Got Swagger: How to be Bold in Your Pursuit of Career Success


07:29 Monique:     So, Rodney, from your perspective, what makes the pursuit of a career in corporate America really appealing or a smart move for, in particular, the black male?

07:41 Rodney:     Very good question. This one takes me back to sort of why. and to give it even a historical context, the black male has always seen themselves, when it comes to being in circles that aren’t their own and sometimes even their own circles, as having to prove themselves, having to prove that they belong, having to fight a little bit harder to get that seat at the table. And so, when I think about corporate America, it’s this large table of what we would perceive to be those executives, right? Those upper-echelon workers, those people who are not necessarily-- white-collar workers, even the phrase “white-collar,” right? And that phrase carries with it this mystique that you’ve made it or that you’ve at least excelled past being a field worker. And there’s always been this allure of getting off of the field, so to speak, and into a better place. And so, that’s the historical reference. In my opinion, it’s one of those-- it goes back to just proving not only do I belong here, but I can also play this game, I can sit at this table, and I can be of value. So, in short, I would say for the black male positioning himself in corporate America, to me, would have everything to do with proving just how valuable we are. And that’s why I believe so many of us also take the route of entrepreneur because when we don’t get that opportunity to prove just how valuable we are, we don’t stop. It becomes, “Okay, I’ll show you another way. I’ll show you what you missed.” So, I would consider it that badge of honor, that next-level graduation. There’s the high school graduation, the college graduation. And then there’s getting that position in corporate America that grandma, great-grandma, and all ancestors before us would say, “My baby made it.”

10:12 Monique:     Yeah, you got that good job.

10:15 Rodney:     Yeah. There is one, right?

10:18 Monique:     Right, exactly. Because the reality is the numbers don’t favor our collective continuous drive. When you look at the number, in particular, black males, black people, people of the color period, at the upper echelon and the CEO, those who’ve made it to the top of the organization, I mean, percentage-wise, single digits, right? When you think about the gravity of microaggressions that people of color have sustained because those really came to light on the heels of what we all collectively experienced last year. And so, yeah, the numbers say, “Boy, why be in that drive?” So, I’m here as a coach, you’re here telling the story through your terrific book to support those who are on the climb. So, what would you say-- what do you say are some of the hidden gems, the hidden aspects for making the climb that will lead to your success?

11:17 Rodney:     That’s a great question. I love it. I love it because I was telling my daughter last week, there are some elements of my personality that are derived from my childhood. And one of them is not getting to go outside and play when I wanted to and having to look out the window and see everybody else playing, right? For whatever reason. And there was that feeling of being left out. And personally, I still have that feeling. That trigger is still there for me. And so, I don’t like being left out. And I feel like in this information age and in these pockets of professionalism that we may or may not be a part of – we as a culture, we as black males, black people, minority – that we may not get invited to. we’re being left out. And that bothers the crap out of me because I go back to being that little boy looking out the window saying, “Man, all of them are playing. Why can’t I play?” And so, my thing becomes to do something about it, right? Rather than complaining, I do something about it. That’s why I wrote the book. That’s why I love going out and speaking. And when I have the opportunity to coach someone, my little tagline is, “I’m going to take you behind the velvet rope. I’m going to show you what they’re not showing you.” And to answer your question, a lot of the hidden gems to making this climb, first of all, they’re discussed when we leave the room. And I found this out firsthand when I was a recruiter when I was starting off as a recruiter – corporate recruiter, recruiting senior-level accountants. I was in the training phase. So, I’m shadowing another senior recruiter. She brings in a candidate, I’m riding shotgun, just observing the interview and it’s going textbook. I mean, question-answer, question-answer, get up, shake a hand, we’ll call you, leave. It was at that moment-- when the door closed, and the candidate was on the other side, it was at that moment that the most important conversation started happening. And it included everything that wasn’t done, everything that was said, that shouldn’t, just all of these. You would almost think nitpicky things. And in the end, it was said, and that’s why we’re probably not going to call her back. And I’m thinking, why didn’t we tell this candidate that? because now they’re going to go to their next interview and do the same thing. So, me being the person to take people behind the velvet rope, it’s exposing the conversations that happen in the rooms that we’re not in. And so, what I would say, there’s so many, right? It’s hard to pinpoint one hidden gym or another. We all know them, right? The way you look, the way you dress, how you answer the question, vocabulary, all of those things, nitpicky things. It could be the likes, the arms, your fillers, all of those things. It could really just be you telling a story that you feel is appropriate for the moment. But what they’re doing is they’re translating that story to say, “Well, that’s part of who you are. That person won’t translate in this environment.” And they just smile and nod and listen to your story. But in the back of their mind, they’ve already made up their mind, their decision. So, I always like to tell people, in order to force those hidden gems to the surface, to ask difficult questions.

