LOOKING IN AT CULTURE – MY YARDSTICKS

Most organizations boast of having a culture. And no one is wrong when they do so, because every organization does have a unique identity and a way its employees perceive that identity. Organizational Culture, as defined on businessdictionary.com, is “the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization”.
Removing all the jargon from this definition, what it really boils down to are some basic questions. What does the organization believe in? How does it react to employees who may not share the same beliefs? Do the employees feel proud and happy to work for the organization? Or is it one long dreary engagement between two unlikely entities?
So much has been written on organizational culture and matching the employee and the organization and so on and so forth, yet we find a high number of dissatisfied, disgruntled and positively unhappy employees around us in this corporate world. So here are some of my yardsticks to evaluate or understand an organization’s culture – looking in from the outside. Starting from the first job these yardsticks are valid and have value in every transition made.
1.       The Start
There was once an interview I attended where the interviewer questioned me for about 45 minutes. When I stepped out I felt like I had just committed a felony and had been interrogated instead of being tested for my knowledge on the relevant subjects.
Many companies approach the interviewee with the idea of stressing them out, purportedly to understand the individual’s capability. However, my view on this has always been that jobs in the corporate are not ‘life-endangering’ and ‘constantly under stress’. Compare a job in marketing or finance to one in a hospital- as a surgeon or a nurse. People quite literally perform under stressful conditions there! However in business you have time to evaluate your options to approach a problem in the best way possible, especially jobs at entry and mid-level. So the concept of stress interviews never has made sense to me.
2.      The People
When you walk in through the door, you notice a lot of small little things- the décor of the office, the arrangement of cubicles, a professional air around the place and so on. Yet, to me, the most important and palpable vibe comes from the people. When you sit down and the interviewer asks you if you’d like a glass of water, you know they think a little beyond themselves. Trivial and obvious as it may sound, there are many places where the interviewer may dispense with this or other cursory politeness. This for me is a no-go. The demonstration of care begins from minute one. Because culture is not something that begins when you join or stop when you leave – it is the cumulative effect of many such small behaviors.
3.      Scope to Learn
Unless you are at the point of retirement, every job will have a learning curve. The biggest challenge for most organizations is to keep this curve steep for as long as possible. When evaluating a job, I believe, figuring out the organization’s attitude towards encouraging learning is critical.
If you choose to pursue a course to improve yourself, would the organization support the move? Would the job give you enough time at work to read up and research the latest in your field of work? Would it be viewed as something one should do on one’s own time? Answers to these questions would help in assessing the organization’s attitude towards enhancing your learning experience. And this is for me an integral part of the work culture.
4.      Your Peers
Our experiences at our workspace are largely defined by our peers. How your colleague responds to you will essentially make up how you are going to behave in the organization. When your peers guide you, encourage you, and help you learn the ropes you know you have the right support system. Additionally if you can use them as sounding boards for great ideas and they respond to you, you know you have struck gold! What is important here is the fact that the organization is an eco-system comprising of you as well as others. The better you vibe, the better your experiences in the organization.
5.      Your Boss(es)
This seems like a no-brainer in the organizational culture context. Statistics say that amongst the most common reasons people are looking to quit their jobs is the fact that they are dissatisfied with their bosses. They associate a plethora of problems linked to poor leadership. You can read some instances here. So what is seemingly obvious is for some reason not so obvious. When you join a organization you look for leadership and direction but on a more personal level, you look for challenging tasks, fulfilling work allocations and appreciation- all of which the boss will hand out. So often, organizations invest in building a culture and then fail in maintaining it because of a few bosses who believe otherwise! Culture is as great or weak as it is in the hands of your managers.
To some the above points may seem like the makings of an ideal and perhaps unrealistic work culture. But truly, culture-wise, there are many organizations today that are consciously investing in giving their employees the best they have to offer. Some offer work-life balance, while others offer a great work atmosphere, while still others offer great learning opportunities. When you see the right mix of some of these aspects; you can be sure that the organization has taken efforts to build its culture with great care.  
If you lead an organization, you may want to relook at some of these points to take a reality check on what prospective colleagues read about your culture when they meet you.
Write in to us with your thoughts on building or evaluating culture, especially in start-ups and growing businesses. We think it is a very important aspect of building a sustainable organization. Which is why some of this will be discussed in our People panel on Inception Day on 1 st June 2013. Read more about that here. For Event details click here:  http://tinyurl.com/adktfmz and for Registration click here:  event.ayojak.com/event/inception-day-2013
About the Author:  
Madhumita Ganapathy  - Associate Consultant at Inception Busi ness Services
Madhumita is a brand marketer known for her exuberance and zeal for getting things done. An MBA grad, Madhu started her marketing career at ITC and has been with IBS since mid-2012. She has contributed immensely to shaping  some of our young client brands. She now supports us in her new role as Associate Consultant based in Connecticut, USA. Apart from her passion for brands & marketing, Madhu loves classical Indian dance, travel and writing.
Connect  Madhu on LinkedIn.
or
Connect with her via email at  madhumita@inception.net.in
Author – Team Inception

