What has your experience been like as a gay CEO? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Joey Frasier, Co-founder, CEO at Shortlist, on Quora:

This is always a difficult question for me to answer as I'm not really a "gay CEO". Yes, I'm a gay man, but that matters to my partner and not to my colleagues. Yes, I'm the CEO of Shortlist, but our business has nothing to do with my sexuality. I know that this certainly isn't every company, nor country - but our sexuality or sexual identity, just like race and religion, should have nothing to do with how we're treated - or how we treat people at work.

That said, I am a strong believer in understanding the whole person when it comes to managing talent. Understanding where someone has come from personally, the challenges they have had or are having has a direct effect on their output. I've had countless teammates over the years who were high performers but had sustained periods of low output that were confounding. Understanding where they were personally helped me support them in a way that allowed them to take care of things outside of the office, so they could get back to performing inside the office.

I grew up in a conservative/religious small mid-west town. While I knew I was gay relatively early into my teens, I was forced to hide who I was until I left home for college at 17. I moved to New York at 19 and promised myself that I would be 'myself' at work and if ever questioned, I wouldn't hide that I was gay. Perhaps it's the companies I've worked in in New York, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and here in the US - but it's never been an issue as either a leader or employee. I've certainly had one or two extreme examples of folks who were surprised when I corrected their use of 'your wife' when I referred to my spouse - but I generally think my being open about who I am has probably helped them think twice about always assuming someone is married to a man or woman.

I'm certainly not an expert but I believe my journey in coming out has made me a better leader. It's made me more empathetic and understanding of the challenges people face in their lives/selves and how mentally taxing and emotionally troubling it can be. This has made me a strong believer in a whole person management style that aims to ensure that you are open to understanding the interplay between our in and out-of-work lives. Whether it's a sick family member, a financial stressor, trouble starting a family, or even contemplating a career change - being open to listening and understanding what's happening outside of the office can mean a more engaged employee who feels a stronger connection to you as a leader or to the company as a whole.

Lastly, I'd say that my journey as a gay man has taught me how to adapt to tough situations. Having to hide who you are for more than a decade teaches you (once you get past the pain) a lot about quickly adapting to new situations which as a CEO is an invaluable skill.

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Published on: Oct 7, 2019