Leadership at work: Does your organization’s culture fit your business needs?
By Patricia Ferguson Ebner
My friend Jimmy's summer job back in the 1980s was in the facilities department of a manufacturing plant. They made ... well, it doesn't matter what they made. Jimmy's job was to keep the floor clean.
It was his first week, and he'd gone around the entire plant - sweeping, dusting, mopping and picking up. The floor was clean. So, he sat down and pulled out a novel to read. (He was an English major.)
"What are you doing?" a co-worker asked.
"Reading," Jimmy answered innocently.
"You can't do that. You need to keep the floor clean."
"It is clean. I just finished cleaning it two minutes ago."
"Well, if it's clean, then look busy."
That was an initiation moment.
Jimmy had spent the previous nine months at college, reading (well, and partying, too). But, now he was in a new organization with a new culture - the culture of "look busy." His co-worker initiated him.
That's how culture gets transmitted.
The culture in the workplace is transmitted through these "moments of initiation" - when someone takes you aside and
explains to you "how it is around here." They're giving you the cultural scoop: the insider's view on reality, reining you in and helping you fit in.
Most of these conversations are pretty casual.
They happen in the hallway, after a meeting or over coffee. We don't need an official training program to be culturally initiated. After all, we're clannish creatures and don't relish being kicked out. We're wired to pay attention to the cultural signals so we can do what it takes to belong.
This is especially true when we're new to a team.
The smallest comments carry great weight. It's those short,
potent comments such as "look busy" that can shape behavior for years afterward.
Elements of organizational culture may include:
* Stated and unstated values.
* Overt and implicit expectations for member behavior.
* Customs and rituals.
* Stories and myths about the history of the group.
* Shop talk - typical language used in and about the group.
* Climate-the feelings evoked by the way members interact with each other, with outsiders and with their environment, including the physical space they occupy.
Questions for reflection and action:
* How were you initiated into the culture of your organization?
* How do you initiate people into the culture of your team?
* What's a phrase ("look busy") that describes the culture you have?
* What is one phrase for the culture you want to have?
How do I start a change?
Cultural changes must often be spearheaded by one or two people with strong ideas. This may be the head of the business, a consultant or a designated executive or team. The best results seem to be achieved when there is a firm commitment from the top, which is communicated directly to each and every person in the business.
A consultant, really? Why a consultant?
Because culture is so deeply rooted in an organization's history and collective experience, working to change it requires a major investment of time and resources. Help from a change agent outside the system is often advisable. Without such help, it is difficult for insiders to view their "reality" as something they've constructed, and to see meaning in things they normally take for granted.
Cultural change is a form of organizational transformation. Cultural change may involve changing the basic values, norms, beliefs, etc., among members of the organization in order to improve organizational performance.
It is not for the faint of heart, or those looking for a quick fix. Culture change can be made with a clear vision of the culture your business needs to survive in today's economy, an accurate assessment of where you are today and great leadership support.
"You get the best out of others when you give the best yourself." - Harry Firestone
Patricia Ferguson Ebner is CEO and principal consultant for Leadership Matters Consulting Group in Rapid City. Contact her at pat.ferguson@
leadershipmattersgrp.com or 718-4944.
Fitting Into Your Workplace Culture: Six Tips for Acclimation
By Jennifer Williamson, Distance-Education.org Columnist
Fitting in is a big part of succeeding at your first job after graduation. And workplace cultures can vary. Some are very casual; some are highly competitive; and others are hierarchical and corporate. If you’re not a natural fit for your job, fitting in may just be a matter of observing your workplace more closely—and taking deliberate steps to modify your behavior. Here are a few tips for fitting in at your first job.
One of the first aspects of fitting in with your workplace culture is looking like everyone else—or like your leadership, if you want to move up. It’s important to dress according to the office code. This is more than just following the official dress code laid down in the handbook. Take a look at how people dress in your office—including your boss. Is it formal or more casual? Does it clash with the overall dress code of the company? If you’re a sweater-and-khakis person and your department is full of suits, consider making your work wardrobe more formal.