14:14 Monique:     There you go.

14:15 Rodney:     Ask them the question that you’d feel like they’re going to discuss when you leave. And if they choose not to answer it, no problem. At least do let them know that you know the game and you know there’s going to be a conversation afterward. And if nothing else, you just want to know for next time. So, that’s the way to force those to the top outside of just trial and error, which is the reason why I laid everything I did out in the book. It was really a diary of trial and error and bringing some of those things to the table and handling some of those objections before they even become objections. And just making those things come to the surface, ask him, what’s behind the velvet rope? If we pull that curtain back, what am I going to see? So, after I leave, what conversation are you all going to have? How’s that going to start? And if nothing else, that shows that you’re bold, and this is a two-way game and that you’re not afraid to step on the court with them.

15:47 Monique:     And this is why it’s important to start building that capacity before you get into an interview situation. build the capacity by knowing how to ask the tough questions of your boss, of your colleagues. Because here’s the thing, when you've already hired, you’re in an organization, you’re there for a reason. And oftentimes we just take what’s given and we respond and we’re like, “Oh my goodness. I’m feeling this, or I’m thinking this, but I’m not going to say that.” So, what is-- I think where you develop the muscle is let that be your cue – something’s amiss, not feeling that everything’s up and up, I feel I should say something. When you are having those internal cues, learn how to speak to them. And so, it’s not so much what we ask, but how you ask it because you’re just a straight-up jackass. Probably not going to work. An alternative is, and I’d like to understand what contributed to your thinking that way? What contributed to your decision? So, in your mind, you’re like, “I can’t believe this person said or did that,” but that’d be your cue. but you got to develop that muscle. And doing it in high-risk situations, probably not going to serve you well. Learn to do that with your family and friends, work with others, work with professionals such as yourself on how to ask those, let’s say difficult conversations, those questions in a way that supports you to help demystify. I love that as you say, “Get behind that curtain.” So, for you, Rodney, what were your dreams and aspirations when you first set out, and what are those that are now ahead of you? You can give us the cliff notes on that. 

17:45 Rodney:     Sure. It’s funny because, I’ll say when I first set out, that goes back to when I was in college and I was a Music major. So, I was a Music major with a concentration in Vocal Performance. I’m trained to sing classical music in multiple languages. Matter of fact, the Houston Symphony Chorus, I performed with them last year before the pandemic and we’re about to start back up, so I can’t wait. 

18:08 Monique:     Yay.

18:09 Rodney:     Yeah. and at that point, my aspiration was what was fed to me, which was an either/or. It was either you teach music or you become a professional opera singer. And I didn’t want to do either. I love music. I love to sing, but I didn’t want to do that. And so, really, after that, I really did not know. And it wasn’t until my mom passed at an early age, she passed at 41. I was in between jobs after we laid her to rest. One of my fraternity brothers was in the process of getting a life insurance license. And he said, “Well, hey, why don’t you look at getting your license until you find something better?” And I’m thinking, “I was a Music major. I’m going to get a-- I never took a Finance class, Accounting class, Business class, what are you talking about?” He’s like, “All you have to do is just make a 70 on a multiple-choice test.” “Wait, what?”

