The reality is that sometimes an employee is confronted with a culture that encourages sameness: copying best in class organizations, following academic pedagogy, complying with non-practical consultant advice and conforming to many internal company practices.
Some organizations want you to comply, but there are ways of breaking out.
They feel stifled; stepping out from accepted norms in terms of how their job is performed is simply not an option if one is to avoid being labeled as a loner—not a team player—and if they want to keep their job.
So what options does someone have if they want to be creative and be different but the culture says conform to the traditional established scripture?
First, recognize that the world is not black or white; either fit in or step out are not the only considerations when faced with this dilemma.
This is the approach that I used in an organization that reeked of adhering to strict standards.
#1. Define the areas of the job where conformance is expected and no deviation is tolerated.
If, for example, copying best practices is mandated for a specific function in sales like sales funnel management in order to have everyone doing it consistently then accept it and perform the function in amazing fashion.
#2. Define other aspects of your current role where compliance rules haven’t been defined and step out in these areas.
To illustrate how you might go about stepping out of the conformance challenge, here are some simple actions that worked for me to perform my roles differently than others and shed the shackles of compliance.
#1. Personal brand — Build your personal brand strategy on the principle of standing out from the crowd. You need a strategy to guide your actions outside of the conformity zone. Look for opportunities to breakaway in areas that add value to the organization.
#2. Teamwork — Lead the teamwork process with other functions in the organization to get more support for your own team. A simple act that will benefit the entire organization; get known as the person who championed the cause.
It’s unlikely that others will be willing to go the extra mile in this area; you’ll be recognized as someone who is breaking away and adding significant value to the organization.
#3. Relationships — Try to find a way to be the champion for relationship building both inside and outside the organization. Look specifically for how to engage with customers and bond them to your company.
Long term success requires intimate customer relationships and loyalty; create your own rules for doing this and teach your colleagues.
You will be substantially rewarded for this stepping-out act.
#4. Contrarian — Outside of the compliance zone defined by the organization, be audacious in doing the opposite of what you observe others doing.
Take leadership to eliminate boilerplate and copycat thinking and focus on innovating and creating new approaches to how the organization conducts business.
#5. Cravings — Gather people ‘cravings’: those deep innermost wants and desires people have but will tell only their most trusted partner. This can be practised with colleagues and ultimately with customers and partners.
This is an area you can easily breakaway from the traditional ‘needs based’ way most organizations do marketing.
Cravings not only pave the way to building loyalty, they also enable you to step away from the common ways others perform their roles.
#6. Report card — Introduce an internal report card; rate others on how well they support your organization.
This is an excellent way to enhance the support received from other functions in the organization and be innovative in improving the performance of the organization without being spotted as a non-conformer.
#7. Customer champion — Look for opportunities to step up to be the customer’s champion inside your organization. Be that person who does whatever it takes to get an issue resolved if it comes your way; shield the customer from the pain of having to deal with your bureaucracy, rules and policies.
Talk up and behave live THE customer advocate among the others in the herd around you.
You can be different in an environment that mandates compliance and sameness.
And you can be an effective agent in changing the culture of your organization from a copycat to a vibrant, innovative and creative one.