Key things to pay attention to include the way people dress, how they communicate, how they compete, how social your office is, and the schedules your coworkers keep.
Notice how people communicate
Do people in your office prefer to email or call each other—even if they work just across the hall? Or are they more of the stop-in-and-catch-up type? Even if you’d rather email and your coworkers are more social, make an effort to stop by in person when you need to talk to someone. Or try to keep yourcommunications over email if that’s how people usually talk in your office.
Work on the same schedule as others
In some workplaces , most people stick to a traditional nine-to-five schedule. In others, there’s an unspoken rule about staying late to make up an hour spent at lunch, staying as late as the boss stays, or getting in extra early. Observe when your coworkers get in. Even if the handbook says you can get in as late as ten as long as you stay late, if your coworkers are all getting in at eight, you’ll make yourself stand out. Try to adjust your schedule to conform to what others in the office are doing.
Assess pace and competitiveness
How competitive is your office? Are people encouraged to participate in incentive programs? Maybe you don’t officially have to compete, but a lot of people in your office do. Even if you’re more a collaborator than a competitor, try to put more enthusiasm into the competition at your office. If you do, you’ll be more likely to fit in.
How social is your office? Do your coworkers go out for drinks after work, get lunch together, or organize fundraisers at the office? If so, it can make a big difference if you join in—at least once in a while. If you head home right after work or prefer to have lunch alone, it can come off as antisocial—even if you just prefer to unwind at lunch by yourself rather than interact with others. Put forth an effort to join in on group activities, and you’ll fit in better at this type of office.
Fitting in has a lot to do with observation skills. Take a look at your workplace culture and try to spot the patterns of behavior among your coworkers. Key things to pay attention to include the way people dress, how they communicate, how they compete, how social your office is, and the schedules your coworkers keep. If you can find a way to adjust your behavior to mesh better with these principles at work, you’re much more likely to fit in well at your workplace.
Social entrepreneurs: doing good business
Social entrepreneurs once had to go it alone with no one to guide them, but a growing number of courses are now available to help.
By Claudia Cahalane
Social entrepreneurism: The Big Issue was launched in 1991. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian
When entrepreneur and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus founded Bangladesh's Grameen Bank 34 years ago, there was no school or university to teach him about social entrepreneurism. Neither did John Bird have such a resource when he started The Big Issue in 1991.
Social entrepreneurs have traditionally gone it alone, working long hours to try to build their dream and change society, picking up any free tips and advice available along the way. But as education and training providers realise that more people want to run businesses that are not brutishly capitalist, a greater number of courses are being introduced that focus specifically on social enterprise. So what do social enterprise courses offer? And will they really help you on your way to becoming the next Yunus or Bird?
On a bitingly cold Thursday afternoon in December, a semi-circle of people of various ethnicities and ages are listening to a lecture on "innovation and learning within organisations", near the Bow flyover in east London. All are students on the three-year part-time BA in social enterprise run by health and social care organisation the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, in partnership with the University of East London (UEL).
They are discussing the need to consider whether their ideas for changing society are right for society. In other sessions, they do a mixture of classroom and hands-on learning, covering subjects such as analysing a changing society, understanding the public sector and profit-reinvesting organisations; co-operatives and mutalising; funding and financing; recruiting and staffing; and trends and innovations.
This is broadly the ground covered by a lot of social enterprise programmes, with some being a bit heavier on the social issues discussions than the business side.
The majority on the course are keen to set up social enterprises, such as Shernese Cowan, 25, who used to work as a cashier in a high-street bank.
"I couldn't have worked in a bank forever, watching loans being pushed on to people who couldn't afford them," she says. "I have some ideas about starting a social enterprise for young people and the course is helping me define how I'm going to do that and how I can make money from it. I don't think I would have ended up setting anything up without coming here," she says.
Dean Alfred, 32, is one of a handful on the course already running a small social enterprise. He admits that some of the material repeats what he knows, but adds: "I've picked up small gems here that have made a real difference to my business already. Some of the stuff I'm learning I never would have thought about. And other students here are now helping my business, Calibre Minds."
