Book Review February 2011

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Black Faces in white placesBlack Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness
Authors: Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson
(with Philana Patterson)
Publisher: Amacom, 2010
Pages: 268 pages, includes index
ISBN: 978-0-814416-80-8

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. You’d leave, but the doorway keeps moving when you try. If you’re an African-American, that’s no conundrum. You know the room well, even though the entry password often changes mid-game.

In the new book Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, authors Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson (with Philana Patterson) assert that you can empower yourself to achieve success in any (board) room and you can pave the way for others while doing it. If you’re Black, you’ve been “confronted with a challenge related to [your] race” at some point in your life, they contend. It may have been a splashy one — Pinkett had a very public challenge within seconds of his win on The Apprentice — or perhaps it was a quiet, private issue. Either way, things are getting better but they’re far from equal — especially in business. Increasingly, you find yourself in a “Black faces in white places” situation.

How can you overcome the stereotypes, the scrutiny, the fishbowl feeling? The authors describe 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. 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 broad exposure to different people and situations; 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. Focus instead on excellence. Ask others for their wisdom. Learn the power of a cohesive crowd. Know when it’s time to fight for an issue, or if it’s better to acquiesce. Act like an entrepreneur. Work with synergy. Pay it forward.

Written from private points of view, with many been-there-done-that stories, Black Faces in White Places is the perfect book for any Black job hunter looking for more than just a way to pay the bills. While the authors give a step-by-step method of achieving success in the workplace, there’s more to this business book than just business advice. In this road map to “greatness,” Pinkett and Robinson also include side trips that can only enhance the 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.