19:03 Monique:     Maybe I can do that.

19:05   Rodney:     Okay. And so, that began the snowball because I got that license and one license became two, became three, and I now have four, and I’m actually in the process of studying for my fifth. And so, my career aspirations used to have the grandeur of that office on the corner in that high-rise building, looking out amongst the people and managing people. And it’s funny because I’m actually describing something that I had a point in this direction. I used to work for AIG, which is right over here downtown. And I had an office on the 35th floor. I managed 12 people. So, it was like, “Boy, my mama would be proud of me.”

19:52 Monique:     Yes.

19:53 Rodney:     But then, when I got that position, I knew that even though I had made it to management, I was reporting to the VP of our division, I was behind the velvet rope. I saw how things were done and I saw how decisions were made on that level. And not all of them were very attractive. And so, what I would then begin to do is coach my team based on the information I saw behind the velvet rope. And some of them could take it, some of them couldn’t. some of them would push back and say, “Hey, I know it’s-- I’m not always-- I’m that person that’ll give you the ugly truth rather than a beautiful lie.” And so, my aspirations changed and they went-- they actually went full circle back to more of an entrepreneurial aspiration. So, now having had that experience, I still have the passion to help people in their finances like some studying for a fifth license. So, I’m obviously still progressing in the financial industry, but now, under the guise of-- or I should say dancing to the tune of my own music. And so, that’s where it was and that’s where it is now.

21:04 Monique:     Nice. And what resources would you advise every young professional with executive ambitions that they get early in their journey to support them along the way and discover what’s behind that velvet rope?

21:18 Rodney:     Yeah, right. I hope your listeners like this answer because it’s not a popular answer, nothing new under the sun, but I heard this phrase or maybe I read it and hint, hint, and it became a mantra and that is, become a voracious consumer of information. In other words, read. When I mentioned that being in college, I was a Music major. I changed my major to African-American History. I felt like, well, if I’m going to be here, I need to study something I’m going to enjoy. And so, I changed my major to African-American History. And that was the first time that I heard, “If you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book.” And it took me back to that little boy, little Rodney, sitting in the window, watching other people play, feeling left out. And I decided at that moment, it’s not going to be me. And I had someone pull me to the side and tell me, “You should always be reading a book.” And from that moment forward, I always have a book to read. I tell my daughter the same thing – “Always be able to answer the question. What was the last book you read? What book are you reading now? And what’s the book-- your next book you’re going to read?”  And so-- and here’s what happens when you do that. You begin to learn a different language. and that’s the nugget, is that when you can speak the language of the group that you are wanting to infiltrate, it’s almost like going undercover. When a police officer goes undercover, they have to study the environment that they’re going in. That includes the language, what they wear, all those things to become one with the environment. And sometimes those that do it so well, become so engulfed with it that it becomes a part of them. It was the same way in a business game. You have to study the script. you have to study the stage. you have to study how people act, their emotions, and things like that. And then you have to affix those things to who you are at your core. Don’t start faking it because I hate fake it till you make it. don’t become something different, but just learn how to attach those parts of that world to who you are. And then when you walk in, they won’t be the wiser as to if you belong there or not. So, my thing would be, read and read with the intent of not just gathering information, but understanding a different world. And when you understand that different world and you can then navigate it yourself, now you become one with it.

23:47 Monique:     I absolutely love that. And I am actually living proof of doing that early in my executive professional career when I was at Eastman Kodak Company, Kodak had resources for their employees, and I just happened to muddle through what was available. And there was a book by Mark McCormack and it’s something along the lines of  What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. And man, it was on point. I read it. In fact, I have a couple of copies still because it was just about the practical nature of how to play the game. And Mark McCormack said in his book, it is a game. 

24:25 Rodney:     What’s the name of the book?

