What I Realized about Managing Your Own Career - Journal Entry


Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. Names, places and events are either the products of the author’s neurotic imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. That is, unless you find the main character to be wise, charming and likable. In that case, it's definitely me.

Journal entry: December 24

You know what I realized today? There is a huge difference between "getting a job" and "making money."

If you only know how to "make money" by "getting a job," you can feel like you are trapped in a box with very few other options.

Me, I always liked the security of a box. And if I'm honest with my self, given the chance...today, I would probably scramble right back into a box. It gives me borders. It gives me predictability. It serenades me,

"Don't worry . . . about a thing,

'Cause every little thing gonna be all right"

There I was, building a great life for myself. A life in part, made possible by the box. I had the family I always wanted, lived in a great neighborhood and could even afford some of the nicer things in life.

Until one day . . . I get inauspiciously chucked out of the box.

And to get a little meta for a moment, I'm escorted out of the box by Security with years of accumulated personal belongings stuffed into a box, with the rest to be shipped to me later. Free shipping, or course. They wouldn't be THAT cruel!

And guess what?

It's not that easy for me to get back into my box or any other box.

Why not?

O let me count the reasons!

1) My salary no longer fits reasonably inside the box

2) I’ve outgrown the box professionally and don’t really fix inside it anymore

3) I've never paid attention to what was outside the box so I am clueless about what other boxes really want

3) I've never had to fight, climb or sneak into another box so I'm terrible at it

4) Unbeknownst to me, my box was an endangered species and there just aren't that many other boxes like it out there

5) The process of getting accepted into a box is like preparing for the Olympics. Qualifier after qualifier and you can knocked out at any point. Gawd, I hope it doesn't take 4 years!

So what's the lesson for today?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-box. I'm pro-options. I'm pro-awareness. And starting today, I'm pro-active so I wrote the manifesto below as a reminder to myself.

Don't Get Boxed Manifesto

1. Starting today, I'll learn how to earn a living with or without a box.

2. If I ever go back into a box, I will make it a priority to pop my head out on a regular basis so I know what is going on.

3. I'll keep all my skills sharp, regardless.

4. If I start to outgrow the box, I will not allow myself to get trapped in the box by my own fears, inertia or lack of imagination. I’ll find a bigger box that can hold me.

When it Comes to Fixing Mistakes, Timing is Everything


In the Mirror Series: How Seeing Ourselves More Clearly Can Make the World a Better Place

Part 3: The Apology Window

Have you ever messed up so badly you wished you could just curl up into a ball and disappear? Have you ever said something so horrible you fear that apologizing will only make things worse?

When you’ve done or said something truly unspeakable, it’s not unusual to feel an incredibly strong urge to not speak of it. In a way, to wish it out of existence.

The problem is an injured person is like a camp fire. It seems like if you just leave it alone the fire will go out on its own. Instead, what usually happens is though it may look like it is out, the embers deep in the ash are still alive and all it takes is a little kindling to set things ablaze again!

Why do we hesitate to apologize even when we know we’ve done something wrong?

One of the main reasons we resist apologizing is that doing so challenges our self image by making us face that fact that we acted badly. Not necessarily that we are a bad person, but that we did behave badly and hurt someone. And for some people, it can be difficult separating your actions from your identity of who you are. When this is the case, apologizing is even harder because in your mind those actions prove you are a bad person.

All this can add to a bitter Apology Procrastination Cocktail


1 part - It’s probably better to let them cool off first

1/2 serving - It wasn’t all me

1 part - I need time to find the right words


Pour all ingredients into an Awkward Container and stir until days, months or years have passed

Recently I said something hurtful to a friend. I tried to make a joke and semi-apologized, but as we parted I could tell they were still upset. My first instinct was to just let it go, but I had the feeling that it would just make it harder to repair the damage if I didn’t give a real apology. Luckily, I was able to get in touch with them right away and apologize the right way. If I’m honest I can say even though I know I did the right thing by apologizing, I really, really didn’t want to and maybe never would have if I hadn’t done it immediately.

In order to avoid this from happening to you, I suggest using the 5 Second Rule to help you time your apology. Unless the person is too upset to even be in the same room with you, a good rule of thumb is to apologize right away when you have messed up. If you miss this window of timing, you run the risk of never apologizing at all and jeopardizing your relationship with that person. In her book “The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage,” Mel Robbins shares her 5 Second Rule which is a great way to ensure you apologize right away.

Here’s the one-liner definition of the 5 Second Rule:

If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

Everybody knows someone who through a combination of pride, obstinacy, and you-go-first mentality has a once close relationship that has been damaged for far too long. It could be a parent or child, close friend or even a work colleague.

 It’s never too late to apologize or ask forgiveness and doing so will lighten your heart and help you move forward.

Your Move: What apologies have waited too long? How can you get started healing old wounds and moving forward?

Why Diversity Doesn't Always Work


These days it seems like you can't go a week without reading another article or being invited to another company meeting extolling the virtues of diversity. And can we just decide once and for all, whether it’s Diversity & Inclusion or Inclusion & Diversity? You have probably heard at least one of these statistics that are supposed to convince you that diversity is a magical elixir for all that ails corporate America.

Companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue

Source: Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market

Source: Josh Bersin research

Racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%

Source: McKinsey

Well gosh golly, if BCG, McKinsey and Bersin are all making the case, it must be a slam dunk, right?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a poster child for diversity. While still in my 20’s I was having some coverage problems, but refused to join the Hair Club for Men. Instead, I opted for the full Shaolin monk treatment. This was before shaved heads were relatively normal to see in the office. I still remember the look of distress on the face of the VP of Employment Law as he said, "There's something . . . different . . . about you today," just as he realized what it was. I let him off pretty gently. If this doctored photo of me is any indication, I think we can all agree that shaving my head was the right decision. Alas, my K-pop boy band destiny was never meant to be.


Still, sometimes I can't shake the feeling that there is something missing in the diversity discussion. Maybe you feel it, too. It's okay to admit it. The bald guy feels it, too. Maybe you feel like you have only been told the shiny parts of the story. It's like getting engaged to a charming someone with a high-paying job only to find out after the wedding that you are now drowning in debt. Or maybe there is a disconnect between the sexy statistics being thrown around and your own, less than glamorous experiences.

Enter Chris Jean-Charles - veteran of the United States Marine Corps, KPMG alum and former pet project of mine. My mission, as I jokingly told him, was to take this fit, disciplined, highly trained soldier and turn him into a soft, corporate marshmallow. There were some bright moments along the way (free pizza always helps and truffle fries might as well be kryptonite), but in the end I failed and for totally unrelated reasons, Chris moved on to follow his entrepreneurial pursuits. While we worked together, we talked a lot about how many of the leadership principles he learned in the Marines were applicable to corporate America.

Chris' unit.png

This got me wondering, how does diversity work in the military, where collaborating effectively can be a matter of life and death? Chris and I met over lunch at a local pizzeria (see what I did there?) to discuss. I wanted to get his perspective on what works and what doesn't. Below is a summary of what I learned.

"When does diversity have a negative impact?"

Having a diversity of ideas about how to do things is just the starting point. In order to take advantage you also need a mechanism to decide what ideas to keep and what ideas to discard. Otherwise, you have chaos as arguments about whose idea is best go round and round. So let's say you have that mechanism and a decision has been made. Guess what? We're still not done! You also need buy-in from everyone. Justin Bariso during the Why It Works podcast on EQ, discussed the concept of "Disagree and Commit," often attributed to Intel. You don’t have to agree, but once the decision is made, the entire team needs to execute fully in good faith. In other words, when people aggressively or passive-aggressively sabotage the implementation, you're going to have a problem. So there is a people management aspect that cannot be overlooked.

"What types of leaders leverage diversity positively?"

The strength of diversity is also its weakness. More viewpoints equal more points of friction. Some managers don't want to deal with challenges to their world view. In extreme cases, they just want yes-men/women or clones. This makes for less friction, but are they really getting the best results? We shouldn't overlook the way that diversity challenges your ego. The likely result, maybe even the point of diversity is to directly challenge what you, as a person, truly believe is the best way forward.

The best leaders realize they don't know everything. They realize that there is usually someone around who knows more than they do on a given issue. And guess what, this doesn’t intimidate them. They relish the access to this information. Even though the leader is responsible for making the final decision and is accountable for the results, that doesn't mean they must decide without input from others.

Another weakness of diversity is that more viewpoints can make decision-making less efficient because analyzing the additional options will require more time. It's important to recognize that not all decisions carry the same time-sensitivity. Good leaders know which decisions need to be made swiftly vs. which ones can benefit from further discussion, and they communicate this clearly to their teams.

"How can leaders effectively lead a diverse team?"

Three insights here. The first one surprised me, in a good way.

1. Make sure the team meets its goals. Excellence and success breed connection and collaboration. Mediocrity and failure invite blame and divisiveness.

2. Encourage healthy conflict and lead by example. Make sure people are not afraid to disagree with you or speak up. This will encourage them to disagree with their teammates as well. There is a great discussion of this in the business book, Radical Candor.

3. Set the rules of engagement for healthy conflict. While you want people to be passionate and to give voice to their disagreement, they should always be respectful. Fight over whether an idea is stupid, but don’t call others stupid for having an idea that is different.

I hope this has given you some additional, real-world perspective on diversity and if you are like me (the conflicted about diversity part, not the bald part), informed your thinking about how we can better navigate these complex waters.

Please share your own experiences with diversity (or lack thereof) in the comments below.

And if you'd like to discuss further how your diverse teams can best leverage the principles of the Connection Code to achieve the best results, reach out to me on LinkedIn. I'm happy to discuss!

Chris Jean-Charles photo.jpg

Special thanks to Chris Jean-Charles for taking the time to chat with me on the very important topic of diversity. To find out more about Chris or to connect with him and learn more about his latest adventures, find him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisjean-charles/

Bonus: Listen to Chris’ appearance on the Why It Works podcast as we discuss the topic of Blind Leaps.