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The Dangers of the “Average of 5” Rule

I have learned profound wisdom from Jim Rohn, but one thing he taught, which many other coaches echo, is that we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. The advice around this is to surround yourself with people who already have aspects of the life that you want for yourself to elevate your station in life.

One study confirmed that it’s not only the five people closest to you, but also the people who are close to them, and so on. The reason, they identified, was norms. “Your perception of what is… acceptable … and your behavior changes” according to what you see more regularly.

A few dangers could arise from following the “average of 5” rule too strictly. Let’s explore some of them.

On one hand, if you aspire to be a visionary entrepreneur, by all means, seek out opportunities to spend time among visionary entrepreneurs. Spending time with people who have achieved what you aspire to achieve is one great way to keep you motivated, and it serves as a pull rather than a push. It will also most likely shorten your path from current reality to achieving your desired reality if you can learn from them how to overcome challenges, navigate most successfully, and expand your sphere of influence to include people in theirs.

On the other hand, people use this “average of 5” rule to justify cutting poor or unambitious people out of your life. I do agree that, while very hard, it’s important for self-preservation to put distance between you and toxic people in your life – those who seem to intentionally make you feel bad, whether conscious or subconscious. However, we know it happens – some people make it big and forget where they came from. They lose touch with the struggles of everyday people. It’s why self-aware executives participate in the show Undercover Boss. Even if you don’t intend to, you can forget the reality of not having money, status, luxury items and vacations, etc.

Yet another problem is that sometimes people do get left behind, and you can’t make and keep any guarantees.

Sometimes naturally, just as a byproduct of growing and changing your lifestyle, things you once had in common with people shift. You can become people that no longer have the same struggles that originally bonded you. The bonds can weaken and you could become unrelatable to each other. Sometimes ego is in the way of someone else wanting more for you (e.g. why should you get what they don’t have). Other times, people will “punch holes” in your plans because they fear losing you. They fear you changing or they fear being left behind. In another possible scenario, they could genuinely believe that you’re more likely to fail than succeed, which is really a reflection of their norms, and they are trying to “save you” from getting hurt or disappointed.

When people get left behind, the divide can widen. Feelings of hurt can manifest as anger and resentment. One person can turn the rest of your old crew against you.

Now, on the bright side, people can just as easily become more likely to succeed because you do – the same way you are more likely to smoke or gain weight along with those closest to you. So it stands to reason that if you intend to follow this advice, and cut out or intentionally distance yourself from these people who are below your measure of achievement, then their chances of being positively impacted by your success is much less.

Another danger is falling into a new crowd that may elevate your pay or status, but denigrate your core values. If you are not mindful of keeping your norms aligned with your values, you may start to lose touch with your values and act in ways that start to seem acceptable, because more of your close contacts act in those ways, even if they are in direct conflict to what you had decided individually were your values. Think about the celebrity college scandal. Even in that illegal situation, one person allegedly involved couldn’t see what was wrong with it – everyone was doing it.

Still more dangerous is this “go get yours,” “rugged individualism,” “drop the baggage holding you down” mentality.  While we are fighting as a nation about how to deal with mass shootings, seeing how we put controls on guns without taking away freedoms, and knowing that mental illnesses are on the rise and also contribute. What to do about this seems to escape us, except to try to strip away the stigma so that we can get that conversation going. Leaving people behind can also be dangerous.

There is another way to look at this. As per my last blog about raising corporate consciousness, just as people can elevate so much further in income and status and become removed from their poorer or less ambitious connections, people can also evolve too far in consciousness and lose touch.

Not all of us will be monks or spiritual gurus and live a life detached from material things altogether. It seems so far fetched. Most of us will not risk our 9-5 jobs, healthcare, etc. to chase butterflies, so to speak. However, some people have found ways to live in which their lifestyles are provided for as a result of imparting their wisdom to a following or tribe. Though the average everyday person* can certainly glean wisdom from these teachers, there is too much dissonance from the current reality of a guru to the current reality of an everyday person for a guru to serve as a true model.

* Let’s define the everyday person as someone who works for someone else to generate their income, carries some debt, follows a budget out of necessity, and would need a loan for very large purchases. This person may have religious beliefs but is not necessarily living according to them at all moments. Life is challenging, and sometimes also very time-consuming. So much so that self-care, self-reflection, and spiritual practices are sacrificed.

