The Importance Of Fitting In With Company Culture

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One of the biggest challenges an athlete will experience in the first couple years within the corporate world is adjusting to their new teammates and surroundings. Especially in the first couple years post-sport, how you fit in with company culture will play a huge factor in setting you up for success. You could be the Kobe Bryant of your “business” team, if you don’t fit in & get along with the business culture it will be an uphill battle for you that might lead to an early exit.

However, fitting in with the team culture is not hard. I know it’s a little thing but if done right, you’re well on your way to a successful post-sport career. Here are 5 things you can do to fit in with the business culture right away:

1. Your Business Team Culture Will Not Be The Same As Your Sport Team Culture:

On the surface level, the team aspect from sport is very transferable to business – your ability to work with a team, understanding each person has a role to play, working together to reach a common goal, picking people up when they are down and much more!

However the emotionally deep connection you had with your teammates will most likely not exist in the business world (especially in a large corporate). Let’s say you’re a basketball player, you and your teammates will live, breath and eat basketball! You’ll go to “war” together and go through ups and downs. You’ll most likely hang out after games and training and you will have a lot of commonalities. You can call each other by profanities openly, you can get in a fight at training and it somehow strengthens your relationship. Now, let’s say you work in recruitment – most people fell into recruitment. It’s enjoyable, however it’s not a life long passion that you and your basketball teammates pursued. In business people will have different passions, different interests and your team will most likely not be as emotionally connected as it was in sport.

Although you can’t 100% relax and be yourself within a corporate culture (you can’t really call your colleagues by weird names, you can’t punch someone in the face and be besties the next day), it gives you a chance to dig deep and discover your “business professional” self. You need to discover how to work with teammates who have completely different interests & passions to you and figure out how to bond with them. Find what their interests are, ask questions and become genuinely interested in them. It’s a great way to start completely stepping outside of “sport comradery” and learn how win and influence new people as it will be a vital skill in becoming a successful business person. Accept your new surrounding, be grateful of the life long emotional connections you made in sport and accept it can’t ever be the same again!

2. Be Overaly Enthusiastic

Companies want to hire and retain people who are excited about what they do. A genius employee with an innate ability to crush any logic problem and write the most complex algorithms may also be unfriendly and clearly only chasing a paycheck without having any real interest in the company. A good programmer, on the other hand, who is not technically brilliant but genuinely cares about the company’s mission, goals and values will almost certainly be the better employee.

How do you prove that you care? Show up early and leave a little late. Work harder then anyone in the office. Consciously try and be friends with everyone. Offer to buy your team coffee. Offer your help. Listen carefully and ask questions. Openly admit if you don’t understand something, ask to understand it, listen and implement what you learned. Walk around with a smile. Say “good morning” when you walk in and “see you tomorrow” when you go home. Acknowledge everyone, from the cleaners to the CEO and treat everyone with the same respect.

3. Ask Questions Then Ask More Questions

There’s nothing worse to a manager then when giving instructions to an employee, the employee says “yep, I understand,” yet they do the wrong thing! If you don’t understand something, simply ask. If you still don’t understand it, ask again!

Most athletes starting out in the corporate world will most likely have minimum to no skills & knowledge of the job….which is completely OK. You were hired based on your attitude and ability to learn new skills. To prove themselves, most athletes will act like they understand things and figure it out when the time comes. It’s great to have that confidence, but very risky. It’s a new job and new world, if you don’t understand ask questions. In fact, even if you understand still ask questions. Managers love it when new employees ask lots of questions – it shows enthusiasm and desire to learn.

Not only that, managers love it when you ask questions because it makes them feel important. Same goes for your senior colleagues, ask them questions too! It’s the quickest way to bond with them but also be known as the person “who really wants to learn and succeed!” This is extremely vital especially in the first 6 months.

Remember, it’s better to ask stupid questions and know the answer, then it is to ask no questions and be wrong.

4. Genuinely Get To Know Your Colleagues

Best way to develop rapport with your colleagues is to show interest in their interests & passions. Get to know what they are. But make sure it’s genuine! Ask about their weekends as it’s the most common way to get people to open up about what they do outside work. Dig deeper and probe. Ask about their kids & family and note their names.

When you get people talking about what they love it releases postive vibes & energy in them (dopamine). Therefore you will be associated with those postive vibes. So every time they look at you or are around you they feel good. This doesn’t only apply to your colleagues it applies to clients, customers and anyone you come across in business! Get to know people’s interests and passions.

5. Stay Away From Office Politics

Office politics – people talking behind each other’s backs, backchatting & complaining, disrespectful & unnecessary arguing, ass kissers, useless & boring team meetings where nothing gets done, undeserving promotions, favouritism and more.

Stay away from it all and remain neutral. Don’t choose sides, be mature and use your commons sense. Maintain your positive & professional reputation. If people come to you for advice or to vent be as respectful as possible without slandering or putting anyone else down. Offer advice in favour of progression, positivity and the bigger picture.

You might come across a high achieving senior sales person who will gravitate towards you for various reasons (a lot of people will love to hear more about your pro sports history, use it to your advantage to build rapport) and want to drag you along to long lunches and drinks at the pub. Don’t get destructed. Respectfully refuse! He or she can do that because they’re making money for the company…you’re not yet! Exceed your target then you can take a few long lunches here and there!

And lastly, there will be boring & useless team meetings – stay enthusiastic and remain postive. The best you can get out of these meetings is observing how the manager is or is not keeping everyone engaged. As you never know the day you may become the manager and the one running the meetings. You will then know what or what not to do to keep the meeting interesting and engaging.

A book I highly recommend to read – How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie.

It’s a step by step guide on how to succeed in business.

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