24:27 Monique:     It is Mark McCormack and I believe it was What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. And so, that was a game-changer. And I’m just really wanting to double down on your recommendation to be a ferocious reader and, because one of the things I always say, the executive’s offices I was in, they always had like a book prominently on the corner of their desk. That’s always clean. I’m like, “How are your desks clean? I got stuff all over the place.” Always a book, because it was just also about, as you mentioned too, in order to create that allure, right? It’s about having an appearance. And so, having a book of the month. Yeah, just adding to what you’re saying. one of the things I truly believe in is individuals who have executive ambitions, just because you graduate from someplace with some degree or what have you, the learning, it does not stop. To be a continuous learner is part of your armory if you have executive ambition. So, how would you say as you just look over the years of-- that you have been a part of or watched the game of corporate America, how have you believe it’s changed, in particular, for men of color, black men, in particular?

25:43 Rodney:     Yeah. All right. Okay. I’m just going to say, I don’t think it has much. I don’t think it has much. What I believe has changed is the awareness of our white counterparts. What I believe has changed is that now some of them are-- we’re no longer blowing a dog whistle. Now they get it, the ones that want to. And so, how has it changed? We’re still-- there’s this episode of Black-ish where he talks about, “Yeah when I walk in a room, I count, don’t you?” And immediately, without them explaining anything, like, “Yeah, I do it,” and it’s still there. So, the numbers don’t lie, right? The rhetoric hit, the volume of the rhetoric has increased. And yeah, awareness is out there, but okay, now let’s do something. And then maybe we can-- maybe others could answer your question a little bit more poignantly, but I don’t feel it has, because when you walk into rooms that claim, “We hear you” and diverse culture, we can still count. When will we get to the day when we can’t count, even if we want to try? When it’s just so blaring in our face that we see that, wow, not only black males, black females, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latinx, everyone’s represented? The phrase that I heard by the CEO of the company I mentioned before – “I want this company to be a reflection of society itself.” When you hear that phrase, it’s very positive, right? I was like, “All right, well, what are you doing to mix it up at the table now? Where’s society at this table,” or “What are you doing?” So, I don’t feel that it has changed quantitatively because the numbers still say, we’re not being counted in the areas that matter. I guarantee you probably 80 to 90% of corporations have a black D&I person. 

28:01 Monique:     And the easiest thing to do is to hire folks at the lowest levels of the organization. so--

28:06 Rodney:     Even before that, I would say, go out to these-- and like I said, now these corporations awoke, right? “Go out to these HBCUs that get no play and make it a point to recruit there.” It was an anomaly when I mentioned it at the company where I was. It was almost as if there’s an HBCU right up the road from us, from A&M University, and recruiting there. It was almost like, really? Whereas U of H right in the city, that was seen as the hotbed. Why? Why? Why does that have to be the case?  So, it starts with recruiting efforts. And then from recruiting efforts, it’s, yeah, now, let’s get them into the locker room, now let’s assign someone to show them the game, rather than have them figure it out themselves, and next thing you know they’re not here in two years. Let’s assign someone to show them the game, sponsorship, things of that nature. And then hopefully, they’ll end up matriculating up the ladder.

29:08 Monique:     Well, I just would like to see a lot of companies allocate budget to individuals, having an opportunity to hire their own executive coach outside of the organization, so they create that space, but yet have a resource for which to unpack what they’re actually experienced – all for the purposes of helping their productivity and performance inside the organization. But that’s just my point of view. So, one thing that--

29:33 Rodney:     I’ll share that with you.

29:36 Monique:         Yeah. That’s just one person’s perspective, but hiring the--

29:37 Rodney:     You can call it two. 

29:38 Monique:     Yeah. Okay. Good. Two people like that point of view. But recently, I just heard, Malcolm Gladwell who has-- is really-- comes out with some profound discoveries through research. I heard him speaking to the fact of these US News and World Report ranking top university programs in terms of who are the top 25 best universities in the country. He said, “Well, we did a significant amount of research to try to get to the algorithm of how are they determining these factors.” And then he said, “You know what? It boils down to two things – how much money is there and how much whiteness is there.”

