‘The New Status Quo: Just Don’t Call Me Mister’

I always answer the question, “Who are you?” with “Hello, I’m John P. Turner, a Social Entrepreneur who is creating business solutions to address social problems.” As a young Black man I’m offended when people call me “Mister,” which is often hyphenated as “Mr.” in print, rather than addressing me by how I label myself. Historically, Black men and Black boys have had their dignity diminished by way of being referred to as the “n-word” and “boy.” Historically, Black men and Black boys have not been taken seriously as being intellectually or socially competitive by the general public, in comparison to their counterparts with similar education levels and socioeconomic statuses. Also, my generation of Black men and Black boys, which includes anyone who is thirty-four years old and younger in 2014, isn’t taken seriously as being social change agents. Similarly, people who don’t care about the social plight of Black men and Black boys today are oblivious of my generation’s efforts to effect social equity.

What more should Black men and Black boys be doing to end institutional racism? Why are people only criticizing Black men and Black boys without offering their suggestions as to how we can better make a positive social impact? Why hasn’t my generation of Black men and Black boys been mentored by seasoned social activists to effect the social change they wish to see? Why don’t people take my generation as seriously as they did the young people during the Civil Rights Movement? These are the questions swarming my mind when people call me “Mr.”, instead of how I present myself to the world, as a Social Entrepreneur who is effecting social change. Given these points, the new status quo is that Black men and Black boys are not recognized for their social advocacy efforts and the important community work that they do.

Surely, people describe and define themselves by their title(s) – so that others understand who they are and what they do. So there’s more to a title than just its name. More specifically, titles have the ability to reflect Black men’s and Black boys’ efforts to end social injustice, generational poverty, and community violence. When I walk into any room wherein professionals are present, be they academicians or community organizers, I am questioned about who I am for either one of two reasons: 1) someone doubts that I deserve to be there or 2) someone wants to know what makes me an exception to their general assumptions about young Black men and Black boys. White people used to refer to Black men and Black boys as the “n-word” and later as “boy” to discredit their dignity. Similarly, “Mr.” is used today by some people as the modern evolution of this thought process for the same purpose.

Consider two examples, one is related to President Barack Obama and the other one is a hypothetical example. I cringe at the covert disrespect of people referring to President Barack Obama as “Mr. Obama” instead of “President Obama” as his predecessors were referenced. President Obama’s qualifications and abilities are still questioned and disrespected in a way that is different from his predecessors based on his race. For example, Clint Eastwood joked about President Obama as he spoke to an invisible chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention. In 1952, Ralph Ellison wrote about the social and intellectual challenges of African Americans in his book called Invisible Man. Similarly, President Obama was ridiculed by Clint Eastwood as being invisible, which begs the question, “What qualifies him to be our President?” I guess that being an author, a Harvard-trained Lawyer, as well as a former Senator isn’t enough since he’s not a White man. Indeed, being an influential Black person with a college degree is atypical to some people’s perceptions about Black people. As a second example, some Black men who should be referred to as say “Dr.” are called “Mr..” Now one might give someone the benefit of doubt by concluding, “Well s/he didn’t know.” To which I would respond, “Well how come s/he didn’t ask about who you are first?”

Being called “Mr.” instead of “leader,” “visionary,” or “change agent,” because someone doesn’t view Black men and Black boys as such, will always feel like an insult, a grievance that readily provokes disputation. Being called “Mr.” will always make Black men and Black boys feel less important when their counterparts are referred to as “Activist,” “Philanthropist,” and “Social Entrepreneur,” among other titles. Today, Black men and Black boys are still negatively represented in media as being hypersexualized, violent, and irresponsible. As a result, people of all races don’t care about Black men and Black boys today, just like White people didn’t care about them during the hangings by lynch mobs during the Jim Crow era of the 1960s. Today, people should be boycotting the music artists, business owners, and thought leaders who are not using their influence to end social injustice. To illustrate my point, actor Boris Kodjoe is quoted for once saying, “When you have a platform it’s not a privilege, it’s a responsibility.” Undoubtedly, people with influence should be held accountable for using their social influence to advocate for social changes that will benefit their stakeholders. While there is some social unrest today about the killings of Black men and Black boys by the police, the general public disregards this public health issue as not being their personal problem. Case in point, several murderers have not been charged with and incarcerated for their crime of killing Black men and Black boys- all because people don’t care. While my claims may be dismissed, denying the existence of overt and covert diabolicalness is a conspiracy in itself.

