See It to Be It: Kristina Smith, Diversity & Inclusion Strategist

See It to Be It:
Kristina Smith, Diversity & Inclusion Strategist

By Amy C. Waninger

About the series: See It to Be It is an interview series highlighting professional role models in a variety of industries. The goal of this series to draw attention to the vast array of possibilities available to emerging and aspiring professionals, with particular attention paid to support systems available for people of color within the industry

This interview features Kristina Smith, who works with mid-level managers who are great at their job but are having a difficult time dealing with people who are different from them.

LC:     Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved in diversity & inclusion consulting and what about it appealed to you?

KS:    First of all, I really love what I'm doing and I feel like right now is the time to be in this arena for many, many years. I started in the field of training and development and really enjoyed helping organizations move from one level to the next, whether it was working with a team of people or an individual through coaching or team building or strategic planning. I just love that kind of work. And yet all of my life being a woman of color, I was constantly aware of how people were impacted in school or in the workplace. So when I was growing up, I went from first through eighth grade, I went to a predominantly, actually it was an all black elementary school and then in high school I went to an all white school where there were 100 students, all girls and only for African American students.

So it was a dramatic difference. And I could see the privileged that people had when I was in school that I'd never experienced when I was in elementary school. I could see the privilege and how people were treated differently. Um, and the experience we're just really opened. My eyes drop dramatically. So I carried a lot of, in my heart, this feeling of things need to be different and what. And I was always asking my self the question, what role can I play in this? Making things different. So I'm going through the training and development. I had a real passion for learning. That's one of the things that just make me, me. I'm a lifetime learner. And then sharing information that I've learned with other people, I just love sharing information with people. So as I began to see so many organizations starting to be impacted by their lack of information about people who are different than mainstream and the impact it was having on their market share, uh, or the people that were being impacted, I just started my heart, started racing and I started thinking, this is the time, this is the time to really start to do this work that I've been carrying in my heart since high school.

Really. But the forces were really coming together and I just felt like, wow, this is so I'm so excited to, to have jumped into the pool and, and, and doing the work that I'm doing.

LC:    What has been the biggest surprise to you about the ________ industry that you maybe wouldn't have thought of or maybe a misconception that you had before you were in the industry?

KS:    for all of the companies that have experienced, um, major full pause, major mistakes that they've made through marketing or, or you know, just some kind of advertising inappropriately, their brand that more companies would be actively saying we need a more diverse leadership team. We need someone that will help us not go down, fall down the rabbit hole. And so I'm really surprised prize that more companies are not actively reaching out. It's like companies one after another or taken the ball and I have even posted in various social media platforms when our company is going to really wake up. Two, the fact that they have to be thoughtful, they need to retail to people who are different to help them build a brand that is not going to be negatively impacted or core caused them to lose market share because they make a mistake that they're not even conscious of that it's in many cases it's a mistake.

LC:    If somebody is not in the ________ industry today or they are looking for a way to learn more, where would you recommend that they go?

KS:    So a couple of different things. The, it used to be called the American Society for training and development. They've changed their acronym now to atd, which is the American talent development, um, association. I guess it is a. So people can go do some research on that. Definitely there are all kinds of school programs now that have that offer training and Development Organization improvement, organization development. All of those are great forays into this area. But also even though I had done all this work and training and development for 15 plus years, probably 20, I knew that I didn't want to just jump out there and start doing diversity work. I really did some research and decided to go to the institute, the Institute for Diversity Certification Institute for diversity certification and they have. And there are other organizations I just happened to like that particular organization when and studied with them. It was at that time it was a three and a half day class and then you take a national exam and then you have to do a project and the project was to be certified as a diversity professional.

So there are other organizations that do that, but the institute for diversity certification met my needs and I really enjoyed the process because it takes you all the way through the history of where we started. Where did this all start? Where are we now? And they do a lot of ongoing workshops and seminars to keep us abreast of what's happening currently in the field and they're constantly putting out articles and information that I find to be really, really timely and helpful. So I would say definitely reach out to one of those organizations. Now that same organization is doing online training so you don't have to actually go out to Indianapolis. It was cool because I got to meet the people that now I can work with and if I'm in a situation where I'm pondering I can pick up the phone and call someone that I've made a connection with. But you can also do that training online. So I think that's great.

LC:    Could you talk a little bit about your thoughts on the current or future talent needs in your industry?

LC:    What are some organizations that exist to help POC feel supported and connected within the ________ industry?

KS:    One is there's the lack of association of human resources professionals that most of training, most of diversity work comes under the umbrella of human resources. So that's a great place to connect with to, um, network with people who are actually responsible for hiring people. If you're going to be an outside consultant, um, you couldn't connect with that organization with another organization I was thinking about. I just had it. And then even if you wanted to just network with Sherm, the, the, um, the national organization, human resources professionals, there are lots of African American leaders who are in those roles. So that's another option. And the, like I said, the American talent development organization as well. And within those groups they have networking groups.

LC:    Any other recommendations for our readers?

KS:   

Living Corporate
See It to Be It: Higher Education Industry

See It to Be It: Higher Education Industry

By Amy C. Waninger

About the series: See It to Be It is an interview series highlighting professional role models in a variety of industries. The goal of this series to draw attention to the vast array of possibilities available to emerging and aspiring professionals, with particular attention paid to support systems available for people of color within the industry

This interview features Dr. Jose Rodriguez, who goes by “Dr. J.” Dr. J is a professor of communications at Long Beach State University in Long Beach, California. You can learn more about him at www.joserodriguez.solutions

LC:     Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved in academia / higher education and what about it appealed to you?

DrJ:    I got into it because I know the, the pretty typical story that you have going to college, you know, your family tells you that that's the thing to do and at least in my family, you have to either be a doctor or lawyer or some other profession of that ilk. And I thought, well, I don't want to be a lawyer. I don't want to be a doctor, so I'm going to be an engineer. I started out as an engineering major and I just got tired of doing math, if I can be perfectly frank. By the time I finished a third semester of calculus, I was done. And so I took this general education class in communication, and we were studying small group communication. We would get together in groups and discuss topics and share ideas. I thought that was revolutionary, because up until that point I really didn't have experience with communication in the classroom.

I just fell in love with it. I thought, “Wow, this is really cool. I think that this might be my thing.” And the next semester, I switched my major to Communications Studies. I started working with one of my favorite professors, who became a mentor and one thing just led to another. So it wasn't like I had this grand vision of, “Gosh, yes, I wanted to be a professor since I was four years old.” That wasn't me. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was quite confusing and I just stumbled onto what I do. I developed a nice relationship with some colleagues at the university. I got into a good master's program and then just created a trajectory really through networking.

LC:    What has been the biggest surprise to you about being a professor that you didn’t realize before you “arrived”?

DrJ:    The thing that surprised me the most was the variety of activities that one needs to perform as a college faculty member. I got into teaching because I like to teach, and I like the interaction with students. I like being in the classroom. I like getting into discussions. I like lecturing. I like having that experience where you share a concept or an idea and it makes sense to somebody. They get it, their eyes light up and all of a sudden they are impacted in some positive ways. I really liked that, and I thought that that was the majority of the show, but know that that's not the majority. In fact, that's just one third.

There's this whole thing about publishing and being on committees with service obligations. I've found that to be surprising and extremely time consuming. And not that it's bad, it's not typically my thing. I think in most areas of academia, people have their strengths or their weaknesses or their preferences and my preference is on the teaching side of things. Service and academic publishing are great and I've done some of that, but that isn't really where my passion lies.

LC:    If somebody is not in academia / higher education today and they are looking for a way to learn more, where would you recommend that they go?

DrJ:    The best way to do this is through a mentor who has already “arrived.” If you find a professor or a colleague who is really a mentor, that's really the best way to find out if the career is for you. Usually when you go to grad school, especially if you're getting a PhD, you're going to have a committee of people that are working with you as you finish your dissertation. And you usually have a faculty mentor or advisor that that guides you, that writes letters of recommendation, and that has you on their research team. And that is the primary way that you get socialized into the process of becoming a professor.

Another thing that people tend to do is go to conferences and networking events where graduate students can create a growing body of colleagues across the globe or across the United States. Most people get hired that way. Just like an almost any other industry, networking becomes very critical. It becomes a part of your professional practice, and it's a great way to find out if the profession is right for you.

LC:    What are some organizations that exist to help POC feel supported and connected within the academia?

DrJ:    What's really exciting is that there are more and more programs available for persons of color and individuals from historically marginalized groups, programs like BUILD, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, and RISE. These are programs with both a national and on-campus presence, designed to help students from minority groups form a relationship with a faculty mentor in a larger community that will help them navigate the murky waters of their professional development.

I know that the BUILD community in particular goes out to junior colleges and does some pretty heavy recruiting to let students know that these resources are available. They’re not just waiting for students to come to them, but really allowing students to know that the resources are available by going out into the community.


