This week's biz book review.
Overcome stereotypes by excelling
Pitney Bowes executive Keith R. Wyche offers advice on transcending stereotypes.
BY RICHARD PACHTER
published 7/21/08 in The Miami Herald
Good Is Not Enough: And Other Unwritten Rules for Minority Professionals. Keith R. Wyche. Portfolio. 256 pages.
Can we begin by stipulating that racism is a form of stupidity, of ignorance? Clearly, one's aptitude and behavior are unrelated to ethnicity, yet racism persists despite best intentions and efforts. It seems odd, perhaps, to write about these things when a man of color is running for president and a woman nearly succeeded in becoming her party's candidate for that high position. Yet there are plenty of companies where women and minority employees somehow are absent from the ranks of management.
The modern workplace is increasingly diverse, especially in melting-pot communities like South Florida and other urban areas, though there's still a ''glass ceiling'' for women, and what author Wyche calls a ''concrete ceiling'' for ethnic minorities that often blocks advancement to senior management positions. It also impedes advancement at subordinate levels, too.
Although Wyche, a veteran corporate executive, speaker and adviser, primarily directs his message to African Americans, his text also offers guidance to Asians, Latinos and women -- anyone other than white guys. That's perfectly all right, since nearly everything he says is of value and will benefit almost everyone seeking success in a corporate environment, regardless of the concentration of melanin in his or her skin.
He recommends having a plan, being attentive to details, striving to become a good communicator and working hard. It's not enough to be a super salesperson or highly popular with customers if you turn around and are a nuisance to the company's support staff. No, Wyche admonishes, it's equally important to do a complete and thorough job, which will create value for the company and foster respect from your co-workers. By doing that, you also build value for yourself and become a powerful asset to the company, which usually ensures commensurate compensation and promotion.
You also have to take the long view when planning a career. Your goal may be to be a unit manager, for example, but if you are offered the position and not completely prepared, your failure may delay or block future opportunities. You might also be asked to transfer to a city that seems like a step in the wrong direction, but the experience and exposure you would gain from the move could shift your career to a higher gear. How can you find out if it's well worth doing or a must to avoid? Wyche recommends developing at least one mentor, and preferably a network of people who take an interest in your career and are able to serve as a source of collective wisdom. He also suggests engaging the services of a trainer, if necessary, to objectively assess attributes and correct any shortcomings.
Throughout, he cautions, it's also important to behave and perform in an exemplary manner. If you hold yourself to a higher standard, you'll render almost anyone's prejudice and low expectations moot.
Though racism is still a sad fact of life, it's difficult to imagine anyone who takes Keith Wyche's sagacious and practical advice to heart ever becoming a failure or not being ''good enough'' at any endeavor.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
This week's biz book review.