On the other hand, social activists who started their advocacy efforts during the 1960s, or Black men and Black boys who were born around the time of the Civil Rights Movement, feel that my generation is not advocating for social justice. To support their argument, they usually reference the hypersexualization of music videos and the disproportionate number of Black men and Black boys who experience their first-time arrest before reaching the age of twenty-five. However, I completely disagree with the sentiment that my generation is not advocating for social equity. If nothing more, these negative examples support why Black men and Black boys should be mentored. Furthermore, as an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., I can attest to maintaining excellence in scholarship and service to the community. Of course, my fraternity Brothers and I are not reinforcing the negative stereotypes of Black men and Black boys; we are trying to change negativity into positivity through our service to the community. Additionally, I can name at least thirty Black men who are also younger than thirty and are doing big things to benefit the social plight of Black men and Black boys. At 25, people tell me that I am very mature for my age because of my commitment to helping others. However, I simply view my social responsibility to helping others as the standard for Black men and Black boys.

For many reasons, people often refer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the epitome of “what [Black men and Black boys] should be doing.” However, social problems do not look the same today as they did during earlier decades. For example, racism is no longer politically correct with the advent of new laws meant to lessen the effects of the historical significance of race in the U.S.. For this reason, people’s prejudices, or stereotypical assumptions, about each other are expressed privately more often now than before civil rights laws were enacted. Since the way that U.S. social problems look has changed, the efforts of Black men and Black boys to address them look differently as well. More specifically, the U.S. socio-political circumstances have changed since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The social activism of Black men and Black boys today occurs through illustrations on social media platforms and the provision of social services, in addition to traditional social protests. Therefore, there’s no lack of social activism in my generation, it’s that Black men and Black boys aren’t given credit for what they do. For example, I participated in a nonviolent social protest on Tuesday, November 25, 2014. I walked two miles with over 200 people, most of whom were college students under the age of twenty-five years old down the middle of a busy street in Philadelphia, PA. Five helicopters circled us overhead and there were about 50 police officers in the area who were blocking off streets and ensuring our safety while protesting peacefully. However, this social protest was not shown on any local or national news reports. While we didn’t do this for a pat on the back, this example serves as just one of many numerous ways that Black men and Black boys are advocating for social change. With this in mind, people should call my generation of Black men and Black boys social change agents or social activists because of our social advocacy efforts.

In conclusion, it’s important that people be addressed by how they present themselves professionally. There are no second chances at a first impression, so Black men and Black boys must take advantage of every opportunity to educate people. The media gets an overwhelming number of opportunities to serve as the library for people’s negative attitudes towards Black men and Black boys. Therefore, Black men and Black boys have a social responsibility to debunk stereotypes through their conversations and social action. In order for Black men and Black boys to be taken seriously, they must acknowledge the new status quo and overwhelm people with positives examples of their thinking and behavior, so that we aren’t just called “Mr.”

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‘4 Steps To Enforcing Performance Standards That Your Team Will Follow’

Click here to read my original article, which is exclusive to SEE Change Magazine, that was published on December 8, 2014.

Leaders can’t accomplish their goals without enlisting the help of others. Although they’re likely to have expertise in various areas, it’s important for leaders to remember that their accomplishments are an extension of others’ contributions. Leaders must, therefore, know how to effectively delegate responsibilities in their personal and professional settings. Moreover, teamwork is exemplified when everyone completes their shared responsibility to meet the larger goal. Leaders can cultivate teamwork in any setting through transformative leadership, which involves providing people with individualized encouragement to actualize their full potential.

