When Ivana Taylor shared with me Black Faces In White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, the new book by Dr. Randall Pinkett and Dr. Jeffery Robinson with Philana Patterson, I was curious. (Not about how Dr. Pinkett’s appearance on “The Apprentice” would play into the book. Nor was I swayed by the curious on-air incident when Trump asked if Dr. Pinkett would let his runner up be a co-winner.) What got me is the book’s timing.
The post-racial generation is professionally coming to an age when entrepreneurial dreams and considerations for management positions are in view. I wondered how this generational shift would play against past advice for African-American professionals, especially when much of it came from very savvy and legendary leaders who had no blueprint for building careers in post-Civil-Rights America. This book delivers splendidly (Thanks, Ivana).
Know yourself so you can develop your network
Black Faces in White Places shows how networking, occupational excellence and cooperative synergy can come together to help African-American professionals master their career choices. Dr. Pinkett recalls his “Apprentice” experience, but then turns the moment into culturally reasoned examination of how Black professionals must weigh challenges which are not overtly racial, yet cause one to wonder about others’ intentions, particularly in settings in which the professional is also the only minority. It is this wonder that establishes the title.
Ten strategies, each for a career stage that leads to the next, are explained. The first three are grouped as “Learning the Game” — developing yourself and obtaining broad exposure to develop excellence in your field. The next three focus on playing the game — networking by building solid relationships with others and seeking mentor relationships. The third segment deals with providing value through entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial skills. The final segment ends the journey through giving back to those who helped along the way.
Black Faces in White Places makes its case for networking without using social media. Like Black Is the New Green, the book emphasizes traditional Black institutions as networking resources and shows tables regarding the fit of the organizations with each career stage.
“There are so many organizations doing good there is no excuse for not being involved.”
Enlightening breakdowns such as the Four Facets for Excellence and Nine Forms of Intelligence help readers understand their own characteristics so they can select organizations to join and in which to shine.
Aspirational entrepreneurs and managers will gain insights to make wise choices
The authors’ approach to career decision making is memorable, recapping stages to provide perspective on their usage. The emphasis on mastering one’s occupation nicely extends that of earlier successful books on the topic such as How to Succeed In Business Without Being White by Earl Graves and Cracking the Corporate Code by Price Cobb. Some readers may read Black Faces in White Places and feel, “Hey, I know that already,” from their personal experiences, but the fun of reading anything is that the text may articulate your own thoughts more succinctly, more accurately or just plain ol’ more real. For anyone with an interest in African-American culture from a corporate or entrepreneurial perspective, Black Faces in White Places delivers that “more real” in an organized fashion and makes any professional challenge more clear.
One small misstep is a mention of The Rage of A Privileged Class by Ellis Cose as providing examples of professionals dissatisfied about their choices and lacking passion. Despite their own acceptance, the professionals in Rage, against a backdrop of affirmative action politics and the socio-economic division of suburbs versus urban centers, felt resentment over slights and the pressure to be excellent from being the first in their industries. (Similar examples occur in 13 Ways of Looking at a Black Man, by Henry Louis Gates, and in Reviving The Spirit by Beverly Hall Lawrence.) Admittedly, from my end, this nit overlooks the segment’s advice to not prioritize prestige, promotions, or position over passion. But this mention also underscores the generational shift that the book notes, through its examples of successful African Americans at every age and through its excellent mention of points such as multiculturalism:
“…Voices also emerged in the 1990s to challenge the age-old metaphor of America as a “melting pot” — a country where cultures mix and combine to form a culture that is homogeneous…Instead these voices argued that we actually live in a pluralist society, and they describe America as a salad bowl – a collection of distinct cultures that coexist while maintaining their individual uniqueness.”
Dr. Pinkett and Dr. Robinson succeed in their closing points about cooperative spirit, particularly on building institutions. They challenge this generation of entrepreneurs to seek institution-building and to ask themselves how they can work together.
“The independent consultant’s impact may be felt for years, but the point of view, processes, and methods that he used to do his work won’t fuel another business after he stop working. … If the founding members were to step down tomorrow, would your organization continue to grow? If the answer is no, then there is more work to be done…”
The significance of institution-building extends into the theme of the last segment, which focuses on building synergy to jointly cooperate among professionals and to create a larger sense of self.
“Why are synergy and scale of such critical importance to the African American community?…We have many great programs and initiatives, but some are not coordinated with one another, and others are not large enough to make a lasting impact.”
The places we will all go in business and life
Dr. Robinson and Dr. Pinkett (@randalpinkett) have more than achieved their purpose for Black Faces in White Places. It challenged me, and I think it will challenge others who have concerns on bridging the diversity in the African American community, as well as spark interest for anyone with multicultural interest in organizations. Inspired by their words, I have to say Dr. Robinson and Dr. Pinkett have created true transforming synergy with Black Faces In White Places, with actionable results for any professional, whether he or she aspires to be a corporate executive or an entrepreneur.