Mike Gallagher, CMF Editorial Correspondent
The perception that such things as race, religion, gender, age, income and sexuality can be a stigma that one needs to downplay or even deny to gain acceptance in social, business or philanthropic settings needs to be understood – and addressed – if true acceptance and success is to be achieved. That was one of the lessons shared by Dr. Lynn Wooten, Scholar-in Residence, Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF), with a recent gathering of the Michigan Forum for African Americans in Philanthropy (MFAAP) in Lansing.
Wooten, who also serves as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Clinical Full Professor of Strategy and Management & Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, is a nationally recognized expert on corporate strategy, knowledge management and organizational behavior.
The MFAAP convening also included presentation of the prestigious Dr. Gerald K. Smith Award of Excellence, given this year to Johngerlyn “Jonse” Young, Philanthropic Services Director, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, for her significant contributions in promoting effective and responsive social change in communities of color.
Wooten’s presentation was entitled: “Covering and Confidence – Executive Presence in a World of Covering and Lack of Self-Confidence.”
“Sociologist Erving Goffman coined the term ‘covering’ to describe how individuals with known stigmatized identities make an effort to keep the stigma from looming large,” noted Wooten. “Recently Professor Kenji Yoshion has applied this concept to diversity in organizations.”
In a recent employee survey spanning seven different industries, 75% of respondents reported covering in some respect, said Wooten.
The negative side of covering by individuals includes the impact on oneself, Wooten noted. “That impact can be resulting stress, unproductive behaviors, inauthentic behaviors, decreased commitment, quality of relationships, quality of team work and inability to develop as a leader.
“We all need to be our best self,” she said. “That means the identity qualities, values, attributes, behaviors, strengths and talents you display when you are at your best!”
The tools to use for being your best include managing perceptions – realize that perceptions co-pilot reality. What are your three adjectives if you assess yourself? Are these three adjectives valued in your organization?
“Practice strategizing code-switching behavior: code switching entails alternating behaviors as a form of cultural adaptation. Understand your need to fit in and desire to communicate and bond and address your behavior accordingly.
“And develop your support network. There are others like you in your very own organization, social circle, and family. Find them. Share your thoughts and ideas. Draw strength from numbers.”
“We all need to find what makes us our best self,” advised Wooten. “Then embrace those things.
Make them a part of who you are and what you do. It’s a roadmap for success!”
Dr. Gerald K. Smith Award
Kimberly Houston-Philpot, MFAAP co-chair and director of corporate and foundation relations at Central Michigan University, took the podium for the presentation of the Dr. Gerald K. Smith Award of Excellence. Using words such as “leader," tireless advocate,” “exceptional individual” and “dedicated to serving others” Houston-Philpot introduced Johngerlyn “Jonse” Young as this year’s recipient.
With her teenage son looking on, Young spoke of her upbringing when her parents instilled in her the need and responsibility of giving back to society and helping others along life’s path.
“I hope I can live up to the expectations in terms of what (this award) brings,” said Young. “If nothing else, it gives me a boost. I was sharing with some colleagues that each time you get honored you don’t do things to receive an honor, but when you do it certainly gives you a nice boost to keep going or lets you know you are moving in the right direction. For that, I thank you.”
Young said she is blessed to be working at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation which is a dynamic organization dedicated to improving the lives of every citizen and intent on finding new, innovative ways to meet the community’s needs.
“It’s exciting work every day…there’s always something different going on and I’m glad to be a part of the foundation and helping others,” she added.
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