30:19 Rodney:     Wow. 

30:20 Monique:     He said, “So, you’re not going to see your HBCUs on these lists because oftentimes under resource, so they’re not going to carry the money as many of these others, and whiteness going to be hard-pressed to find the numbers that they’re looking for to fit their algorithm.” He said, “But you can’t say that the students on HBCU campuses are any less qualified to do these jobs, but when it comes to--” he mentioned from the outset the allure, right? Oh, you’re at a top university on the US News and World Report lists in the top 50. So, sometimes we have to be asking different questions. And I also believe it is on us inside these organizations to be comfortable having conversations or opening up the door for discussion when microaggressions are at play because I truly believe that many people do not know that they’re doing it. I really don’t. I really believe many people don’t know. And unless they are invited to a conversation to, let’s say on the packet, and let’s just consider how that was-- how I viewed that by you said X, Y, Z. And I interpreted it as, “Oh, that’s not what I meant. That’s--” well, why don’t we-- what’s another option for getting to the same destination, but in a different pathway, such that I’m not left feeling that there’s something against me because of my color?

31:51 Rodney:     There, oh my gosh. I’m so glad you brought it up. There’s this phrase, and especially since-- as a black male, it comes up a lot. And I would say, I don’t want to exclude anyone, but as a black male, that comes up a lot. And when it came up this one time, so this was after this past summer, when pretty much I feel like as a black community, we had hit the tipping point of, “You know what, I’m not letting it ride anymore. I’m calling it out. It doesn’t matter how micro the aggression is.” So, I was at a store, felt as if-- and it was very, very clear that I had been discriminated against because I did not have long blonde hair. I was not a female and I just looked out of place and got a different way of being treated. And I bubbled this up to the CEO, found the CEO on LinkedIn, bubbled it up to him. They pass it off to a minion. And the person called me and them-- I put a video out there about it on YouTube. A person called me. And they started commenting. Like after they heard my side of the story and they were very-- they were doing a great job from a customer service standpoint. Great job. But then at the end, he jacked it up and he used the phrase and he said, “Yeah, I watched the video. Oh my gosh, you are so articulate.” And like I said, as a community, I’ve heard that several times because I speak several times. let them, right? But at that point, I was like, no more. So, I asked him, I said, “I want to--” I told him first, I said, “I want to help you with something.” 

32:35 Monique:     Yeah. 

32:36 Rodney:     He said, “What is that?” I said, “You said something earlier and I’m going to assume that you meant nothing by it. However, if I don’t share with you or educate you how it was perceived, because I’m sure you’ve said it before, and you may say it again, you may not get this type of response that I’m giving you right now.” And I said, “When you said, ‘You’re so articulate,’ when you say that to a black person, what we translate that as is, how am I supposed to sound? Or that means that you had a preconceived notion that I was not supposed to sound this way and I violated your expectation. Why is that?” And so, as you said, I took the opportunity to educate him because I’m going to assume that he had--

34:20 Monique:     And it’s going to be said again. Right? 

34:22 Rodney:          Exactly. 

34:23 Monique:         “Let me help you.”

34:23 Rodney:     Right. That’s why I say, “Let me help you out because you may come across somebody not as cool and calm as me. And they may go off on me, especially now that we’re at this climate. Like we just don’t care. we’re calling it out.” So, you’re absolutely right. We do have a responsibility to educate our white counterparts on the perception and the interpretation of what they’re doing. and those that choose to take it and receive it and internalize it, great. Those that don’t, hey, at least I’ve let you know where that line in the sand is. So, if you cross it again, you can’t claim ignorance and I have a green light to check you.

35:01 Monique:     Exactly. And so, I think there is some opportunity on our side to catch a breath and support their understanding of how that was received, what they said. One of the reasons I reached out to you is Corporate Swagger: – and thank you so much for putting this out here – The Secret to Winning the Corporate Game. Every listener, you now have access behind the velvet rope. Get this book because it really appears to me that the knowledge that you’ve gained, and you’ve been out there on the speaking circuit that you’re now making this information accessible to everyone. Any young professional who’s wanting to up their game to fill those executive ambitions, this is a resource to have on your shelf. 

