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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

3 Ways to Fear Less and Become More

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to Telva McGruder, the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at General Motors. We got on camera together and talked about a theme that's important to both of us: how to fear less and become more as women of color in the workplace. The talk was amazing, and I wanted to write about a few of the key things she shared.

Don't assume they know more than you.

Telva shared about her early days in a NASA research center. She was a young engineer, and she didn't grow up with an engineering family, so working with these men who had grown up fixing cars was incredibly intimidating. They had a shared language and experience that she didn't. But after a while, she realized that her "outsider" perspective allowed her to think about problems in a new way. At the same time, she saw these engineers make mistakes, or admit a gap in their knowledge. So don't assume they know more than you just because they can talk about it in a way you can't right away.

Don't assume they're better than you.

By the same token, Telva also really encouraged women to not assume that because people in your office have high credentials or a fancy job, they're automatically smarter than you. I think we've all had that moment where an incredibly high-ranking person in the room makes a mistake, or tells a bad joke, or has a really underwhelming presentation. There's that odd moment when you realize, "Hey, this person is a mortal being and not the paragon of intimidating perfection I thought they were."

Remove people from pedestals and keep them on the ground; don't sell yourself short.

Don’t assume you need to hide yourself.

For Black women in particular, there's pressure to express yourself in a way that makes other people comfortable. When we're too strong we're seen as threatening. It's a tricky balance to walk the fine line between being who we are and being accepted without pushing others away. We're taught to work hard and keep our heads down because we're so focused on making a work product that's beyond reproach.

But we were born on this earth to let our light shine. Make high-quality work, share it, and own it. Even if you get constructive feedback, don't take it to a place that makes you small. Don't lessen yourself, but instead find a way to bring the best parts of you to the workplace and onto your team.

Speaking with Telva was truly a privilege, and I didn’t get into half of what we talked about in our conversation, so if you want to hear more from her (and trust me, you do), head over to my podcast and hear the rest.

Or, if you’d rather connect in a one-on-one consultation, let’s connect! Click here to get a consultation on my calendar, and we can talk about your specific situation and the challenges you’re facing.

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