So how can leaders inspire others to adopt performance standards that they’ll follow? These four steps will prove effective. After all, people will maintain excellence in roles and responsibilities that are clearly-defined, meaningful, and in line with what they would like to do.

Defining Objectives

When someone creates an objective, there are necessary action steps for it to be completed. However, people need to know why and what it is that they’re doing to reach a particular objective. Appropriately, leaders should communicate team objectives with their related actions steps to both peers and supervisors. Additionally, leaders should take people’s questions and concerns seriously; otherwise leaders will experience resistance and unwillingness to help and no objectives will be accomplished. For example, I once led a research study that was composed of five team members. Each team member had unique expertise in an academic discipline with more or less research experience than me. Initially, I was anxious about how we would delegate our action steps due to my limited experience in leading a research study.

However, my long-time mentor and friend suggested that I first create a list of specific assignments that were necessary in order to complete our research study. Next, he suggested that I give each team member a copy of the assignments and that we all have a conversation about who would like to be responsible for what. Shortly thereafter, I took his suggested approach and my team members were excited to be responsible for different aspects of our research study. Since these assignments were necessary for the completion of our research, my team members understood that each task had to get done. Furthermore, the deadlines that were associated with each assignment were based on our agreed-upon timeframe for the study. Intuitively, leaders can enforce performance standards by helping people do what they’re comfortable doing. Defining objectives gets participants excited about and investing in the vision, mission, and values of a particular objective.

Determining Task Assignments

Whenever possible, let people volunteer to take on assignments related to a particular objective. Since people are their own best experts, they know what they’re good at and want to do. Leaders often have trouble getting their peers and supervisors to take direction without experiencing resistance or noncompliance due to not having assessed the skill-set of team members or assigning tasks that aren’t in-line with their interest. For example, staff members who work in non-profit organizations typically have more work-related responsibilities than their job descriptions listed. Furthermore, these staff members may find themselves doing things for the first time to progress the vision, mission, and values of the nonprofit organization.

Consider that a staff member may be asked to manage the organization’s Facebook page, without any prior experience or interest in doing so. Consequently, this staff member may become resistant or unwilling to perform the task. To navigate this situation, leaders should make clear which tasks he or she is responsible for first. This approach should inspire peers and supervisors to follow suit after recognizing the leader’s dedication to being a team player. If that doesn’t work, leaders should ask their team members for clarity on how they would like to support the vision, mission and values of the objective(s) they’re being asked to support. Then, leaders should assign responsibilities that are in-line with people’s passion, asking for feedback and addressing their questions as they may arise. In this way, people will take advantage of opportunities to step up and take care of things that need to be done.

Rationalizing Performance Standards

People always have to work with others in order to get things done. Consequently, leaders must be able to set performance standards for themselves and others by taking and giving directions. Leaders must always inspire people to believe that their contributions to the team’s success are important. Teamwork is often misunderstood as being one’s willingness to do anything as needed. However, teamwork occurs when people are collaborating through specific responsibilities that are necessary for accomplishing a common objective. Consider the example of how two landscapers may work together to beautify a yard within two hours. One person decides to mow the lawn while the other trims the perimeter of the lawn, as well as the hedges. Based on their clearly-defined responsibilities, these two landscapers accomplish their objective. This example illustrates how having clearly defined responsibilities and deadlines results in the accomplishment of a particular objective. As a final point, whereas some people require less convincing than others, leaders must convince their peers and supervisors that successfully performing a role on deadline is integral to the team success.

Responding to Questions & Concerns

People need to know the reasons behind what they’re doing. When people experience difficulties in their role and responsibilities, they need to be able to refer back to why they’re supporting the overall objective in the first place. Leaders should therefore validate people’s questions and concerns while addressing why their contributions are vital to the team’s overall success. If team members are unsure of their role, leaders must clearly explain that they were assigned particular responsibilities based on their skill-set and expertise. After all, people’s number one need is to feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves; they deserve to feel their contributions are valued. So, when specific questions are asked and specific concerns expressed, leaders should reply in a way that conveys that they’re part of a particular mission Furthermore, it’s equally important for leaders to validate others’ feelings through their reassurance that no questions are foolish and that no concerns are superfluous. And leaders should remain cognizant of questions and concerns when communicating objectives and their related action steps.