We need people at various levels in the middle to serve as ladders, to stay relatable and somewhat in resonance with the lower levels to inspire them to elevate.

So, if you’ve heard this advice and it felt wrong to assess your friends and family’s worthiness of being close to you, honor those feelings. Do bring new people into your sphere of influence to help you elevate, but keep your hand outreached to those below. Not everyone will be willing to take your hand, especially if your rise has been less than gracious. However, work with the willing, and, based on the science backing up the “average of 5” rule, gradually more and more will elevate at their own pace.

Pearl Jam – You Are

Pearl Jam – “You Are” (Riot Act Album) unoficial video clip

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (, is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

Being In The Friend Zone As A Manager: Strategies To Help You In 10 Sticky Situations

Having a friend at work can make work more bearable, can make the time go faster, and can even enhance your reputation. A Gallup study recommends not just having friends at work, but to have a “best” friend at work, citing multiple workplace health benefits.

However, there are the friends that you make as you work together closely, and potentially friends knew from somewhere else who wound up working at your company. The advice Gallup gives may tempt you to get your friends hired at your company, and there are certainly many companies who want you to refer your friends – the whole birds of a flock theory. Some will even pay you if your friends get hired.

Before you decide to bring your friend into the company, I want you to think about some hypothetical situations you may likely face, especially if you are the hiring manager and you’re considering hiring a friend to be on your team.

Of course, there are times when you’ll make friends at work, but for the sake of this article, we’ll stick with a friend you knew from before. Look for future blogs about the other possible work friend situations.

1. When They Can’t Get Past Who You Were

The friends I’ve known the longest remember when I was young and stupid. They’ve seen me at my lowest. They know and accept me, my mistakes, and my flaws, for the most part. They also have most likely benefited in some way from my strengths, even helping me recognize what makes me special.

Just because they accept me as a person and friend doesn’t mean they’ll accept my authority as a manager.  They may not like the way I manage at all, actually. And, just because they accept my shortcomings doesn’t mean that they won’t exploit them, even subconsciously.

2. When They Wind Up Being Not Who You Thought They Were

There certainly are friends who know how to be professional and understand how to respect your friendship and your leadership. There are probably not as many of your friends who can do this as you think, though. Your past history can be a good indicator, but being a recruiter taught me that with people, you can never be 100% certain.  It really takes two highly emotionally intelligent people to appropriately handle the sticky situations that arise, let alone maintain a friendship through them.

3. When You Have to Manage Performance

As the manager of your friend, you are held responsible for their performance, as you are equally responsible for the rest of your team’s performance. You have to be extra vigilant not to be harsher nor more forgiving of your friend.

Enforcing standardized metrics can ensure that everyone gets held to the same standards.

You have to have a relationship set up from the get-go where you both agree that honesty is kindness. The affection and acceptance that you have for each other can either make it harder or easier, to tell the truth.

This agreement has to go both ways, but you also have to establish that same agreement with all of your team members. Otherwise, if your other team members see your friend as the only one who can talk to you candidly, they will wind up confiding in your friend their concerns, especially those about you. Your friend can then become an unofficial, involuntary delegate to deliver feedback.

Think about how you have both broached difficult conversations in the past. Has it gone both ways? How have you handled it? What were the feelings around it, spoken or unspoken? Do you have a relationship in which honesty is delivered with love and good intentions? Has it helped you both become better?

4. When Your Best Friend Makes A New Best Friend

Of course, you want your friend to make new friends at work…just not a new best friend. However, that’s exactly what can happen. You may have been friends since childhood – a function of the fact that you lived in close proximity to each other, had mutual interests, and other mutual friends.

However, at work, there may be a greater diversity of people with different interests, beliefs, life experiences, and passions to bond over.

Sometimes it happens that what your friend and new friend bond over is you. This is the worst-case scenario of your friend making a new best friend. When you’re the manager, you also often are the scapegoat, and the common enemy. This can really get toxic and degrade morale for the team as a whole. If you get into this situation, I recommend also getting a coach. You will regularly want an objective opinion and someone who can help you check your ego so that you address this from a professional standpoint and without letting your personal feelings dictate if, when, and how you put the kibosh on workplace commiserating against you.