Categories: Office Culture, Organization, Peers, Work, Boss, Colleagues, Culture, Employees, Learning

Manners Matter

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Image Courtesy & Source: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2009/07/20/
Recently, I was putting together material for a leadership development initiative for our client. One chapter in a book I referenced talked about “Manners” and how sometimes the managers who are competent but fail in collaborative work are the ones who simply put, lack “manners”. [*]
Seems overly simple? People who fail working with other people well are those who ignore basic courtesies of human interaction and professional courtesy. The more I thought about this, the more I realized it IS true.
We may call it empathy or emotional quotient or use any other term, but in essence, it probably all does boil down to manners. Or should I say good manners. In every situation, handling a meeting, giving someone negative feedback, rejecting a candidate or a vendor: I have always noticed that the great ones do it politely, firmly and effectively.
Ever so often, we can use a gentle reminder about the basic things in life and the idea of penning this blog was to list out the manners in professional practice that help make a great manager, in my book.
  1. I'm running late: You may be late for a meeting, but it is bad manners to not inform those who are waiting for you. Traffic snarls, time spills, we are all victims to time thieves that highjack our schedule. If you’re late, let people know. After all, they DID make it on time against all odds J
  2.  He may be wrong, but you can’t yell at him in public: You have a team? Someone is bound to mess something up sometime. Don’t yell. Communicate. Personally, I feel worse when I drop the ball & the other person is calm and polite about my mistake and not yelling at me.
  3.  Rude is not the same as cool: You may be the wisecrack around but stop short of being rude, even when you have been provoked. 
  4.  It does not matter if you are the client or the employee or the vendor: No matter which side of the equation you’re on, it doesn’t give you the right to be obnoxious to someone – anyone. Remember, what goes around comes around.
  5. Telecallers are only doing their job: Yes, I am familiar with the most annoying among their breed but still, remember someone is only trying to do their job, perhaps trying to be too persistent at it. Don’t buy what they’re selling, but you don’t need to break their spirit.
  6.  Don’t cut into people’s meal times unless you’re taking care to feed them: One of our clients is so thoughtful that he ensures that we are always well-fed during our meetings. There is never an instance when we extend a discussion over a couple of hours or lunchtime without being offered food or refreshment.  It is a lesson I’ve taken to heart. It is a basic courtesy. If you’re the boss and need to give your team grief about their performance, they’ll hate it less if they’re not hungry.
  7. Say Thank you: Someone did her job well? Say thank you without trying to evaluate if she needs to be thanked for doing her job. Overthinking is a waste on this one.
  8. Get someone else to read your angry tirade mail before it goes out: Goof-ups happen. People deserve to be told they caused it. But if you’re angry when you typed that email – chances are the anger overrides the message. Get some one to read and if necessary tone it down. There are exceptions to this guideline and I am guessing most of us will have the sense to use the exception wisely.
  9.  Smile: - Really, I mean it. Even if you’re carrying the entire burden of the world on your shoulders. Smile. You’ll feel lighter too.
  10. Is this a good time? In some of my earlier teams, calling a reportee at 10 pm (no it was not a BPO or 24by7 operation!) for a chat was totally acceptable. And in the same organization, I met a senior manager who would hesitate to call after hours or if he HAD to, first check or apologize for the inconvenience. No prizes for guessing whom I respected more.
  11. A gesture means more, when it is not required: Sometimes a courtesy is appreciated simply because it is not required. Going the extra mile for a simple gesture is hardly ever going to cost you much or go wrong. A colleague returning after a sick day off will always appreciate someone who says welcome back and hope you’re okay this morning.  A thank you note for some one who did you a good deed may not be expected by the other person, but would be much appreciated for the very same reason.
  12. Give credit where due; if in doubt give it anyway: Acknowledging people’s contribution to a result or outcome is basic, simple and oh so often missed out once the job gets done.
  13. You’re not hired but good luck with your career: Yes, applicants you rejected for that job are people too. You don’t need them anymore (not today atleast) so it is easy to forget them. Dropping them a line that the position is closed and wishing them luck in their future won’t take time but it shows good form on your part.
Well, these are my top 13. I can go on but I guess you get the gist. Feel free to add your own and make this list more comprehensive. I’m sure we all have some people to whom the entire set would be a welcome gift J for self-improvement.
- Pavithra Charan
  Blog 2013#1
About the Author:  
Pavithra is Founder & Partner at Inception Business Services. A Marketing & Management professional with a keen interest in people and passion for ideas, Pavithra moved from being a Banker & Wealth Management professional to entrepreneur. Working with start ups, Brand management, Customer engagement, Content creation and Coaching/Training are areas of work that most excite her. Multi-tasking entrepreneur, mother of a 3 year old and wife of a businessman, Pavithra confesses that her 2013 resolutions include being regular with her blog writing and any encouragement in that direction is welcome. Mail her at pavithra at inception.net.in. 
 



