Easter is my favorite time of the year. Not only do I view it as a time of spiritual growth, but also as the start of the baseball season and spring! It also means the TV networks will be broadcasting the Ten Commandments staring Charlton Heston as Moses.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the biblical story of the Ten Commandments. Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness. He recognized that the people would eventually become a wandering, faithless mob unless he gave them rules to govern their conduct and their souls. So he climbed Mt. Sinai and days later, he returned with the Ten Commandments, inspired by God, and written in stone.
But this you may not know……. corporations have commandments, too! Because corporations are made-up of people, people who are on a journey toward fulfilling their collective mission, they too need to have commandments. Do corporations have Ten Commandments? No, in fact they have ELEVEN.
And the Eleventh one is: WE’RE NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT THE FIRST TEN ARE!
The ten commandments of corporations are hard to learn. A recruiter won’t tell you what they are, and your boss doesn’t want you to know what they are, either. Why? It’s not out of meanness, but because the commandments tend to get buried in the culture of the organization. In other words, they are part of doing business as usual, and few people ever think of articulating them. The unfortunate part is that if you, as an employee, don’t get a notion pretty quickly of what the commandments are, you’ll lose your job!
A real catch-22, isn’t it?
Well, I’m here to save you some heartache. Here are my take on the ten commandments of corporations gleaned from my 46 years of corporate experience. I’m going to spell them out one at a time and, just for fun, make them sound like the real Ten Commandments. Generally speaking, they are what companies want from their employees; what makes an individual important to an organization; and how they want you to behave in a corporate setting.
The Ten Commandments of Corporations:
1. You shall not confuse memorandums, company policies, and what your boss says with reality or the truth.
Most of the important and truly significant issues are usually kept secret. A careful boss will not say in a meeting, or commit to paper, sensitive topics. The rumor mill is always much faster than regular communications, and usually more accurate about what’ really going on.
2. You shall get all of the facts, but go with your intuition.
Edward Deming was fond of saying “In God we trust, all others must bring me data.” That’s extreme because it discounts the value of two critical tools all employees need to draw on, experience and intuition. Your first
impression of situations, people and things in the workplace are generally correct. And if not, you’ll learn the hard way to sharpen your instincts. After all, good judgment is the result of exercising bad judgment in the
3. You shall use flex time to come in late at your own peril.
That’s right, there’s no flex time, no matter what the official policy says (see commandment #1). In the May 2014 edition of the Harvard Business Review, they report that despite having flex time policies managers view coming in early as positive. And coming in late as negative. Lateness is a sin. Be smart and always arrive before your boss. Oh, and by the way. Leave for home after they leave. If you’re not at your best in the morning, then schedule your work for when you are at your best and buckle down then. But show-up early.
4. You shall think high tech but act low tech.
Technology is great for increasing your productivity. Databases can’t be beat for organizing information, and e-mail can be terrific, too. But people still like the personal touch. As often as you can, communicate personally.
Remember the “great and terrible” Wizard of Oz? All his showy thunder and lightening didn’t make much of a difference until he came out from behind the curtain and was himself.
5. You shall learn to read a financial statement and understand your company’s budgeting process.
Look, the purpose of business is to make money and to save money to invest in the future. Your company makes money by selling a product or service. Your company saves money by reducing staff, cutting benefits, lowering wages, decreasing the cost of goods sold of products and services, or increasing productivity. Learn how to recognize these activities in your company’s financial statements and budgets. The closer you can get to those activities, the better for you.
6. You shall understand that your performance evaluation is not based on what your supervisor says it is.
Keep in mind that the work goals and objectives being evaluated are objective measures of performance. A majority of supervisors include their own subjective evaluation to the mix, which is often at odds with the objective measures of performance. Make sure the boss is comfortable with you as a person!
7. You shall try not to take a sick day on Fridays or Mondays.
This speaks for itself!
8. You shall not panic when asked to do something you don’t know how to do.
Accept the assignment and confidently walk out. Then find somebody who does know how to do the assignment, or delegate it. Unless you’re asked to operate equipment or a machine, don’t worry about what the standard operating procedures say. Just learn what the finished product is supposed to look like, and deliver your own work only when it looks the same way.
9. You shall not confuse the organizational chart with who does what.
Get to know the real movers and shakers in the organization by looking at the culture. Who gets attention? Who gets things done? Identify them and then act like them. Doesn’t matter who the chart says is running things. Movers and shakers realize that no one gives you authority, you take it! Just act like the people who are influential. The more you appear to be like the leaders, the better your chances are for success.
10. You shall always tell the truth (but not necessarily all of it!)
No matter how unjust and unfair a company’s policies are, management does not like to be told how unfair and unjust they are. If you must offer constructive criticism, try not to be too direct. A good technique is to make “I statements.” For example, instead of saying “The department made a flat-out mistake,” say “I would have done things differently, and here’s how.” That’s tactful, and you’ll get to be known as an idea person, not as a chronic complainer.
If asked to identify your weaknesses, DON’T! Confession doesn’t make you look like you’re trying to improve yourself. It does the opposite, it makes you look weak. And the sad truth is that a timid and less confident employees will be singled out. Of course, no one feels confident or competent all of the time, not even your boss. So learn to fake it till you make it! Others will believe you’re successful because you sure act like it, and soon you will be, too.
So those are the ten commandments. Abide by them and you’ll do well. And try not to wander in the desert for 40 years, it’s very time-consuming!
About the Author:
Gabriel Najera is the president & founder of the Najera Consulting Group. Gabriel is a frequent speaker to organizations. And, is a highly sought after advisor to corporate and nonprofit executives looking to develop a strategic thinking mindset.
Gabriel is the author of the forthcoming book, Lessons From the Field: From Farmworker to Fortune 500 Consultant. Gabriel is available to speak to your organization. To inquire about scheduling Gabriel for an upcoming speaking engagement or to inquire about our consulting services, please click on this link.