Chapter 3: The Real American Idol part 11
Who gets ahead in the corporate world? How often is it the smartest, most qualified person, and how often is it someone picked due to connections or politics? Of course it’s not an either or, but the higher someone goes in the company, the more the soft skills matter. One person’s style may work very well in one company, and be a flop in another. As important as it is to learn to “flex your style” I think it equally important to understand how inflexible corporate culture can be, so you can find the right fit for you.
So how does a particular culture evolve? It starts with the founders, and is propagated through continuing hires over time. Google, for example, is extremely deliberate about the type of people they are looking for, and has built an interview process looking to find “Googleyness.”
We want to get a feel for what makes you, well, you. We also want to make sure this is a place you’ll thrive, so we’ll be looking for signs around your comfort with ambiguity, your bias to action and your collaborative nature.[i]
New hires (aka Nooglers) go through a specific series of steps to become acclimated to Google, which sometimes even wearing a fraternity pledge style hat.
While Google takes great pains to foster an anti-hierarchical culture, that is not always the case in the corporate world. Many managers are looking for the Mini-Me. Mini-Me was a character in the Austin Powers movies, a clone of the villain Dr. Evil. Mini Me is a favorite, because he rarely speaks and just mimics the expressions of Dr. Evil. Funny stuff, and I laughed when a senior manager used the analogy to describe the “big boss.” In her words
Within a business unit, there were favorites based on behavior [that come from the] guy at the top. If you fit what he liked, you did well. He didn’t appreciate diversity. He wanted the Mini Me, everyone [to be] like him exactly.
Whether your company is looking for its version of the Googler, or allows pockets of Mini-Me, the general point is the same – a corporate culture will select for a certain kind of person, perhaps more accurately a certain kind of behavior.
[i] http://www.google.com/about/jobs/lifeatgoogle/hiringprocess/ retrieved August 9, 2012