In conclusion, leaders must not be afraid of challenging people to give and to take direction. When people can set their responsibilities, leaders empower them to adopt a leadership role in order to accomplish the objectives by their stated deadlines. However, when people are unable to determine their responsibilities, leaders must always convey how their individual success is essential to the team’s success. The process of enforcing performance standards that people will follow should be as inclusive of everyone involved as possible. By keeping everyone’s questions and concerns in mind, people will be receptive to being held accountable for the tasks they chose to pursue.

‘4 Ways To Bring Out The Leader In Anyone’

People often want to know whether leadership is learned or is it innate? Well it’s actually a combination of both. Everyone is born with an ability to be a leader, but knowing how to demonstrate leadership is learned. Inside every person is a raw unformed leadership ability; only life circumstances will foster its development in a more apparent style or a hybrid of several. When people are unable to define and discuss the purpose of leadership, its because this concept is often referenced without having first been explained. Within this brief discussion, leadership is defined as the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that are demonstrated for the purpose of influencing others.[1] Although individuals are ultimately responsible for determining what type of leader(s) they will follow, here are four ways to promote the growth of anyone demonstrating their innate responsibility to be a leader:

  1. Tell them “You’re a leader”

The most important, which is also the simplest, approach to bring out the leader in anyone is to tell them they’re a leader. People’s self-image is developed through the combination of how they talk to themselves and how they’re viewed by others. At this point, you may have asked yourself, “What type of leader am I?” In light of this self-examination, here’s a brief synopsis of six leadership styles in which researchers conclude that people use to influence others: 1) the “do as I say, not as I do” coercive type, 2) the “teamwork makes the dreamwork” authoritative type 3) the “you are smart, you are kind, you are valuable” affiliative type, 4) the “I’m down for whatever everyone else wants” democratic type, 5) the “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” pacesetting type, and last but not least, 6) the “here’s how you can do that better next time” coaching type.[2] Parallel to there being several different ways of getting people to do what you want; people adopt a leadership role for different purposes. Self-evaluate which above-mentioned statement(s) you embody, then present these statements to others in order to adopt a style reflective of how you would like to be viewed.

  1. Enhance their strengths

Although people find different social issues, hobbies, and work-related skills and responsibilities interesting, passion is always the mediator in one’s decision of whether or not to be a leader. When people are unable to do what they want in life, they are unlikely to demonstrate their leadership due to discouragement and frustration.  In fact, the longer someone works in a dissatisfying position/role, the more s/he is terribly remiss in his/her work performance and service to others. Appropriately, much needed time and energy should be directed toward investigating people’s natural and desired abilities. Accordingly, understanding the needs of others is the quintessential principle of leadership.[3] To recruit supporters of one’s causes, it is necessary to cater to his/her supporters’ needs for transparency as well as, to maintain clear and consistent advocacy efforts. To that end, its vital to understand what rouses a person’s emotions to the point of them demonstrating their propensity for positively influencing others.

  1. Reframe their perspective

People who have never considered themselves to be a leader have more reasons about why they aren’t one than the reasons why they are and should be a leader. However, it’s important to recognize that the necessary conditions for someone to demonstrate their innate leadership varies across individuals. In any given situation, people can decide to be or not to be a leader. For example, consider two possible scenarios wherein someone must work with others who are not as diligent in completing assignments on time. In scenario 1, the student gets frustrated and dreads work with her/his classmates, worsening the group cohesiveness. Consequently, s/he may end up earning a grade that is less than what was possible due to a lack of assigning appropriate leadership roles. In scenario 2, the student understands that people have different strengths and areas of growth. As a result, s/he ask her/his group members what part of the assignment they would like to take responsibility for completing. Here, the student only needs to understand that everyone can lead different areas of the assignment for the benefit of overall group cohesiveness. Reframing every task as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership will compel people to be invested in anything that needs to be done.

