Why Taraji P. Henson Cheering For Her Colleagues Is a Lesson For Professional Women

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onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

The 2015 Emmys is an event many of us will remember for a long time. In addition to Game of Thrones taking home the night’s most Emmys and the long-suffering Jon Hamm finally winning Outstanding Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role of Don Draper in Mad Men, the night belonged to four special women of color who ruled the evening, not only with their talent, but with their dignity. Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba snagged her second Emmy win and shared her tearful thank-you’s that tugged at even the hardest thug’s heartstrings. And Viola Davis was awarded Best Lead Actress for How to Get Away With Murder, and is the first African American woman ever to snag that honor. Her acceptance speech, complete with a Harriet Tubman quote, crescendoed with “The only thing that separates women of color from anybody else is opportunity,” was a triumph, and I think we all felt the power of her words (and truth) in our hearts.

Earlier during the broadcast, there was another equally poignant and memorable exchange from two colleagues and friends that everyone will be talking about for awhile. It included pure jubilation, adoration, celebration, and complete fangirl exchange between Empire star and Emmy nominee Taraji P. Henson and her chica, Regina King, whom she announced as winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series for American Crime. After screaming Regina’s name, Taraji showed true happiness and joy for her friend and fellow colleague, who like her, has been in the game for a long time, and received a nod that has been overdue.

Why is this news?

Well, in the era of reality television, women fighting, pulling hair, and simply not liking one another, Taraji’s cheerleading and total support is refreshing. There is so much said about infighting and cattiness between women, especially those who are in the same field. We often hear talk of competition and one-upping, but what’s refreshing about this story is Taraji showcased an important trait of being a true professional—cheering for others and supporting people when they win is key.

With very few roles in television (and any other industry for that matter) going to women of color, to see genuine adoration from one brown girl to another is simply awesome. Everyone wants to snag the role and to be the star, but very few want to be a on the sidelines rooting for others. In a dog-eat-dog world, Taraji P. Henson showed us that support is as support does and when one wins, we all win.

And if we need any additional reasons to like her, I am now a Taraji fan for life.

If you are a professional in any arena, being a cheerleader and supporter is critical, and if you are a woman, it is even more urgent. In order to change not only the perception, but the whole movement of being a well-qualified woman climbing up the ranks, you are going to need the support of your fellow female coworkers. It’s okay to pat the back of others and sit back and relish in their accomplishments, because it puts you also in a position for that to be reciprocated as well when your time comes.

No woman in an island. And you can do more great things with others than you can alone.

I thank both Taraji P. Henson and Regina King for giving us, not only something to aspire to, but also displaying for the world to see that the sisterhood is indeed real in the field—no matter what industry you are in.

The Empire star (otherwise known as Cookie Lyon) also showed love when fellow actress Viola Davis won her award as well. She taught us during the Emmys that playing a supportive role is just as important as playing the lead.

Uzo. Viola. Regina. Taraji. Angela. Kerry. Et al. It takes a village to run the world. And we see you.

(Photo credit, Getty Images, ET)

The Cubicle Chick


Social Advocacy & Politics: Organize Your Colleagues First

Social Advocacy & Politics: Organize Your Colleagues First

You have been tasked with developing a social media program for your campaign or organization and you want to know where to begin. Sure, the obvious first steps are to create you social media channels (which, of course, includes coming up with a message strategy and name for your Twitter account, Facebook page, and any other channels you decide to create). But once you have your brand channels and message strategy in place, it is time to start building your core social media community. Most people will start looking outward to do this, but I suggest you start by focusing inward and organize your colleagues.

Unlike your brand and project social media channels, your organization does not own your staff’s personal channels. But even though your colleagues are free agents on their own social media channels, they are still a crucial asset to your organization’s program and strategy. Your colleagues are experts on many of the issues that matter to your organization and they are (hopefully) big supporters of your mission. But you cannot force them to tweet on behalf of your organization and you really cannot stop them from tweeting about things that have nothing to do with your mission. The key to getting value out of your colleagues on social media is to treat them like a VIP community that you organize just like any other key influencer community.

The secret to organizing any influencer community on social media is to create a value proposition that reinforces behavior among the members to move your advocacy or political agenda forward while advancing the individual goals of each member. The advantage you have when organizing your colleagues, as opposed to other communities, is physical proximity. You can walk into their offices, most of the time, for face to face communication. For those working remotely, you can call or email with a greater likelihood that they will respond in a timely fashion. You can give lots of value in return for their help.

With the extra ease of communication you get with colleagues, you are able to easily train them to be more effective social sharers. You can check in on them to see if they need some extra help (and to see what projects they have in need of social promotion). You can send out daily emails with suggested tweets (including the trackable short URLs you want them to use). You can develop deliberate social media strategies for their projects during their early phases to help raise awareness of their work and improve their reputations. And you can encourage them to interact with each other, creating a more compelling presence for them on social media.

In return, you can use your brand and project channels to retweet and share their posts. You can recommend them on Twitter with #FFs and other @mentions. And if you are collecting performance data for all your colleagues, you can provide them with data-driven recommendations for improving their outreach activity. All of this helps them grow their professional reputations while raising the profile of your organization.

What your organization gets in return for organizing your colleagues is substantial. First, each of your colleagues will have their own networks to reach out to, expanding your reach. And their influence will likely be stronger for a unique set of people compared to your organization. Second, your organization’s message will get more repetition without your brand channels becoming overly redundant and boring.

Third, by having the option to retweet or share comments from your experts, instead of your message always coming from your inanimate brand, your persuasiveness goes up and you get to be more “social.” Aside from the reality that social media is really about people interacting with other people, we know that messages from an expert is more persuasive than messages from an organization.

Since you cannot force your staff to share your organization’s work on social media, but you would greatly benefit if they do, you have to treat them like any other key community you are organizing. Train them, support them, incentivize them and reinforce them to share. Create easy to share content. Create friendly competition with leaderboards and prizes (even if it is just recognition). This will not only ensure that your organization’s message will be shared far and wide by trusted messengers, but it will also ensure that when your staff move on to new jobs, they will keep sharing your message.

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