Performing Strategic Authenticity in Professional Environments

So your company is all about racial justice and you, after months of trying to get noticed and helped.

How to manage people’s perception of who you are and remain authentic when your authenticity is penalized by the nature of your workplace. For a lot of Black people, our authentic selves are deeply embedded in our language, the way that we speak and make metaphors of the the world around us. And those are the very things that we leave at home before we enter the work atmosphere.

So if we can’t be authentic with our language without being penalized, how do we begin to bring the rest of our authenticity to our professional lives? We know that we can’t go into professional settings with our authentic selves and reap the benefits that are supposed to come along with authenticity because many of those professional spaces are hostile to our language, our style of dress, our foods, our very culture.

If we’re keeping it 100, being Black at work doesn’t mean that you’re the same Black person at work as you are with your family or with your friends. If you make the mistake of thinking that you’re just being authentic at work, you will immediately put yourself at a disadvantage. You’re immediately playing yourself.

So what you need to figure out as a Black person in the workplace is what parts of yourself are non negotiable. Which parts of your authentic self do you absolutely always have to move with, knowing that you’re going to have to sacrifice some part of yourself to get ahead at work, or even just to get things done.

The Truth About Authenticity
The jig is that all this rhetoric about authenticity doesn’t apply to Black folx in the same way because what authenticity really is, is a perception. It’s just a term we use to help us manage relationships with less energy on our end. Everything about authenticity is only ever going to be perceived authenticity. Perception is just another person’s interpretation of the performance that you’re projecting, and you’re always projecting a performance of some kind, whether you realize it or not.

Everything is perceived. Everything you projecting becomes a perception, so even your true authentic self will only ever be a perception of that true self as its interpreted by the other person. And perception is always filtered through people’s own projections of themselves, their beliefs, their identities. So what you may be projecting as a playful Black womanhood may be perceived by someone else as something completely different or wildly similar. Your projection is always being perceived and interpreted by the people watching you – your coworkers, your managers, your peers, your boss, the board, the customer, the client.

Understand How Perception Works
Now what do you do when your non-negotiable authentic parts clash with the values of the organizations that you’re in? Remember, all of this is a perception, so when you understand how to manage how people perceive you and how to project the right image that will line up with what they know what to perceive, then you will be able to use your Blackness as an advantage.

People will try to mislead you about things in the organizations and use their corporate terms to box you into a corner. But what you do when you get placed in that box is to paint it into an image than will be perceived as something that will be of value to them while being, first and foremost, an advantage to you.

Now Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, has done many talks about how she used perception management to level up in her firm. It’s a mix of language and performance that is very much rooted in authentic parts of yourself. But there are also studies about how people perceive and assume things about other people based on their race, their gender, their height, their weight, their dress, the way they speak, and more. All of it comes together in a battle between your perception of who you are and other people’s perception of you and your ability to leverage both of them to get to where you’re trying to go.

Managing Perceptions
If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right. It is part of what we call the Black Tax and you will have to learn to juggle perception alongside your work. What people are doing with the authenticity movement is just selecting the authentic parts of themselves to bring to the forefront because it is easier to perform something authentic to you that it is to contort your entire being into something that is inauthentic altogether. You can’t escape the performance, because everyone is performing, but you can make it work for you.

They key to managing perceptions is to perform something consistently and repetitively and it turns out the easiest way to maintain that performance is root it in something you already do and you already are. And that’s what makes authenticity the buzzword, even though we’re never looking at the true authentic thing, just the performance of it.

As people who are working and doing business in environments that are hostile to your culture, hostile to your upbringing, hostile to your ways of thinking and being, you’re projecting and performing to manage others’ perception of who you are. That perception is evoked by whatever you’re performing.

You need to be aware of your endgame at every level of your life in order to effectively manage those perceptions. Whatever that looks like for you is something you need to get clear about first so you can use that clarity to maneuver people’s perceptions of you to take your career and business to the next level.

For people who come from the cultures that we come from that are completely different from the companies we work in and do business with, we don’t have the luxury of just being authentic. We have to be very intentional about the perceptions people have about us and the performances we have to engage in the maintain the perceptions that will be beneficial to us, to our endgame, and our communities.

As always, if you need support figuring any of this out, head over to the Kabuvu tribe and join our mailing list to get access to coaches, courses, and resources that will get your perception performances nice and tight.

Ready, Set, Plan!

Here’s a secret I keep discovering several times a year: everyone is making up their life journeys as they go along. This is both relieving and terrifying at the same time. If everyone is making it up, how do they know when they’re going down the right path? What happens if they fail? What even is the point of the plan anyway?