  1. Model ethical leadership

During difficult circumstances, people sometimes make irresponsible decisions or fail to make decisions at all when others are around, which is also known as a diffusion of responsibility.[4] However, people’s innate leadership responsibility is to always take advantage of opportunities to positively influence those around them. Modeling ethical leadership, making decisions that will influence others based on what you consider to be right and wrong, is one such way of inspiring others to be a leader. Figuratively speaking, the best test of a (wo)man to determine whether or not s/he’s a leader is his/her ability to create other leaders. In this way, one will also gain insight into his/her leadership style based on the leadership style cultivated in others. By convincing others of their leadership by assigning responsibilities as well as by mentoring, we grow the number of ethical leaders in our world and develop ourselves into more effective leaders.

In summary, leadership is what you make of it: we determine how it looks based on what we think of others. Leadership can be implemented constructively or destructively depending on one’s goal. These four ways of bringing out the leader in anyone are best applied with self-awareness, perseverance, empathy, vision, and active listening skills to help people become ethical leaders based on our example.

References

[1] Van Dierendonck, D. (2011). Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management37(4), 1228-1261.

[2] Goleman, D. (2000). “Leadership That Gets Results.” Harvard Business Review, 78 (2): 78-90.

[3] Sadri, G. (2012). Emotional intelligence and leadership development. Public Personnel Management, 41(3), 535-548.

[4] Mostovicz, E. I., Kakabadse, A., & Kakabadse, N. K. (2011). The four pillars of corporate responsibility: ethics, leadership, personal responsibility and trust.Corporate Governance11(4), 489-500.

‘4 Reasons Why Only Social Workers Can Solve Social Problems’

While we are preoccupied with our own lives, an array of social problems are constantly occurring all over the world. But how does something become a social problem?

Essentially, people with money and high social status get to legitimize what people generally view as a social problem.1 By my definition then, a social worker is anyone who is compelled to address social problems. Formally, “The primary mission of social work is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.”2

Only social workers (people who are addressing social problems) can solve social problems for four reasons: 1) we won’t stop until the job gets done, 2) we can adopt different perspectives, 3) we recognize that there’s more to the problem than the problem, and most importantly, 4) we treat people like people.

1)  We won’t stop until the job gets done.

Social situations transform into social ills/problems from a lack of collective action. Social movement leaders are drawn to being social workers. We have experienced life in a way that has resulted in our unique perspectives for creativity and innovation. To us, “no” means “not right now, try again later.” No matter how bad a social problem is or how bad it gets, we don’t stop our efforts to mobilize other people as a means of social transformation.3 We realize the great demand to take action on our vision(s) that wake us up early and have us going to bed late at night. We invest time and money even when people laugh at us or tell us to give up. We face disappointment and distractions but never separate what we’re focused on doing from who we are.

Accordingly, our vision to better the quality of life for everyone protects us as well as incites us to bring about change. As a result, social workers’ responsibility to serve others is of paramount importance. In our minds, “good work” must always be better than the last time, therefore we are not handicapped by fear; it gives us a rush of pleasure as an indication that we are experiencing a positive transformation. People are drawn to us because of our energy and we are constantly provided with opportunities to continue changing the world. To that end, everything happens for a reason and there is no such thing as failure. Moreover, our commitment to changing the world positively stems from the belief that we do big things based on our ability to be whatever we want regardless of where we begin.

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2)  We can adopt different perspectives.

