I was asked an interesting question the other day – “Why do new people say dumb things?” I, of course, provided a litany of answers that I thought quite impressive for a non-psychologist. And with that, I missed the point.
When entering a new organization, the first thing one must remember is it has it’s own culture – and that how important that culture is to each person will vary. So what a new person says in meetings, emails, and hallway conversations becomes very important as to how they will fit into, and be perceived by, the culture. Understanding and respecting the culture is critical, and it can’t be learned through reading a mission and vision statement – it must be learned experientially.
So while I may be tasked with helping improve lots of systems and processes, the first thing I need to understand is what makes the company tick, and how I can use my skill set to make it tick better. Too often new executives try to make instant impacts and impressions, implementing (or trying to implement) new programs and ideas in the first few months – after all, why else are they there. Often times they fail, not because the ideas were bad, but because they did not understand how the idea would work in the culture of the organization, especially if that organization has a very deep, strong culture. The conundrum is, they often times don’t have a choice, as the CEO who hired them wants immediate results and expects nothing but success, regardless of the culture; almost as if the CEO is blind to it (which could be the root cause of the problem…).
I’m fortunate enough to work for an organization that can take a longer term view, and although there may be opportunity for immediate impact, it is more important the impact is sustainable, and not a “flash in the pan.”
So for now, it’s simply time to sit down, shut up, listen, and most importantly, learn!