Living Corporate
How To Use LinkedIn Effectively

Ah LinkedIn! The “professional Facebook” as some like to call it.  Some also like to use it as a professional match.com, but that is another post for another day.  LinkedIn is one of the best resources when it comes to networking.  You can network with someone in the same company as you, the same city, a different city, a different state, or even a different country.  It all depends on how you use it.  LinkedIn allows you to make your skills and value as an employee, known, to recruiters and other people who may be interested in your industry.  Today, I will discuss how to use LinkedIn to the best of your ability.   Different industries call for different standards, but let’s go by the gold standards that will apply to basically everyone:

 

Headshots

For the love of God, do not use a selfie.  Yes, sometimes I know we all have our best photos in selfies, but it is not appropriate for LinkedIn.  Instead, find a professional photographer to get a picture of you in nice light and a great pose.  If you can’t afford a professional photographer, your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy will be just as good if you follow these tips: Face forward, good lighting (no shadows), plain wall or background (not white), and also don’t forget to smile.  You can cross your arms or have them down to the side.  Also, make sure it is just you in the photo.   Wear something professional – a blazer, a professional jacket, or a nice dress.  White does not always show up great in photos, so try a different and muted color.

 

Profile

After you have your headshot, you want to complete your profile 100%.  Make sure you add your colleges and universities and any certifications you may have.  Add a summary and describe who you are, professionally, and what you currently do.  Make this summary witty and show your personality.  Do spell check and proofread.  Have someone else read it also to make sure it is professional but uniquely you.    Avoid writing in first person. 

Add your jobs, employers, and job descriptions – like a resume.  Discuss in detail what you did, what your accomplishments where, and add skills that help you stand out. 

Invite friends and colleagues to do recommendations and endorsements for you.  I personally sent out a blanketed statement asking for some and about 25% of my colleagues responded and wrote or endorsed me in the recommendations section.  Upload your resume and create a unique LinkedIn URL so that people can link back to you. 

There are many different privacy settings for LinkedIn where you can show your profile photo, jobs, or hide them; It’s up to you what you deem is best. 

 

Job Searching

Job searching on LinkedIn is very simple.  For some companies, you can apply directly on LinkedIn.  Other companies will have a link to their site where you can apply traditionally.  Additionally, when job searching, LinkedIn shows who is in your network that may be in that company or industry.  You can search by your school, location, and network connections.  You can ask for a virtual introduction.  It is all about networking here! These are small tips for job searching, but they make a big difference:

·         Research the company you want to work for and follow them

o   Follow some HR recruiters from the company too

·         Ask for introductions from your network

·         Let people know you’re looking for a job – don’t be ashamed

o   Only do this if you’re comfortable with your current job knowing

·         Engage on posts

·         Join Networking groups specific to your interests

·         Follow hashtags (i.e. #datascience, #machinelearning, or even #mba, #healthcare, #accounting)

 

Living Corporate
The Purpose of Diversity & Inclusion Programs

The Purpose of Diversity & Inclusion Programs

Many companies have launched Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs within the last few years. These initiatives often incorporate some combination of training, executive coaching, networking opportunities, mentoring programs, and other components. Companies benefit when they can find and attract diverse talent, introduce new employees to the corporate culture, identify and retain top talent, and expand into new markets.

Finding and Attracting Diverse Talent

A significant talent shortage exists in many industries. Many companies are struggling to meet recruiting goals because they continue to recruit from the same professional networks, schools, or geographic areas from which they have been recruiting for decades.

To help find and attract new talent from areas they have not approached before, companies can engage employees from diverse backgrounds to leverage their connections. People tend to know others who are similar to them, so companies can find new pools of talent through D&I initiatives.

From a recruiting perspective, companies with D&I programs may be attractive to job candidates because they demonstrate cultural understanding and acceptance. Prospective employees want to believe they will feel welcome and accepted when they join a new company, and having D&I programs  tells job candidates, “There are successful people in the company just like you, and they want to help you be successful, too.”

Introducing New Employees to the Corporate Culture

New employees may need help understanding the cultural norms of their company. Fellow ERG members can often help them, especially if the corporate culture does not readily translate to the ERG’s subculture. For example, Asian-Americans may find it difficult to tout their own accomplishments because of values instilled in them since childhood. Women may have been taught to downplay their intelligence in group settings. In a large company, these professionals may need to find ways to adapt that are both advantageous in the workplace and culturally acceptable. D&I leaders can help provide integration strategies from a firsthand perspective.

Identifying and Retaining Top Talent

D&I programs can help managers recognize talent they might otherwise overlook. Research shows that managers are more likely to reward and promote employees who are like them. This is especially true when managers do not recognize their own biases. Therefore, if a company has a high percentage of managers with similar demographics, it is likely that those demographics will not change much over time. D&I programs call attention to other employees, which can help managers move out of the default mode of hiring, recognizing, and promoting only those employees within their existing inner circles.

D&I programs also give a voice and sense of community to employees who may otherwise feel isolated or underrepresented, helping companies to retain talented employees. When people feel isolated, they are unlikely to be engaged with their company. Connected employees are more productive, more loyal, and better brand ambassadors. Connected employees stick around.

Expanding into New Markets

Breaking into new markets can be challenging. Many companies have struggled to set the right tone in their advertising. Others may not even recognize that they have a potential niche customer base. In a 2017 interview for the Inclusive Leadership Global Conference, Howard J. Ross, author of Everyday Bias, stated that it is hard to sell to someone you have just insulted. It is perhaps even harder to sell to someone you do not know exists.

A diverse employee base can offer an insider perspective on different markets and customer preferences. For example, a Latinx ERG could help a company translate both the language and the feel of commercials so that they seem natural to the target community. A lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) ERG could help a company create new products or services tailored to the specific issues faced by this consumer group. By working with management and marketing teams, networks of diverse employee can provide a competitive edge in underperforming market segments.

Get Involved and Make It Personal!

If your company has launched a D&I initiative, consider getting involved. You may find a sense of belonging that didn’t even know you were missing. You may also find yourself empowered to include others in ways you never expected!

If your company does not have a formal D&I program, consider some alternatives. You could, for example, help start a mentoring program for new employees or set up networking luncheons for people across departments. When you attend conferences, association meetings, or other events, find ways to include people who are still finding their place in the group. Also consider inviting colleagues to join you at professional networking events.

Remember, everyone wants a chance to contribute, do valuable work, and belong to something bigger than themselves. And in most cases, there is no shortage of work to be done. By including others, we maximize our own impact on the organizations, communities, and interests we serve.


Living Corporate
See It to Be It: Newspaper Journalism

See It to Be It: Newspaper Journalism

By Amy C. Waninger


About the series: See It to Be It is an interview series highlighting professional role models in a variety of industries. The goal of this series to draw attention to the vast array of possibilities available to emerging and aspiring professionals, with particular attention paid to support systems available for people of color within the industry


This interview features Barrington Salmon, a journalist who works for multiple black-owned newspapers and magazines.


LC:      Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved in journalism and what about it appealed to you?


BS:     Since I was four years old, I wanted to work with words. I was fascinated with the concept of putting thought to paper. I always knew that I wanted to write, but I didn't know it was going to be journalism.

I went to Miami Dade Community College and Florida State. I studied international relations for three years and started to wonder, “Why am I even doing this?”

I needed to find something that I was going to enjoy and that I was hopefully going to get paid for. I went to a new small newspaper that was in Tallahassee and asked for a job. The young man asked for proof that I'd written stories for some reputable publication. I didn't have any, and he said he couldn’t help me.

Having no money at the time, I offered to do the work for free. Tallahassee had the first hurricane in its recorded history. I wrote a story about a friend who, never having experienced a hurricane, went out to the Cape and almost got blown away. When I brought back the story, the guy said to me, “I don't believe you wrote this.” So I told him, “You give me a topic to write, I'll find people and do the research and do a story.” Then he believed me and gave me the job.


LC:        What has been the biggest surprise to you about the newspaper industry?


BS:        In larger newsrooms you have news meetings twice a day to figure out what stories they're going to put in the paper the next day. That process blew my mind because of the arbitrariness and the randomness of the way that they chose stories. The thing is that they find stories and the angles of stories and types of stories that they feel comfortable with.

LC:        How is working for black newspapers different from working inside white newsrooms?


BS:        I always criticize what I call corporate media because they'll send a reporter to say, “You have a corporation with 10,000 people and you only have three black people in your entire organization. And woe is me and how could you do that? And Blah, blah, blah.” And the exact same thing that they're criticizing other people for is going on in journalism. Most newsrooms do not have a person of color. And the problem with that, how can they tell stories that they don't know exist. What could be more arrogant?  Because they think that they know.

I'll give you an example. In 1996, I worked for a Washington DC newspaper. I came back from an assignment, and I saw a group of guys laughing and joking. I walked over, and there was a picture of a black man in handcuffs. They were talking about what a fantastic picture was, in terms of the quality of the picture. I said to them, “Have you thought about the fact that you have a black man in handcuffs? Why not a white boy? Why not some other person? All you're doing is perpetuating negative stereotypes.” They hadn't thought of that.


LC:      What’s something you love about your job?


