‘Black Faces in White Places’

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by Terri Schlichenmeyer
For New Pittsburgh Courier

Imagine that you’re standing in a roomful of people. And you’re completely alone.

Throughout your adult life, you’ve been in rooms just like that, solitary in a crowd of people you know. It’s a familiar feeling, one you’ve had before, and you’d leave but the doorway keeps moving when you try.

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If you’re an African-American in business, that’s no conundrum. You know the room well, even though the entry password often changes mid-game. But according to authors Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson, you can empower yourself to achieve success in any (board)room, and you can pave the way for others while doing it. In their new book “Black Faces in White Places (with Philana Patterson), they explain.

Without a doubt, if you are Black, you’ve been “confronted with a challenge related to [your] race” at some point in your life. It might have been a splashy one—Randal Pinkett had a very public challenge within seconds of his win on The Apprentice—or perhaps it was a quiet, private issue. Either way, though things are getting better, they’re far from equal—especially in business—and you increasingly find yourself in a Black Faces in White Places situation.

So how can you overcome the stereotypes, the scrutiny, the fishbowl feeling? The authors say that there are 10 main ways for African-Americans in business to get to the top, stay there, and forge a path for others to get there, too.

First of all, establish a strong identity as a foundation to who you are. Know where you’ve been so you know where you’re going, and know your purpose in life. Reach beyond your comfort level to gain a broad exposure to different people and situations, and build relationships that are solid and diverse—but don’t neglect weak ties because they may be your most powerful network.

Forget about meritocracy, prestige and job title, and focus on excellence instead. Ask others for their wisdom. Learn the power of a cohesive crowd. Know when it’s time to fight for an issue, or if acquiescence is better. Act like an entrepreneur. Work with synergy. Pay it forward.

Authors Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson give readers a thorough step-by-step method of achieving success in the workplace, but the surprising thing is that there’s more to this business book than just business advice. In this roadmap to “great­­ness,” Pinkett and Robinson also include side trips that can only enhance their readers’ personal lives and that of their co-workers. I liked those extras, even though they may seem to be hidden in this thoughtful, helpful book.

If you’re tired of “just a job” and you want to go further in work and life, “Black Faces in White Places” is what you need. Make room on your schedule for it soon.

(“Black Faces in White Places” by Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson (with Philana Patterson), c.2010, Amacom, $24.95/$29.95 Canada, 268 pages, includes index.)

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