Years ago there was a show.

It was called I’ve Got a Secret and it was pretty bad although, as memory serves, it was very popular for the time. But, there’s no accounting for taste: some people still miss the 80’s too…

Anyway, in this show some person with an unusual hobby, trait or job would be grilled by a panel of “celebrities” (in the 50’s anyone who couldn’t get steady work in B-movies was a “celebrity”) who would try to guess the ‘secret.’ Pretty riveting tv, huh?!

I was thinking about this after reading a recent article on the lack of progress for women in the C-suite. While there are several reasons women comprise more than 50% of the workforce and just 4% of the CEO roles in Fortune 500 firms, it turns out one of the chief factors is they don’t know what success looks like.

No one ever told them.

And women are not alone in this regard. People of color, people with perceived disabilities, religious differences (vs. the ‘mainstream’), those with sexual identities or choices different from the majority, etc., etc., are all out of the loop. They don’t know the secret. The secret of success. No one told them.

So, before we go further let’s dispel the secrecy: here’s what it takes to be successful in any organization:

  • Get results and know your numbers

That’s it. Everything beyond that – executive presence, collaboration skills, communication ability, intellectual horsepower and so forth – will not suffice if you don’t first get results and know your numbers cold. That is your foundation.


Why do certain men know this while so many of the rest of us don’t? Turns out work is an awful lot like school, sport teams and other associations you’ve belonged to: there’s the club, and then there’s “the club.” People by and large hang out with people not very much unlike themselves: this is why inclusion is a hell of a lot more powerful than diversity. Until we “include” people unlike us they’ll never get in “the club.”

And here’s the thing: if you’re in my club I’m willing, perhaps subconsciously, to take an extra five minutes with you a day to explain how things really work. A few minutes after a meeting concludes, one more email response in a chain, a lunch that’s just a couple moments longer or deeper. Because we’re in the same club – based on your similarity to me – I’ll tell you, perhaps unknowingly, what it really takes.

And those few minutes add up over time as understanding secrets is all about exposure.

So, we’ve got to share the secret openly. We’ve got to fuel inclusion, and we’ve got to get aggressive about this now. The markets we compete in – sales and labor markets – are fragmenting before our eyes: they are no longer mass or monolithic. We need all hands on deck to succeed in the ever changing milieu of a complex global environment.

And keeping secrets helps no one.

So let’s talk. Now.


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