May 27, 2013 The African American Male Professional – the hidden gem (as printed in the May/June edition of Onyx Magazine)
Operating on the periphery of the American workforce is a hidden gem, actively engaged in business success of all organizations but seldom recognized for the talent and contributions they have made. The talent of the African American man is as diverse as the nation in which we call America. Given their employment evolution from the plantation to the presidency, their skill sets are vast. Evolving from farming to tradesmen in the blue collar industries, to government service and into corporate board rooms, African American men continue to struggle with raising their presence, hence their contributions in corporations today.
The transition from being a hidden gem to notable talent will require a concerted effort on the part of the African American man, the African American community and business leaders. We must redefine how we view the term professional, recognizing that professional success is not defined purely by white collar or high visibility sports roles. We must validate that all roles regardless of the industry create value for our men and promote economic growth for the African American community.
As an Executive Coach, one major aspect of my practice is to work with African American Men in a program specifically designed to assist them in becoming an integral part of corporate cultures. I asked my clients for tips to pass on to the Onyx readers. The following themes were prevalent regardless of the individual’s role or position within their chosen profession.
Theme I – Establish a Professional Presence: Your professional presence is based on your Credibility, Capability and Confidence. These are supported by your professional look, effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills and your modus operandi (mode of operation) in professional situations. To establish your presence ensure you have Credibility which is equaled to your expertise and trustworthiness, your Capability which is proficiency in your required skills/function and Confidence – knowing who you are to include your values, your talents, strengths and opportunities for development.
Theme II – Integrate not Assimilate: A challenge for African Americans in organizations is the ability to participate in the organizational culture while maintaining our heritage. We often feel that in order to fit into our work environment, we must confirm or assimilate to the majority. Corporate integration requires an understanding of the organizations customs and values and incorporating personal cultural traits. The ability to recognize individual differences for the good of the overall organization is the cornerstone of diversity, which serves as a competitive advantage for successful businesses.
Theme III – Build Professional Relationships: Performing well is critical in any role however building professional relationships is instrumental in moving from operating on the periphery to being a recognized talent in the business. The most popular form of building professional relationships is through networking however it is important to make the distinction between networking and socializing. Networking is designed to build relationships for mutual professional gain. Effective networking is strategic and focused. Conversely, socializing is getting to know people on a personal and professional level. In socializing, you are not looking for professional gain.
Finally, OWN your job. It is when you take ownership that you will build relationships, integrate into the culture and present your authentic self through your professional presence. In 2013, pledge to move from operating on the periphery and into the spotlight; become your organizations VISIBLE Gem! To learn more about the African American Men Leadership program – contact Daphne – firstname.lastname@example.org