Learning and understanding professional culture is critical to personal effectiveness in the workplace and professional presence. It’s also the smoothest way to forge your professional credibility.
“Most organizations define their cultural values by a strategic imperative. If the initiative is to focus on clients, the behaviors and actions must reflect that. If building market share is valued, the alignment must be on challenging the status quo.”
~Suzanne Updegraff, CEO, Employee Development Systems, Inc.
Organizational culture is the DNA of a company. Just like individuals, every firm is unique. On the top layer, it includes things like dress code, and flex time policies. Under those initial policies? That is where you find the even more important cultural morays of an organization. Think about your current workplace. What behaviors are recognized and rewarded? How are people managed, motivated and developed? Think about how employees succeed or fail, regardless of their ability. If not ability, then what is determining those outcomes? Asking those questions will reveal the heart of your corporate culture.
1. Gain an awareness of what’s important to you, personally.
What do you want to accomplish in your career and more importantly, in your life? Compare the ideas that surface to the culture markers you have already identified. Are they easily aligned? If not, that may be why your career feels stalled, or at least the key to keeping it moving forward. If you’re concentrating on developing your skills in an area that is not valued by your organization or the company uses incentives you don’t relate to, then its time to work on aligning these two parts of your life.
2. As a leader, are you crystal clear about your corporate culture?
On the other end of the spectrum, as a leader who is in the position of making hiring decisions, do you make your culture completely clear to candidates and new hires? It’s far better to screen out people in an initial interview, only to learn six months later that they aren’t comfortable with your values and work style.
3. See beyond skills.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “…Multiple candidates interview for various open jobs at the same time. We observe candidates undertaking unique and often quirky challenges, and interacting with each other. Candidates act out scenarios that show us whether or not they exhibit our core values — open and courageous communication, risk-taking, speed, quality, teamwork, and thriving in change. To test for risk-taking, for example, candidates role-play how they would deal with a situation in which one colleague has been called out of town and needs a less-experienced coworker to take his or her place in an important presentation…from these exercises, we’re able to quickly learn which candidates exhibit leadership and teamwork qualities, which ones perform well in unusual situations, and which have done their background research on the company.”
Essentially, we used to hire for skills. Now we hire for culture. Skills can be taught, but let’s face it, values are difficult to change.
4. Prioritize professional competence.
The next logical step to working on aligning yourself with the professional culture is to build teh most important competencies for the future. Identify the alignment between your personal competencies and your organization’s mission and vision. What are some steps you can start to take now that will strengthen that tie?
Break your personal competencies down into the following three areas and take an honest look at how you are doing in each one:
Personal Competencies: Personal Accountabiliy, Presentation Skills, Interpersonal Communication
Business Competencies: Technological Innovation & Literacy, Leadership Skills, Strategic Imperatives
Strategic Competencies: Global Applicatoin, Collaborating as One, Problem Solving
Competencies that work for you today might need ot be re-addressed for future growth and development. Where do you stand in each of these areas? Our Professional Presence in a Casual World program explores and develops these important skills for the new workplace.
Employee Development Systems, Inc. (EDSI) has been resolving employee development, leadership, generational, professional presence, and personal effectiveness issues for over 30 years, and she is ready to tackle any question you have.