[*]   The Effective Executive – by Peter   F. Drucker
Author – Team Inception

Categories: Empathy, extra mile, Learning

The Saga of Sales - Team Blog#2

Team Blog by Mala Dhalani - Head, Marketing Services @ IBS

For someone who dreamed of the “Brand Manager” designation while at B School, I have spent the first four years of my corporate life in Sales. As if being a Sindhi was not enough, numbers assumed a different level of importance in my life because of sales. Targets, Pipeline, Month-Ends, Pressure, Cheque - all became an inextricable part of my vocabulary. With pressure levels at most times being higher than the humidity levels in Chennai, I have seen many a people try their hand and succeed or fail at this art of sales. Now, no longer a “salesperson”, I can stand back, take a look and weigh exactly how much of a value add the last four years have been and I am amazed. Some very important learning’s as I look at them:

Empathy – Sales has certainly taught me to be more human. I no longer shoo away salesmen of vacuum cleaners or brash fully disconnect the call on a credit card salesperson. I know the grit, the hard work, the motivation and the sheer courage that it often takes to either land up on the doorstep of a stranger or to try and convince someone you do not know to buy something (in some case they do not even know what they are selling J ).


Getting over your biggest fear “Rejection” – If you are afraid of rejection, I strongly recommend a sales stint. It happens so often that you have no choice but to get over it! I would rate this as one of the top three learning. Sales has made me tougher, helped me get over my inhibitions, be more confident and most importantly helped me accept “NO” as an answer graciously (sometimes not so graciously too).


Quickest way to fame – The feeling of success in sales like no other. First and most importantly, there is the personal satisfaction of holding that cheque in your hand and knowing that you have earned your salt. Be it any value, the sense of being a contributor to wealth creation in the organization has given me very many instances to smile. Second, it is the easiest way to get recognized by the higher ups. Be it in a team of 1000 or 50 people, being in the top quartile gets you a guaranteed tete-a-tete with “THE BOSS”!


Geographical Understanding – Although I was born and brought up in Chennai, I never understood the geography of the city quite like I understood it when I started my first sales role. From knowing the secret routes to gaining ability to interpret directions (most likely received verbally from junta on road) I learnt the art of travelling through a city. Even in my second stint, where I handled a relatively small territory of five districts, the learning of the places, the modes of travel, exact places where you find roads (and not potholes), understanding of maps and shortcuts have been great takeaways.


Starting from scratch – No matter how your “Month-End” has been you always start the next with a “0”. The scoreboard is cleaned up and you need to run again. This particular learning has helped me immensely not just in business but life in general (had to get philosophical at some point). You could have been a star on the 31st and celebrated with a few beers or you could have been on zero the entire month and drank a few beers anyway (in depression) but on the 1st you are back on the starting line. It lets you move on, from your zone of comfort or discomfort and start afresh again and again and again, till it becomes a habit.


Growth and learning – My greatest learning comes from meeting and interacting with people from various walks of life. The last four years in this respect have contributed immensely to my learning curve hence making it very important to me. (I need to mention here that I have been in direct B2C and B2B sales where I have interacted with customers and users of the product/services directly). I have had the good fortune of interacting with people from industrialists to teachers from corporate honchos to fresh recruits from NRIs to farmers (and sometimes the not so good fortune also of meeting people with abysmally low IQ and EQ levels). Each of these engagements has been extremely enriching to say the least.


Business Perspective – In my view there is no other function that can give a better view of how the business runs than sales. As a sales person I interacted with almost all functions of the business - Marketing: salespeople are their direct customers; Operations: Only then is it possible to make relatively realistic promises to clients; Finance: They do not spare you unless you have your receivables all collected and kept in the bank. Now that I am spear heading our own business from scratch, I can understand most aspects of how a business runs thanks to my experience and in-turn also able to apply this learning to our clients businesses; because at the end of it I have realized that no outflow is justified if it cannot bring in the necessary inflow.


Staying the difficult times - The most important learning – to face customers when all goes wrong. I worked in the financial products sales from April 2007 to Aug 2009. The market levels during this period resemble an erratic ECG graph of a person during heart attack. It is not easy to talk to someone when you know that it any small way you are perhaps responsible for their wealth and hard earned savings becoming one third the value. But I did and I learnt my most important learning – people buy from people and stay with people. Most people have a bigger heart than we think and at the end each one respects that you have stayed the most difficult period and that’s mostly what matters and helps build some of the most cherished relationships.


All the pressure, the tensions, the rejections and the difficult conversations notwithstanding, the last four years have been a great experience (and some great money too – Incentives!!). Try your hand at sales atleast once, I guarantee you your own set of wonderful experiences. Happy Selling!

Author – Team Inception

Categories: Lessons, Marketing, Perspective, Rejection, Sales, Target, achievement, Business, communication, Corporate Sales, Empathy, Learning, Month Ends, Sales Pressure

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