Social workers are constantly trying to make sense of why things happen. Understanding that everything happens for a reason requires a big picture vantage point (macro-level), a detail-oriented lens (micro-level), and an understanding of someone’s feelings from their perspective. For example, one cause that I am passionate about is violence prevention. Some people refer to the seemingly constant killings of young Black men as “senseless.” From a macro-level perspective, the biological, psychological, and social pressures on particular groups of people causes them to make bad decisions. At a  micro-level focus we would examine the rampant community violence that pressures someone to obtain a gun. Furthermore, the pervasive unemployment pressures this individual to resort to illegitimate sources of income, such as robbing others. Understanding someone else’s perspective, this individual would decide to shoot someone to rob him/her because this individual knew that s/he had no other legitimate way of providing for his/her family.

In this above-mentioned example, I am in no way relieving violent perpetrators of the lack of value for life reflected in their poor decision-making under pressure. However, if we are to address social problems, we must first diagnose their underlying issue(s), similar to the treatment process of physicians for physical ailments. Intuitively, we must learn more about what doesn’t make sense to us at first glance. Human learning occurs because our brain is designed to grow the necessary brain areas to accommodate our ability to process new types of information.4 When we don’t intentionally adopt different perspectives, we get stuck in giving old answers to new questions and relying on old ways of thinking about new topics. As a result, no progress is made and our stagnance only helps to maintain whatever issue(s) we don’t understand. Social workers understand the importance of recognizing there are multiple perspectives to perceived problems/social ills.

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3)  We recognize that there’s more to the problem than the problem.

We can observe unemployment, crime, and poverty. However, what we cannot observe, and which is far more oppressive, is poverty across generations, people learning to be helpless, policies and procedures that are meant to maintain the social hierarchy, higher education only for those who can afford it, and lastly our morals being dependent on entertainment. Consequently, to the extent of some people deciding to video record violence, and natural disasters instead of intervening. Yes, we recognize that there are multiple influences to everything that happens. Social workers are slow to judge and quick to act to benefit people, to transform family histories, and to end the diffusion of responsibility that’s understood as “Well someone else will intervene.” To which I always will respond, “You are that someone.”

We must change our approach from giving charity through the isolated philanthropy of a few people, to the mindset of intentionally removing existing policies which create the conditions we wish to eliminate. Social transformation requires more than just getting mad about the prejudice and disinvestment that is reflected in downtrodden communities. Poverty is a condition that is the result of others’ intentions, it is not happenstance or a mistake. Policies and laws have created and maintained social injustice. For example, when U.S. laws were unjust toward women, social workers organized and mobilized people to enact change. As a second example, when U.S. laws were unjust toward African-Americans, social workers advocated until laws were changed and were replaced with satisfactory ones. Community development begins by articulating the vision of its concerned community members by voting for politicians who will satisfy their needs. All in all, we must use people as resources that are available within communities to effect change.

Anthony Cymerys, Colby Snow

4)  We treat people like people.

No college degree can teach someone how to be passionate about eliminating the causes and effects of poverty and social injustice. Our disagreement with someone’s upbringing or viewpoint does not physically handicap us from helping them. Only people can be involved in every area of problem-solving for social issues that are affecting other people. We are only as effective as our ability to recognize what other people need from us without muffling them with the bells and whistles of our fancy professional titles and credentials. Just because you do not have a college degree stating you are a social worker does not mean that you cannot solve social problems. People simply need other people to respond to their needs with compassion and love.

Social problems do not go away because people do not care enough about other people. When confronted with opportunities to stop social injustice, we must not assume that someone else will intervene. When you observe wrongdoing(s), you are obligated to intervene to make things better.5 Our fullest potential, the purpose of our gift or talent, does not exist or function without helping others succeed. All people are human. This is sometimes forgotten when we believe that someone has low social power or status.6 For example, people who are homeless are often discriminated against or mistreated in inhumane ways. Investing to benefit other people is the only way to ensure your success and that of others. As a final point, when we treat people like people and help to satisfy their needs, our physical and mental health is literally enhanced.7 So if you’re feeling sad or upset, you will feel much better by focusing on others’ needs by volunteering through a local charitable organization.