The point of the plan.
Those are all great questions! The point of the plan isn’t to plot the exact path to your destination. It’s to help you imagine the initial set of possible paths to your destination. When you plan your path all the way to the end, you are, essentially, doing another form of time traveling where you think about the decisions you might have to make before you have to make them.

This means that when you get to the point in time when one of those decisions comes up, you’ll be prepared to take the best possible path based on your previously thought out plan. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Remember: everyone is making this up as they go along, so you are free to take whichever path you believe works best for you.

With your plan in hand, your mission statement will feel much more possible and your future will feel much more real. Also, the more detailed your plan is, the better you’ll be able to execute. So, try make your plan so clear that you can hand it off to someone else to execute without having to ask you for clarification.

Making the plan.
Take a project, any project, and write down what the finished product will look like in 30 words or less. Then write down the steps to get to that finished project, one at a time beginning from where you are right now and ending at the finished product.

If you get stuck, it’s probably because you’re on a step that you don’t think you have the resources to complete. Write it down anyway, along with a step to help you find the right resources to complete it, and then keep going.

Once you’ve written down the steps, go back and refine it by adding an estimated time required to complete each step. It can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 months, depending on the step. It’s okay if you don’t have all the information yet. Make your best guess and trust your first mind.

Finally, set a deadline for your project and put your steps down in a calendar and get to work! Remember, your plan is a guide, not the law, so be sure to revisit it regularly as you progress to refine it and shape it for your needs.

As always, if you need any help, feel free to join the tribe in the in the Kabuvu forums. Happy planning!

Work the Calendar

Your calendar is one of the best tools you have in your arsenal right now. Once you’ve decided on where you’re headed, and sketched out a plan to map your way there, it’s time to get ready to activate that plan.

The pre-activation phase is as simple as plotting your plan on a map of time, aka, the calendar. The calendar makes tracking the progress of your small, actionable steps easy to see. While you can use a digital calendar to do this, a print calendar is also useful if you put it up in a place that you look at every day. It’s just another reminder for you that you have a purpose and you’re on a mission, and there’s an amazing future at the end of that mission.

The calendar, like the plan, is a living document. You will find, as you move toward your vision of your future, there’s this thing called life that will get in the way. It’s unexpectedly unexpected, so don’t worry if your plan gets rocked a bit. Nothing is set in stone. Along with your mission statement, your plan and calendar work together to give you the general direction you should be heading towards.

Prep the Calendar
Get a calendar, whether it’s a Google calendar or a print calendar or your computer or phone’s calendar… whatever works for you. If you’re not in the habit of using calendars yet, I suggest using the calendar of the device you’re reading this on because you likely already use that device everyday.

Take your plan and add step and milestone to the calendar in the order you think they need to be accomplished. Again, a lot of this is a guessing game, so don’t worry if you don’t know which comes first. Give it your best shot.

Work the Calendar
Now, the reason I like to put things down on a calendar is because it frees up my mind to do other stuff, like figure out the how and why of my plan. The calendar acts as second brain where I dump the reminders, tasks, and mundane things so that I can use my first brain to do more of the heavy listing. So work your calendar. Fill it up with as much detail as you can and let it work for you.

As always, feel free to jump in the tribe if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing what your calendars look like!

Showing Up Is 100% of the Work

At Kabuvu, we like to talk a lot about community, systems, and mindsets because we know that when you set a goal, you will need to be intentional about all three of these things to make achieve that goal.

The bedrock of any successful community, system, or goal is the every day mindset. This the mindset that says, “I’m going to show up every day for this community, for this goal, for this system.” And that mindset is how goals get accomplished, how systems stay up and running, and how communities sustain themselves.

People respond well to consistency, but few people are deliberately consistent. But without daily, actionable steps, you won’t be able to feel the sense of momentum that will push you through the difficult times, or the sense of clarity that comes as you achieve your well-defined goals.

If you’re in business, people need to see consistency in your business so they can decide when to trust you enough to purchase your goods and services. If you’re a part of a team at work, your consistent actions will have a similar, trust-building effect. Consistency in life starts with the every day mindset applied throughout every aspect of your life.

So how do you start developing this mindset?
As simple as this will sound, the first step is to just show up every day and do, or execute, at least one thing. Small, daily, action-filled steps create large impactful results. When you show up every day to execute at least one thing in the service of your goals and your dreams, you’ll see the rewards of your consistent work.

How do you show up daily? You plan for it. Pick a time of the day that you’ll use exclusively for achieving your goals. Even though I run two other businesses aside from Kabuvu, I’ve got a one hour block of time that I dedicate to Kabuvu every day, so between the hours of 8pm and 9pm, wherever I am, it’s Kabuvu o’clock!

Each of my other businesses have larger blocks of time dedicated to them as well. If you’re not doing this already, then you should pick a shorter period of time, even if it’s just 15 minutes. But make sure that it’s something you can commit to EVERY DAY.

