Category Archives: Professional Development

3 MUST-HAVES TO REINVENT YOURSELF DURING ACCELERATED CHANGE

 you cannot know what you will discover on the journey, what you will do with what you find, or what you find will do to you.” – James Baldwin

Author S. Renee Smith

I was scheduled to meet with a CEO at “The Metropolitan Club of the city of Washington.” The club is where Ambassadors, Senators, CEO’s and other dignitaries hold membership and build relationships without notepad pages flipping or cell phones buzzing—neither is allowed. 

We were meeting to discuss possible business opportunities and how I could best plan and position myself to sit on national boards. During our conversation, the CEO shared this:

Time is up for men who look like me (white). It’s becoming a woman’s world.

He was referring to the #metoo message that was surging as a leader in shifting power dynamics in the workplace. However, since then, the #blacklivesmatter movement has taken center stage. Protestors, advocates, and everyday people from all walks of life have united their influence on social media platforms to create radical change that is transforming workplace cultures.

What I’m noticing is that by joining forces, space is being created for employees who are marginalized to call leaders out for disrespecting them, and negligently hindering employees career success. Once an incident is posted on a social media platform and likes and retweets multiply, the national media picks up the story. With massive exposure, the offender comes forward with a sorrowful apology and submits a shameful resignation. 

Employee and customer power, what I call public empowerment, is even shifting company policies at drastically rapid rates.

According to reports, Starbucks reversed a standing policy that bans sporting gear that advocates for religious or political movements, including Black Lives Matter,” after staff and customers threatened to boycott. This recognition is also shifting the perspectives, strategic plans, and resources of organizations. Such as the case with Comcast, who posted a multi-year strategic plan on June 8, 2020, dedicating 100 million dollars to advance social justice and equality. And they aren’t the only one.

What do these transitions mean for you? 

I believe they are ushering in a new consciousness and countless opportunities to make a difference in so many spaces.  

Companies are pivoting and will continue to be forward-focused and employee-centered. As such, it’s likely, what you did before February 2020 will no longer suit the needs of an evolving workplace.

For this reason, you have to reinvent yourself. I suggest you start observing where companies are headed and what role you want to play as an employee or as a business owner. 

Here are a few thoughts:

Rewrite your brand story.

  • The story you shared before the health pandemic, economic crisis, and racial awakening most likely will no longer fit due to the all drastic adjustments we all have had to make to survive. Rethink what new experiences you’ll share and craft an innovative message based on them.

Assess your brand equity.

  • How much is your brand worth? What have you learned from the current challenges, and what intellectual property have you acquired? Get clear on what you can offer and how much it’s worth to an organization.

Evaluate your network.

  • Although not impossible, as a result of being in quarantine, it’s difficult to build reliable, trusting relationships with new people. List the people who know, like, and trust you. Think about their brand equity and seek their assistance in helping you expand your brand and network.

As you pivot to reinvent yourself, take the time to craft, communicate, and market your message effectively.

© 2020 S. Renee Smith is an executive and communications and branding expert. She helps senior leaders increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable, and credible. She is also the author of six books on communication, branding, and self-esteem. For more tips, visit asksrenee.com. Want to reinvent yourself? Learn more about S. Renee’s upcoming workshop here.

WHY I AVOIDED THE “R” WORD

For the first time, I owned my experiences that I learned to avoid calling racist for fear that it would create roadblocks to my success.

Author S. Renee Smith

Like many people, I’ve had anxiety about the pandemic and concerns regarding the economy. As I watched the murder of George Floyd and the unfolding events thereafter, I moved from sadness to anger to reflection to curiosity!

My personal interest and position as a Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer invited me to many conversations about racism, inequality, diversity, and opportunity. I’ve watched with amenity the protesters and their persistence to drive change.

I’ve even had moments when I thought of myself as a coward because I wasn’t among the thousands of people who risked their lives to march in the scorching sun, hold signs, and chant, “I can’t breathe” to demand a shift in racist behaviors. 

