Upon joining the company, I currently work for, I remember being told they like to promote from within and that employees are strongly encouraged to move throughout the company. After being told I would be great for a particular position, I took a shot and applied but was not “short listed” for the position. I must admit, I was disappointed, but I recovered quickly.
I began to think about the experience I’d gained from previous employers as well as my own experience as a former business owner. I began to think about the many skill sets that I have to offer – the same set of skills and values the company was passing on: MY ability to think quickly on one’s feet, MY ability to execute in times of emergency, MY ability to bring people together and facilitate change, MY ability to be diplomatic, MY ability to create REAL solutions to REAL issues, MY ability to try and NOT be afraid to fail – MY ability to be courageous. Unless you are upper management or a C-level executive, I’ve not seen these traits valued in corporate America. It sounds good when they make a pledge to create more cultural diversity and practice ‘sensitivity’ but, how often is it simply executed? And what’s the advantage to having more education and behavioral assessments regarding employee EQ (Emotional I.Q.) if it’s not used as a blueprint for a great-ER company game plan? You’re expected to do your job and stay in your lane, that’s it. Don’t make any waves or have any dissenting opinions.
Eventually, one can easily find themselves just existing and settling in for a lifetime of mediocrity in this muted environment. Recently, I saw a post that said the following: “Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated. If they don’t see or acknowledge your value or talent, keep it moving – in all areas (work and relationships)”. This post made me think about how many African Americans have side hustles and hobbies. How common place it is for us to have multiple jobs, some out of necessity and others out of the need to simply reach our full potential – to be great. Historically, we’ve had to create our own opportunities, our own spaces, and places for us to be great-ER. You see, I’ve ALWAYS had a desire to be great. To do my part and leave my mark in the world – to leave it all on the table – to make things better than when I found them. To be a part of the great solution and not the ever-present problem. No one gets drafted to a team or hired to a company just to be benched, right? We’re so excited about being on the team or just having a job, that it takes us a while to realize we’ve been benched or cut down to size. If ignored, the malignant tumor of bitterness and resentment settle in; before you know it, you’re singing the “I hate my job” anthem.
The old leadership style of ‘bullying with a big stick’ are gone. The current generation has shown us that the most successful and innovative companies are willing to listen and action non-traditional ideas. This produces the gift of fulfillment and creativity from the employer to the employee. In turn, the employee is forced to reply with respect and loyalty. And EVERYONE wins with higher financial returns.
Realize when your talents are being wasted. Refuse to be misused! People are fickle and they only value you to extent that you value yourself. So, I’ve decided to become my own HR representative; I’ll continue to network and sound the alarm. If I’m not allowed to be great at my place of employment, I will create my own space to be great just as I did before. I refuse to let another human being ‘bench me’ - no man has the right nor permission to do that to another. I came to play coach and I want MY time on the field.
There’s another post citing an experiment where a violinist played for 45 minutes in a N.Y. subway – 4 people stopped, one clapped and he manage to raise $20 dollars. The following night the SAME violinist played on a world stage where the minimum charged was $100 per person. The experiment proved that extraordinary talent in an ordinary environment cannot shine and is not recognized. This fact is also Biblical: “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22). So, stay ready, stay flexible. Be prepared to move - new desire, new talents, new skills, may require a new environment for it to breath and grow.
There are brilliant ‘everyday’ people walking all around us each day performing ‘everyday’ jobs who do not receive attention nor awards according to their TRUE potential. But when they are they are pushed, coached, and encouraged to go the distance new life unfolds. Once they leave an ordinary environment they go elsewhere and thrive like a starved plant that’s been given new life! Same plant . . .different gardener. Know your worth. Nurture your desire to be great. Execute your plan; let the world see how exceptional you are. Don’t wait for it – get out there and take it!
Stephanie Lyons is a Mental Health Advocate at the BBFG Community. She is also the original Co-Host of "Voices Of the BBFG" for the Black Business Focus Group.