  1.  Blumer, H. (1971). Social problems as collective behavior. Social problems, 298-306. 
  2. National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Washington, DC: Author 
  3. Blau, J. (2004). The Dynamics of Social Welfare Policy. New York: Oxford University Press. Chapter 6 – Social Movements and Social Change – p.174-219. 
  4. Taubert, M., Draganski, B., Anwander, A., Müller, K., Horstmann, A., Villringer, A., & Ragert, P. (2010). Dynamic properties of human brain structure: learning-related changes in cortical areas and associated fiber connections. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(35), 11670-11677. 
  5. Medoff, P., & Sklar, H. (1994). Streets of hope: The fall and rise of an urban neighborhood (pp. 245-287). Boston: South End Press. 
  6. Yzerbyt, V. Y., Dumont, M., Mathieu, B., Gordijn, E., & Wigboldus, D. (2006). Social comparison and group-based emotions. Social comparison processes and levels of analysis: Understanding cognition, intergroup relations, and culture, 174-205. 
  7. Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, happiness, and health: It’s good to be good.International journal of behavioral medicine, 12(2), 66-77. 

‘5 Ways To Brand Your Successful Company Before You Have One’

Distinguished_black_businessman

“5 Ways To Brand Your Successful Company Before You Have One”

 1. Write

Writing for blogs, websites, newspapers, and journals is a great branding technique. In addition to the readability of your worldviews, online and print media typically include a blurb about the author. Contributing authors can provide a compelling snapshot of their personal and company/organization brand within the guidelines of their character limit. Writing also allows authors more time and flexibility to organize their thoughts and to plan their communication style to others. During in-person conversations, we must have both nonverbal and verbal communication acumen. For example, someone’s mouth may be conveying one idea while his/her folded arms may be saying something else.

In addition to branding through communicating one’s thoughts, professionals must be bilingual by speaking the language of business people – writing. Many, if not all, information is saved and transmitted through digital and print methods of communication. In addition to legal transactions and proceedings, business people are required to provide documentation of any text, images, or concepts that constitute one’s brand.

Altogether, writing is important to create your brand and to communicate your brand to others.

 

2. Get Active on LinkedIn

LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is a compartmentalized, user-friendly, way to brand yourself and your company/organization. In my opinion, LinkedIn is the most professional social media platform for your resume/professional accomplishments. With features such as being able to endorse and recommend your LinkedIn connections, there are several ways to facilitate your strategic branding. One way to increase your brand visibility is to endorse your LinkedIn connections on their  “Skills”, especially those areas that are low in number. People will view your LinkedIn profile based on your endorsement on the “Skills” section of others’ profiles. Moreover, when there are less endorsements, your page visibility is increased. However, the drawback is that this person’s pageviews and number of LinkedIn connections are also low since no one is endorsing them. Likewise, listing too many “Skills” on your LinkedIn profile also accounts for low endorsements. Choose five skills that are succinct, and easy to understand for viewers who checked out your page. Simply put, the more endorsements that you have, the better. The less skills you list, the more endorsements you will have since it will take less effort to validate your know-how.

Another way to increase your brand visibility is to write recommendations for your LinkedIn connections. However, I highly recommend that you practice writing recommendations before posting them to your own or others’ page. Remember other people view our brand based on what we write, say, and do. So ensure your ideal first impression by proofreading your writing for grammatical mistakes. To ensure your readability, ask for feedback at little to no-cost from a trustworthy writer that you know. Writing recommendations for your LinkedIn connections is invaluable for three purposes: 1) you get to enhance your writing skills, which are essential for every professional, 2) you increase your brand presence through someone’s LinkedIn profile and last but not certainly least, 3) people learn more about how well you work with others. So when someone requests a recommendation through those nifty pre-written recommendation LinkedIn messages, get excited about this opportunity for strategic branding. Conversely, whenever someone offers to write a recommendation to add to my LinkedIn profile, I ask myself the following questions: Can this person write an inspiring narrative to highlight my skills and expertise? Would you want him/her to do so? What is his/her reputation?

 In other words, both writing and receiving LinkedIn recommendations will increase your brand visibility.