5. When You Are Accused of Nepotism

If your friend winds up being a superstar and getting promoted ahead of other team members, expect that you will have to defend the equality of the opportunity. You will be scrutinized on anything more you could have done to set your friend up for success.

You’ll have to think about if, in the extra time that you spent with your friend, you offered extra trade secrets. You’ll have to determine if their intimate knowledge of who you are giving them an edge in learning from you or earning your favor. You’ll also have to determine if you have felt freer to give them an edge through the information you shared about the other team members.

It’s also possible that they have learned from some cultural tips or tips from earning more recognition, money or perks even before they started.

You have to hand out trade secrets, or “hot” clients, or prominent projects, to all your team members, or at least give them equal opportunity to earn them. Set them up equally for growth opportunities. Be prepared to back up your recommendation or promotion decision based on expectations that you made clear to each team member on what it will take to earn a promotion.  Cite specific examples of performance that warranted the recommendation and performance that fell short of what you previously communicated.

Keep in mind your friend most likely wants people to know that he or she deserved a promotion, or things could get really bad for them, too.  It can make it harder for them to succeed with their own team if there is a belief that it wasn’t by merit, but your friendship that got them there.

6. When You Have Bias For and Bias Against Your Friend

We all do this thing to protect ourselves from looking bad where we assume that we’re unbiased. However, bias operates without our conscious awareness. It really takes quiet self-reflection and heightened self-awareness to recognize it in ourselves.

You know your friend very well, and may be able to identify ahead of time, sooner than other team members, when something is off, and what to do to get them back on quickly.  You may have additional insight into what tends to interfere with your friend’s mood, or how they act when something is bothering them.

Make it a habit to spend time regularly in quiet reflection assessing your response to your friend in comparison to your response to other team members. Ask yourself hard questions, and listen and record the responses in a journal. Sometimes you can’t recognize a pattern until it’s visually there in front of you.

Also, make it a practice to schedule time getting to know such things about your team members. Be proactive in asking them how they are dealing with challenges at work, or even at home.

7. When Your Friend is Dealing with Life

It happens to all of us –  accidents, death, financial difficulties, relationship problems, etc. When these things happen, they don’t happen in a vacuum or a silo. They tend to bleed into other areas of our lives, including our work.

You may even know personally the people in your friends’ life who are impacted by these life events, and so you may be dealing with life by association. This is when you need your friends the most. As your friend’s manager, however, you have to make sure that you are extending the same sympathy, time off, support, understanding, and slack to all of your team members when life happens to them, as well.

And, you’ll have to work harder to build a relationship with other team members in which they feel comfortable confiding in you when life happens.

8. When Your Team Gets Jealous

Your team members may see you being a good friend, and crave that kind of friendship with you, as well.

My old boss was an Ironman, very dedicated to fitness and competitive events. On our team of about 10, there was another fitness buff, and they would go for runs together. It wasn’t long before the murmurings of favoritism started to impact morale, engagement, and productivity. They went ignored for a bit of time. This particular account manager was also enjoying a great amount of success in earning new accounts. It could have been his great attitude, aided by his good physical health and confidence. It could have been how much more he was enjoying his work, having a great relationship with his boss. Even if there was 0 correlation between this buddyhood and his success, there was the perception that there was. Thankfully, my boss was working with the same coach our company made available to us all, and he was mindful and considerate of this concern.

His solution was to give the other team members equal opportunity to socialize with him after work hours and when the team performance warranted, he instituted a happy hour at the office. He brought in a couple of six-packs and we had beers together – a limit of two, for liability’s sake. This was one of several ideas proposed and voted on by the team.

Find the things you like in common with each of your team members, and make time to do them together. Propose that you do some “1:1 team-building” during lunch hours or before/after work.

Be aware of unreasonable requests for time outside of normal working hours, however. Also, stay mindful of how much time during work you spend chit-chatting with your friend and allocate equal time for everyone.

