Years ago I worked for a man who walked around with his shirt hanging out when all the rest of the company’s management wore tailored suits.
Disheveled, even in the early morning, pretty much fit his outward appearance, and it wasn’t just his clothes: The term “having a bad hair day” was coined when a Proctor and Gamble employee saw him walking down the street and immediately thought about making a conditioner to combat wild hair. He was the perfect advertisement for the “before” ads of Orthodontists who cater to adults.
His boss took me aside one day, and in a moment of candor said, “My God. Did you ever see such a diamond in the rough? You are so lucky to be working for him.”
The reason for that statement was because his disheveled appearance was simply the outer covering of a brilliant mind: And just as important, an unkempt layer over a kind and gentle soul.
Every boss that he had during the decades that I knew him tried valiantly to polish that diamond. All tried hard to make the outer layer sparkle with the same brilliance as the mind. There were sporadic moments where Proctor and Gamble would have acknowledged progress, and Hickey Freeman sales numbers went up because they sold another high priced suit, but all of it just turned out to be another outer layer, and outer layers can sometimes hide what is inside.
Fortunately he always shed that false outer layer that other people asked him to put on and went back to being who he was. And who he was, was brilliant, and that brilliance even pierced through the disheveled covering.
I’ve taken on the task of helping a small company grow. A company that I have called “A diamond in the rough.
Until this morning, I thought one of my jobs was to help find a way to polish it. But this morning I thought of my old boss. And too many years after I lost track of him, I finally realized something. He wasn’t a diamond in the rough. He was a brilliant, polished, sparking with fire, high carat diamond whose cut, clarity, and color were close to flawless, all of it covered by an almost opaque outer layer: And it dawned on me that maybe the outer layer needed to be there to shield the rest of our eyes.
The insight I came to this morning is that inside everyone is that gem with sparkle and fire. It is already polished, and it always has been. The trick is to somehow to get each person to want to remove some of those layers, remove enough so that they let out their light, which when it is combined with all the other gems around them, it creates a brilliant light that everyone can see.
My old boss, well I finally realized that he kept that covering so that his brilliance never hid the shine coming from the rest of us.