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The Grooming Process: Three Strategies to Ensure that You Are Properly Preparing the Next Generation of Fierce Women

You will always remember those women in your past who helped you. I do. There have been quite a few who either directly or indirectly are responsible for the woman I am today. The first one was Rhonda Baraka (back in the early 90’s).  Rhonda and her husband, Tony were the owners of Atlanta’s hottest entertainment magazine, Tafrija. They hired me for my first official internship and put in the time and effort to grooming me. They also provided me with amazing opportunities. That one internship is singularly responsible for my career direction because one year, Rhonda hired an advertising executive from Madison Ave. who pulled me aside one day to inform me that I would make an amazing copywriter, a term I was unfamiliar with at the time (even thought I was a journalism major).

Rhonda made me want to be better.

A few years later, I landed my first official job at an advertising agency in Bethesda, Maryland. The firm relocated me from my home in Los Angeles. One day, while sitting at my desk and one of the Creative Directors, Christina called me and asked me to come to her office.  She said I notice that you apologize a lot. Stop it. Why are you apologizing for not being able to take my call if I called you? Referring to my standard messages, “I’m sorry I can’t answer the phone right now…” Christina would go on to drop nuggets that have been immeasurable in my development and growth.

A few years later, I ended up working with a woman named Lavonia Perryman. She was no joke. I had just pivoted from traditional advertising into PR and needed to get some real experience. Well, she gave it to me. She put me immediately to work on a project with Maya Angelou and the King family.  One day, during the time of faxes, I was having a hard time getting my faxes to get through because, “the line was always busy.” Frustrated and thinking that there was really no solution, LaVonia said, “it looks like you will be spending the night here. I bet they aren’t busy at 3am.” She taught me the importance of whatever it takes.

This year, just like last year, I have an amazing young, eager intern from Hampton University. She is smart, savvy and in need of guidance. What I’ve recognized throughout my career is most of the things that will catapult your career are intangible. So, I’ve made it my mission to “groom her properly” during our time together.

I believe that if Khyana Thompson returns to school this fall and is not performing, thinking and committed at the next level, then I haven’t done my job. So whether I am working with her on how to present or why it is critical to “keep her finger on the pulse of what is going on,” I’m thinking about is this making her better.

It is our job to groom the next generation of Undeniably Fierce women whether through a formal program like an internship or an informal situation, like your daughter. If we don’t do it, who will?

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_________________________________________________________________________ Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at Jennifer@Brandidsp.com or www.PersonalElevation.com

Aren’t You Tired Of Being A Spectator? Maybe It’s Time To Jump In The Game

I remember when I used to be a “professional bystander.” You know, the person who is too afraid to jump in, blaming it on their desire for perfection, poor timing, or lack of experience. The one who looks for any excuse not to engage fully so as not to make a fool of themselves or have to ever hear, “I told you so.”

What I didn’t know at the time was my desire to have everything figured out before I pressed go was actually a tremendous hindrance to my success. I didn’t realize that growth almost never happens when everything works as planned. In fact, it isn’t until things begin to fall apart or break down, do you really start getting good at what you do. I know, it doesn’t sound too logical, but it is true.

The irony is, if we move forward and do that one thing that scares us most about getting our hands dirty, chances are, even if it doesn’t turn out 100%, it will be ok. You will truly be better off for it.

This week alone, at least two major projects didn’t go as planned for my team and me. In fact, one was quite painful. However, within seconds, I was able to identify why it would never happen again and what processes we will need to put in place.  I walked away knowing that because of that experience, I would run an even tighter ship.

Technology has truly put the world at our finger tips. Everyone has a story. A brand. However, most of them strategically only put out the “good, polished stuff.” You don’t get to see the flubs. Or disasters. So you don’t believe that they are there. But they are. As a result, you sit back waiting to get all of your ducks in a row, instead of getting in the game.

The only perfect time is now. Do it now. Stop waiting for perfection.   So my challenge to you is to think about the one thing that you know has been holding you back from stepping into your highest self. Take the first step—now. It’s time to abandon the nose bleed seats and get on the floor with all of the action.  

