Not too long ago, I met an executive who shared an interesting story about getting started in his current company many years ago. He was a fresh-faced graduate, mixing it up for the first time with leaders at a venerable old industrial company.

In the middle of a conversation with one of his colleagues, someone asked him about his weekend. Without missing a beat, he replied, “Oh, it was lovely.” The awkward silence quickly alerted him that he had said something wrong, or at least unusual.

It didn’t take long for this executive to figure out what it was. In this old-school company, people didn’t use words like “lovely.” Weekends were “good,” “productive,” even “excellent.” But lovely? Not so much…

What this executive had stumbled into was the reality that every organization has unwritten rules on how things work, what language to use, and how relationships should be managed. One of the first and most daunting challenges for any leader entering a new organization is to discover and understand those unwritten rules. As my recent article, Solving the Culture Puzzle points out, you can discover those rules by watching for a few key clues.

How about your organization? What are the unwritten rules that you’ve discovered? What helped you figure them out?