 

3. Join a Board of Directors (BOD)

Often times, organizations will list their BOD on their company website. This is a great way to market yourself and brand your company name and mission, especially if your website is up and running and listed on the named organization’s website. In addition, when the organization has special events, BOD members are often acknowledged along with their associated company/organization. Professionals are recruited as BOD members based on their potential support of a company’s organizational vision, mission, and values. BOD members are viewed as invaluable sources of experts on particular industries, or companies/organizations. Both budding and well-seasoned professionals must take advantage of opportunities to strategically brand themselves and/or their company/organization. When I was recruited to join the Board of Directors at a Philadelphia-based public health non-profit organization called Bebashi- Transition to Hope, I asked myself, “What transferable skills do I have to offer to a successful company?”

 After I pondered over my natural abilities, I realized that the better question to ask myself was, “How do other people view me?” On a piece of paper, I inventoried the recurrent themes in my past conversations, interviews, recommendation letters, and compliments from other people. Simply put, people recognize my skills of program development, community outreach, and corporate branding. As an aside, I made sure that my LinkedIn “Skills” section was consistent with this epiphany. While we are the best experts on our own skills and expertise, our brand is the average of what others say and what we say about ourselves. I accepted a position on the Nominating Committee at Bebashi to gain additional experience that was consistent with my brand. The more active you are on a BOD, the more branding exposure you will gain. Similarly, the more you do for others, the more they will do for you.

 

4. Volunteer

Find out what you’re passionate about by volunteering at different events. Similarly, you can grow your opportunities to do the work that you’re passionate about by volunteering. Skills-based volunteering (pro bono consulting) can become a branding opportunity when you invest in refining what you do. Think back to the time before the internet (yes that age actually existed), people who achieved international notoriety accomplished this through the best method of marketing and advertising possible – word of mouth branding. Research suggests that we tend to trust who trustworthy people deemed trustful (are you still with me?). So when someone trustworthy recommends your awesome skills/services to others, voila! You are on your way to doing big things!

Conversely, non-skills-based volunteering at events that interest you can also transform into a branding opportunity. When you pique others’ interest through your reason for volunteering (i.e., your why) at said event, they want to know more about you. This is a window of opportunity to tell others about your brand, whether that be who are you individually, or the vision, mission, and values of your company/organization. Your interest in others also grows their curiosity in you, so convince people of your excitement about their passion. At best, you have solidified a new business partner, or BOD member, volunteer, or donor, if not all three. At worse, you have just used some elbow grease to initiate a conversation about you to others. In my book, that is also known as word of mouth branding.

 

5. Do the Work

There is no way around doing the big things that you say you do. Regardless of whether you are a social entrepreneur creating business solutions for social problems like I am, people want to see examples of your work. After more than three years of running my benefit corporation called WeDoBigThings, I can attest that the time will never be perfect to start impacting the world around you. Doing the work means different things for people- writing, acting, or social impact engineering. You may be wondering, “What’s the common theme among all people who actualized their dream?” – they never quit trying new ideas. I remember riding in a car listening to an audiobook of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho with a friend around the summer season of 2013. I said to my friend, “Man I wish that the voices of people who read audio books were more lively.” My friend replied, “Well why don’t you create your own audiobook then?” So for several months I organized and planned with two other motivational speakers to realize an audiobook compilation during the coming winter. Basically, we quit the plan and never released the audiobook. Often times, we set lofty goals and then quit before making them a reality.

Furthermore, the only reason that our dreams are not made a reality is if we create ideas to kill our vision. As Kevin Hart would say, the way that our minds are set up…we learn from experience. Positive outcomes encourage us whereas negative outcomes have the potential to deter us. But, we can use the power of thought to our advantage. Negative outcomes are the best teachable moments for several reasons: 1) we can become uncomfortable enough with an unfavorable outcome that we are motivated to change, 2) there are countless role models and success stories of people who “failed” until they got it right, and lastly, 3) people who have had similar pathways to their success will support the work you do by offering resources and encouragement to persevere.