Make Culture A Priority
Starting a new job is difficult in many ways, but one of the most critical elements on which to focus is culture. As a manager, you will have to affect it one way or another. However, every company has its own unique human dynamic, and you have to make sure you understand and respect it. In some cases, the culture needs to be completely uprooted and replaced; in others, it may need little to no change.
Different situations require different approaches:
- Turnarounds: If you’re brought in to manage a turnaround situation, you will more than likely have to change the entire culture and rebuild it from the ground up. You will be turning over a large percentage of the team, which will give you the chance to put your own imprimatur on the culture. You will need to spend some time understanding which changes to make, but don’t take too long, and once you’ve made decisions, move quickly to implement the new plan. Dragging out the situation will only demoralize your remaining employees, and if you’ve kept them, you want to make sure you keep them motivated and excited about the company’s new direction.
- Growth mode: If you’re brought in to help a small company accelerate its growth trajectory, you need to be very careful not to upset the existing culture. In fact, changing it too dramatically can have surprisingly negative effects that can undermine your efforts quickly. In order to grow, you will definitely have to make changes (in strategy, processes and organizational structure, among other things) to help the company mature, but most likely there is an existing culture that has helped the company achieve the success they have already had. The trick is keeping this atmosphere while moving to a more formal, process-driven company.
- Large, established companies: If you’re brought in to manage at a large company, you have to move carefully to make sure you understand the culture and politics. Large firms have entrenched, unwritten rules about how to do things, so it’s worth taking some time to understand the power structure and social mores before making any changes. Once you’ve decided which changes to make, be sure to share them ahead of time with all parties who may be affected in any way. Everyone in every company hates surprises, but in large, political organizations, leaving someone out of the loop can create an enemy quickly.
- Startups: In pure startups, there is very little culture outside of the personality of the founders. In fact, the decision about whether to go work at a startup probably has a lot to do with whether you get along with them and feel you could work well together, since you will be spending a lot of time with them. If you do, you will be able to help form the culture from the ground up.
In any company that has more than one person there will be politics to navigate and culture to understand. It’s critical that you take the time to determine the best course of action because if you’re left out of the culture and don’t fit in, your time at that organization will be severely limited and most likely unsuccessful.