The Square Peg

A discussion on NPR yesterday centered on the topic of The Square Peg in today’s modern business environment. The point was made that square pegs find it difficult to survive and prosper in many business environments. They are either not given the opportunity to be hired, or if hired are not given the opportunity to remain with the company. Many are dismissed simply because they do not fit into the culture. The summary point of the conversation was: don’t be the square peg.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford has a great quote that seems to address the notion of square pegs in business. His quote: ” Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” The challenge for the square pegs: how do they come together, keep together, and work together? Or, how can business accommodate people who bring unique talents and personalities to the company?
My experience was in the creative world of advertising and we had many square pegs who not only got hired but thrived and prospered. Business and the agency was better thanks to the contributions of so called square pegs.

The 6 Steps To Success

In my book “Theory You” I point out six key steps for a high performing team. The six steps allow for the square pegs to perform and excel.
Step One: culture is vital. Everyone needs to understand and share in the company culture, and if that culture includes tolerance and understanding the odds of a square peg finding a place to contribute greatly improve. Culture comes from management. Management can provide the opportunity for square pegs if management is experienced and confident and has a macro approach.
Step Two: the team must realize they need each other to succeed. Every company operates with a shortage of resources. Awareness of this situation heightens the ability of the team to come together and meet the first of Henry Ford’s points.
Step Three: the team must share the same objectives. When everyone shares the same objectives the ability to work together improves. In meeting Henry Ford’s second point common objectives keep everyone together.
Step Four: good communications are an absolute must. Almost all business problems share a common trait: somewhere in the process communications were poor or non-existent. Good communications keep the square pegs in the process and on the team. Good communications require effort and commitment.
Step Five: trust is necessary for any group or team to perform well. Trust the square pegs and create the environment where they trust you and the team will perform at a high level. When trust falters or leaves the team suffers and performance suffers.
Step Six: manage the egos. There are egos on every team and in every company. Egos must be controlled by management and rampant egos cannot be allowed to injure the team. This is often a big challenge when dealing with certain square pegs. However, if the first five steps are followed the ability to manage egos including those egos of the square pegs is vastly improved.


The Square Pegs can contribute greatly to a company or team if they are given a chance and managed properly. The above six steps will help the process. The end result will be a more diverse and hopefully more successful company.