It wasn’t until family and friends reminded me that I was in the fight when I spoke up in boardrooms about over medicating black and impoverished children and the need to recruit more black police officers. And that each time I fought for my humanity by challenging leadership when I was mistreated due to the lack of inclusion, I was impacting change. Further, I helped gift the world with generations of future leaders when I founded an academic scholarship for black students (now an endowment at DSU an HBCU) needing assistance to help navigate university corridors that would otherwise have been closed to them.

I came to realize that by sharing my story in my first book, There Is More Inside (2005), about my three white friends who “came to me and said that they could no longer be my friend because I was black,” and in the same book encouraging diversity was my way of influencing transformation. Here some of what was published:

“In social situations, I notice that people segregate themselves. It has been proven that people are more comfortable with people who look like them, but it has also been proven that there is tremendous power, insight, and creativity in diversity. Because I believe in the power of diversity, I try to keep an open mind in all situations.

 In social situations, I make it a point to meet someone different from me. I’ve met some amazing people employing this method. I especially like going to tables where people are different from me. Yes, it can be intimidating, but I simply walk over and say, “Hi! Is anyone sitting here?”

It seems like time stops as they all look at me in a daze. I then hear, “Oh no, help yourself.” I do this because I think it is essential to send the message that I’m comfortable with you and myself — regardless of our differences — and that I don’t have to only be around people who look like me to feel secure. If you get to know me and I get to know you, our lives will be enriched because of our time together. Sometimes I’m received with friendly, open arms, and sometimes I’m not. And that’s okay. “

Today, I wouldn’t say it’s okay–because it’s not. The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked confessions of white privilege, disclosure of disingenuous diversity and inclusion programs, and utterances of shame for failing to recognize personal biases and behaviors that uphold a system that mistreats people of color. None of us benefit from continuing to cause America’s soul to ache. We have to continue to press and push for equality and fairness in wherever space we occupy.

General C.Q. Brown’s (the first Black U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff) speech What Am I Thinking nails it! As tears rolled down my face, I saw myself in his stories. I felt his pain, saw the distress in his eyes, and heard the impact of racism on him and his family.

Most importantly, for the first time, I owned my experiences that I learned to avoid calling racist for fear that it would create roadblocks to my success.

General Brown’s power and eloquence in reflections provide “Why?” the time is now. This is a God glory moment. The United States Declaration of Independence declares that “all men (woman) are created equal.” In living the fullness of who I am, I want to live out that decree in love, understanding, and peace and I’m willing to do the work that will help get us there. How about you? 

If this article speaks to you, please like, add a comment and share it with others. Thank you in advance.

© All rights reserved 2020 S. Renee Smith is recognized self-esteem, branding, and communications expert, and author of six books. They include Self-Esteem for Dummies, 5 Steps to Assertiveness – How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You Want and Harness the POWER of Personal Branding and Executive Presence.

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE, I THINK

Whether you are an Oprah fan or distant observer, you’ve likely heard the statement, What I Know for SureWhat you might not know is that Gene Siskel, a film critic with the Chicago Tribune, stumped Oprah during an interview when he asked, “What do you know for sure?” 

Is there anything you know that should remain unquestionable? 

I don’t know about you, but the forces of movement and change are so constant that I have to stop and regroup so that I can reengage based on what I think I know for sure. As I listened with enjoyment to Oprah’s book, What I Know for Sure (2014), I began to wonder if there is anything I know with absolute certainty. Meaning, is there anything I know that should remain unquestionable? What about you? Does your truth about anything remain the same?

I believe that it’s the questions, not the answers that elevate our thinking, truth, and existence. 

 As a trainer, coach, speaker, and author, I give advice but most often, ask questions and support people as they find their answers. I believe that it’s the questions, not the answers that elevate our thinking, truth, and existence. Some questions require solutions, while others are met to stimulate curiosity about our significance in the world. Other inquiries challenge our stalled thinking and antiqued beliefs about ourselves and others. And some inspire us to recognize our brilliance and power. That’s what I know for sure. 

S. Renee Smith is the author of Harness the POWER of Personal Branding and Executive Presence: Elevate Your Life and Career NOW! This book guides you through the process that increases your confidence and helps you design your brand and develop your executive presence. It’s available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle ($6.99).