a country’s culture, is like an iceberg. Nine tenths is out of sight. Use your eyes and ears to figure this out. Listen & learn. Knowledge is a great antidote to fear of the unknown.      

Lead people ?

Now, what has this got to do with culture and value systems ? Everything. By coming to grips with your own leadership skills and potential, you will begin to get a better idea of how to deal with differing viewpoints and cultural nuances.

Every leader has a rock-solid understanding of what they stand for, and they are able to effectively communicate this to the people around them. It’s all done by first understanding the values of others, in the context of the Company’s culture. Put this another way: by knowing and then showing who we are, we can all be better leaders, and therefore we’ll better handle the cultural aspects of our Company. 

Be objective ?

Finally, if you are not changing Company yet, be smart enough to realise that you may be better off staying exactly where you are now, and not move at all!

Corporate "macho" is a terrible thing, but personal macho can be even worse. There is no shame in believing that your Company is the best in the world. And there is no shame in wanting to stay there. You don’t have to leave. Just be objective, realistic, and brutally honest with yourself about where you fit best. You’ll do just fine.

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