Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Understanding The Importance Of Corporate Culture

Every corporation or mid sized business has its own distinct culture ... their own values, style, beliefs, tactical priorities ... their own unique way of getting things done. It is like the glue that holds the individual layers of a piece of plywood together, you don't see it or give it much thought until you try to take it apart. This almost always is indirectly imparted by the owners and management of the company, although sometimes respected and valued employees may also influence these matters, invariably if they differ greatly from the prevailing beliefs of the company leaders they probably would not be able to maintain their status as " valued and respected". As corporate culture is a by product of the owners and managers in an organization interacting with and influencing each ... other any time there is a significant change in the organization, such as a new CEO, new owners, or several new departmental managers ... the company's culture will almost certainly change as well.

As a manager in a company one must constantly be aware of the specific nuances and characteristics of his company's culture. If as a manager your values, beliefs, and way of getting things done is outside the sphere of your company's there is bound to be disagreement on a number of important issues, and it isn't a right or wrong thing necessarily, it's an approach and a comfort zone kind of thing. I would recommend to anyone in management to take an honest look at your workplace, make notes, and determine what kind of "culture" is driving it, stay observant and watch for changes. How successful you are going to be within any organization will, to a great extent, depend on how well you fit into that company's unique corporate culture, or to what extent you might influence it! If your style of management is of the supportive and nurturing style, and the rest of the company management is at the other end of the spectrum, trying to change the way they do things could well be an uphill battle!

Not only is it critical that you understand corporate culture for you to evaluate to what extent and how you can contribute to the company, it is equally important (maybe more so) when going through the process of hiring employees for the company. Try to get a feel for what type of work environments they have been exposed to, where they thrived, and where they did not ... it is one of the biggest and most important of intangibles to consider when trying to determine who will be the best "fit" in your company!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Body Language: Listening To What They Won't Tell You

When I was in my 20's I owned a small, but profitable, construction company. I started with 1 employee and within weeks had to hire another, business was good, and life was fairly simple. After several months, however, as our level of skill and our reputation grew more and more opportunity's arose, and I had to place a number of men on several different jobsites, and at this point things became more difficult for me as a manager. All at once I had to start dealing with personnel issues all business owners have to face in the course of their careers, such as tardiness and absenteeism, disputes between employees, clients who either didn't pay on time ... or occasionally not at all, workers turning in inaccurate/fraudulent time sheets, and a host of other problems where I really couldn't tell what the real truth of the matter was. I found myself constantly wondering how other managers dealt with these problems, and who, if anyone, I could trust!

As I struggled with these issues I happened to stumble upon a book titled " How to Read a Person Like a Book", it sounded to me like it might be just what I needed. As I purchased the book and made my way home with it I was more skeptical than anything else, but thought, if nothing else, it was a good place to start and might make an interesting read. When I got home I started flipping through the pages, looking at the illustrations, and reading a paragraph here and there. I immediately recognized many of the unconscious behavior's, postures, and gesticulations not only in previous observations of other peoples behavior, but also in my own! I was a skeptic no more! The book was full of tips on how to read a person's body, head, and eye movements and, to some extent, discern how they felt about what they were saying, or in some cases not saying. The book went on to say that while not an exact science, coupled with a relative familiarity with the person you were observing, these skills would quite often be the difference between knowing what was really being communicated, or being baffled by BS.

Needless to say, as I am writing about it here and now, I found it to be a useful tool, and not only to determine what my employees were thinking, but also, I've found that knowledge of several of these silent communicative expressions are useful in helping one to add a little " oomph " to a sales presentation, or to emphasize a point in any discussion. Whenever I see a new book on the subject at the bookstore or at the library I always buy it, check it out, or at least give it a browse ... the information is just to useful to ignore!

Here is a short list of great books on the subject ... see what you think!

How To Read A Person Like A Book
by Gerard Nierenberg

I Know What You're Really Thinking
by Marc Mogil

Field Guide To Gestures: How To Identify And Interpret
by Nancy Armstrong