Isn’t it time your “CREW” met the new and improved you?

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?  You’re having a conversation with an old friend.  The two of you are laughing and enjoying one another, when she suddenly mentions that she just recommended (insert name here) for a position and/or opportunity.

You’re startled. Huh?  You say, “Why didn’t you tell me? You know that is what I do.” She looks incredulously at you and says, “Really? I had no idea. I always thought you did (insert here).”

There is nothing worse than being surrounded by your crew and realize they have no idea what you do. Unfortunately, it happens ever day. In fact, if you really think about it, most people are surrounded by people who would probably have a hard time articulating who you are, what you do and what separates you from everyone else. Here’s why:

1.     In general, people have a hard time articulating what they do themselves, therefore, those closest to them aren’t well equipped with the tools necessary to become their brand ambassadors.  Chances are, you have people close to you who have no idea what really makes you so dynamic—other than the fact you are a friend and/or a loved one—and you make awesome martinis.

2.     Often, by the time you get home, the last thing you want to do is “talk shop.” Sure, you may share office gossip, mention a few wins, promotion, etc. but overall, you generally don't take the time to properly frame your skill-set in the minds of your inner circle.   

3.     Even though they are friends and/or loved ones, you tend to hold back discussing significant events at work because you don’t want to feel like you are bragging—especially if they aren’t happy with their position, or are looking for work themselves.

4.     We simply live two lives: our work life and our professional life and rarely do we let the two intersect.    

However, when we haven’t taken the time to properly educate those around us about who we really are—we are missing one of our biggest opportunities to unleash a band of UndeniablyFierce Brand Ambassadors.

Consider this, if you formed a friendship with someone eight years ago at your previous employer and the two of you pulled countless all-nighters trying to figure things out, and gossiped about the “powers that be,” do you really think you are the first person that comes to mind eight years later when someone is looking for a Senior Level executive who can slay new business pitches (even though that is the only thing you have been doing for the past three years at your current position?)

Absolutely not.

People see you and often keep you at the level that they meet you. Even though you have grown immensely. Learned a lot. Had significant wins, promotions and accolades. Those often happen behind closed doors, where others simply don’t see.

They knew and loved the old you. However, maybe it’s time to introduce them to the new, improved and UndeniablyFierce you. Here are a few ways to do that:

1.     Master your elevator pitch: Take the time to get really good at articulating who you are. Don’t just use it at networking sessions. You should be using it everywhere, including the Thanksgiving table with your family and friends. Considering that most people get opportunities and/or jobs through their personal relationships, that is one area you simply don’t want to overlook. They already have a vested interest in you.

2.   Educate your group: Make a concerted effort on a regular basis to educate your group and discover what they do. As your skills elevate, be sure to keep them abreast of your ascension and walk them step-by-step through your transformation. Talk openly about being the brand ambassadors or cheerleaders for one another’s career.

3.    Be candid about what you want: Ask those around you, “if you were to recommend me to someone or introduce me at a dinner party, how would you do it?" Identify the gaps that exist and close them.  Let them know what you want and where you are headed.

Your job is simple: to be so clear about who you are, what you do, what separates you from every one else and where you are headed, that those who are closest to you can’t help but be just as clear. Hopefully, they can help you along your journey. 

Jennifer Ransaw Smith is the Founder of The Personal Elevation Lab™, a division of Brand id | Strategic Partners, a full-service Personal Branding + Elevation Agency. The Personal Elevation Lab™ focuses exclusively on elevating the visibility, credibility, influence and impact of women executives and entrepreneurs: http://www.personalelevation.com. If you are ready to Boost Your Status, sign up for our 30-Day Game Changing Program here.

Internal Branding: What to Do When Those Who Work With You Don’t Know What You Do

About five years ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague at a Fortune 100 company. Her team had a major problem. Even though she worked for the #1 company in their industry on the planet, had amazing resources and top-talent, many people within her own organization were unsure what her department actually did. Even though they had amazing products, services, and resources available company-wide, the vast majority of the staff were never utilizing them.

Sure, like everyone else, her team worked hard and were always busy. However, they began to recognize that many people never even knew the full gamut of services that they provided. Services that could help employees both personally and professionally.

