Every organization has its own unique culture. This culture is usually created and maintained by those in power and those who seek to advance their careers need to understand its subtleties. Understanding how people are rewarded and recognized will give you a clue as to what it takes to be successful in your work environment. And understanding this comes from observing and listening to those who have risen to leadership positions.

In her book, It’s All Politics, author Kathleen Kelley Reardon, describes four basic culture categories that organizations fall into.

  1. Control culture – focus is on rational decision making and cost-benefit analysis of methods and people; impersonal; “either you fit or you don’t.”
  2. Collaborative culture – focus is on people-driven decision making; atmosphere is informal; people work together; “you’re a team player if you’re with us.”
  3. Competence culture – focus is on standards to reach and go beyond; work is rigorous with a sense of urgency; excellence is the goal; “you’re either a winner or a loser.”
  4. Cultivation culture – focus is on catalyzing and cultivating the growth of people; there’s a concern for fulfilling potential and inspiring success; “you’re what you are becoming.”

Once you determine what the company culture is, then you can position yourself by communicating how you add value based on what’s important to the company.

If you work in a control culture, you must provide details of how you made decisions and the bottom line results of those actions.

If your company has a collaborative culture, you want to stress how your management of the team contributed to success.

Positioning yourself as a winner is important in a competence culture. In this type of work environment, it’s critical to be seen as hard-working and meeting and exceeding expectations. The standards of excellence are obvious and the focus should be on how you have surpassed all expectations.

In a cultivation culture, empowering your team will reflect positively on you as their manager and leader.

What type of culture does your company have?

Are you positioning yourself according to what you know about the culture?