9. When They Don’t Share Your Good Opinion of the Company

For you, the company is a great place to work, which is why you wanted to share the wealth with your friend. However, it is apparently not great for everyone. Perhaps it’s better for managers than it is for non-managers. Perhaps the structure you appreciate is inhibiting your friend’s strengths. Perhaps his or her lifestyle doesn’t work as well with the company hours or flex-time policies.

If your friend decides that the company isn’t the great career move you thought it would be, there can be impacts on your friendship.  It’s even possible they’ll think they were better off where they were before you convinced them to join you. Once a change like that is done, it generally can’t be undone, at least without some apologizing and groveling. I hope if you find yourself in this situation that your friend is forgiving and honest as opposed to secretive and resentful. And, I hope that you have ample notice of their departure so that you can backfill the position and your mistake doesn’t impact operations and reflect poorly on you.

Sometimes revelations from your friend can taint your once-favoring opinion of the company. You may start to see things you were blind to, and you can’t then unsee them.  They may also form opinions about people – people you manage. Be very careful that this doesn’t create biases.

10. When You’re Ready to Move On

Do you owe it to your friend to fill them in on your aspirations to leave? Do you trust that if you do reveal your plan it will stay between the two of you and not get leaked to other team members or your boss prematurely?

If your team finds out your friend new first, will they be salty about it?

Is there a reasonable amount of time after hiring your friend that you are obligated to stay?

Whether your decision is career-motivated, situation-motivated, money-motivated, or lifestyle-motivated, you risk that your friend will feel left behind, unconsidered, and even betrayed.

People may vary in their advice for these situations, but these are hard questions, and there is no one right answer. You may have to ask yourself these questions if you decide to hire your friend.

Hiding anything from someone who knows you well is much harder to do and get away with.

Other situations that can be very hard to navigate include when you know that a layoff is coming but can’t tell anyone, including the person you tell everything. And, when you get fired and your friend gets your job.


As you can see, there’s a lot to consider!

If you are a job seeker wondering why your friends won’t help you or hire you, consider that it might be a blessing in disguise and the best thing your friend can do for your friendship in the long-term.

What sticky situations have you been in with friends at work?

Dionne Warwick – That’s What Friends Are For Dionne Warwick’s official music video for ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ ft. Elton John, Gladys Knight & Stevie Wonder. Click to listen to Dionne Warwick on Spotify: As featured on Love Songs.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (, is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

How Can Anybody Get Anything Done These Days?

Social Media by Magicatwork of Flickr


It has been an interesting past few months on social media. I can personally say it has been much more of a distraction now than it has ever been.

My usual tricks for limiting the amount of time that I spend engaging in non-work related activities on social media have had much less of an impact, and in a lot of cases it’s like I’ve forgotten all about them.

(I will share them in a bit.)

I do not post or comment a lot on political subjects, but I do feel a need to stay informed. This leads to observing very heated discourse between people on both sides of various topics.

I do not seek to persuade anyone, but I do seek to understand both sides. Unfortunately, in most cases I don’t find understanding. Instead, I noticed that I’ve just wasted an extra 15 minutes, sometimes even longer, reading commentary that upsets me. Then I spend another 15 minutes trying to find content that will help me get back into a healthier, more positive, more productive mindset.

Generally, I have noticed that I feel a little more powerless and that has led to a lot more anxiety. I have noticed that people I like to spend time with, I avoid now, knowing that they are very vocal on the opposite side of my beliefs. This makes me sad and I do not feel as connected to these people who used to bring such joy to my life.

I have a given an exception for invitations to meet new network contacts, and favor shorter get-to-know-you phone calls to avoid topics that usually tend to emerge when you sit down with someone for longer than a half hour.

My practice of being happy has required a lot more diligence to overcome these obstacles. I tend to want to immerse myself in more positive content just to normalize myself into a state where I can get done what is on my agenda to fulfill my mission.

Then I wonder about all of these people who are engaging in heated discourse. Some of them seem to go back-and-forth all day defending their original statement and refuting others. I’m seeing referencing data, which may not have just been at their fingertips. It is clear that they have taken the time to search and find this data simply to prove to a stranger that they are right and the other is wrong.

The upsetting thing for me is not that people disagree. I believe that is part of the beauty of our country. The upsetting thing is the name-calling and the dismissing other people’s opinion as being a product of ignorance, lack of morals, or low intelligence.