How do you sustain this mindset?
The every day mindset doesn’t work unless you’ve given yourself something to do every day. Now few of us know how to develop actionable plans, but you can’t be successful in anything without knowing what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to be at any given moment of the day. You have to plan for it.

Get clear about what your goal is and write down the steps you’re going to take to achieve it. Plan your goals all the way to the end, visualizing what the end looks like every step of the way. Then assign those steps a period of time on your calendar so that you know when you need to show up for each step.

How do you succeed with this mindset?
You have to EXECUTE, to actually DO something. The most important thing is that you COMPLETE or EXECUTE at least one thing every day. That’s why we plan things all the way to the end and put them on our calendar. When you’re just shifting into this mindset, it can be tempting to try and complete big projects in one day. But that’s the fastest way to burnout. Break down your projects into TINY, ACTIONABLE steps that you can EXECUTE each day. That feeling of EXECUTING is unparalleled. It gives you momentum, a sense of purpose, and the self-motivation you need to pursue your vision.

All together now!
When you put these steps all together you get:

Show
Up
Every
Day and
Execute
At
Least
One
Tiny
Thing

Or, S.U.E.D.E. A.L.O.T.T.

That’s Ms Suede Alott to you!

In all seriousness, if you’re really about your goals, then you’re gonna feed them every day by showing up. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but when you get that momentum going, you will look up one day and realize just how much you’ve accomplished. So get to it!

How to Lead From Where You Are

A lot of us have been told to dream big and to reach for the stars, amazing platitudes that help us shift our thinking to something bigger than ourselves. But how do you really take ownership of where you are right now and actually reach the stars? How do you use your power not only to get to the next level, but to help those around you get to their next levels and their big dreams?

A lot of people write about leadership in far-flung, high-falutin, big-paycheck kinds of ways. But when you’re just starting out, it’s hard to see yourself as a leader, especially when there are many people above and beyond you. However, if you can change your mindset to a leadership one, you will amaze yourself at how quickly you grow and achieve those dreams.

So what is the leader’s mindset and how do you develop it?

The Leader’s Mindset
The leader’s mindset is a mindset of change, specifically the ability to get other people to create change. If you know that where you are right now is not where you want to be for the rest of your life, or even for the next six months, then you know that you’re going to have to go through a lot of changes to get to where you want to be. As you take steps in the direction of where you want to be, however, you quickly realize that you can only go a certain distance before you need help.

And this is natural. As humans, we are creatures of community because communities create changes that last longer than what any single human can do on their own. The leader’s mindset allows you to engage a group of people in the work of change because you realize that you can’t do it all by yourself. The leader’s mindset harnesses people’s ability to create change to actually create change.

So how do you take the lead from where you are, especially if you are reporting to someone else, or lacking in a specific skillset, or just starting out with a dollar and a dream?

First, of all understand who you are.
Understand that you are full of infinite potential right now, right where you are. You may be looking around your environment and be seeing things that don’t reflect that potential, but those are temporary things. Your potential, however, is infinite, and it expands with the people you meet.

Understand that you are full of flaws, as well. You can’t do everything well, and there are things that you can’t do at all. Know those things. Name them. Be clear about them so you can find people who can actually do them to help you out.

Finally, understand where you want to be. What exactly is the change that you want to see in yourself? Do you want to become a better public speaker? A better writer? An owner of a business? An owner of a bigger business? Do you just want to get your job done right? Understand what you’re working towards so that the people you come along can get in on the vision and excited about helping you out.

Be Ready to Be Wrong
There is a hidden misconception that leaders need to know everything all the time and nothing could be further from the truth. As a leader, you need to embrace being wrong about things so that you can have a deep knowledge of when you’re right about things. That means that you have to keep trying different things, different methods, different questions, different tools, until you find the ones that solve the problems you’re trying to solve in the best way.

The truth is you’re going to be wrong a lot of times on your leadership journey, so the sooner you accept this, the sooner you can get on with the work of creating change. When you allow yourself to be wrong, to fail, you create more opportunities for learning not just within yourself but in the community of people that you are working with.

Ask for Help
As you encounter wins and losses, you will quickly realize where you need help. As a leader, asking for help is a two fold strategy. First, it gets you to where you’re going quicker. Instead of staying stuck in one problem for hours, days, months on end, you take the shortcut by asking for help. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner you get help; the sooner you get help, the sooner you can move forward on your journey.

Second, you get more people in on your vision. Asking for help gives people opportunities not just to learn with you, but also to improve their leadership capacity with you. And those people become great team members as you move through your mission.