The course, currently on its fourth intake of students in 10 years, has helped to launch several successful social entrepreneurs, including Zoe Portlock, co-founder of award-winning social enterprise Bikeworks. Most of the students work or volunteer while they are studying and places are funded by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, provided students do not already have a degree.
When it started in 2001, the UEL course was the country's only BA in social enterprise, but a smattering of universities have started degree courses in the past couple of years and more are considering it.
The University of Bradford introduced a foundation degree in social enterprise last year and is now planning a full degree. And, since 2009, the University of Northampton offers a degree in social enterprise development. These are alongside informal courses run by small organisations, and master's programmes in social enterprise at universities such as Liverpool John Moores, Glasgow Caledonian Business School and Oxford Business School.
Senior lecturer on the Northampton degree is Tim Curtis. He is also one of the UK's official ambassadors for social entrepreneurship within higher education. Curtis says his course has 40 students for 2010-11, compared with 20 last year, and he expects it to get increasingly booked up. He adds that social enterprise will increasingly find its way on to academic agendas in the coming years.
The School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), which has a number of sites around Britain, will open its 10th UK school in Suffolk in January. Since spring 2009, it has opened five schools in Devon, Cornwall, Hampshire, Yorkshire and now Suffolk. On some courses, there are up to five applicants per place.
The school started in 1997 and hundreds of emerging and more established social entrepreneurs such as Roger Wilson-Hinds, who created Screenreader – an affordable screen reading software company – have graduated from the school. Places are heavily subsidised, meaning that the student rarely pays more than £1,500 for the one-year course and those who really cannot afford it, don't pay.
But the course isn't open to just anyone. Applicants have to undergo an intensive testing process to ensure they are right for social entrepreneurship. They will be asked to demonstrate previous commitment to social change and that they have real potential to set up and sustain a social enterprise.
Nadia Dajani went to the SSE from 2008-2009 and is now running a fairtrade fleece company called Didi Trading. She thinks the course gave her the support she needed to get the business off the ground: "I don't believe I'd have made the business work without the course. Lots of us were just starting out in our companies and we were a great support to each other. Setting up a social enterprise can be so hard; I might well have given up on my own."
Students on the course work with experts in private and social business to progress their idea and work together to discuss issues and barriers to the development of their companies, as well as go on visits to a variety of social enterprises to see them in action.
David Floyd, who founded social enterprise media company Social Spider seven years ago, is a current student on the SSE course and says it works for him because he's not academic and he does not have to take too much time away from the business.
"We do blocks of three days every five weeks or so, which is manageable. I've got a good mentor and am hoping to come out of the year with a full trajectory of where the business is going," he explains.
When it comes to social enterprise training, the SSE will often be the first name on many people's lips. The other is quite likely to be the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship's (part of Oxford Business School) MBA programme.
Current student, Tamsin Jones, says she feels the course works so well for her because it teaches strong business skills but in a social context: "I wanted to go on a business course with a social perspective rather than the other way around and that's what I got.
"I've been working with a non-governmental organisation called Mothers2Mothers for a number of years and its focus is on reducing the HIV infection rate in babies whose mothers have the virus. This is, of course, such a global issue that it needs a strong strategic business management approach. It's not a community issue, it requires bigger thinking.
"We are learning how to optimise funds and get returns for social businesses, how to scale up quickly and franchise. I think the course is critically important for someone like me. It shows you that with good intention, personal drive and good business skills, you can go a long way in changing the world."
Jones was one of the five lucky students awarded a free scholarship for this year's course, but a regular student will have to fork out more than £35,000 for the MBA, which can make it fairly exclusive. Most students are also not from the UK.
If you want to test your interest in being a social entrepreneur a little further before emptying your piggy bank of such monumental funds, have a look out for regular, less formal courses cropping up.
Before starting her degree at UEL, Shernese Cowan did a free course run by a venture called My Social Innovation for six weeks on a Saturday, which confirmed interest in social enterprise. And, Wandsworth council recently put on a free one-day social enterprises taster course.
