The leadership within a company drives its culture. So the question to ask yourself (and to always keep asking) is this: “What behaviors does the company and its leadership reward?” You will quickly find out the company “currency” (meaning what makes someone valuable) when this question is answered. You’ll thereby discover what it takes for you to stand out, as well as whether or not the organization is really living up to its mission, vision and value statements. Some examples will really help illustrate this point.
I recently met a very successful salesperson – we’ll call him Dave. He was hitting all the numbers and kept his head down, staying out of company politics, focusing on scaling the next mountain. But despite all of that, Dave was given the pink slip. Understandably, he was confused since he routinely surpassed his sales goals. But after we talked further about his role, I found out that he wasn’t recording and keeping accurate information and data on his processes and sales. He was unpredictable. Sure, Dave’s sales numbers were good, but everyone else was running around having to track his numbers. This was not a corporate culture that accepted, much less rewarded, letting the details fall through the cracks in exchange for better numbers. He was a results-oriented performer failing in a process-oriented culture. But Dave’s not unique. Many of us focus so much on how to build our careers that we forget to look up and make sure that how we work may actually be the thing the organization rewards.
I also worked with an executive who was employed by a global organization. We’ll call him Toby. He had been there for over 15 years and had been promoted many times, ultimately landing an executive role. So what he experienced next caught him by surprise. You see, Toby was known for his ability to take large amounts of financial data and condense it to easy-to-understand but meaningful applications. He really loved this part of his job and was rewarded for his performance in this area – until the organization decided to restructure several departments.
Toby now reported to someone new. He continued to do what he had always done before, but this time he noticed a change in the responses to his efforts. There was a new reward system in place. In the past, Toby had challenged the status quo (including his management) when looking for the most effective approach to solving or finding a solution around efficiencies. But the new boss didn’t like his aggressive approach and began limiting his job duties. The manager began bringing in new employees from other departments. After a year of this, Toby found himself stuck in an office with very little interaction with others. He was dying a slow professional death. He had not realized earlier that when the new boss took over, the culture he knew had dramatically changed, and that it was his job to adapt to that change. And that’s a lesson we all need to understand and embrace.
Learn more about this topic in my book RINGMASTER: 8 Strategies For Becoming a Star In The Midst of Change.