During the course of my career, I have the privilege of working in different organizations.
From boutique agency to multinational ones, from local established enterprise to startup, from advertising agencies to working in-house as clients.
Awareness of diversity
I know people who had stayed and built their careers in the company of their first job for many years. They have seen only one kind of organization culture and probably the same way of working for many years.
While some were able to flourish well within that, the potential setback is that they are ignorant of how things move outside of the organization.
As a result, they can be less empathetic of different working styles and diversity.
My career moves across different organizations have significantly enriched my life. They enabled me to experience different organizational structures, cultures, people dynamics and the different running of corporations.
I am not encouraging job hopping, but I think there are merits to see “what’s out there”. Study trips and learning journeys to other organizations are great for bringing in new perspectives, but nothing can replace getting hands-on experience at the front row seats.
My experience has taught me to have better empathy for people from different backgrounds. As such, I appreciate that not everyone thinks the way I do. This helps me significantly when it comes to stakeholders and people management.
I have gathered insider views of how different businesses are run, through being in management positions in a number of organizations.
Expectation for changes and differences cushions me from any potential culture shock.
One can’t always get expect to be supported by a full army. There will be times I have to work as an independent contributor, especially when I am building a new team. Over time, I have learnt to work both ways.
It is important to be observant, to be adaptable in order to thrive.
Very often we have to move as part of a team consisting of people from different departments. Being a team player means one has to embrace different approaches to problem solving.
As a leader, I have to learn to leverage strengths and navigate weaknesses to make progress and deliver success.
How to sync
Upon joining a new organization, I would advocate spending at least the first two weeks talking to people from different parts of the organization, not just those from your immediate team.
Be humble and ask to understand their roles, how you can support and work with them.
People loves to talk about what they do.
Observe and read
You can learn the most by observing people and situations. Try to deduce the answers to “what people want and desire”, “what matters to them”, “what makes them tick”, etc.
Depending on their personalities, some are inspired by great visions and ideas, some trust in financial data and statistics, and others in operational details,
Be sensitive to the incumbent
Look out for the “not invented here” syndrome. I was personally at the receiving end of “We have done this for the last 30 years, what makes you think you can come to change us or teach us something new?”.
If your job is to introduce change, you need to tread with care to avoid losing allies too early in your journey.
I am a believer of design thinking which advocates empathy study as a crucial first step towards problem solving and innovation.
If you can show that you are willing to walk a day in the shoes of those you are helping, people are more open to collaborate with you.
I remembered listening in on the ordering hotline dialogues for Dell when I was servicing them as their advertising agency. The experience helped me to understand what customers were looking for when they custom-built their computers.
I once joined the staff on the supermarket floor during Chinese New Year to sell mandarin oranges. This was especially useful when I have to be involved in helping to curate or re-engineer operations and processes.
Decipher the celebrated values
Understand what the organization defined as success. This is important for you to define your goal and drive your team.
Healthy P&Ls are definitely crucial for all.
Different companies celebrate different things, they can include speed, happiness, creativity, meticulous processes.
Sync to thrive
These are the practices that have always worked for me, whenever I embark on a new journey with a new team or a new company.
Whatever it is, be open-minded, be ready for an adventure and just enjoy the discovery and learning.
What has your experience taught you? I would love to hear them.
This article was first published on Linkedin on April 4, 2019