The Social Enterprise Academy in Glasgow also runs a fairly comprehensive list of short courses, including an eight-day programme on starting a social enterprise. Those who favour the co-operative business model might try approaching the Co-operative College. It's based in Manchester, but lecturers travel.
Some courses, particularly the newer ones, might well have places at the moment. But because an increasingly diverse cross-section of people – from the ethical teenager and the recently unemployed businessperson to the charity and public sector workers managing huge cuts – consider becoming social entrepreneurs, they could quickly fill up.
But there's always the route available that many great social entrepreneurs have travelled before you, and that's the one where you just "go out there and do it". That was, after all, always the motto of another great social entrepreneur of our time – Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop.
How To Network
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Ever hear that what counts is not what you know, but who you know? Practice networking and before long you'll know just what's what and who's who.
To complete this How-To you will need:
Trade organizations to join
Good social skills
Step 1: Practice "Four F rule"
Practice the "Four F rule"—family, friends, family of friends, and friends of family. In other words, talk to everyone you can think of about your career goals.
Step 2: Have business cards made
Have business cards made so you have something professional to hand out when you meet people.
Step 3: Join organizations
Join professional organizations related to your field. For example, if you are a woman working in the media world, you could join the not-for-profit womeninfilm.org.
Tip: Websites like www.linkedin.com can help you find out what professional contacts your friends have.
Step 4: Listen to mentors
Listen attentively to potential mentors. As the saying goes, "You can make more contacts in two hours by showing interest in people than you will in two years of trying to get them interested in you."
Tip: Maintain eye contact when you are speaking with someone. There's nothing more insulting than a person who is looking over your shoulder for someone more interesting!
Step 5: Do them a favor
Listen for how you might be able to help someone else. Doing a favor for them is the fastest way to make them want to help you.
Tip: Do your research on the speakers at trade events, and have a pitch prepared for them.
Step 6: Contact former bosses
Contact former bosses. Research shows that one in three job seekers gets job search help from a previous employer.
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Career Building Skills For Success
By Tony Jacowski
April 29, 2008
You need certain skills for achieving success in a business or career. Based on surveys done on successful businessmen and executives, there are few learnable skills required to increase career advancement and performance.
Some of the important career building abilities and skills are:
Skill to sell: You should have good selling skills, so that you are able to convince customers to buy your products and services. If you are working somewhere then making sales for your company will also require good selling skills. There is no business that can be successful without sales. This also requires negotiation skills.
Skill to write well: There are many people who would be interested in knowing what you know - so why not write it down so that they can read it? Whatever you write should be precise, to the point and clear, so that anyone can understand it.
It is essential to provide written material that is not only convincing and believable, but motivational and constructive as well. It should act as a source of communication for people who want to know more about a particular topic.
Skill to speak: It is essential to know how to speak for yourself and your company when in a meeting. If you are able to speak in a persuasive and clear manner, then you can easily get approval for a budget or grab a new project.
Good speaking skills will also help you in organizing a meeting effectively, or even interviewing someone. Speaking skills can be learned from courses and books, but a lot of determination is required.
Leadership: This is a very important skill that can help you inspire people to do what you want them to do. If you are a team leader in an organization, then leadership skills will matter a lot.
Skill to judge people: This is also one of the most important abilities that could help you build a good career. If you are able to evaluate accurately and outline the possible options at work, it will help you choose the best available. When the choices are related to people then this skill works wonders.
You will be able to take decisions that are well informed and researched. This skill can be built more if you develop skills to think critically and lay out options in the right manner.
Organizational skills: Time management skills are also essential. Even in a business, you need to manage your time well so that everything works according to schedule. When things are organized, you will be able to accomplish your goals in an effective manner.
How to negotiate: This is one the basic abilities that can be used in persuading others. This is one talent that has a close relationship with motivation and selling skills. It is also an important leadership component.
Without a doubt, having certain skills will help you to build your career. If you work on the skills noted above, your career will have real staying power.
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solutions - Six Sigma Online ( http://www.sixsigmaonline.org ) offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.