The New Kid in Town? 3 Tips For New Executives to Succeed in the Corporate Culture

Business Meeting

Just landed that great new job?  Feeling excitement, nervousness, and anticipation?

Take this to heart: A sobering 40-60% of new executives fail in the first 18 months on the new job – often due to corporate culture misfit.

One success factor is to take charge of a proactive on-board plan. Don’t expect it to come from your company – people need to “self-manage” more of their career success in today’s self-reliant cultures of shrinking budgets and leaner management. The goal is to smoothly assimilate into the new corporate culture, but at the same time you are in a unique position to assess where the culture is weak and incapable of executing plans effectively. The combination of “fitting in” and “being a change agent” strikes a delicate balance.

Brian was an up-and-coming sales executive who took a new role with a large company to lead their mobile advertising group.  Here are 3 tried and true strategies that comprised his on-board plan, so he could make a running start in his new role:

#1 – Log early wins.  In the first 90 days, make a visible and useful change, based on a “pain point” within your core team. Don’t come in and clear the forest, just listen to what people want and change something. Here is Brian’s 3-bullet “early wins” plan:


  • Set an explicit goal to learn the culture and how you fit in with it.
  • Generate 1-2 quick, visible wins, to land a sizeable mobile ad contract.
  • Identify key people who have “influence” and develop a clear plan for how to get to know them.

#2 Perform a 30-Day Ramp-Up – Call it that. Conduct 15 minute interviews with as many people as possible. Not all have to be in person, phone is fine. Everyone likes to be consulted for their input, and you get to know people and build rapport. Don’t limit yourself to people in your department. Find out who you can get to know across boundaries. More organizational transparency and collaboration is the name of the game today. Start with: “My goal for this role is to partner with companies to make mobile successful here …” Here are the questions we used for Brian’s 30-day ramp:

  • “What top suggestion do you have to generate success toward this goal, visibly and soon?”
  • “What thoughts do you have about how we can work together?”
  • “What do you want me to know about the culture here?”
  • “Who around here has great perspectives or ideas, that I should know about?”

The bonus? You will learn exactly what you need to do to lead change … and win support in doing it.

#3 – Freshen your style. A fresh start means a new chance to reinvent yourself. In writing, perform an inventory of your leadership style – what’s worked well, where you’ve fallen short. Decide consciously what to carry forward from your style at your previous company, and what you will shed or lose.  Here’s what Brian said:


What I want to carry forward:

  • Trustworthy and approachable: I was the go-to person when people wanted something done … and done right.  Became a trusted resource and expert.
  • Good at clarifying roles and responsibilities – “Who owns this?” Be clear about what’s expected of me, versus what’s expected of others: Ensuring right people were doing their job instead of everything falling on me.
  • Service mentality – “servant leadership” not admini-trivia. “What will it take for us to get this done?”

What not to repeat

  • “Too comfortable” and familiar – do less.
  • Be a buttoned up professional … maintain that in all relationships.
  • Lose the eagerness – I am here to make big things happen, not to give every person what they want.

I spoke to Brian after 2 weeks on the job, and he said this: Definitely a culture change from my old job, but nothing I can’t adapt to … given I have a clear plan!

Don’t leave the process of getting ramped up to chance: Be proactive to secure a reputation as someone who knows how to adapt and be flexible.

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