I’ve witnessed individuals ranging from interns to CEOs fail because they didn’t adjust to cultural nuances of their new organizations. So, I was very interested in the excellent advice in today’s New York Times from Linda Hudson, president of the land and armaments group of BAE Systems, a military contractor.
Linda has more than doubled the revenues of her division at BAE since joining the company in 2007. She is ranked 43rd on Fortune Magazine’s new list of the 50 Most Powerful Women. The entire interview with Linda Hudson is worth reading, but I wanted to call your attention to her specific career advice regarding corporate culture.
Q. What’s your best career advice?
A. I tell people that in a corporate environment, which is all I’ve ever known, first and foremost you need to understand the culture you work in, and find a way to make it work for you rather than trying to fight it. Corporations are very interesting machines. And what you need to look for is the informal power of the corporation, not necessarily the way the organization looks.
An early boss told me, spend the first couple of months in this job figuring out how things really work around here, and then go and establish allies with the real movers and shakers in the organization because that’s the way you will be the most successful. And I advise people to do the same thing.
You can never succeed in a corporate culture on your own. It is all about how you fit, how you know how to make things happen within the infrastructure and in a way that’s acceptable to the norms and values of the corporation that you work in.
Once you catch on to who really pulls the strings and where the real power base is, who you have to collaborate with, who you have to inform, who you have to seek for advice and agreement, you can actually make these big, very, very lumbering organizations work very, very well. It’s all about the informal structure. It’s about the critical relationships, and it’s about fitting in, in a constructive way, so that you really make your decisions that not only benefit yourself but benefit the corporation as well.