Balance Goal Achievement with Appreciation for Culture

Posted on: August 22, 2020, by :
performance management

Appreciation for Culture is Key to Success

Many new managers think a focus on goal achievement is the key to their success as a new manager, but I disagree. After spending over 30 years in management, I consider appreciation for culture key to success.

Early on in my career, I had an extreme focus on achieving goals. Tracking goal progress weekly was normal for me. Over time, I saw how daily actions combined to culminate in goal achievement. I used this technique many times to achieve numerous, impactful goals. But goal achievement itself wasn’t motivating in and of itself, it was the continual learning to which I found myself addicted. Learning and development were my true motivators. This became evident as my career in management progressed. I learned early on the importance of culture and its influence over performance. Without this understanding, progress and success would’ve been out of reach for me.

Culture has been widely debated. Groups within organizations learn how to work together to solve problems and over time a deep appreciation for the methods used to get things done influence future performance. Individuals come to learn that “the way we do things” is respected and distinct to the organization. Other aspects related to culture are less concrete and tend to be taken for granted rather than those recorded in a policy or procedure manual.

If you want to be successful as a new manager, you’ll need to balance goal achievement with appreciation for culture. Consider these three aspects as you approach your new role.

Aspect 1: Culture is nuanced.

You need to talk with others to learn about the organization’s culture. You cannot fully appreciate the organization’s culture without deliberately gathering information. You need to invest time in building relationships and developing trust.

For example, you need to understand the culture’s norms when approaching business meetings. Do meetings begin promptly using an agenda or is informal conversation appreciated prior to the start of every meeting? Get clarity about what is considered normal within the organization and adjust your behavior to respect the culture.

Aspect 2: Hierarchy exemplifies culture.

Learn about the power structure within the organization. Talk with others to develop your understanding of how power and authority are viewed. Do people feel as if they have a voice in decision-making or are all decisions made by leadership? Are employees encouraged to make independent decisions? If so, under what conditions?

Make talking with others and learning about the culture a priority. Every day, focus on this simple step. It can be incredibly easy and powerful. You get to know your teammates and grow your appreciation of your new work environment.

Aspect 3: Communication practices illustrate priorities.

Communication practices reinforce what the culture values while demonstrating leadership priorities. Gather information to learn what communication practices are considered normal and attempt to learn which ones are the most effective and why.

You need to understand both the verbal and nonverbal practices and the extent to which employees speak directly and indirectly and under which circumstances. You should work to refine your communication practices to support those appreciated by the culture. You can communicate using your unique style but be mindful that the culture may or may not appreciate it. 

Showing an appreciation for culture accomplishes two objectives:

  1. It can help you shape the organization.
  2. It can increase your effectiveness by enabling you to get more done in less time.

Goal achievement is within your reach, but you need to appreciate the culture in which you’re working. When you understand and appreciate the culture, you become a part of the organization and are able to accomplish goals with the support of others.

Photo by Paul Bence on Unsplash