YOU'RE A BLACK PROFESSIONAL
If you haven't figured this out by now, allow me to hip you to a little secret; your culture is the special sauce that helps to distinguish you from everybody else in your field and profession. Of course, you have to know your job, be prompt and well-groomed. But those are just table stakes - that is, the bare minimum to get you in the door. After that, it's all about managing relationships with your clients, your coworkers and your managers. Relationships are 100% cultural. But what exactly is culture? What does it have to do with high performance? And how do you use culture to take yourself to the next level?
What is Culture?
Your culture is all about shared experiences; things like, how you were raised, how you praised the Lord and resolved conflict. Because experiences create values, culture is the code of conduct that perpetuates shared values, one generation after another. So, your culture is your values system.
If you've been Black for more than fifteen minutes, you know that your skin color, along with your features, makes you instantly recognizable to others. They make you stand out in a crowd. Beyond your looks, however, it is your culture (i.e., your values system) that defines the quality of your relationships.
The people you serve will associate your performance with who you are (i.e., your personal identity), and that identity is always inseparable from your culture. You're never going to just be an ordinary engineer, for example. You'll always be seen as the Black engineer. Don't try to outrun that reality. It's not a problem unless you make it one. As the Black professional, it's more important to know that the way you decide to express your unique character is the bond that forges a strong connection between you and your clients, your coworkers and your supervisors. How you show up builds loyalty and determines how all these people will perceive your contribution to any project or initiative. It is important that you be consistent and authentic at all times.
Know Who You Are
By now, you're probably grappling with some of the tangible elements of your culture and you may be struggling to figure out what any of this has to do with your professional performance. Before you go too far down that path, however, you need to know who you are as a Black professional. Here are a few key elements to take into consideration:
These elements are what define your personal brand as a Black professional, and before you can start really building your brand identity, you must have a clear understanding of each one.
If you’re having trouble figuring out who you are exactly, don’t fret. In my experience as a coach and a mentor, most of my students and protégés struggle with this part of the professional development process. Usually, however, all people need is a little brainstorm session to help create clarity on brand identity and how it derives from one's culture.
Once you’ve gotten clear about who you are as a Black professional, it’s time to build the identity that will bring your personal brand to life and demonstrate who you are to the people who matter most: your clients, coworkers and managers.
CULTURE IS YOUR FOUNDATION
Your culture - your values system - is the foundation for how your performance is perceived. I know this is probably counterintuitive for most people. But remember, relationships are 100% cultural. If you're able to openly embrace them as natural assets, personal values like communication style, hustle, and even fashion sense will all conspire to create an environment that is conducive your strengths. The more you can play to your strengths, the more likely it is that you will achieve peak performance, which will only increase your confidence.
In other words, tapping into your culture means empowering your identity, which is absolutely requisite for building a truly successful profession that accurately represents who you are as a person. Stated simply, it's not necessary to pretend you don't have a culture in order to be respected as a professional. If you do feel like you have to pretend, you cannot really call it success, no matter how much money you make.
So, how exactly do you tap into your culture and build a personal brand that will take your professionalism to the next level?
Developing Your Personal Brand
Before you start building your personal brand, you need to start from your cultural core and lock in the basics of your performance structure. Here are some of the simple steps in developing your personal brand for peak performance:
Building a personal brand is a comprehensive, strategic effort, and every element needs to support your overall message and professional goal. Success in the professional arena depends on much more than drive, effort and ability. Once you have achieved an acceptable level of competence in your field, our ability to LEAD RELATIONSHIPS and create strategic contacts will have a much greater impact than talent and credentials. As you ascend to social and political ladder in any discipline, you will soon discover how important it is to be consistent and authentic. Herein lies the value of culture, especially for the Black professional.
Live the Medicine
Obafemi Origunwa, MA
Thought leader, Ifa priest and author of four definitive books, Obafemi Origunwa inspires metamorphosis through living the medicine that will heal your life and heal the lives of the people you're destined to serve.