35:47 Rodney:     Can I say something? 

35:48 Monique:     Yeah. 

35:49 Rodney:     Just two simple words – thank you. And thank you is-- I wish there was a deeper way to say it, but when I wrote that book, I honestly wrote it, not knowing if anyone outside – my wife and my daughter – would pick it up. And it was not meant to be a “Let’s get on the bestsellers list.” It was really just to leave breadcrumbs from my experience and the collective experiences of the 16 people I interviewed. And when you reached out to me, I was like, I told my wife, I was like eeehh... So, thank you very, very much. I so appreciate it.

36:24 Monique:     Absolutely. No, it was absolutely my pleasure because I did find you, discover you on Instagram, right? And when I started diving into the book and I found that chapter on The Humble Narcissist, and I am going to share with the audience this one excerpt because I believe others have had this, a very similar experience and I’d like for you to speak to it. I had-- and I told you when we first just did a, on the phone, meet and greet, I said, I just had a client in this cast in this light of a humble narcissist that I just could not believe it. I was like, “Oh my gosh, my-- this person I was just working with is in this exact scenario.” And so, if I may, and I’m drawing an excerpt here for our listeners from the book and it’s The Humble Narcissist. And let me get this Chapter 7. And in here, why I like this book is because Rodney is sharing firsthand experience. He is sharing it and it’s the delivery. It’s how you’re talking about it. That is also witty and is very smart, I have to say when you had the reference to that movie Friday of Smokey and Deebo--

37:26 Rodney:     Okay.

37:27 Monique:     Okay, you had me there. I was like, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, that Friday movie.” I mean, whatever I need to be to have a good hearty laugh, but-- so let me share in this in terms of the experience that you bring to light, because I think this is very relatable. But you went on to say that “I had two complete strangers, give me two completely different assessments of my personality within a matter of 36 minutes.” You’re funny because you mentioned earlier how you counting things and you keeping track and you were like, “Oh, yo, it’s no joke, 36 minutes.” And you said, one person-- now this was like an offsite, a workshop of sources or people you did not know. And so, you’re connecting with these people for the first time and you have to go off and break off into pairs, like a lot of workshops have folks do, break off into pairs. And so, the one person, your workshop partner says, she looks at you and says, “Hmm, I was afraid to speak with you because I thought you were too confident.” You’re intimidating, Rodney. Okay. So, you work through, navigate that. You’re feeling some sort of way as you come out of that conversation. And here then a second person says to you, “Hmm, now I actually think that you’re so approachable. You’re just so-- you have an air of confidence about yourself and your--” it threw you into a state of confusion. Here’s this one person who was completely intimidated, another person who was completely in awe, and you’re like, “Okay, now, what is it?” There, the second person is giving you more of an accolade about modest confidence. So, you’re like, “Well, which is it?” So, this is why we’re in these sessions with folks that don’t look like us, we’re getting this feedback. So, what is your thought and response to that?