Help Other People
As you’re asking for help, you also need to be investing in people. No investment in any human is too small, so start where you are, with what you’ve got and it will come back to you with interest. People are the ones who create change, we’re the ones who power the systems, institutions, businesses, and governments of this world. So, if you’re trying to get something done for yourself, the quickest way to get their is with people. And the quickest way to get people in on your journey is to invest in their journeys as well.

It feels really really good to help other people, so don’t get discouraged if you feel like you don’t have enough to give. There is always enough to give and when you give out of a state of abundance you will receive in a state of abundance. Trust me. I don’t make the rules; this is a universal law!

Check in With Yourself
As you step into this leadership journey, your most important asset is your existence, so make sure you’re aware of how you’re doing on a regular basis. Schedule daily meetings with yourself to take inventory of your mental and physical health, your emotions and your goals.

The first person you must show up for is yourself because if you can’t do that consistently how are you going to do that for the people you’re leading? So don’t be afraid to be selfish with your me time. Make sure you listen deeply to yourself just as you would with anyone on your team, and advocate for your needs, just as you would with anyone on your team.

At Kabuvu, we believe everyone is a leader already and has the potential to become a powerful leader. Leading from where you are, though, requires an understanding of where you actually are. Are you at work? Are you organizing your neighborhood? Are you a business owner? Are you trying to launch your business?

Wherever you are and whatever you have the capacity to do right now are the things that will get you to the next level. And Kabuvu is here to help you. Head over to the tribe and sign up for our mailing list to get access to a community of change makers working to create something amazing right from where they are.

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, How Will You Know When You’ve Arrived?

Have you ever been lost? I mean completely bewildered by your surroundings and without an idea as to which direction is the right direction?

Let me ask you this: How did you know when you were lost? Simple. The image of what was around you didn’t match the image of where you were supposed to be. That means, when we’re lost, we know where we are meant to be but where we actually are isn’t it.

If you don’t know where you’re supposed to be, you wouldn’t even know that you were lost and that’s a whole other level of lostness.

Living and moving with intention means knowing where you’re going. The trick is realizing that everyone is making things up as they go along and that you can do the same thing.

You are the one who decides what your destination looks like. And you are the one who determines to move in that direction every day until you arrive.

Start at the End, But Also Now

You’ve heard the saying. “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the second best time is now.”

And yet, here you are, reading this, somewhere between not-yet-started and still-not-done. Why’s that? Well, I have a theory.

You need to have a clear picture of what needs to be done before you just do it.

Starting is easy. It’s easy to plant a seed, if we’re going to go with that analogy. It’s easy to decide on a goal, to set a plan into motion, to talk about the idea of things. Just do it! Nike says, and we done it. We had a whole getting things done revolution and still, for some reason, there’s still things to do.

And that’s because we often don’t have a clear picture of what done actually is. You need to have a clear picture of what needs to be done before you just do it. It’s easy to know what needs to be done with common tasks like cleaning the kitchen or walking the dog or any of the several things we do day in and day out. But when it comes to uncharted territory like starting a business, building a community, or making a product, done gets a little murky.

So how do you get your big idea from this uncharted thing in your mind’s eye to some doable? Let’s look at the kitchen cleaning task as an example. You’ll know when the kitchen is cleaned when a few things have happened: the dishes are washed and put away, the stove is cleaned, the counters are cleared, the trash is emptied, and the floor is mopped. Boom. Cleaned.

What we see as one task, “Clean the kitchen” is actually made up of five different tasks. One task, many “dones”. Finishing means understanding every piece of done that your project contains.

Subconsciously, you know any single task is actually made up of a bunch of smaller tasks. It’s why we get overwhelmed with the idea of tasks we’ve never done before but want to do. We haven’t defined what done is at the macro or micro levels, so we just get lost in a storm of hypothesized difficulties.

Defining done is just as important as getting started. In fact, it should be step one. How do you know that your idea has been executed? How do you know that your project is complete? Start at the end and, well, get it done.

Welcome to Kabuvu!

Welcome to Kabuvu! We’re a tribe of people who are pushing each other to do great things, one daily action at a time. We believe that if you’ve got big dreams, you’ll need a big tribe and we’re here to help you build both.

You see, stories of individual successes hide a very important truth: we are each inextricably connected to each other. No one person makes it big all by themselves. Your big idea, you know the one that’s going to get you to the next level, that one? It’s going to need a whole crew of supporting actors along the way. At Kabuvu, you’ll learn how to design a life that supports people who are supporting you.

Changing your world isn’t easy, and it’s also not impossible. And, with the right set of people in your corner, you will not only make your dreams reality, you will do it in a sustainable way.

There’s so much to learn and so many things to build. So don’t get too comfortable! Sign up for the mailing list, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and join the Tribe. The best is yet to come!