Her team decided that if they were going to work in this department (within a world-class organization) then they needed to strategically position themselves as a world-class department. They hired a Personal Branding Agency to strategically position their department within their OWN organization.

They worked closely with the agency to clarify who they were, what they did and the impact their department had on the organization as a whole. They set a department vision and then made sure that everyone on the team was in alignment with their mission. They got clear on their services within the organization and how they wanted company employees to buy into that vision. Once they cultivated their departmental brand, they designed a campaign to introduce their new department across the organization.

Huge success.

It’s important to note that too often, we work from the space of assumption. We assume that since you hear someone’s title, you know what they do. Ask yourself:

1. Does every department within your organization operate from a clear and focused vision?

2. Do your departments seamlessly interact with one another?

3. Could everyone within your organization articulate what each department does?

4. Are any resources within your organization being overlooked because people simply don’t know they exist or don’t know how they would benefit from them?

If you can see your organization in the story above, maybe it is time for you to consider strategically positioning your departments within your organization. I’m sure you will agree that your external results are a direct reflection of your internal workings and plan.

Jennifer Ransaw Smith is the Founder of Brand id | Strategic Partners, a full-service Personal Branding + Elevation Agency that specializes in helping organizations elevate the visibility, credibility, influence and impact of their senior executives and SME’s. Their mission is to help your company become an industry leader by leveraging your top talent. To discover how a strategic executive branding and thought leadership plan could catapult your organization’s visibility within the marketplace, register here for a complimentary, Executive Brand Audit.

The Moment It All Changes… and You Step Into Your Fiercest Self

Solange Knowles

A few years ago, I was lying in bed when I stumbled upon an Instagram Post that made me sit up, take notice and go into deep contemplation. Mara Brock Akil, creator of Being Mary Jane, The Game and Girlfriends, posted a picture of Solange Knowles with the following caption: 

I wonder what her light switch moment was…One moment she was…Then she was…Was it a #book? A #dream? #herman? A #movie? A piece of #art? Finally letting out what is bounding about inside all of us? #inspired

Whoa! Mara did a brilliant job of summing up what so many of us were witnessing…and wondering. That short posting perfectly captured the evolution of Solange Knowles—an evolution that unfolded in front of our eyes. 

The public watched Solange as she reinvented herself from the world’s biggest superstar’s baby sister to becoming a style icon in her own right.  From doing the “big chop” way before the critical mass to reinventing herself from the world’s biggest superstar’s baby sister to a Style Icon.  There was a defining moment that Solange made a decision that she would reinvent and become #UndeniablyFierce

Solange decided to become a Creative Force of Nature. She writes music, sings, DJ's, acts and models. Imagine the excuses she could have had with the pressure of being Bey’s sis. But she didn’t let that stop her from reimagining what was possible and#SlayingTheGame. She didn't follow Bey's path, or anyone else's for that matter. She carved out a path of her own, one that is #UndeniablyFierce™

Have you had your defining moment yet? The moment you realize that everything you have ever wanted to be, do or have starts with ONE decision? 

Have you stumbled upon that book or quote that ignited a fire within your belly to go big. Right. Now? 

Do you remember that line from that move that cracked you open and gave you an entirely new perspective? The one you couldn’t wait to watch over and over again because it gave you life. 

If you haven’t experienced any of these epiphanies yet, don’t worry. It’s coming… as long as you are open-minded. 

As the owner of the nation’s first full-service Personal Elevation™ Agency, I am privileged to work with women who are ready to reimagine themselves. Women who understand that there is no reason to not be the fiercest woman in the Boardroom, Playroom or Bedroom. 

Jennifer Ransaw Smith is the Founder of The Personal Elevation Lab™, a division of Brand id | Strategic Partners, a full-service Personal Branding + Elevation Agency. The Personal Elevation Lab™ focuses exclusively on elevating the visibility, credibility, influence and impact of women executives and entrepreneurs: http://www.personalelevation.com. If you are ready to Boost Your Status, sign up for our 30-Day Game Changing Program Here.