Sunday, March 24, 2013

Culture Busting

When we talk about company culture, the conversation often goes right off the rails. The conversation is generally about practices that are ridiculous, unwritten rules, and people that are frequently characterized and “crazy” or “idiotic”.

I remember when I viewed the people I worked with the same way. I described myself as “astonished” or “amazed” at what some “idiot” had done. “Any child would know better!” I would say. But I wouldn’t talk to them about it. It wouldn’t do any good PLUS they were friends with the bosses and I would get fired.

I didn’t spend a LOT of my career thinking that way, because I was a single father and HAD to keep a job continuously – I couldn’t “job hop”. With the economy the way it is now, I am sure there are lots of you that feel the same pressure.

I decided I had to talk to someone – my boss – about some of these things. He wasn’t very much help. He kind of patted me on the head and asked me to figure out how to work with it because it wasn’t changing any time soon.

I waited until I once again was the recipient of some work that was all screwed up in a way that was INDEFENSIBLE. “NOW I have them!”, I thought.  “Certainly I can get them to change this!” I confronted the guilty party and we argued bitterly, me telling them that what they did was stupid and them telling me that I didn't know what I was talking about… that everything was fine and exactly as it should be and if I knew ANYTHING I would know that. Which of course is impossible – I know EXACTLY what’s right. Don’t I? So in this guy’s version of the story, I am the idiot.

 I immediately got busy coming to understand what was happening with this instance. I found he was doing things just as he was instructed, the instructions that were given to me were new, and the person that gave me the instruction hadn’t considered all of the factors.

What I realized YEARS later was that the reason I called the one guy an idiot, AND the reason I imagined there was some “unseen hand” guiding all this, and that talking to them wouldn’t do any good was because I was afraid. I was afraid that the confrontation would go bad, I was angry that I had to do it in the first place (why not my boss), I was afraid I would be embarrassed, and I had imagined all kinds of things from a fist fight to long term hurt feelings.  All of the things wrong were things going on in my head because of what I was not paying attention to the FACTS and being manipulated by my fear of what MIGHT happen.

This obviously had less to do with “the company culture” and what I THOUGHT the company culture was. I set about to prove this by learning to act differently. I began saying “I am going to assume that everyone here just wants us to do well. I am going to say that THAT is the company culture, and act accordingly”. Things got a lot better, but I also found out that my assumption wasn’t necessarily true, that there were lots of people that were not very concerned about the company at all. So after learning that the company wouldn’t just get rid of them, I needed to find a way to get the most out of them to move the company forward. More than that, the process had to build the people in the process, and make them feel more engaged and more able. Even though I can’t make everyone feel the way I feel , I can help many of them see that working in a successful company, and being a big part of a company’s success, is better than the alternative.

There are 11 steps to doing better. The first five are:
  1. 1.       Establish credibility
  2. 2.       Develop productive relationships
  3. 3.       Begin optimizing your communication style
  4. 4.       Learn to coach
  5. 5.       Learn to manage and lead

I will start working through each of them next time, and you will learn quickly and easily how to get more satisfaction and cooperation than you ever have. Until then, look at the things that make it hard for you to get excited about your job. Notice how your coworkers are apparently fully competent in their jobs, but they are hard to work with. Consider the possibility that they don’t have to change for it to become easier.

Insist on great business results! Go to Pathfinder Communication

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