BS:        You're constantly changing. I love that. I'm always learning because I'll talk to people without knowing where the interview is going to go. Sometimes it goes off a tangent that ends up being the real story. You’ve got to be flexible. You may have to put aside what you came for and go wherever you need to go with that.


Living Corporate
See It to Be It: Healthcare Industry

See It to Be It: Healthcare Industry

By Amy C. Waninger

About the series: See It to Be It is an interview series highlighting professional role models in a variety of industries. The goal of this series to draw attention to the vast array of possibilities available to emerging and aspiring professionals, with particular attention paid to support systems available for people of color within the industry

This interview features Dana Beckton, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Christiana Care, a hospital company in Delaware.

LC:     Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved in the healthcare industry and what about it appealed to you?

DB:    I came into healthcare from the insurance industry, and actually I wasn't drawn specifically to healthcare. There was an opportunity to do what I was doing in insurance, only in healthcare. A friend who was already working in health care had recommended a position for me to apply. In the early 2000s, a lot of companies in different industries were being bought out or weren’t financially solvent. Healthcare seemed to be that one industry where I didn't see a lot of that. The particular organization that I was applying to was also very well known,  and well respected across the country. So there was a level of security that led me to move into healthcare within the field that I was already in.

LC:    So, you used your network to learn about new opportunities for yourself that you wouldn't have known existed otherwise?

DB:    Honestly, that's how it was for almost every job I went to. I’ve gotten more opportunities from networking and word of mouth than I did from seeking it out intentionally.

LC:    I’ve found that using your network doesn't always mean somebody calls you and says, I want to hire. Sometimes it’s someone saying, “Hey, did you know about this position that's open?” Or, “I heard about this role and I thought you might be a good fit.” It's not always a job offer. Sometimes it's just someone peeling back a layer of obfuscation. Have you found that to be true?

DB:    That's exactly what it was.

LC:    What has been the biggest surprise to you about the healthcare industry that you wouldn't have thought of or a misconception that you had before you were in the industry?

DB:    I probably had the same misconception that many people have. Just a lack of understanding of the complexity and the number of different types of careers you can have in healthcare. When you hear healthcare you immediately think about doctors and nurses. But a lot of people don't recognize that it's almost like a city. Every type of career is possible from legal to facilities management to construction. Everything you could want to do, you can do in healthcare.

LC:    If somebody is not in the healthcare industry today or they are looking for a way to learn more, where would you recommend that they go?

DB:    The National Association of Health Service Executives has local chapters and provides great opportunities for networking, for learning about all of the different areas. In particular it tends to lean more towards the nonclinical side, which is good as well.

LC:    A lot of industries or are talking about a talent crisis where they're having a hard time attracting college graduates into the industry, or the feeder programs that used to exist don't exist anymore. In other cases, people are leaving the industry in favor of other emerging industries. Healthcare has been around for a long time, but there are some newer industries that are attracting talent away. Could you talk a little bit about your thoughts on the current talent needs in your industry?

DB:    We don’t see a real shortage in frontline, nontechnical roles like we do for more technical positions because people don't know they exist. One example that I can give is around an emerging field in healthcare stemming from the change in healthcare. The healthcare industry is no longer confined to the hospital building. Healthcare is now moving out into the community. Healthcare is now engaging in populations outside of the hospital. Home health care nurses and home health aides are in demand, and it’s not easy to find people who can make that pivot.

Another industry shift occurred when ICD-10 coding was implemented. We didn’t have people who were immediately qualified to do medical coding, because it was something brand new. So our organization got really creative and they created, in partnership with a local college, a coder program. People from the community, as well as people internal to the hospital system, were able to go get their certification and then get placed into this new coder position. So sometimes the positions require a paradigm shift of how and where we find qualified talent.

The other thing that we are cognizant of is from a socialization standpoint is how to create those early pipelines into different positions. So something that I’m working on now is a program to get middle school boys interested in nursing. How do we socialize them? Young boys get socialized to think, “I'm a boy, I'll become a doctor.” But there exists in our industry a growing desire to increase the number of male nurses.

LC:    What are some organizations that exist to help POC feel supported and connected within the healthcare industry?

DB:    The Student National Medical Association is an association dedicated to supporting and helping underrepresented students in medicine who are seeking to become doctors. They support college students who are pre-med, or who have a desire to be pre-med, and then it follows them all the way up through medical school. These organizations really do provide support systems for students so that they know that they aren't alone, and that there is a cohort of people that are there to support them. A number of health systems are also big proponents and supporters of the organization.

LC:    What about for non-doctors in the healthcare space? So as we talk about nurses and home health techs and physical therapists and medical coders and all of the other functions within the healthcare space, are there similar organizations helping people?

DB:    We are helping young people of color find their place in those spaces as well. For almost any one of those positions you just named, you can go out and find the organizations that are there to support them that help with the job connections, help with the support, that just answer “How do I engage with people who have similar backgrounds when I'm one of the first in this field?”

LC:    Any other recommendations for our readers?

DB:    Check out Dr. Velma Scantlebury’s forthcoming book Beyond the Wall. Dr. Scantlebury was the first African American female transplant surgeon in the country. She’s one of my colleagues, and a very good friend, and she’s still practicing today.






Living Corporate
Be a Mentor. Yes, You. Yes, Now.

Editor’s note: The following article is adapted from the author’s book, Network Beyond Bias: Making Diversity a Competitive Advantage for Your Career, and reprinted with the publisher’s permission.

Be a Mentor. Yes, You. Yes, Now.

There is always someone, somewhere who needs to see a possible future version of themselves. For every person who has made it through school, out of poverty, beyond an illness or addiction, to the other side of bad choices, or into a profession, there are dozens of people who can't see a path forward. Do you have a mentor or role model? If so, what does that mean for you? If not, consider how might you accelerate on your own path if someone shows you the way.

The more you know, the more you realize you don't know, and the less you realize you do know. Wow. That's a paradox, isn't it? This tendency of our confidence to be inversely related to our competence is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Imposter syndrome, the fear that everyone will find out you're still “faking it,” increases with our level of achievement and mastery of a subject. We often devalue the skills we've mastered because they're easy for us. News flash: Everyone didn't learn what you did the moment you learned it. Spending time with someone who hasn't learned it yet can be a great reminder of how far you've come. Doing so also gives you an opportunity to share your knowledge for someone else's benefit. Everyone wins.

The more you give, the more you gain. I see it in my life every single day. Sure, there are wildly successful jerks. Just don't be one of them. Putting good out into the world improves your self-esteem. When you "pay it forward," other people are drawn to you. All those people you helped will celebrate with you when you make it big. As Dick Parsons said in his 2016 interview with Fortune magazine, "Be the person everyone wants to see succeed."

“What If I Don't Know Anything?”

If it's true that every person you meet knows something you don't, then the reverse must also be true. Every person you meet doesn't-know something you know! What have you already accomplished? What skills or knowledge did you gain in the process? Have you taken any classes, read any books, or completed any projects? If so, challenge yourself to impart this knowledge on someone else. No more excuses!

Start simple. Tweet an article to share with your professional network. Read to a grade school class. Or recommend a good book, class, or podcast to a friend. Just like that, you've shared some knowledge!

Be (a Little) Selfish

There are 7 billion altruistic reasons to be a mentor: one for each person on the planet. In case you're not motivated by do-gooderism, I've compiled some completely selfish reasons to sign up to be a mentor:

Gain confidence

Discover new strengths

Build new skills for your resume

Learn from your protégé

Expand your professional network

Find content for your blog, YouTube channel, or podcast

Recognize your unique areas of expertise

Remind yourself how far you've come

Gain a new perspective

Help peers find jobs

Helping others increases your own happiness

Leave a legacy

Compound your own success

Be seen as a leader among your peers

Whether your reasons are selfish or altruistic, someone needs you! Make this the year you expand your influence through new mentoring relationships.

Where Can You Mentor?

Grade schools, high schools, colleges, and trade schools

Prisons and juvenile detention facilities

Formal mentoring organizations

Community centers and volunteer programs

Your place of worship and other faith-based programs

Youth sports organizations

Living Corporate
Navigating the MAGAs In Confined Environments

In Oct 2016, I returned back to the Plumbing Wholesale industry where I had previously spent the majority of my career. However, I was now working for a very small, private distributor with a single owner for the first time ever. This probably comes as no surprise to most of you all reading this but I had a fair amount of trepidation walking into this type environment for several reasons:

  1. Interestingly, the plumbing industry is not often seen as a safe haven of societal change and advancement. (However, if you happen to know a place, please let me know in the comments)

  2. Just by the numbers, working for a smaller employer has the likelier possibility of leading to career stagnation(i.e.,  l lack of managerial positions, sales positions, growth opportunities, etc.)

  3. There were no African-Americans in positions of influence or power. (This is also very common in this industry. At this new job, the warehouse manager was Black but warehouse managers are usually excluded from key manager meetings or decisions).

  4. I had previously been a manager of my own branch; This means, I already had the knowledge and experience and i didn't need my hand to be held or to be placated. I wanted to walk in the first day and earn my stripes. I also would have liked expectations to be challenging, but attainable.

  5. If I do run into racial conflict, it could lead to enough tension and industry blackballing to make me wish I’d never even took this job.

To my own surprise, I was amazed at how wonderful almost everyone was at my new job! Everyone was nice, and there wasn’t the usual pressure to be Barack Obama and Jesus combined in the first month.

Then, November 8th, 2016 happened…

It was the most awkward day in my professional career. My modus operandi had always been to read and observe people in new work environments. I want to understand who are allies. I want to know who is related (a common theme in small businesses). I want to know who are the enemies and who are frenemies. Idon’t  want people to know who I align with and give everyone an opportunity to be my ally. Then on Election Day at least 3 MAGA hats appeared at work. As nice as so many people had been, I have to assume that you view me a number of certain ways if you voted or intended to vote for Donald Trump. Most importantly, I didn’t know how the owner of the business felt politically or socially.

I would later find out that the hats of xenophobian hubris had actually been, and still were, a source of stress at our job. So much so that after that day it was made clear that any type of clothing expressing political revere were off limits. Still, for me, the stage had been set.

Afterwards I began to pick up on the micro-tensions that I knew were inevitable. I graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Psychology. Most psych-majors majors at non-lib arts schools know that you essentially made an extended gift offering to your school’s academic fund with some really expensive book purchases included. However, I immediately began hearing the conversations that have trailed behind me my entire career:

“Just because you have a college degree it doesn’t make you necessarily smart or good at your job”

“Did you go to Texas A&M for athletics?”

“I’ve done my job for 2 centuries. I didn’t need to go to college to do this” “Trump is bad but at least he’s not Kill-ary Clinton.”

“I grew up in a ‘Black’ neighborhood. Most of the people doing all the worst stuff were Black kids.”

“I make my own money. I’m thankful Trump doesn’t want to give all of it back to the government.”

Even though this talk was ongoing, I was thankful to realize that the owner actually is not a Republican. I don’t politically identify as a Democrat but he does. We actually share a lot of similar views. He made it much easier for me to navigate my workplace knowing that he, and his son, who shares in leadership responsibilities, were essentially politically fluid like I am.

Knowing that I could enjoy my work space without a threat to my employment, I began to employ strategies on how to maintain my personal sanity while also sharing my values.  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Every discussion, debate, or fight isn’t worth it. Your primary function is to maintain or increase your company’s efficiency and/or profitability. Your job is not to feed the trolls.

  2. If you choose to participate in these discussions, use them as an opportunity to share and educate. Note: it’s not your job to educate the ignorant, but if you’re going to go down this path you may as well be properly prepared. Share information and personal experiences presented on a platter of love and influence instead of on a sword. Lastly,  you choose to support your side of the debate with articles or statistics be careful that the information provided can be verified.

  3. Use these conversations to your advantage. Respect is sometimes gained simply by validly presenting your vantage point and experiences. You can gain unexpected allies and work capital that can be exchanged at a later date. Just be sure to not assume anyone has your best interests at heart and that, sometimes work friends don’t always translate over to “real” friends.

  4. If you choose not to participate, be VERY explicit in your wishes. In no uncertain terms, express that you are not in this space to discuss politics. If someone is constantly trying to involve you in conversations that make you feel uncomfortable, express that this is harassment and you have no intention of being involved in it.


Living Corporate
MeToo Backlash Is Real. And Wrong.

Several of my colleagues have asked me -- numerous times -- to weigh in on the #MeToo Backlash. It seems that men are retreating into their corner offices and private golf clubs to avoid accusations of sexism and sexual assault. They have it all wrong. 

First, A Brief Herstory Lesson

For a lot of years, and not that long ago, women were not welcomed in business, except in very low-paying roles. Even then, their success depended on certain unspoken conditions. The first condition was that they were attractive enough to sit at the front desk and bring in men. The second  condition was that they play along or at least look the other way when men behaved badly in the workplace. This bad behavior could range from demeaning comments toward or about a woman to serial rape of female employees.

This isn't ancient history. These things happened within the last few decades, and women were afraid to speak up because we thought we were alone. We thought no one would believe us. The overwhelming response would be "If you don't like it, go home." Or "You don't matter." And, women were right. High profile cases of workplace sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape repeatedly confirm these fears. 

Women Are Finally Speaking Up

Now, women are collectively saying we don't like those rules. We don't want to be hired for our looks. Our gender should not have more bearing on our pay or job title than our education, skills, knowledge, and contributions. We don't want to be treated disrespectfully or sexually assaulted at work. And, we'd like the make clear that if a man is mentoring us, he should not expect us to flirt or consent to things that we aren't comfortable with. We will not turn the other way when we see it happening to others. Women are standing up for each other in ways we never have before. We realize that we cannot trust powerful men to take just one of us seriously.

#MeToo Backlash Says "Don't Be Alone With a Woman"

Some men are now essentially saying, "Well, if you're not going to play by our rules, we won't talk to you at all." Why is this such a problem for men? Seems they still don't believe that any of these allegations could be true. They say they're afraid of "false accusations" from the women they work with. Some men are afraid, for the very first time, of being alone with a woman because it poses a perceived risk to their public image, if not their livelihood. Their intentions, they say, might be misunderstood. In a he-said-she-said situation, someone might not believe them. And most women, understandably, have little sympathy for this newfound situational awareness. So, where do we go from here?

Practical and Responsible Compromise

Here's a surprising point of agreement. I mean no offense by this, but a lot of women don't want to be alone with certain men either. Many of us have past trauma from which we have not healed. When we posted "#MeToo" on social media, it was a show of solidarity, not a badge of honor.

We may have observed disrespectful comments, jokes, or other behaviors from a particular man at work and worry about his intentions. I personally have worked with dozens of men who were known (at least by the women in the office) to be serial predators of one type or another. Make no mistake. These men are NOT worried about false accusations. They're worried that we're onto them. 

But how can men who are not serial predators, rapists, skirt chasers, manipulators, abusers, or narcissists differentiate themselves and avoid #MeToo allegations? Simple. Don't mentor a woman one-on-one. Mentor five women instead. Hold regular meetings as a group in a public space. Be obvious about what you're doing. Even as a mentor, spend twice as much time listening as talking. You will learn volumes about the unique barriers and hurdles these women face, and in places you'd never expect. To get an even better education and have a more lasting impact, make sure you include women of who vary in age, race, education, and physical ability. Make your group as diverse as possible.

Finally, listen for someone who says, "I won't work with women." What they're really saying is "I can't work with 50 percent of the population because I can't trust them to look the other way when I behave badly." That should tell you everything you need to know about them.

About the author:

Amy C. Waninger, CEO of Lead at Any Level LLC, works with organizations that want to build leadership bench strength for a sustainable competitive advantage. Learn more at www.LeadAtAnyLevel.com



Living Corporate
Working Through (Not so) Micro-Aggressions

In December 2016, I was working for a small company after two previously failed journeys with two different companies that ended miserably. I came into this new role as the Operations Manager.  It would be my first time in this role full time but I had run a business like this before as a manager. The good things were that the GM and I had both worked together in both of those previous two companies. We also were fully invested in this opportunity and one another knowing that we both needed some career remediation.

It didn’t take me long to recognize in this new company that there were cultural red flags all over the place. One of those flags was embodied as an outside salesperson.  Let’s call her Jamie. Jamie had been with the company for about 18 months before I arrived. After a few days, I began to see I was in a business that hadn’t performed an inventory in 10 years, an uninspired group working in the warehouse and counter sales area, and inefficiency in how orders were pulled, sorted, and delivered to customers. These items were major disabilities and a source of animosity for the outside sales team.

Immediately, Jamie & I bumped heads. She constantly blamed others in our business, including those under my stead, for her shortcomings and mistakes. Most of those mistakes were rooted in that this was her first sales job, she didn’t know the product she was selling, and she was handed the top sales accounts by the owner of the business who hired her but wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operation on-site. I learned to rely on other people in our business to communicate what my groups could and couldn’t do while also avoiding this salesperson’s toxic nature. In the meantime, she continued to throw tantrums, explode into expletive filled rants, and go over the GMs head whenever her personal needs weren’t met.

Things came to a head one day when Victor, the GM, asked me to come to his office to meet with him and Jamie quickly. We began talking and planning through a contentious situation involving one of my groups. Inevitably, the conversation became intense and began to reach it’s peak when she expressed how she was bringing all the business into our profit center and we were all holding her back. I replied, “What do you want, a cookie?” She stormed out of the GM’s office, slammed his door so hard flakes of acoustic ceiling tile fell from above, and she raged into the hallway yelling curse words and mowing over anyone in her path.

I drove off and went to an observation parking lot near Hobby Airport to watch the planes takeoff and land. I knew I would be fired. My fears were confirmed I went back to our office. She had called the owner who told Victor to fire me. It was one week before Christmas.

Whether you agree that I was at fault in my reaction or not, I failed because I wasn’t able to find a viable solution to working with someone who was inevitably a part of my success.

The valuable lessons I learned were:

  1. Know thyself. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to gain traction with management or other advocates, avoid potential hotspots. Hot spots may include communication like emails or meetings where things may turn volatile. If you can’t avoid those situations eat a snack or drink water before or during the meeting. You’d be surprised how your physical health can affect a situation.

  2. Know your people. Victor and I were both in a situation where he, ultimately, had no power over Jamie. He tried to manage her and her temper as well, but he eventually met the same fate I did.

  3. Know your situation. I was determined to make THIS situation work because of the scars I was still nursing from the previous situations. The truth is that sometimes you may leave one harmful situation for another. It happens.

  4. Know when to get out. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned throughout my career is that even though jobs are hard to find nothing can is more valuable than your inner peace. Yes, fight for your career. Yes, stand up with confidence for what is right and for your rights in the face of antagonistic forces. But always know where the “EXIT” door is so you can leave on your own terms.

Diversify Your Professional Network

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from the author’s book, Network Beyond Bias, and reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Your Professional Network: Invest Strategically

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Your network is your net worth.” Gale Porter coined this phrase with his book by the same title. But let’s take his concept one step further.  Your network is an investment, like your 401(k). You wouldn’t put your life savings into just one company’s stock. Nor would you pick your investment portfolio based on where your friends or cousins or sorority sisters work - you would diversify. In other words, you would spread your money around so that a downturn in a single company or industry wouldn’t leave you bankrupt. You might even re-balance your portfolio occasionally so future investments didn’t get too concentrated in a single stock or fund.

Diversify Your Network Investment

Just as you wouldn’t put all your financial eggs in one basket, you also need to diversify your professional relationships. Your network, after all, is an investment of your time, your energy, and your reputation. Everything you will accomplish in your career will come from investing these resources effectively, efficiently, and wisely. The returns on this investment include access to jobs and promotions, market insights, industry knowledge, clients, mentors, business partners, and so on. The interest you will compound in your network will make you valuable beyond your wildest dreams.

So why, then, do we concentrate our professional networks based on what’s easiest, closest, or most like us? And if we’re doing the work anyway, why not build our networks with diversity in mind? We need to recognize which perspectives we may be missing, and then we need to seek out people who are different.

Aspects of Diversity

Different aspects of our identities radiate from us like spokes of a bicycle tire. The primary aspects are immutable characteristics. These identifiers are the ones we and others use to determine how we fit into the world, at our very core: gender, race, age, generation, ethnicity, physical ability, primary language, nationality, and sexual orientation.

Beyond these core identities, there are other factors that influence how we interact with and experience the world around us. Where we live, how much money we make, how we worship, and marital status are some examples. In terms of work, we might consider a person’s industry, level of education, employer, or level of management as important diversity considerations.

All these dimensions combine in exciting ways that make each person’s worldview a unique kaleidoscope of perspective. When we mix these points of view together, we innovate in ways that are rich and colorful and exciting, far beyond that which we could ever conceive on our own. By investing our time and energy into connecting with people and ideas outside of our own norms, we create new opportunities for ourselves and others.


About the author:

As CEO of Lead at Any Level LLC, Amy C. Waninger works with organizations that want to build leadership bench strength for a sustainable competitive advantage. Learn more at www.LeadAtAnyLevel.com


Inclusive Leadership
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What Is Inclusive Leadership?

Inclusive leadership is a complicated topic. Leadership itself is multifaceted, and we've seen a change in leadership over time. Leadership used to be very focused on command-and-control. Then the concept of servant leadership came into vogue, where leadership was about service to the people that you were leading. I also love the concept of strength-based leadership, which is the notion of finding what drives each person and helping each person achieve their optimum potential within the team.

Inclusive leadership takes that one step further. It's not just finding people's individual strengths, but also creating an environment where everyone feels like they can bring their strengths to the table. And to be an inclusive leader, you must do that in a way that lifts everyone and empowers everyone to be who they are and to be "all in" at work.

Why Be an Inclusive Leader?

No one asks, "What are the advantages to being an exclusive leader?" Or, "What's the business case for hiring someone who can only work with a narrow subset of employees and customers?" It would be preposterous. There is no good "business case" for ignoring talent or good ideas that come from people who don't look like you. Similarly, there's no business case for turning away paying customers with a different understanding of the world. And yet, those are exactly the impacts we have if we don't actively seek to be inclusive as leaders.

Why Are Inclusive Leaders in Demand?

Current business trends include: diversity & inclusion; networking, especially via social media; increasing globalization; and the "gig" economy. The primary drivers for all of these trends are

  1. shifting workforce and consumer demographics

  2. rapidly advancing technology, and

  3. an increasingly global economy and workforce.

The result is that employers are competing to attract and retain the right talent for their organizations. At the same time, talented professionals are more diverse, more connected, and have more opportunities than ever before. Similarly, companies are competing for customers in emerging and niche markets all around the world, while consumers have greater access to both information and substitute goods and services. Acquiring talent is costly. Companies need leaders who know how to attract and retain talented individuals, no matter what they look like or where they come from.

Inclusive leadership requires self-reflection, patience, and vulnerability. It's not easy and doesn't happen overnight. The same can be said of nearly everything else that is worthwhile.

About the Author:

Amy C. Waninger, CEO of Lead at Any Level LLC, works with organizations that want to build diverse leadership bench strength for a sustainable competitive advantage. Learn more at www.LeadAtAnyLevel.com


KING
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“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn...resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook.” - MLK Jr. 1967

King said this 52 years ago. 52 collective years have passed that has included hundreds of deaths by the hands of police, multiple communities displaced by gentrification, schools re-segregated, the continued disproportionate imprisonment of black and brown people, an ever increasing household wealth inequality gap, families separated at the southern border and the election of one a man who adopted Bull Connor’s political platform like no other, and here we are still.

By definition, “ignorance” describes a state of not knowing. In a large sense, it is innocent – after all, there are many things that one does not know. However, what makes the racial ignorance King was speaking to here particularly insidious is white America’s refusal to acknowledge the historic and present oppression of non-white folks and their participation in it, complicit or otherwise. Again, the ignorance here is intentional and obstinate. Terms like the “race card”, “race-baiter”, “colorblind”,  and similar terms are all attempts to push the fallacious narrative that anti-blackness is a trope, a played out, tired refrain in the cacophonous chorus of victim-hood.

Practically, this phenomenon shows up in interesting ways at work. Diversity and Inclusion programs, led by white people, drive discussions centered around white comfort. New language is created to ignore the reality of systemic racism within the workplace.  “Diversity of thought” is the ultimate ideal - effectively justifying mostly white, mostly male leadership. Gender is the shiniest silver medal with no attempt at inter-sectional engagement, erasing non-white identities and the history attached. Unconscious bias training is the cure-all, driving the presumption that the majority is not intentionally bigoted. In the best scenarios, attempts to bring these truths to light are met with soft nods, a commitment to continued dialogue and little else. This does little for those in the minority who continue to see and be the witnesses and recipients of inequitable treatment.

America’s response to being presented one of the greatest speakers, leaders and minds of modern history was harassment from the FBI, assault and imprisonment by police, and murder. Despite this, in a world wrought by so much chaos, corruption, and immorality, I still have hope. The largest misconception is that hope is an intangible feeling, a wish upon a star billions of miles away that things will somehow get better by the notion that it simply must do so. For me however, hope is a verb. Hope is the pairing of intentional and strategic behaviors with clear, desired outcomes. Until that happens, “resonant resolutions about brotherhood will continue to fall pleasantly on the ear”.

Living Corporate
Emotional Maturity

Written by Meagan Harding

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It was some time last year when my brother called me in sheer frustration to discuss an issue he was having at his corporate job. For those not familiar with play family, he’s not my biological brother. This kind of imputed familial status is popular in the black community and a real sign of deep approval, but I digress.

So he called me and he was so upset about the microagressions he was enduring on a day to day basis. He was seeking advice on how to best communicate said frustration and did not understand why his boss was so passive aggressive. This was especially complex because he was hyper aware of the fact that his black body was considered threatening by simply occupying space in the room. It broke my heart because he’s a sensitive guy who cares deeply about relational care. I responded, “there are a lot of emotionally immature people who have positions of power. It’s actually astounding.”

Most job applications do not require that you explain your emotional maturity. They do not test for the ability to manage your own feelings in an non-intrusive manner that does not require babysitting. Emotional maturity is one of those intangible job skills that can greatly impact a person’s experience in th work place but often becomes apparent when it’s too late. There are lot of people managing others who have no business doing so because no one knew or checked on their relational capacities.

Sometimes, it takes extraordinary restraint and patience to be a person of color in homogenous work places. We often have to compensate and side step people’s emotional immaturity while being expected to exemplify extraordinary levels of restraint. It’s exhausting in a different way.

Then, there are also times when we have to check our own emotions. There are triggers everywhere and sometimes keeping it one hundred is inappropriate. It’s important to be able to take criticism, digest it and reflect before responding. I have found that my first thought is usually not the best one when it comes to anger.

Here are some things that I have found to be helpful:

1. Observe first. Take a certain amount of time to just watch and listen. That will give you an idea of where the land mines are and what type of finessing certain topics or people will require.

2. Find a work buddy. It’s important to have someone you can vent to safely and also get input on how to handle some things. This buddy does not have to be the same race; they just need to be down and understand how your existence at the company might be different than their own.

3. With the work buddy, don’t do all the talking. The sharing needs to be reciprocal because no one wants to be spilling their guts to someone who isn’t transparent.

4. Be direct when necessary. Sometimes you simply cannot placate people and you need to create boundaries. Some things just will not work for you and should not be tolerated and it’s okay to make those known. As I grow, I realize that it is okay to tell people how to treat you, even if they are a superior.

5. When you are feeling triggered, even justifiably, sit with it for a beat and allow yourself time to process. That can mean going for a walk, lunch out of the office or closing your office door for a while. In work and in life it helps to breathe before responding.

6. Pray. It’s hard working for and with people. Sometimes you just gotta send one up and ask for help.

Meagan is a creative and a justice advocate. She is the co-founder of REBEL + REST, which is committed to helping restore the humanity, value and joy that the world daily tries to take away from us through the lie of racism. They do this by creating thoughtfully curated, all-expense paid retreats for social activists and advocates to rest, restore, rejuvenate and replenish. You can find her on Twitter @meagantharding or Instagram @meagan.harding.

 

10 Practical Ways to Embrace Mental Wellness in the Workplace

Written by Christa Clarke

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I meditate in my office. I have a tea corner. I grow plants. To my current coworkers, I am very conscious about my mental well-being while at work. However, I did not always consider the office a place where I could practice mindfulness and take an active role in my mental well-being. Taking mental health days is just the tip of the iceberg. I am sharing 10 practical ways to embrace mindfulness and maintain your mental well-being while in the office.

1. Create a Morning Ritual for the Office

Instead of diving straight into piles of paperwork or emails after the morning rush hour, take a moment to ease into your workday focused and relaxed. For example, my morning ritual consists of watering my plants, brewing a fresh cup of loose leaf tea, and reading a short devotional. As I sip my tea, listen to peaceful gospel or classical music as I eat breakfast and prioritize my to-do list. A simple morning ritual when you arrive in the office is the perfect way to take control of the way you start your workday.

2. Stretch or Do Desk Yoga, Plus Rest Your Eyes

When working primarily behind a computer screen, our bodies build up tension. Shoulders. Neck. Legs. Eyes. The tension and stiffness can even lead to pain. When you are starting to feel tense or even just need a boost of energy, try these desk stretches or desk yoga poses. Don’t forget to relax your eyes by following the 20–20–20 rule.

3. Take Shorter Breaks More Often

There is a psychological cost to working hard, especially when working on tedious or difficult tasks. Basically, you will get tired, lose your ability to think creatively, and start to make more mistakes without taking breaks. Many of us fool ourselves into thinking we are too busy to take breaks. We aren’t. Breaks are necessary to improve attention, increase energy, as well as to retain information. Try using the Pomodoro Method to increase your productivity by working on one task for 25-minutes, and taking a 5-minute non-work related break. Pivot between focused working periods and short breaks. Every 4th cycle take a 20–30 minute break.

4. Be Realistic about Your To-Do List

If you are like me, you may have the tendency to overfill your to-do list and find yourself dissatisfied or overwhelmed by the number of items remaining that will spill over into the next day. If left unchecked, this can become a vicious cycle of feeling like you are playing catch up more often than you are not. By utilizing the Pomodoro Method that I mentioned earlier, you will learn how long certain tasks will take you to complete. After learning this intel about yourself, you can effectively schedule the tasks that you prioritized during your morning routine in between meetings.

5. Stop Multitasking!

In a nutshell, multitasking is not just inefficient but it is also stressful! Switching your focus back and forth from one task and its objectives to another can actually cost you up to 40% productivity time. Coupled with your to-do List (see above) this can lead you back down the path into the vicious cycle of feeling like you are continuously playing catch up.

6. Find Time to Meditate or Breathe

The beauty about meditation is this you can literally meditate anywhere, almost at any time. Learning to meditate is simple: just breathe and pay attention to the rhythm of your breath. An easy way to get started with meditation or breath-work in the office is by creating a sign that reads “Meditation in Progress” and place it on your office door or visible in your cubicle. Set aside 1 minute or even 5–10 minutes of time to yourself. Take a moment to note how you are currently feeling, without judgment, and then just breathe. One of my favorite apps for guided meditations includes Headspace.

7. Leave Work, At Work

In a previous workplace during the busier seasons, I found myself often unable to fall asleep because my mind was racing about what I needed to accomplish at work. I even had the occasional vivid dream about work! I ultimately decided I need to create better barriers between my work life and home life. My first step was removing emails from my phone. Not all of us are fortunate to have a job where your boss is okay with waiting until the next working day for your reply. If this is your current situation, you can still create barriers between your work life and home life by creating rules about when, where, and how you are willing to work while at home. For instance, no working in the bedroom. Another rule, no working from 6 to 8 PM and all work ceases by 10 PM.

8. But, Make Your Office Your Home Away from Home

While creating boundaries for work outside of the office, it is equally important to create an environment in which we are comfortable while at work. Therefore, you should not be afraid to show your personality and add personal touches to make your office feel more like home away from home. In my office, I have: plenty of plants, a painting, pictures of my spouse and me, and an accent lamp. Bring elements into your office that will contribute to your happiness, creativity, focus, and relaxation.

9. Volunteer to Coordinate Quarterly Wellness Activities

I currently work in an office that hosts quarterly wellness activity for employees in the various departments that we work closely with. One quarter we took a morning stroll outside. Another quarter, we painted during lunch. Quarterly wellness activities for the office is not only a great way to get to know your coworkers, but also a fantastic way to start introducing wellness into your office culture.

10. Talk to Your Boss about Mental Health

Talking to your boss about your mental health or even utilizing a mental health day can be a difficult conversation. However, it can also be one of the most important conversations that you will have during your career with your boss. If you have a mental health concern or illness, The Muse (a digital career resource platform) has a practical how-to guide on how to discuss your mental health with your boss. If you are wanting to ask your boss for a mental health day, Brit + Co (a digital media company) has an excellent how-to guide on how to ask your boss for a mental health day.

Christa Clarke is an entrepreneur, public speaker, and project manager. She is passionate about providing success-minded women of color the tools and resources to flourish in their careers and lives. Learn more about her and her work by visiting her website www.FreeingShe.com and connecting with her over on Instagram @heychristaclarke.

The Gift of Professional Reinvention

Written by Tyeshia Miles

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   Have you ever pretended to be happy with your career yet, you secretly desired something else? I can relate because that was me a few years ago.

At twenty-one years old, I earned my first six-figures in seven months simply by using my natural talents and skill sets as a cosmetologist. I vividly remember that feeling of financial relief; something that I was not accustomed to. I grew up in the projects watching my mom work several jobs, barely making ends meet to provide for her four girls. $243.12; an amount forever stuck in my mind. That was the amount on my mom’s check stub for two weeks of work. It serves as a reminder that I control my earning power. I will not allow anyone to profit off my labor more than me. It was motivation for my entrepreneurial journey. I opened my hair salon, The Signature Salon, with nearly $40K in cash, one year after serving my first client. Discipline and delayed gratification made opening my shop a dream come true. This journey was not without obstacles. I endured being racially profiled and I was discriminated against. I persevered while searching for a building, networking, creating sustainable revenue while enduring the mental pressures that

encompass entrepreneurship. Soon after, my business generated more revenue than I expected, and my life was good. Finally, my blood, sweat and tears paid off. I didn’t realize I generated over half a million dollars until my accountant told me. I no longer worried about being able to pay my bills. I wondered what I would do with the additional money. I had enough money for my needs, my wants and I was able to be a blessing to my family and others

in need. I asked myself, “what can I do to add another 100K to my income?” Adding more clients was the answer but unfortunately, it meant more time away from my family and on my feet. I had all the signs of success, yet I didn’t feel the freedom of success. Money was no longer my motivator. I knew I was meant for more and was not scratching the surface of my full potential. I wanted to do something that fed my soul. I had no clue that what I was seeking would require me to realign my complete life and career to obtain it.

   One day, I was in a group of heart-centered entrepreneurs. We all wanted the same things – to use our gifts and skills to earn money doing what we loved while positively impacting the lives of others. A seed was planted. I chose to become a certified professional coach. I invested in a high-level business mastermind program to surround myself with like-minded people to hold me accountable to achieving my new goal. The idea of professionally realigning was overwhelming, intimidating and scary. My journey of realignment also became a self-discovery deep dive. I strongly believe that we cannot

find our purpose without understanding who we are as a person. We must know what we want in order to obtain it. In my realignment, I discovered there are several questions that we must answer to gain clarity in order to move forward.

• Who are you and what do you value?

• What do you want to be known for?

• How much money do you want to earn?

• What problem do you want to solve?

• What are your strong and weak skills?

• Do you feel you deserve better and do you believe you can achieve it?

• Are you committed to doing the uncomfortable actions needed to achieve your desired professional goals?

• Do you need additional training or education?

• What obstacles do you need to proactively overcome?

• What is your financial plan to sustain you during your realignment?

   I diligently worked through each of these questions on my realignment quest. I am a former hairstylist and salon owner who is now, a sought-after business strategist, Inner Work Coach, author and speaker. I help unfulfilled entrepreneurs and professionals, who are ready to push past their fears to create practical plans for achieving both the career and lifestyle they desire with confidence. My journey of professional reinvention stretched me beyond familiarity into unchartered territory to create a fulfilling career and lifestyle. I happily work with less mental and physical effort while earning more money. More rewarding than that, I am blessed to use my life experiences and expertise to inspire and help others live their boldest life, NOW!

Tyeisha Miles is an international coach. Her mission is to teach service-based entrepreneurs, experts and speakers who  are tired of living beneath what they know is possible for their life and who are ready to profit from their passion and how to authentically share their knowledge to  help others and earn great money doing what they love. Learn more about her and her work at https://tyemiles.com

Leadership IS Allyship
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Written by Amy C. Waninger , author of Network Beyond Bias

Do You Aspire to Be a Leader?

If you aspire to be a leader, you're not alone. So many corporate employees aspire to leadership roles in their organizations. They seek out high-profile projects, promotions, and executive sponsors. To really stand out in a company, though, you need to stand for something other than your own self-interest. Specifically, you can position yourself as a leader in your organization by being an ally to others.

You Have More Power Than You Realize

Many of us are tricked into thinking that because we marginalized in some way, we cannot (or need not) be allies for others. You have more power than you realize. You may lack privilege in some situations. But there are countless ways you may be taking your own privilege for granted.

Recognize Your Relative Power

I’ve compiled a list of examples, organized alphabetically, to help stimulate your thinking.

If you are… you can be an ally to…

  • Able-bodied … people with disabilities, chronic illness, chronic pain, and/or mobility issues

  • Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American … Each other

  • Cisgender … transgender and nonbinary individuals

  • Employed … people who are unemployed or underemployed, independent contractors

  • Female … men and nonbinary individuals

  • Gay or Lesbian … people who identify as bisexual/pansexual

  • Hearing … people who are deaf or hard of hearing

  • Heterosexual … LBGTQ individuals

  • High school or college graduate … someone without formal education

  • Industry insider … someone new to your company or industry

  • Literate … someone who cannot read

  • Male … women and nonbinary individuals

  • Middle- or upper-class … the poor, the working poor, people who are or who have been homeless

  • Millennial, Gen Z, Gen X, Boomers … Other generations

  • Native English speaker … someone for whom English is a second language

  • Neurotypical … people on the Autism spectrum, people with mental illness

  • Non-caregivers … people caring for adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, people caring for elderly parents or parents with dementia

  • Non-veterans … veterans and active-duty military personnel

  • Not in prison … people in prison or with a criminal record

  • Parent … people without children (and vice versa); partnered parents can also be allies to single parents

  • Safe at home … someone in an abusive relationship

  • Seeing … people who are blind

  • Sober … people with addictions to drugs, alcohol, or prescription painkillers

  • White … people of color

Be Honest with Yourself

Can you identify one or more areas where you have more power than others (in other words, privilege)? Is there an identity, experience, or demographic group that you’ve noticed has been belittled, bullied, ignored, or excluded in your workplace?

Now be honest. Have you contributed to this abuse in the past? Or have you been complicit by staying silent when you know abuse is taking place? You may have missed opportunities to be an ally in the past. You may not have recognized that you had a role to play.

Where to Begin

Begin your ally journey by reading books, blogs, or magazine articles from the perspective of someone with a marginalized identity, demographic, or experience. Do this often. Soon, you'll begin to see nuances in different people’s perceptions of the world from within a shared perspective.

Think critically about how different individuals would feel in the situations you’ve witnessed at work. You may not know yet how you will intervene in the future, but training yourself to recognize opportunities is a good start.

Build a Relationship

Next, imagine you’re having dinner with a famous person whose identity, experience, or demographics match those you seek to support. You would probably talk to them about their body of work, their family, their upcoming travel plans. You wouldn’t ask them to educate you about their experience of difference.

Now, can you imagine a similar conversation with a colleague? Invite them out for a cup of coffee and get to know them as a person.

Do the Work of a Leader

Finally, speak and act with courage. Leaders must be willing to do what is right, especially when doing so goes against the grain. When you speak up for others by addressing microaggressions or calling out blatant discrimination, you establish yourself as a person of integrity. Others will see you as a leader and an ally. And, in those times when you feel you are being cast aside, you might find that you have new champions who speak up for you.

After all, you’ll already have set an example for them to follow. And isn’t that what makes a leader?

Amy's passion is to help others develop their leadership skills and reach their full potential at work. She is am the Founder and CEO of Lead at Any Level LLC, and the author of the book Network Beyond Bias. She speaks and writes on leadership, diversity and inclusion, and career management.

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Living Corporate in the “Proverbial Closet”
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My introduction into corporate America’s version of diversity and inclusion in 2006 was at the pinnacle of my career in financial services. And boy, was it an eye-opening situation.

I was recently promoted from Personal Banker to District Manager within the company and was on cloud 9, to say the least. Overnight my salary more than doubled — and I no longer was responsible for a team of one but a team of nearly 200 individuals. On top of that, I had a book of business to manage that was valued at nearly one billion dollars. I was experiencing a series of “YO!” and “YIKES!” moments all at the same time. I was excited to walk into new territory but nervous to have so much authority.

Shortly thereafter my promotion, my manager nominated me to be a part of the company’s diversity council. This was a group of middle-managers and senior-level executives whose goal was to improve diversity and inclusion initiatives within the workplace. To say I was ecstatic is an understatement...until I received the application.

Let’s press pause right here for a quick background story.

During onboarding, my manager shared with a good friend of mine who also served as the recruiting liaison TMI (too much information). He expressed how excited he was that my promotion was approved because the residual effects of my promotion meant he was able to “check the box” of having a black, lesbian woman on his team.

Side note: Clearly another blog is needed to address “How to have Courageous Conversations as a Manager Leader.” What I know for sure is that his heart was pure, he simply lacked understanding. Only colleagues that I considered friends and this particular manager knew of my sexual orientation. But I digress.

Now, back to the application.

It captured the normal data like, age, religious belief, ethnicity, sexual orientation... <SAY WHAT?!?>

I freaked out! All I could think about was the fact that this application was asking wayyy to much and would reveal something that I did not care to share at the time.

I immediately called the Human Resources (HR) representative who spearheaded the council and explained my reservations about “outing” myself to peers and senior executives. See, my career was on a fast track. I had made Vice President by 27 in a predominately white-male industry. I was convinced I’d be committing career suicide if I shared my sexual orientation with the people I was being groomed to become their successor. The HR representative

reminded me that the very purpose of the council was to highlight occurrences like mine – to create a safe workplace for all team members. She also expressed confidently that my experiences as a young, black woman, who happened to be a lesbian, would be impactful.

What she shared with me was all well and good but...I wasn’t convinced!

I picked up the phone and called my sounding board, my big sister. She said something so profound that I’ve used as a guide ever since: “Kay, if your performance is overshadowed by who you love then you don’t want to work for that kind of company.” Man! My big sister was right! I completed the application with courage and ease. And at our first meeting we publicly identified gender, sexual orientation, all the other corporate taboos that once kept us bound. In that meeting, I entered the LGBTQ circle with pride.

Opposite to what I imagined, the reactions I received to “coming out” were warm and welcoming. I received hand written notes from fellow senior council members thanking me for sharing my personal experiences. They shared that our interactions helped them navigate courageous conversations within their line of business and at home.

I’m living proof that my life didn’t suffer because I shared my truth. As a matter of fact, my quality of life improved — there’s nothing like releasing emotional weight.

My career was unscathed, and I received several promotions since that defining moment not just professionally but personally. That moment fostered safe space for me to embrace my uniqueness which allowed me to fully express myself. My performance grew overall, and my team’s performance improved exponentially. As a result, several team members were promoted and secured sales and service trips! My whole team was winning.

“National Coming Out Day” is Thursday, October 11th. So, before you make the choice not to celebrate it, remember that day is a celebration of who you are—everywhere and every day. Better yet, every day can be a “National Coming Out Day” when you choose to truly bring your whole self everywhere.

What’s the moral of the story? The proverbial closet isn’t exclusive to the LGBTQ community. Your “closet” could be military status or mental illness. As a human being, you have the right and the privilege to bring your whole self everywhere, every day. Now, I share with you the same advice that was once given to me by my big sister, “if your performance is overshadowed by who you love then you don’t want to work for that kind of company.”

Adopt this quote and mantra that has served me well as you journey through life. “Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Already Taken.” -- Oscar Wilde

Khaliah Guillory is on a quest to fuel her passion and fulfill her purpose. At the core, she is a Performance Productivity Expert, Lover of Humanity, and Philanthropist. These are a few words that describe her contribution to the universe.

