On the first Link Up with Latesha of 2020, our incredible host Latesha Byrd, shares a career game changer: getting ahead with relationships. She explains why she thinks now is the perfect time to shore up your relationships with your bosses and/or coworkers and a whole lot more. Remember, we cannot get ahead at work on the quality of our work alone!
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Latesha: Hello, hello. Welcome to another episode of The Link Up with Latesha. Happy New Year. It is 2020. It is a new year. It’s a new decade. So I hope that everyone listening right now is extremely excited about the new year. I know things have been kind of crazy crazy, but, you know, still, a lot of positive things to look forward to in this new year. I always love new years because it signifies a fresh start, you know? A fresh start to, you know, set new goals, set new resolutions, set new habits. My theme for the year, that literally came to me yesterday–and I usually get my themes for the year fairly sooner, but for some reason I was really struggling with what I wanted to focus on this year. So my theme this year is discipline. I have–well, my themes last year, I had three. It was alignment, discernment, and–ah, man, I don’t remember the other one right now. Probably, like, manifestation, and again, like, being intentional about having a theme, those things all made to be true for me in 2019. I have exceeded my business revenue goals. You know, closing well over six figures, so this year–you know, my goal is six figures, which, you know, as an entrepreneur, that’s honestly really not a ton of money, especially when you have other people that you need to pay and you’re wanting to reinvest the funds back into your business to scale and things of that nature, and so I significantly exceeded those goals, and so my goal for this year is to hit a quarter mil. And I had to do some self-reflection here. I’m very proud of, you know, my progress for the year, but, you know, I asked myself, “Man, had I not set my goal low,” “Maybe if I had really believed in myself, just think at how much more I could have made, how much more I could have done.” There was a tweet that went around about saying “Six figures should not be the definition of success for an entrepreneur,” and unfortunately if you’re someone like myself, who grew up in a troubled household with a single parent and, you know, living check to check barely and all of that, like, money is an indicator of success. I mean, it’s important. You know, you need money to survive. You need money to pay your bills and have a certain quality of life, but it should not be what the #1–in my opinion not your #1, you know, definition or indication of whatever success looks like for you. But anyways, saying all that to say that my theme for the year is discipline, so that’s what I’m focusing on. Discipline, having more structure in my schedule. As an entrepreneur, we–it’s a good thing and a bad thing. People ask me, like, “What is the best thing about entrepreneurship?” Well, the great thing is that you can do whatever the hell you want, and that’s also the hardest thing, [laughs] because you have to be really strict in how you manage your schedule and your time and your energy. So I want to focus on discipline, making sure that I am building and implementing and incorporating the right habits, making sure that I have a structure throughout my week, making sure that I am planning, that I am prepared, overprepared, overcommunicating–which we’ll talk a little bit in this episode–overcommunicating with my clients, with my team, being fully present, discipline with the gym. You know, just discipline, ’cause discipline will keep you going even when you don’t feel motivated. Discipline are those habits that will keep you pushing when you emotionally feel, you know, drained, or when you–you know, it will give you that extra kick and that extra push to continue that momentum. So I don’t know why I just started talking about that, but that’s my theme for the year. So I just enrolled new coaching clients for Q1. Super excited to work with them, and I have some other things, exciting things, that I’m working on for 2020. Definitely more masterclasses. If you went to any of my masterclasses last year, I did–how many did I do? I think I did two. I did one on salary negotiation, which is still up on my website – LateshaByrd.com/shop. $30 for a salary negotiation course, discount code GETTHECOINS. I’ve had people that have said they’ve gotten a $12K raise, a $22K salary increase based on this course. So check it out. I did another masterclass back in December on how to launch a successful job search strategy for 2020. One of my goals this year is to be releasing many, many, many more masterclasses, so stay tuned. I will be doing one sometime this month, maybe February, on LinkedIn. How do you utilize LinkedIn to really get after these opportunities, whether it is building your network, building a brand, getting connected to job opportunities. Getting clients, you know? So I’ll be speaking from how an entrepreneur, how a job seeker, how anyone can use LinkedIn for their benefit. So that’s gonna be rolling out soon, as well as some other exciting things, so I will keep you all posted on that. But for today’s topic, this is my first Link Up with Latesha episode of 2020, and I tweeted something earlier that honestly just kind of took off, and the tweet said “If you like your job, focus on developing relationships with your boss and coworkers in 2020. I hate to break it to you – relationships at work do matter. Quality of your work is important, but quality of relationships matter more. Don’t ever think you get ahead on your work alone.” So that’s a pretty long tweet. I don’t know how I fit all of that into, like, 120, 140 characters, but this was important because this is your opportunity right now, at the beginning of the year, to really level-set expectations on, you know, maybe what you are expecting from your employer and what your employer is expecting from you. This is your time to also level-set expectations in terms of those relationships that you have at work. You can turn it around. Maybe you don’t have a great relationship with your boss. Maybe you don’t have a great relationship with your coworker. This is the perfect time, just given that everyone is back from holiday break, people are feeling refreshed, you know, in good spirits, you know, hopefully energized and, you know, all of that. So use this to your advantage, and I want you all to really think about the temperature of your relationships or rate your relationships on a scale from one to ten. You know, what is the strength of that relationship? Think about that. We cannot get ahead at work on the quality of our work alone. I wish that were the case. And the challenging part, because this is Living Corporate and I know most of our listeners are people of color, we cannot just get ahead by just doing our work and keeping our heads down unfortunately. Statistics show that people of color, especially women, have a much harder time getting promoted to leadership. We have a harder time getting raises. We have a harder time getting acknowledged for the work that we’re doing. So this goes back to those relationships. The other reason why I think this is important is because if we don’t have relationships, we are already going to be misinterpreted and misunderstood. I may have shared this example on one earlier episode where I was working on something with a coworker. We will just call her–what can we call her? Let’s call her Mary. [laughs] That’s my grandma’s name. So Mary and I were working on something together, and to be quite honest, Mary wasn’t pulling her weight. I emailed Mary. Crickets. Emailed Mary again… crickets. And I was cool. I was like, “Hey, Mary. Do you want to meet and talk about this?” or “Hey, Mary. You know, can we get some time to kind of work on this together?” Mind you I could have gotten this done by myself, but there was, like–I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this in corporate as a black woman, but it’s like, “We can’t just give this to Latesha. We gotta make sure we have somebody else, just to let that person get the credit, or let that person–” It’s like there’s, like, this–I don’t know, it was weird. Like, “Do you guys not trust me to do it on my own? Do you want to make sure I have a babysitter?” Which I ended up doing it on my own. That’s a whole different story. So anyways, [laughs] Mary and I were working on this thing together supposedly, and I had a one-on-one with my manager, and I said, “Look, I am trying to get with Mary, and she’s just not responding at all.” So my manager says, “Okay, well, why don’t you just go talk to her in person?” I’m like, “Bet, no problem.” So I think this was, like, the same day. I saw Mary in the break room and I said, “Hey, Mary. How’s it going?” You know, blah blah blah, small talk. “Hey, by the way, I was wondering how it was going with the project. I was thinking maybe we could catch up about it.” Like, I was being really nice. Like, I literally was just like, “Hey, do you have any updates about it?” I promise y’all, like, I had zero attitude. I didn’t have a mean tone. Like, the way she responded to me, it threw me off because she seemed very defensive. She seemed to be very defensive, and it literally confused me because I’m like, “Where is this aggression coming from?” She just kind of, like, rolled her eyes and was like, “Ugh. Yeah, you know, like, I’m getting to it.” You know? “I got it.” And I was like–I literally looked at her and I was like, “Oh… Okay, cool.” You know? And that was it. I honestly was, like, so perplexed by the whole interaction. So I go back down to my desk. That was the end of my conversation. 10 minutes later she’s, like, stomping. Like, I literally hear her stomping down the hall. And she goes to my manager’s office and she closes the door. So then she leaves, and I said–I was sitting, like, right outside of my manager’s office. My back was turned. I mean, she didn’t say anything to me at all. She just went straight to him. So anyways, my manager calls me into his office, like, after she leaves, and he’s like, “Hey, Mary just said that you kind of had a bad attitude with her when you talked to her in the break room.” And I’m just like, “What?” [laughs] If y’all could have seen the look on my face. I was so confused. And what I realized in that moment was that Mary, she did not know me. I don’t know if she had many interactions with black women before. I’m going to assume maybe not. And trust, like, if I have an attitude, you will know it, and I know it too. But I did not in that moment, and I know for sure that I didn’t, but I realized that she did not know me, and I think that sometimes the assumption is that, you know, black women are, right, aggressive, or, you know, we just always have to be really mindful of our tone and level and how we are enunciating certain words and just things of that nature. It literally can be exhausting, ladies, and I understand that, but what I realized is that we did not have a relationship, and in order for us to be able to get that project done, we needed to build that relationship. All of this goes back to me implying that it is easy for us to be misunderstood at work. That’s why it is important to build these relationships. And I have a few tips on how to do just that. And so honestly, from that point forward, Mary and I started going to lunch. We started going to lunch, you know, maybe on a monthly basis. We started working together more. And, you know, as time went on, we ended up developing a really solid relationship. The other reason why it’s important to have these relationships is because you need to be strategic about who you are sharing what you’re working on with. You need to be strategic about your wins, your accomplishments, your goals. Because people are talking about you when you’re not in the room, you know? One of my favorite quotes about branding from Jeff Bezos is, you know, your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Your brand precedes you, right? So your brand will speak for you when you’re not able to speak for yourself. That’s why it is important to have these relationships. So I have, let’s see, seven tips here on how to build relationships. I know that it is hard for people of color to build relationships when you already feel like you’re misunderstood anyways and you don’t want to feel like you’re having to change who you are to just fit in. And I really hope that you guys are not doing that. I know it’s easier said than done, but I really hope that you’re able to be who you are at work and let people see you for that. It can be literally exhausting to try to be a different person at work, you know, versus how you are at home. So the first tip that I have is working on your people skills, man. I am so serious. Working on your people skills. [laughs] Understand how to communicate with people and, like, speak to people in the morning when you come in. You have to have people skills. I know that sounds very simple, but there’s a lot of us out here that we just–we just don’t have it. So I would challenge you to start speaking to coworkers in the morning. Saying a simple “good morning” goes a long way. When you leave, saying, “Hey, have a good evening,” that goes a long way too. I think sometimes we are so withholding of information. I’m not saying you need to tell them your personal business. Like, “Hey, I’m leaving. I have a date,” or “I’m leaving. I’m going to this happy hour. I’m going on this trip or doing this with the boys or with the ladies.” Like, you don’t have to say all of that. It’s literally just having manners. So think about that. Growing your people skills and actually communicating with folks. #2, identify what relationships you need to manage better, and be very observant as to the types of coworkers that you have. Who are the high performers on your team? You need to be in the winner’s circle. I know you may not like certain folks because maybe they’re always talking in meetings, you know? They’re always that one getting all of the recognition, right? There is something about that person that people, leadership maybe, trusts. There’s something about them that they are doing well if they’re being recognized or if they’re feeling more comfortable to just speak up. That might be a good person for you to build a relationship with. So observe closely. Understand the nature of the relationships at work. Who are the people who have the authority? Even the folks without the titles, right? Like, who are those people who have authority that know what’s really going on within the team? Those are the type of people you want to make sure that you are building those relationships with. I know when I was in corporate there was one person on my team who–she was most definitely the high performer. She was always the one with the fresh ideas, and she was always that go-to person for literally everyone on the team… and it was annoying. [laughs] So I don’t know if you guys have experienced that before, but those types of people can be a little annoying, because they’re, like, the know-it-alls, and I really had to take a step back and ask myself, “What is she doing that I’m not doing?” And that took me letting my pride down and putting my ego to the side and working on building a relationship with her, looking at who she has a relationship with. Is that someone that I need to have a relationship with too? With that being said, you do need to know the high performers. You need to know who the decision makers are. So one particular thing I really wanted to talk about this with your relationship needs is the difference between mentors and sponsors, A.K.A. advocates. There was an article that I was reading about how black women don’t need more mentors. We need sponsors. We need people. And let me just share what a sponsor is, okay? A sponsor is someone that is advocating for you when you are not in the room. That is someone that is saying, “Hey, Latesha is really crushing it right now, and you guys need to pay attention to her. She is a shining star on the team. She is a high performer. She is someone that we need to really make sure we look out for.” I promise y’all these conversations are being had. That is someone that is in a decision-making authority, someone that is in leadership that can actually push the needle forward when it comes to your success. They typically are at a senior level. And there’s someone that’s going to be invested in your career. They will also open you up to their own network within the company. They are gonna be championing for you even when you don’t know it, but they’re gonna be using their authority and their reputation. So you are essentially an extension of them. You’d be surprised at how many people will look out or will promote a person off the strength of one particular person that has type of authority. Now, that’s someone who might be at a partner level or a C-suite level depending on the size and nature of the company that you work for, but you do need sponsors. If you don’t have sponsors, make that a goal for 2020 – get some sponsors at work. Now let’s talk about mentors. Mentors. Mentors are someone that will help to make your job easier. They might give you training. They might give you suggestions on “Hey, here’s how you can navigate this particular situation. Here’s how you can navigate this particular relationship.” They may give you feedback on your development. They may offer insight on how to, you know, kind of maneuver in corporate, and they may kind of share their unwritten rules on how to get ahead, but they may not be someone that is really vouching for you. Understand that there is a difference. Mentors mentor you. Sponsors advocate for you. All right? So it’s good to have mentors, and understand that you won’t go to your mentors for the same thing. When you’re talking to your sponsors, you need to be really strategic with the information that you’re sharing. You need to be sharing your wins. You need to be sharing your goals. You need to be asking them questions about what it’s gonna take for you to really grow at the company, right? With your mentors, that could be if you want to talk to them about certain challenges that you’re having, that is what you can go to your mentor for. I mean, you can still go to them for the other things, but just be strategic in how and what information you’re sharing. So if you’re not sure in terms of who to build relationships with, start there. Mentors, sponsors, the high performers on the team. And then also, like, the people that maybe have been on the team or at the company for a while. Maybe they’re just kind of cruising to retirement or they’re complacent with where they are, but they have the relationships and they know what they’re doing at work. Someone like that could help you. That could be a good relationship, and that could be a great mentor for you. Think about how you can add value as well to these people. Understand what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are. When I worked in corporate I was on the recruiting team. I was the youngest one on the team of eight, and the oldest actually became, like, one of my closest friends. I love her so much. She’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. She has to be in her 60s. Super, super sweet. She had been with the company for over 20 years. Literally, like, she–I don’t want to compare my age to how long she’s been there, but she definitely has some years on me. Wonderful, amazing person, and we built an alliance. She knew who to build relationships with. She knew how to play the politics game. She wasn’t in a decision-making role, but she was able to help me navigate some issues that I could not have gotten through without her. Now, being that there is an age difference when it came to us rolling out new HR software or when we went through a whole ATS implementation. I was that person that would stay on the phone with her late-night, you know, guiding and helping her through how to manage the system. So think about how you can add value to these folks. Maybe there are people on your team that are high performers, they’re really good at public speaking, but maybe the organization, the documentation part, is a little hard. Chip in and help with that if you can. Figure out how you can add value. And again, that’s gonna be paying attention to their strengths and their weaknesses. #3. I want to make sure that I get through these and not go super long today, but I know this is the first episode of the year, so I had a lot of information I wanted to share with you all. #3 is actually schedule time with these people, and I mean face time with these people. I’m a millennial, [laughs] so I love to just like, “Hey, let me shoot you a quick IM. Do we need to meet in person? Like, do I actually have to get up from my desk?” You know? “Why can’t I just IM you from my couch at home?” [laughs] But it is important to have face time. You can never, ever