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Are You a Cultural Misfit?

Have you “married” the wrong organisation?

Take the example of Sue. After ten years in management with the public sector, she was ready to redefine her career and move on. She chose the charity sector where she had a passion for a cause. She set her sights high and was ready.

She landed her dream job as Head of Department with a large charity who were expanding abroad. She was committed and excited about the opportunities ahead.

Technically Sue was more than capable. She had an excellent track record in management and experience in her new sector. Sue thought everything was going well until her probationary period was extended. Something was clearly amiss.

Although Sue received specific feedback, she became aware she didn’t fit their culture. One difference was her style of decision making. She was “too collaborative and consultative”. Sue believed her approach was right; she was aiming to increase the engagement of her team. The organisation wanted her to be more confident, show more drive and assertion. All good leadership attributes.

However, this created a conflict for Sue. She accepted she could learn to be more assertive, but she wanted to do this without compromising her values of respecting others. The behaviours she noticed by other Heads, were aggressive and at times bordering on bullying. This approach wasn’t her style.

A few months on Sue realised she didn’t’ fit their culture, their way of doing things. Through her coaching, she learnt what she could do differently next time:

Become self-aware. What are your blind spots? How do others perceive you? Are they right? How would you know?

What are your values? Determine what’s important to you. Our values shape our identity, give us direction and affect how we make decisions.

Develop resilience. Even top performers experience setbacks. Dust yourself down, learn what you can do differently, get back up again.

Become flexible. Adapt your behaviour to ensure good communication and rapport. This isn’t about compromising your integrity, but being adaptable to different situations.

Realise sometimes there are things you just cannot influence and maybe it’s better to walk away than stay ‘married’ to the wrong organisation.

In hindsight, Sue acknowledged she could have approached her first 90 days differently, and made different decisions.

The good news is, she has proved she is resilient and landed another Head of Department job in the charity sector and thriving!

Professional Executive Leadership and Career Coach

Member of AC, ILM, Qualified Coach (Distinction) LCA

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