“The grass always looks greener beyond your cow pies.” -(We made that up.)
Tempted to switch organizations? Bigger responsibilities, title, pay?
Before you make the move, find out what the culture really is.
Unless, of course, you’re a serial job switcher only interested in how fast you can become a VP. This blog is not for you. Good luck. (You’ll need it.)
Culture matters. Culture is simply how people behave in an organization. Lou Gerstner, after his spectacular turnaround of IBM, wrote:
“…culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.”
According to a recent Booz & Company global study:
“Culture matters, enormously. Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture.”
So how can you assess an organization’s culture?
Look at the organization’s web site, blogs, Facebook page, Twitter feeds, newsletters, annual reports, and corporate responsibility reports. Search online for articles from reliable sources and bloggers. See if it makes any of the “best” rankings (most admired, ethical, sustainable, innovative, best places to work, etc.). Does it have a compelling mission and set of shared values that fit you?
Check out its financial performance versus peers. Check out its proxy report to learn the officers’ and directors’ compensation levels (are they paid excessively?) and stock ownership (are they bought in?). See if the majority of institutional shareholders are short-term hedge funds or long-term investors.
Most importantly, talk to people who work there, or who recently left (you can find them on LinkedIn with a little creativity). Contact them and ask for their candid insights, promising confidentiality. Visit the organization, take a tour, talk to people, and walk around and get a sense of the “vibe.” What metrics are displayed in the lobby? Only stock price? Hmm. Is there a back door you can enter to walk slowly to the lobby?
If you are already interviewing there, ask candid questions about how the organization approaches results, ethics, and sustainability. Ask what the culture is, and for recent examples. Ask how the values inform day-to-day decisions, with examples. Ask to talk to a star performer (egomaniac?), an HR officer (should know the real culture), and your potential peers. Are they browbeaten or fired up? Go to lunch or dinner with your potential boss and observe carefully how he or she treats the servers.
If you have doubts, don’t move.
The green grass you see may be full of cow pies.
Bob and Gregg Vanourek are co-authors of the book, Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards.