Hey, my business people. In today’s Lessons for Business and Motivation:
So I’m reading this article in Forbes Magazine that was reposted by Yahoo Sports called “c: ‘I was supposed to bring some kind of Black Girl Magic’.” Before I get into the article, I want my sistas especially to pay attention because between this article and many others focused on black women I’ve read over the years, there’s a big disconnect between the realities of business war, and the expectations sistas have after they graduate college and enter the corporate ranks.
A few sistas already understand, but many, I’m afraid, don’t. Bear with me as I go over this article because with my 30 years experience dealing with large Fortune 1000 corporations, including C level executives as my consulting clients, I’m going to put many of you on real corporate game. And for those who are not black, this can apply to you too, but my focus is on the least of us, and sistas still have median incomes lower than brothas.
Before I continue, please like share and subscribe so that this video gets viewed by as many sistas and brothas as possible, and to help us become number one in median incomes. These companies pay me a lot of money for help, so by getting a little bit of help for free, the least you can do is spread this video to more people in our community so we can make progress. We always talk about reaching back and helping those less fortunate among us, but most of us don’t have time to really do it. So the least you can do, once again, is to share this video. I’m doing the hard work, so all you gotta do is share.
Ok with that out the way, this video may be a bit longer than most I’ve done in the “You can do better” series so bear with me. These are the same things I’ve relayed to my own college graduate children, so if you’re the first one in your family to graduate college and had no one around you to help you navigate these mean corporate streets, consider me your corporate hustling plug.
This article from Forbes basically outlined the struggle of sistas trying to move up the corporate ladder, but instead of bumping up against a glass ceiling, they fall off a glass cliff. Now, that’s a pretty clever play on words, I’ll give it to whoever came up with that. But what does this really mean? I won’t read the entire article verbatim as that would make this video too long. Links below for those who want to read it in its entirety. But I will read important snippets. I’ll read the opening two paragraphs:
“In 2009, Minda Harts was promoted into a senior-level role in fundraising at a university. It felt like a big accomplishment, and she was eager to leave her mark. Only Harts wasn’t aware how much work she’d need to do to clean up a department that was already in shambles. Two years later, she quit.
“I was supposed to bring some Black Girl Magic and that was unfair to me because I was really excited about this opportunity,” says Harts, who has since built a successful career as an author, speaker, and workplace and equity consultant. “But once I found out what it really entailed, I realized it was a battle I was not going to win.”
Ok let’s stop right there. I’m going to repeat what I’ve often said in my previous videos: Business is WAR! A world that loves money more than it loves humans don’t care about you. They only care about what you can do for them. Period. I know this sounds cold to some of y’all, but the sooner you get this ingrained in your head, the sooner you’ll be more successful in your careers.
So what are the problems right off the bat with this university job she accepted? The first buzzword is “fundraising.” Already, you know if you have to raise funds like nonprofits do, then your job is going to come with significant challenges. Jobs associated with fundraisers often appeal more to women than men because they make you feel connected to people, so that you help humanity. That’s all well and good, but there’s more ways to skin a cat. If you have the need to help others, why not first make money, then use that money to help? Going right into a fundraising job at a university is asking for struggle.
Let’s continue. She said “I was supposed to bring some Black Girl Magic and that was unfair to me because I was really excited about this opportunity…” Ok, ladies, my sistas, it’s cool to encourage each other at brunch with the black girl magic thinking, but out here in these corporate streets where you’re trying to make money, they don’t care about black girl magic. Just go ahead and keep that in the family. The only magic this world cares about is green magic. If you can magically turn your skills into green for them, they will give you all the respect in the world.
Imagine you go to a spiritual healer because you know that such healers are known by many to heal all kinds of diseases. You find one online who seems legit, and you make an appointment to get healed of whatever disease you’re suffering. You pay him money, but when he does his thing, you get no healing. Did you get your money’s worth? Of course not. So you demand your money back. He tells you you’re disrespecting him and because of your bad energy, he couldn’t heal you, so it’s your fault. See how crazy that sounds? That’s how companies are.
When you work for these companies, it’s not about what they can do for you, but what YOU can do for them. In this case, the university hired her to do a fundraiser. Now, you might argue “well, maybe the university didn’t provide her the minimum things she needed to do a good fundraiser.” But see, if you think like that, you don’t have the business warrior mindset. Before you take any job, be specific in the interview about the parameters of the job. We don’t know what happened in the interview for her to say yes to the job. In the end, she chose it without requiring the things she needed to be successful.
I plan to do a separate video about another article I read in Business Insider of an HR executive who used to work for a major tech company where he outlined the best ways to ask questions about benefits and job satisfaction in a job interview. He had some good ideas, but one of the takeaways is that YOU as the interviewee have to be prepared to flip the interview script on the hiring manager so that you get enough info about what you might be getting into.
Finally, she said “But once I found out what it really entailed, I realized it was a battle I was not going to win.” Already, this confirms what I just said, that she didn’t dig deep enough into the job details to know what tools she would have to work with and what she needs to bring. This usually happens when we think of jobs in terms of what we get out of it instead of what the organization gets from us. I’ve never seen many fundraiser type jobs that are cushy or have the minimum things you need to succeed. It’s a tough sales job, and successful sales people have a warrior mindset where you can drop them into any battlefield and they can often make a way.
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Let’s skip to another case study in this article, that of Simone Oliver, who used to be the global editor-in-chief of Refinery 29. She quit that high level job after 2 years. Let’s read what happened:
“When Oliver joined Refinery29 in September 2020, it was three months after the publication’s co-founder and global editor-in-chief Christene Barberich had resigned amid public outcry from employees about workplace discrimination and lack of racial diversity. In a now-deleted Instagram post, Barberich wrote: “I’ve read and taken in the raw and personal accounts of Black women and women of color regarding their experiences inside our company at Refinery29 … I will be stepping aside in my role at R29 to help diversify our leadership in editorial and ensure this brand and the people it touches can spark a new defining chapter.”
“Oliver is a classic example of a Black woman being called in to clean up a mess she didn’t create. When she joined Refinery29, it was less than a year after it had been acquired by Vice Media Group. The once high-flying women’s media site had been through three rounds of layoffs in as many years. Oliver did not respond to our request to be interviewed for this story.
“It’s not equitable to put Black women in positions where they’re not being supported,” says Harts. “It’s unfortunate that a lot of us are put in positions to turn water into wine.”
Stop right there. Did you catch anything out of all that? I’ll give you a minute to pause and rewind to see if anything jumps out…tick tock tick tock…Time’s up. Ok, I want to focus on one sentence: “Oliver is a classic example of a Black woman being called in to clean up a mess she didn’t create.” My people, when it comes to companies paying us lots of money for executive positions, they don’t pay all that money to give you a unicorn, Disney fantasy. In my 30 plus years, I can count on one hand how many near perfect projects I’ve been involved in. For those of you who are familiar with the way to measure the level of maturity and capabilities of companies, there’s a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the most dysfunctional company, and 5 is that unicorn company. It is rate for a company to be a 5, and even then, they are only a 5 in certain departments and business groups, not the entire organization. Most companies are in the 2 to 3 range. Please write that down or commit it to memory. Don’t go out here embarrassing yourself and other brothas and sistas by expecting companies that love money to hand you a pile of cash AND give you a perfect job where you have ample budgets and support staff who also massages your feet and back at the end of the day lol. That’s not how business works. These companies are imperfect and need your help to become better.
I’m in a corporate executive situation right now with a major, global technology corporation that has a lot of ugly imperfections. I’m a seasoned vet, so I don’t expect perfection. All I ask is what’s the problem, who are the points of contact, and I make it happen. I’m a business warrior, and when you drop me into a war like the 101st Airborne soldiers, I hit the ground running in mud, water, dirt, snakes in the field, etc. It ain’t pretty, but just like the Marines, I make a way for other soldiers to come behind me.
That’s what leaders do. If you want to go into crippling student loan debt to get a 4 year university degree and enter the workforce, you better get it in your mind that companies want YOU to be the Marine and the Airborne parachute person that they can drop into an ugly war and build a smoot path for others to follow. If you don’t have what it takes to blaze trails in ugly places, then fall back and wait on others to do it so you can have a unicorn path to follow. But just remember nobody rewards those kinds of followers.
Sista Kyra Kyles, CEO of YR Media, said the following to support the idea that sistas have unique challenges in the corporate world. Pay close attention:
“You’re not just tackling a business need, you’re also being asked to tackle and transform culture,” she says. “You’re already coming in at somewhat of a deficit because you’re coming in at a tumultuous time for all organizations and media in particular, and on top of that, the expectations are often highly unrealistic.”
Ok, stop right there. Ironically, I agree with this statement, but not the way she would expect. What she just described is true for everyone! Specifically, in my case, I literally help big corporations use the latest cloud computing technology transform not only business processes, but entire business cultures. That’s life. All companies are going through tumultuous times because they are at war. The problem I think some of these sistas are connecting with is the war side of the companies they work for. The front lines of corporate wars are often on the sales and marketing teams, the legal team and the top executive team. These teams have to go on offense and defense to protect the company and help the company grow so that they can pay your salaries. The further away from this frontline war reality your job is, the more entitled to cushy, unicorn jobs you will be. Rewind and play what I just said.
Dr. Boyce Watkins made a comment I think should be repeated to all brothas and sistas: We were born into economic war before we came out of the womb. I paraphrased it a bit, but this was what he was talking about. I think he got that from Claude Anderson, who is another source more of us should listen to. So not only is business war, you were born into this war without the weapons to fight it properly. But I’m giving you some weapons now, and of course, the Bible tells you to put on the armor of God, for those sistas who faithfully go to church (but too many are overly focused on prosperity gospel and manifestation new age nonsense that promote entitlement over hard work).
Ok, now we’re about to get into the parts of the article I found both laughable and detached from business war reality. No offense to the writers and those interviewed, but I sincerely recommend you hire business coaches like me to have a totally different perspective.
Y’all’s favorite Hollywood mogul Shonda Rhimes, in her New York Times bestselling memoir, Year of Yes, the showrunner talks about the pressures she felt being what she calls an F.O.D., “First Only Different.” “When you are an F.O.D.,” she writes, “you are saddled with that burden of extra responsibility—whether you want it or not.”
I can tell she didn’t watch a clip of late comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory right before he died not long ago, where he used to get mad at blacks who told their children they had to be twice as good as whites in order to be successful. “Nonsense,” he said. When you tell children that, it makes them subconsciously feel inferior, like just being themselves is not good enough. And brotha Gregory was dog gone right! Stop this nonsense where you feel you have to do more to please massa. Who told you that? You’re good enough just as you are. Just be the best you can be and pick better majors in school. I strongly recommend STEM careers. You don’t have to burden your mind with that unbearable yoke.
Continuing, the same sista Kyles goes on to say this:
“Black women need the same room to fail–and grace to rebound–as their white male counterparts. Just look at WeWork founder Adam Neumann’s $350 million comeback, which has been described as a “slap in the face” to female founders and founders of color, seeing as the amount is more than the “$324 million raised by all U.S. Black-founded startups combined in the second quarter of this year.”
“We have to be given the same opportunities and chances as our white male counterparts across corporate America,” says Kyles.”
Notice this need to compare black women to white males. Ladies, this doesn’t make any sense. Between black women and white males, income wise, are black and Hispanic men, followed by white women. Why not take baby steps and try to move up to black men’s incomes? It’s a waste of time worrying about what some other guy is making; worry about what YOU’RE making and how you can improve your income. Also, people who make this useless comparison ignore the fact that the median income of Asian men is higher than white men by a sizable margin. If you’re going to target the highest income group, why not go for number 1, instead of number 2? But I strongly advise sistas not to focus on the incomes of others. Just focus on making yourself the best version of you, which should include going for STEM careers instead of struggle and passion majors.
Here’s the most unbelievable part of the article right here. Sista Kyles continues:
“To help combat the glass cliff facing Black women leaders, Kyles argues we shouldn’t only be brought into leadership roles in times of crisis… We should be brought in when things are going well, so that we can take it to the next level,” she says. “When you’re spending time doing cleanup, you can’t grow. But you have investors and advertisers who are expecting growth. They’re not recognizing that you were brought in literally to clean up someone else’s mess.”
What?!! Ok, I’m not sure how many of you out there think this is right, but let’s unpack this statement. She said “We should be brought in when things are going well, so that we can take it to the next level.” Are you kidding me? No, that’s not how business works. This is completely naïve. So you want companies to pay you lots of money and hand you a job that is the perfect unicorn Disney situation where angels descend on your shoulders, feeding you grapes to help you save the company? Lol, get out of here.
No no no. Again, business is war.
When companies hire you, they are doing so because they need help. They are hiring you as a mercenary, not a charity case. When a company hires, most likely, things are not going well. This statement by the sista is actually not only embarrassing, but also making sistas less desirable as employees. I’m not trying to be mean. Non black hiring managers will just smile in the face of sistas because the mainstream media temporarily favors you right now. But when you’re not around, they are passively aggressively plotting how to avoid hiring you. And ladies, I’m here as your brotha and uncle to help you avoid that fate.
Let’s continue, because this sista had even more unfortunate things to say:
“Oftentimes when we’re hired, we’re not given the full breadth and scope of what’s really required to be successful in a role,” she says. “It’s not enough to just put a Black woman in a position if she’s not supported in resources, dollars, and sponsorships. These tools must be available to her so she can be successful.”
“we’re not given?” Let’s analyze that alone. In war, no soldier expects to be given anything by the enemy. We don’t need to beg for support? The world doesn’t care. Companies don’t hire sistas so that women feel good, no matter what they tell you. They hire you, like everyone else, to get something of value from you. You’re there to solve their problems, not for them to solve your problems. Companies are in a constant pursuit of money, and that means they pursue prospective customers, not employees. Employees cost money, not generate organic revenue.
Pay attention. As an employee, you are a cost to the company, whether good or bad. They will hardly ever put you in a perfect, fantasy job because it is up to you to come in and use your brains to turn things around. This is true for all employees, regardless of race or skin color or sex. For some reason, many of my sistas didn’t get this memo, and I suspect it’s because of the fact that most sistas coming out of college don’t have anyone around them to school them on the harsh realities of business warfare.
I’ll wrap up with this last quote from the same sista, who spoke on the notion of why sistas feel the need to put their own needs last to please the corporate beast (lol she had a lot to say):
“It’s because Black women are powerful, we are known as strong. We are given all sorts of superhuman qualities, but none of the superhuman support that should come with that,” says Kyles. “We need to be able to say, ‘Hey, I need a break,’ instead of being asked to come in and work miracles and do it without any form of complaint. That’s an unrealistic expectation to place on anyone and especially women of color.”
Ok, ladies, set aside your emotions for a second. Every executive is assumed to have superhuman qualities when they are getting paid a big chunk of money to come in and turn around a struggle scenario. That’s life. Most of the time, there won’t be any superhuman support to help you with your superhuman qualities they expect of you. Again, unicorn job situations are very rare. You get a degree because you’re expected to think outside the box, regardless of how perfect the context is. The complaint she made of being asked to perform miracles is unrealistic, especially for “women of color” is silly exceptionalism that does not belong in the workplace. Companies hire you to help them with problem areas, not oversee picture perfect fantasy scenarios. Business ugly because business is war. This is something sistas can learn from successful brothas, instead of assuming we’re all the enemy.
And that’s what I want sistas to understand. You have to learn how to socialize and network better with people who are not black women lol. I know some sistas know this because I see y’all out here. I travel for business to different cities, so I’ve seen sistas in various contexts. What I notice is that of all groups, sistas tend to be socially akward when it comes to business networking and general socializing at happy hour, golfing, tennis, etc.
This is where true business is done, because this is where executives are relaxed, disarmed. Often, sistas socialize in groups of other sistas, and rarely break from these groups. How is that success minded? You’ve heard before that in order to reach new levels of success, you have to expand your group and surround yourself with the kinds of people you want to become like. Do that ladies! Try to go out with 1 or 2 of your friends instead of 5 or 10, where you’ll be stuck socializing with them instead of getting out of your comfort zone to network with successful businessmen and women. Of all the groups I encounter in various upscale social scenarios, sistas are the main ones who tend to cling to other sistas, seldom venturing beyond their click.
Non black women are much better at socializing. Often, sistas accuse white women of being too easy, but that shaming judgment is inaccurate. They know how to socialize very well, even when they hang out with other female friends. They tend to hang out with fewer friends than sistas, and they have no problems breaking away to network. This is what helps them make more money than sistas, to put it bluntly. I’ve seen and met a tiny few sistas who do well at networking, and I wish they would help more sistas do the same.
So to recap, my people, sistas specifically, please commit to memory that business is war, not a Disney fantasy. The idea of expecting business angels to descend from heaven to make corporate life comfortable and cozy to cater to YOU is absolutely naïve and failure prone. None of us are entitled to anything in life. Whatever we get has to be seized by any means necessary like any war.
You have to get out of your comfort zone and network outside of work with successful people in your industry, including other black men such as myself who are more familiar with you unique background. Ladies, us successful brothas can help you get to the next level if you remove the black boogeyman assumptions about us. I personally have helped sistas over the years who let their guard down and listened. The ones who didn’t are still struggling because they have not learned to expand their horizons. Don’t be that chick. If you see me out and about like some of you do, don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation about this topic, especially you sistas out there who don’t have anyone else to coach you on taking your careers and incomes to the next level.
But the most important thing is to stop picking struggle majors to being with. Stick with careers and skills that are in high demand. That way, you have better leverage when it comes to negotiating better job contexts and pay. Alright, I better get some sleep now. Until the next video, brothas and sistas, take care.
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