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Your Personal Brand is Really Your Reputation | Your Power is in Your Story
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*Written while listening to "Everything" by Nas

"See 'cause you've never been the same as anyone else.

Don't think the same as anyone else."

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"Personal Branding" is not just social media or public speaking… in a corporate setting it is your "personal reputation" especially when you're not even in the room.  More importantly as an emerging leader, your personal reputation is assessed by both your own skills and results AND your ability to lead, coach, and amplify the work of others.

 

"Networking" is not about what you can G E T. It's about "building relationships" and "building connections" based on using your unique gifts.  More importantly as an emerging leader, think about how to use those gifts to G I V E and pour into others. Think about how to sow a seed that grows into fruit only if you are able to nurture and water that relationship consistently over time.

 

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For those who know me, thank you for your support.  It has empowered me to continue to P O U R into others up until this point.  For those who don't know me, My name is Osazuwa George Michael Okpamen. I'm the first of three boys born to pastors Michael and Christy Okpamen.  They came over to the United States from Benin City in Edo State, Nigeria over 30 years ago.  After giving birth to me in Dallas, Texas my family moved to Houston where my two younger brothers were born.  Growing up in Houston, I wasn't too proud of my Nigerian heritage. I can still vividly remember being made fun of and being called an “African Booty Scratcher.”  Even worse I was made fun of because of how I smelled. My Dad was a hustler who worked at the hospital during the day and sold stockfish at night. He would cut the fish I N S I D E the apartment.  If you've ever smelled any fish, let-alone stockfish, you know how it can seep into the fabric of your clothes. He was the number one supplier to all Nigerian restaurants and stores in Houston. Over time, my Dad had made a large enough profit to move our five-membered family from a small two bedroom apt in Houston to the middle-class suburb of Stafford, Texas.  He also became the assistant Pastor of one of the largest African Churches in Houston, Chapel of Praise. Fast forward a few years, My dad opened his own church, and I became a stand-out high school athlete who in my junior year of high school, had an epiphany about my family's history and legacy after traveling to Nigeria to meet my grandparents for the first time.  That trip changed my life forever.

Without that trip, I won’t turn down football scholarships to pursue pharmacy at the University of Houston.  If I don't F A I L to get into pharmacy school the first time, then I won’t get mentored by Rebecca, the president of SNPhA (Student National Pharmaceutical Association). If I don't get mentored by Rebecca for a full year, then I won’t realize the P R I V I L E G E of getting into pharmacy school on the second try across the street at Texas Southern University.  If I don't try to pay her back by running for SNPhA national office, then I can’t help more people behind me. Without running, I won’t win the election and have a P L A T F O R M to showcase my leadership skills and amplify the work of others.  Which means I won't get my rotation (internship) at the FDA, or my post-doctoral fellowship at Lilly, no "Ted Talk" for George, and most importantly no Living Corporate podcast to share my perspective on navigating a Fortune 200 company in corporate America.

Now, I could have easily introduced myself as George, listed out my schools, degrees, and shared a few key takeaways from the personal branding podcast.  But as the title says, your P O W E R is in your personal story. The stuff you won't find on your CV/resume, or on LinkedIn - your highs, your lows, your family background, why you were named what you were.  In essence, What makes you - Y O U?

In honor of me and Beyoncé's favorite number AND being the fourth guest on the show, I'll share FOUR quick takeaways to establishing a positive personal brand at work.

1.       Understand that your "personal brand" is really your "personal reputation" | It is what your colleagues think of you when they work on your team, how your manager talks about you to other managers in meetings, it is the perception your VP has of you when he runs into you in the elevator.

2.       Understand that "networking" is really "building connections" at least OR "building relationships" at best | Have a mentality to give first instead of get.  Also remember you are sowing a seed, so the fruit only grows if you nurture it consistently over time

3.       Take intentional time to reflect on your values, passions, and superpowers | It is this self-awareness that will allow you to understand how to be authentic about who you are, what you stand for, and what you are actually good at.  It also will allow you to be vulnerable with your weaknesses and give you the opportunity to show and demonstrate growth over time.

4.       Be Persistent and Consistent |  You will hear NO.  You will fall down.  You will fail. All of that is part of the process.  It is through these trials that you figure out who you are and find out how to leverage others.  You can only G R O W through what you G O through. It was the 21st call to CVS that got me my first pharmacy tech job.  That means there were 20 other "NO's" that were not the store I was supposed to work at in front of it. Imagine if I would have stopped calling at 19?  If you have a vision for what you want - GO after it.

The name Osazuwa translates to "God's Gift of Wealth".  And for the first ~17 years of my life I never really appreciated what that truly meant.  In meeting my grandparents, they let me know that "wealth" wasn't money in the literal sense.  It was that I was the first born and "gift" to the family. I brought "good fortune" and therefore had the responsibility to C R E A T E the legacy for future generations.  My gift was inside me the whole time and I was hiding it - ashamed because of what others saw, what others felt, what others said. This is very similar to what a lot of us do when we walk inside that corporate building.  We hide our gifts. If you take nothing else from this blog, my podcast, or the TedTalk - take this - "No one is Y O U, and that I S your P O W E R"

Own and tell your unique origin story.

Give first before expecting to get.

Operate in your gift.

"Go.  Go do what they say you couldn't.  Go be who they say you wouldn't. Go." - George Okpamen

Beyond The Bag
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When I think about the role of higher education and wealth building for college graduates from a working-class background, I can’t help but think that the wealth building as a relay race. A relay race is no doubt a team effort that not only requires speed to win but a successful baton exchange. I am afraid that when it comes to college graduates from a poor and working-class background, we think that higher education is so powerful that it enables one to sprint to wealth. Now, by sprint, my focus isn't on speed but a race where winning is incumbent on the individual athlete, not the team.

To help you understand what I mean by wealth building as a relay race rather than a sprint, allow me to tell you about two talented young men from Houston’s Sunnyside community, a historically African American community where the median household income is $28, 817. As you will see, they are both interested in the arts.

Please keep in mind, these young men's stories aren’t unique because of their interests in the arts. Their stories represent the masses of black and brown college students seeking to improve their quality of life.

Working Class College Student A

College student A has musical talent and is currently pursuing Jazz Studies at an excellent liberal arts college in New York where the tuition is more than $60,000 per year. This school was on his list of colleges among other equally impressive colleges but selected because of the stellar faculty in the Jazz Studies department. This young man has musical talent and dreams of being a music producer and wants to be the best.

But he faced a problem: A remaining balance of $30,000. Eventually, the college awarded additional scholarships, but it was still not enough to cover the remaining balance. How was this talented young man able to attend this excellent liberal arts college? You guessed right; his mother had to take out loans to cover the remaining balance.

While he had a remarkable freshman year, the cycle continues More loans to continue his education.

Working Class College Student B

College Student B is currently attending Houston Community College after transferring from a 4-year public university, also known as reverse transferring. This young man is a talented abstract artist who too wanted to be taught by the best.

Like Student A, he needed more funding to attend his dream college even after qualifying for the maximum amount of Pell Grants and federal loans. Unlike Student A, his mother could not take out additional loans because she wasn’t deemed creditworthy. The financial aid administrator received authorization from the Department of Education to award him additional federal loans.

About a year later I followed up with his mother to check his progress, and she informed me that he transferred to Houston Community College. She plans to improve her credit so she can qualify for additional loans so he would be able to go back to the 4-year public university.  

The Lesson

What is the lesson that these two talented and capable young black men’s story ought to teach us about higher education and wealth building? When we consider the average starting salary (just over $50,000) and the college debt of a college graduate, it teaches us that it is unlikely that college graduates from a working-class background will be able to build a substantial amount of wealth in their lifetime.

Several factors compound the problem of wealth building for said group, but one element is the role educational attainment plays in shaping their taste and preferences. For instance, a student from a low-income household who grew up in the hood does not have the desire to move back to the hood with their parents and siblings, grandparents, and other relatives. Low-income college graduates once they secure employment are more likely to spend money on housing on top of college debt. After taxes, housing, transportation, and college debt, there’s nothing left.

For college graduates from a background that matches their tastes and preferences, moving home to save up is a viable and preferred option. I am reminded of a friend who moved back home with his parents in Katy, TX after graduating from law school and securing a job at a top law firm in Houston. He continued living with his parents for about two years. It wasn't because he didn't know how to live in the real world or needed to develop life skills, his mindset, and his parents' mindset was wealth building.  

Unfortunately, for college graduates from the hood, moving home is not a preferred option. For the masses of college graduates, higher education not the key to wealth building.

For African American’s living in a capitalist system, I think we should start considering Du Bois’s view of education, which is that the responsibility of African American higher education is not the creation of wealth but the cultivation and preservation of African American culture. When higher education becomes a tool to develop human souls and create beauty, the next generation will be better positioned to secure the bag.

- Jarvis Taylor, Founder of Project College Counseling

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