forget the quality of building relationships with someone when you meet them in person. It’s also important for people to understand how you respond and communicate. I’ll be honest, when I first started in corporate I realized that there were some folks that did not look like me that never, ever, ever truly had close interactions with people that looked like me. I hope that y’all caught what I was saying there. So with that being said, you know–and I know you guys have witnessed this, even in college, right? But even in corporate. We all just grow up so differently. We are around so many diferent types of people, and depending on the person, depending on the coworker, they may have not had a lot of interactions with someone that is a person of color. So keep that in mind, you know? What their assumptions or thoughts of us could be from what they see in media, TV, you know? Movies. So it is important to let people see you, see you for you are. I had a coworker that I love, love, love, [laughs] and she is a black woman, and she was so feisty. Oh, my goodness. She’s so feisty, and I love it now, but I used to think that she hated me. And I’ma be honest, y’all. I used to think that she hated me, and then once we started to spend more time together and we were working at some of the same conferences I was like, “You know what? This is just how she is with everyone.” Like, she is truly herself, and all I’m saying here is let people see you for who you are. Let people warm up to you so that they will be able to build that trust. When it comes to scheduling time with people, you’ve gotta be present. Be present and really get to know people for who they are, even outside of work. It is okay to ask people about their family, if they have children, if they have pets. People love talking about their pets. Asking people about their hobbies. Like, what do they enjoy outside of work? What do they do for fun? Do they cook? Do they go out to eat? What are their favorite restaurants? Find ways and pockets to kind of pull information out of people and get to know them, and be mindful of that. I used to keep a little notebook with me everywhere that I went, whether it’s me meeting with someone, meeting with those decision-makers for the first time–it is hard to keep up with names, y’all. I’ll be honest. It is really hard to keep up with names. There was one particular partner that everyone said, “Oh, my gosh. He is so hard to work with. He’s so hard to deal with. He’s rude,” and when I tell y’all–he was an older white man–we had the best relationship. He is my homie. He is someone that advocated for me, and he just did not care. [laughs] He was at that level where it was like, “Look, y’all. Y’all are not about to fire me. I have all of this control. I have all of this [power?]. Like, you cannot check me.” And I love that energy. [laughs] We have a really great relationship, and that’s because I took the time to get to know him. I asked him about his family. I asked him about his hobbies. And he didn’t know this, but when I would step away from the conversation, maybe I would step out to the hall or run to the bathroom, I might go somewhere in private and I would jot these little notes down. These are his daughters’ names. This is where they work. This is what they do. If they’re in school, this is what they’re doing. This is his wife’s name. Jotting down that information so that next time I saw him, “Oh, how’s your girls? How’s your wife?” And over time we were able to build that relationship. The other thing I want to say here is attending events, attending those happy hours. I know we hate, hate having to spend time with people that we see literally all day every day. So those dinners and those happy hours, y’all, we have to go. We have to go. Have you ever been in a performance review and they’ll say, “Well, we don’t really know you,” or “Your coworkers feel like you don’t like them.” Trust me, y’all. Sometimes that feedback can be rude and biased, but I’m telling you, you can go to the happy hour. That’s all I’m saying. Get there early. Get there early so you can leave early, okay? But you have to attend these team events. Join committees too. Find ways to get to know your coworkers outside of that working 9-to-5 environment. So joining committees, volunteering, you know, there’s always, like, the social committees. Join those so that people can 1. see you how you are, understand how you operate, even outside that, you know, maybe a little bit more buttoned-up work environment, that is a great way to build those relationships where it’s not forced. But I would encourage you to really be intentional about that. Face time, coffees, lunches. You know, maybe if you can’t because your team is in a different country or across, you know, different coasts, just scheduling those recurring checkpoints is gonna be important. #4 is overcommunicate. What I mean by this is constantly just emailing and–again, this is what a manager told me. Overcommunicate so people don’t have time to make assumptions or generalizations about your work. So let’s say you’re working on a project with someone. They don’t know where you stand at work, on your progress. Maybe you guys don’t have, like, a solidified “Hey, here’s how we’re going to keep each other updated on