It’s all about the match. If it used to be about credibility, experience, or job performance, it isn’t any more. There is one criteria in the executive world
that is most important, and it isn’t even a Harvard MBA.
Unless the CEO has one, and then you are a match!
Did you ever wonder why someone was downsized or just outsized?
Think of someone who has been with a company for several years.
Did they suddenly become a bad employee?
The most important characteristic in today’s executive world is “the match”.
And it is not just in the executive world. It applies to you if you have your
own business or work in someone else’s business. It affects the customers, clients, patients, guests, and members that you attract and the vendors that
Let’s look at the tale of three women:
Tale #1 Groomed for CFO
Dee worked in the financial department of a national company for 8 years.
When the company was acquired by an international consort, much of the financial team that was ahead of her was escorted out the door. She has
been identified as the CFO on a two year plan.
She will spend the next two years developing her leadership and communication skills. She needs to learn how to match them to the new culture of the now international ownership. She is held in high regard by the new ownership.
They are investing in her early in her executive career. Her future is bright.
Tale #2 HR gone awry
Karen has been in HR for 20 years. She has gone through five buy-outs, and held together uncertain employee teams. The present employer sees HR as a branch of the company to execute strategic initiatives not to develop them. Present employer sees HR as the warm and fuzzy wing of the company.
Karen is not warm and fuzzy. She needs to learn how to match her qualities to the culture of the new ownership. Her long term future is uncertain.
Tale #3 CFO versus CEO
Elaine is an 8 year CFO of a company that became an ESOP in recent years. The new CEO is not strong in the leadership or financial arena. The CFO has a take no prisoner leadership style. She needs to learn how to match her qualities to the culture the new CEO envisions for the company. It is a difficult although not impossible match.
Each of these women’s “stock” has changed as the culture of their company changed. Karen and Elaine have to work quickly and intensely to develop skills that match the culture they are now in.
Every company has a culture.
When Phil Knight stepped down as CEO, he hand-picked his non-Nike successor. Thirteen months, a mere sprint in sports analogy later, he was replaced with a CEO who was Nike born and raised. That’s their culture.
Culture is not forever stagnant. Culture changes as executives, ownership, challenges, and the times change. Are you developing with your culture?
Ten ways to be a match:
1. Do homework first.
Being a match is an interactive experience, and it requires your interaction. You have to figure out how to be a match. It is not up to a company to figure out how to make themselves a match for you, or how to make you a match
for them. That’s where companies go awry: when they match a civil engineer to an IT position.
“Culture Change” is a great buzz-word and most organizations today say they are undergoing some form of culture change. However the lack of true understanding of what is required to be successful in achieving cultural change is astounding and incredibly naive.
When strength, seniority, or performance collides with culture- culture wins every time.
2. Correctly identify the culture that exists, not the one you want to exist.
The CEO of one company insisted that each direct report was assigned a coach to help them develop the skills required to manage the ‘individuality’ of the people in the firm’s diverse workforce. This practice became the norm and leadership ratings in the annual staff survey increased by nearly sixty percent.
This is not the norm! Companies have a culture and it will benefit you to correctly identify that culture. Culture always, always, always comes from
the top. Don’t mistake the culture at the bottom for the culture in the boardroom.
3. Stop. Look both ways before crossing.
Look, watch and listen. Ask questions and you will find the culture.
4. Emulate the CEO.
Literally and figuratively you can emulate the culture of the company.
One of the easiest ways is by adopting NIT. Within reason, adapt the mannerisms of the CEO. Also consider dress and hobbies. In San Diego, a new fad is the 5:00 am trip to the ocean to surf. Leaders of industry have
been identified as “surfers: so those wanting face time go hang ten with them.
5. Stay true to self
Adapting to the culture of an organization will work only if you stay true to your self. But that said, look for ways to adapt yourself to the culture and the culture
to you. For instance, you like to send email late at night. The culture of the company is less intense. So write the emails at midnight but don’t send them until 8 am.
Are you a match? First you need to identify the culture and then decide what you need to do to be a match. You can reinvent yourself to be a match to the present culture of your company, if you want to do the work. “You have to be willing to learn all over again, to reinvent yourself. You have to be stupid.” Christos Cotsakos, CEO, E*Trade,