By | Shital Kakkar Mehra | Executive Presence Coach for CEOs I Business Communication Expert I Best-selling Author I Co-Founder Katalyst, NGO
Q: I have started a new job, and I am wondering how to navigate a new work culture. Kindly advise.
A: Culture is a very powerful tool and is deeply embedded within the organization; it’s intangible and yet it’s all important. Once you layer this with the challenges of remote working, it can get tougher. When hiring new professionals, companies don’t explain the organisation culture and it’s left to the new hire to navigate his/her way in the virtual world. Once they join, most new hires, across levels, focus on their job and the new boss, failing to understand the finer nuances of the culture. A few tips:
Preparing: Schedule a call with your manager a week before you join officially to ask questions about the projects you will start on joining, any big events planned in the next 30 days and pre-read. Ask your boss about the culture and request him/her to use adjectives to describe it, making it more tangible.
Planning: Once you have connected with your manager, you will have a fair idea about work expectations, helping you make a broad 30-60-90 day plan. This plan should focus on setting goals and strategising about what you plan to achieve in the first 90 days.
Connect with boss: Once you have joined the company, request for a weekly video-chat with your manager, at least in the first few weeks. This will offer you an excellent opportunity to ask specific questions related to your work, hierarchy, decision-making, feedback process, handling conflict, and ways to measure productivity in remote working. The more specific your questions, the higher your chances of getting concrete answers. In your weekly calls, owing to remote working, you will have to prepare more slides / data points to share with your manager.
Assessing: During every e-meeting, make mental notes: Is the team punctual during internal / external meetings? Do they keep the video on when speaking? Who speaks the most during the meeting? Do colleagues deliberate on a point or are decisions taken at a higher level? Does the boss allow others to share ideas? What are the top 10 words or ‘lingo’ used? Observe carefully and try to understand how power is handled and the political landscape. Understanding the culture will help you make adjustments in your behaviour as you will gain insights into the expected code of conduct, leading to higher acceptability.
Identify allies: Find the peer/ colleague / HR professional who can answer your questions and make an effort to schedule an e-meeting with him/her every 10-14 days. These meetings will ensure that you will get quick answers to your queries, some of which you may be unable to share with your manager. Be authentic in your interactions with this colleague as he/she will be guarded and it will take time to build credibility / trust.
Create visibility: Who are the decision-makers within the organisation? Plan on interacting with them during a video call. Get a list of virtual events planned and ensure you attend them and make a valuable contribution. Do your homework and share your ideas when brain-storming during virtual meetings, creating a powerful impact.
Listen to your team members: Schedule one-on one zoom calls with the key members in your team and build rapport as you understand their roles better. Focus on these conversations and try to gain insights into how things work in this organisation. Gain an understanding on their preferred mode of communication and the levels of escalation being practised e.g. Do they prefer email conversations or audio calls? How popular is a video chat? Display curiosity and try to dig deeper to understand the layers of culture. Resist the urge to create a ‘quick’ impact – first listen, then learn and finally act.
Quick wins: Identify a couple of areas where you can get quick wins, displaying your capability and creating an impactful first impression. The most common areas to gain quick points are always related to either bottlenecks in the system / communication channels or cost-cutting measures which enhance efficiency / productivity.
(Article as it appeared in: Worklife+ newsletter (indiatimes.com) your weekly guide to building a great career and professional relationships timesofindia.indiatimes.com)