What is the Culture of Your Organization?
Two key components of managing your career to success are to know yourself well and to understand your organizational environment. The next step is to evaluate your fit within your organizational culture. All organizations have cultures–like personalites. The culture of an organization is like the water that fish swim in. The people who work in the organization are pretty much unaware of the culture on a daily basis. It surrounds them and drives a lot of the behavior, it includes the unwritten rules and the things that are important, the values, the rituals and the history. It is very likely that you know a lot about the culture without really realizing that you do. This exercise will help you see your behavior within the context of the organization.
Evaluate Your Behaviors
One good way to evaluate your fit in the organization is to first assess your behaviors, like decisiveness or leadership, on a continuum and then to do the same assessment looking through the lens of what the organization rewards in that behavior. Take a list of behaviors like those below and first mark where you believe that you are on the continuum between the two extremes of the behavior. Go with your gut. Try not to answer according to where you “should” be, but rather where you believe you are. Then make a mark on the same continua according to where you believe your organization wants you to be. Think about what you’ve heard from managers, in 360 assessments, in reviews. Think about the people in your organization who are obviously successful and highly thought of–where does their behavior fit? Even if you aren’t completely right about what your organization wants, you will be able to identify the biggest discrepancies.
Once you have marked where you think you are and where you think the organization wants to you to be, connect each set of marks like in the example below. This will provide you with a graphic that shows you where the gaps are between where your behavior is and what the organization’s norm is. For example, if you look at the continuum Optimistic . . . Pessimistic or at the bottom, Change Leader . . . Change Resister, you see that there is a gap.
Address The Gaps Between Your Behaviors and the Cultural Norms
Once you are aware of the gaps, then you can decide what you want to do about them. You have several choices:
- You can do nothing. You can decide this is who you are and you aren’t willing to change to fit better in your organization.
- You can decide to change your behaviors (remember, behavior is not WHO you are). Think about the way you are different at your boss’ staff meeting than at home, or how you are different at church than you are at girls-night-out. You can change your behavior without changing who you are. When you learn to change your behavior, you have more control over your career.
- You can be selective about which behaviors you want to change. Which behavior have you heard the most about? Which one do you think would be the easiest to work on (it is always best to start with baby steps)?
If you decide that you want to change a behavior, here are some steps that will help:
- Observe others who have the behavior you would like to have. Imitate them. Try it out.
- Share with someone that you’re trying to change and ask him to give you feedback on how you’re doing. Just knowing that someone is watching you will help you be more aware and will push you to try harder.
- Practice “being” different in your mind. Imagine what you look like, what you say, how you sound.
- If the behavior you’re trying to change is something you’ve heard about in your reviews, make sure that you demonstrate the new behavior in front of your boss.
It’s normal to be uncomfortable as you go through this process. Keep trying. Don’t expect others to notice at first. It will take a while. That makes it easier, though, because it gives you some time to practice and get more comfortable.