As a human being prone to bias just like anyone else, as per my previous post, I may make the same initial assumptions, but I know logically that even if there is a different belief system driving people to reside on an opposite side than me, my beliefs are not better than theirs, nor are they worse. It is just very difficult using the medium of social media and a venue like emotionally-charged sound bites, to really get down to the understanding that would enable me to draw a more accurate conclusion.

This desire to understand, however, is not only unsatisfying but unproductive. Especially while my first quarter initiatives have been riddled with technical setbacks and difficulties, it has been even easier for me to justify the distraction of so called informing myself and seeking understanding. I’m at a crossroads and I have to make a change.

No, this isn’t my usual “insight, expertise and practical tips” post. This is something I am still in the middle of figuring out, and I know that I’m not alone. I am hoping we can help each other figure it out. Here are some things that I have done in the past that have been successful in helping me curb succumbing to the siren of social media:


Lists on post-its

I cannot always opt to just to avoid social media; it is part of my job. Not only do I market myself on social media, but I also help others leverage it to increase opportunity. That means staying in tune with changes, staying up on navigation and future updates, and listening and observing to help others effectively use social media. Lists may not seem like that ingenious of an idea, but the key is keeping them visible. I write a sticker for whatever I am there on social media to accomplish and stick it to my screen. It serves as a constant reminder that I am there for a purpose.


A timer

It is a best practice to decide the night before what I really need to accomplish the next day and break my day up into segments. If you are someone who experiences high-level anxiety when things don’t go as planned, this may actually increase your stress. The purpose is not to be rigid, but to be intentional. If something happens to take longer than anticipated, I know that I have to adjust the rest of the day and the activities, perhaps making some sacrifices to make sure that the most important things get done.

In The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, I learned that we will tend to take as long as we give ourselves to complete a project. This is why some people wait until the last minute to finish a project– they feel it will ultimately take them less time than if they started early. Of course, waiting until the last minute can cause problems when unexpected events and challenges occur. Tim Ferris does not recommend waiting until the last minute, but he does recommend giving yourself and others an early fake deadline. In applying his advice, not only will I manage a larger project like this, but also milestones, mini-projects and tasks.

When it comes to things like writing and social media, I know my tendencies are to get sucked in and take too much time. These are the things that I time. I might give myself an hour to write a blog, but when it comes to social media I will keep the time very short, I favor multiple short visits versus blocking a significant amount of time to get everything done. For instance, I will avoid social media until I have gotten the most impactful things out of the way. I will have already have meditated, and I certainly will have already broken my day down. Then I will schedule three 10 minute time slots intended for short postings that I will write outside of social media first. The next day I will allocate an hour to posting a client’s LinkedIn profile content. Then I plan when I will engage in social media for personal pleasure and interaction. I usually do this during a meal, unless I am eating with someone. I may slip in again while my kids brush their teeth at night. This is ideally where it would stop.


Turn off notifications

Social media designers know what they’re doing, and their intention is to make you come back over and over again. They want you addicted. Turning off notifications can be tough when potential clients and customers reach you through these venues and their needs are immediate, for instance if you’re a plumber and you deal with a lot of plumbing emergencies. Realistically, you would want to have someone else handling any incoming inquiries, because most of your time would ideally be spent helping customers. When you have a different quandary – make sure whoever is assisting you with incoming leads isn’t wasting their time on social media.

If these strategies alone do not help you minimize the amount of time that you spend not getting closer to your goals, there are some apps that can help you block websites for periods of time. SelfControl, StayFocsd, and Cold Turkey may help. If your job requires you to be on social media, these tools maybe too inhibitive for you.

If you have noticed a decrease in your quality of life and relationships, and you believe there might be a correlation between this and your social media usage, I encourage you to try these tricks.

However, if these tricks do not work and you sense that your social media habits will continue to have a cost to your life, consider that you might be suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out). While this legitimate syndrome recognized by psychologists is not just limited to social media and users thereof, you may be able to look at your social media usage as either a symptom or a cause, and reach out for help.


As I am committed to relieving myself from the potential costs that social media has been imposing on my own life, I would love to hear others strategies and tactics.