Working Out: For Professional Development Expert Keith Ferrazzi, Career Success Begins with Personal Authenticity

Article excerpt


PAT LOCONTO, THE CEO OF DELOITTE when I worked there early in my career, was my close mentor in those fledgling years. He became my friend too--he even helped me pay for my father's funeral. I was as vulnerable and close to him as I could possibly be with a boss, on all levels--with one exception: I wasn't out to him.

It wasn't until I left Deloitte in 1999, after seven years with the company, that I decided to share the entirety of my life with Pat, having tired of changing my partner's name from Roel to Renee. So I got up the courage and told him. "I know," Pat replied. "I've known for a long time." This was a revelation. "Why didn't you tell me?" I asked. "I figured you'd tell me when you were ready," he said.

Looking back, had I come out while at Deloitte, I would have been more authentic, more able to connect with my staff and peers, and more of an all-around happy person. Now, as an adviser to many companies, I can say that while being closeted isn't the greatest barrier to individual business achievement, it will certainly hinder your ability to build intimate relationships in the workplace, a critical element to corporate success. Business relationships are personal relationships, and achieving success means cultivating intimate connections. Acknowledging this can be intimidating for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, but people won't trust you if you don't come across as authentic. When people aren't comfortable in their own skin, you can feel it when they walk into a room; they don't seem like solid people.

Intimate business relationships should be developed in stages. A good place to begin is with shared interests and passions. Communicate to others what gets you excited or motivated. It could be a passion for playing polo--that happens to be my new sport of choice, but you can use golf if the horse thing doesn't thrill you--your nonprofit work outside the office, or your dog. Whatever it is, make it known. Find out the passions of the people you work with, like a client's excitement about his son's Little League victory or a sales prospect's preparation for her trip to Thailand. …