where we are.” Send them a quick note and let them know. Do it in advance, all right? Maybe you aren’t planning to go into the office the next day. And again, I get it. Like, if you’re in an environment where it is a very flex work arrangement and people don’t really trip like that, but trust me, they are still watching, okay? [laughs] They’re still watching. So just send a quick note. “Hey, I’m gonna be working from home tomorrow. Just wanted to let you know.” Something just like that. Just don’t give people any room or space to make any assumptions about your work and your work performance. I think I can leave that there. I personally think that overcommunication is key for that. Always keeping the right people in the loop of what you have going on is important. #5 – say thank you. That sounds so simple, but showing appreciation goes such a long way. Recognizing your coworkers if they have done something positive, if they’ve been helpful, you know? If they really kind of stuck their hand out, their foot out for you or whatever it is. Like, actually take the time to say thank you, even if it’s the first time that person has done that or, you know, maybe you have been helping that person out for a long time and they never helped you out and now they’re finally helping you out and you’re like, “Okay, about time.” Like, whatever it may be, just say thank you. Even your boss. People want to be appreciated. And be genuine about complimenting people when they do something well. This is gonna be a great way to build relationships. #6 is all about positivity. Focus on being positive. Focus on being positive. People don’t want to around a negative nancy. And with that being said too, you don’t want to be around a negative nancy, so stay away from those negative folks, which leads me to the next thing – gossiping. Do not gossip at work, guys. Please find someone else to talk to outside of work. I am telling you. It… don’t gossip at work. Find a friend, maybe a significant other… your therapist. Get a career coach. But be really mindful about the type of information that you’re sharing with certain people. Now, I was always the type to listen to the gossip. I may not agree, I may not disagree. I may listen and do what I want, but that’s about it. But y’all know it’s easy to get caught up in that gossip. I don’t really feel good after gossiping. I don’t know about you all, but gossiping makes me feel really low. It brings my energy down. I just never feel good after having a conversation about gossip. So I would say, you know, just be mindful of that. And some people are naturally just negative people as well. Be as positive as you can to those people. And then the last thing, #7, when it comes to these relationships – set boundaries. Manage your boundaries. With managing boundaries, that means, like, don’t allow your coworkers to–just because of the nature of the relationship, maybe they shouldn’t be texting you after hours, right? Or there should not be an expectation where they email you after hours that you’re gonna get back to them, you know, before you go to bed. Like, don’t be that person that’s, like, always available 24/7 so that people can’t run over you. Make sure you’re taking time to restore your energy while you’re not at work. So that’s all that I’m saying there, manage those boundaries. Maybe if you’re not responding to someone’s email fast enough, right? Like, maybe you have a coworker that emails you at 8:00 a.m. and you don’t get back to them. They’re emailing you at 10:00 a.m. like, “Hey, just following up here.” Like, “Okay, son. It’s been, like, two hours. Give me some time,” you know what I’m saying? Manage those boundaries, and that’s all about gaining respect. Do it assertively of course. Do it in a positive manner. Don’t be negative about it, but definitely manage those boundaries so that you can get the respect that you deserve. So those are the tips that I have. I hope this was helpful. Let me just run through those seven things again. #1 is people skills. You gotta have good people skills. Learn how to communicate. Learn how to get to know people, that small talk is a good start. Being observant. Thinking about who will be your advocates for 2020, A.K.A. your sponsors. Who will be your mentors? #2 – identify your relationship needs. Who do you need to build relationships with? What do you need from them? What do they need from you? How can you add value there? #3 – schedule time with people. Don’t forget about face time. Don’t underestimate the value of face time. #4 – overcommunicate. Always be communicative about what you have going on, your progress, things of that nature. Again, don’t give folks too much room and space to make assumptions that could negatively impact your performance or your brand. #5 – say thank you. It goes a very long way. #6 – being positive, avoiding gossip as much as possible, avoiding negativity, finding people outside of work that you can vent to. And then #7 is managing your boundaries. That will make sure that you are getting respect. So I hope these are helpful. Hit me up. I want to know, like, what your themes are for the year. Like I said, my theme is discipline. All about discipline, discipline, discipline in 2020. So yeah, I will be talking to you guys very soon. Bye.