Recently, I participated in a discussion on how to develop leaders of color in today’s workplace environment. While times have certainly changed, there are some strategies and tips that have been time-tested, and each yields opportunities for professional success. In addition, when one finds fulfilling work, it is easier to withstand established obstacles that many people of color face in the advancement of their careers.
According to the website “The Multicultural Advantage,” a website designed to help minorities excel in the workplace, below are several strategies that should be put into action if one desires to move into the executive ranks at work.
Create an adaptable strategic plan for success
Do not sit passively waiting to be noticed or for opportunities to drop in your lap. When you uncover the needs of your superiors, don’t forget to amend your strategic plan for success to include tactics that will address those needs.
Stay visible by promoting yourself
To crack the glass ceiling, minorities must be extremely visible. Raise your professional image by learning to see yourself as a marketing expert. Raise your visibility and showcase your knowledge by writing articles, serving on high-profile boards and committees, having your name submitted for awards, and seeking out speaking opportunities.
Demonstrate that you are executive material
Demonstrate that you are executive material by identifying key issues in complex situations, showing respect for the expertise and perspectives of others, acting quickly and decisively to get a plan moving, and discussing business issues with authority.
Learn the unwritten rules of your organization
Whenever you begin work within a new firm, set out to learn the unwritten rules of the organization. Don’t forget to study any nuances regarding norms concerning minorities.
Demand excellent performance from yourself
Most minorities who have risen to the top report that their performance was required to be beyond what is normally expected. You should also look for ways to constantly quantify your contributions in terms of profits, sales, productivity and savings.
Develop a diverse network and cultivate strategic allies
It is important to align yourself with the right people within your organization and your industry if you want to succeed. So, proactively seek out mentors and strategic allies.
To succeed as a minority in the workplace, it is likely that you will need a sponsor to advocate for you and groom you for an actual leadership position. Look for people who are willing to introduce you to key decision-makers and recommend you for high-profile projects.
Use documentation to obtain the rewards you deserve
When completing projects and other assignments, seek out via email your superiors’ feedback. After basking in the praise, inquire about areas that they think you need improvement. Apply those suggestions in future efforts and let superiors know that you have done so.
Cultivating this feedback not only protects you against negative performance reviews and being overlooked for assignments, but also ensures that your superiors are aware of your achievements.
Avoid the role-slotting trap
Most companies cultivate their key leaders in areas directly related to business lines like sales, marketing, operations and finance. Until recently, a disproportionate number of minority managers were placed in areas like affirmative action and diversity. To break out of this role-slotting trap, consider taking a lateral move into a position dealing with business lines.
Tammy McIntyre is owner of McIntyre Employment Service, an agency providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.