39:33 Rodney:     Yeah. That’s cool that you pick that out. And yes, it was 36 minutes. I did not pull that number out of the air because we left and then came back for lunch. And I looked at the clock and I was like, “Okay, that just happened.” My-- it really did. You said it accurately. For a moment, I was confused because I was not doing anything differently as a matter of fact, because I know me, because I know I can have-- I have no problem grabbing the mic as you see. And purposefully, it’s part of that Corporate Swagger game. There are environments where I purposefully want to make sure I go in and capture eyes. I want it because if I’m the only one in there, I don’t want you to just see me just because I’m the only one, I want you to see that value just showed up in the room and it doesn’t look like you. And so, I purposefully dialed all of that back because we were in a group of 39 people. I didn’t want to hog the stage. I didn’t want it to be about me. I dial it all back. So, even in making a conscious effort to dial it back, I still came across on one hand as being very confident, intimidating, overbearing, unapproachable. And in that same moment, as you said, this person was somewhat like in all of me. I mean, they were just gushing and I’m like, “I didn’t do anything different.” If I did anything different, I’ve purposefully dialed it back. So, I asked myself self-examination, what did I do or what could have been done differently? And the answer I came up with was nothing because this was a perception. And to the listeners out there, even when you dial it back, because your confidence is still on 10, some people are still going to not vibe. They’re not going to vibe you. But the person who needs to will, because the person who gave me the encouraging accolades is one who’s listening. She was the moderator of the training, which means she had the ears of upper management. So, if I were trying to impress or impress upon someone the value I bring, I now have an ally in her who can go back and say, “Rodney is this.” Whereas the other person, we’ll say she wasn’t.

41:57 Monique:     Yeah. Right.

41:58 Rodney:     She wasn’t. So, not that I didn’t care, I cared about both. But just to the listeners out there, you’re not going to be able to control everyone’s, anyone’s perception of you. What you can control is, okay, where am I going to dial it? Now imagine had I dialed it up to 10 and not dial it back, I probably would have come off as very narcissistic. “Rodney, you’re a glory hound. You want this all to be about you.” So, you can control where you dial your corporate swagger up to or down to, but the end result is always going to be left to that of the person-- your audience. And I would just say, as long as you know your heart’s intent, as long as you know how you were coming to the stage, be secure in that because that’s what I had to leave away with. I mean, what did you do? “I didn’t do anything to do that. I didn’t even do anything to that.” So, rather than just throw myself into a little tizzy, I was like, “You know what? I did everything I possibly could do.” And she’s-- each person is able to have their own perception of what I’m bringing. And in the end, I was able to cater to the other person, but it’s something that I had-- I was glad it happened when it happened because I was glad I could be able to put it in the book, so people could see that it is going to happen, even when you try not to. But that’s okay because the people who need to see it, I always say this: People who say you’re arrogant don’t have confidence. People who say that same arrogance is confidence, they know what confidence looks like.

43:27 Monique:     Looks like. Right. And you mentioned as you were expanding on that point in the book, how at this offsite you first did gather. I guess it was in small groups, and that you made some comments, contributed to the conversation, and then there were crickets. Like it’s supposed to be an opportunity in a small group where people are cross exchanging, saying this, building on other thoughts, maybe disagreeing, maybe-- and so, here, you’re speaking out because I know I have heard for myself, in particular, for black men, it’s like, they feel people feel a certain way so they just stay quiet, which is-- thus, you referenced in Friday, in the movie, right? Is that it speaks--

 44:09 Rodney:     [...] on top of it again?

 44:11 Monique:     Yeah, it just speaks. And then it’s like, okay. And people may be-- and as soon as you leave the group setting, then everybody has chatter related to the topic. And so, I just wonder, what’s a tip or technique for someone who’s faced that situation to navigate that space? And something that comes up is, be aware, prepare for that when you’re going into these types of retreats and people are contributing, small groups. Start out by modeling the way someone else is talking, add-to and have some comments, expand what’s coming up for you to someone else’s comment. So, you’re modeling the way. So, when you speak, you can also go to a point and say, “Hey, before I complete my thought, what questions are coming up?” So, you’re giving folks a chance in the middle of what you’re saying. 

45:06 Rodney:     That’s really good.

45:07 Monique:     So, I want to invite you into my dialogue instead of me coming over here and saying all that I’ve got to say in a very confident way. “Let me hit pause for a moment” – As you hear me say that, what’s coming up for some of you?

45:20 Rodney:     Yeah. 

45:21 Monique:     And so, create this space for others to now, “Oh, be comfortable dialoguing with Rodney.” Right? 

45:22 Rodney:     Yeah. 

45:23 Monique:     And you can then get to the end of what you have to say and ask those questions of what or how that are open-ended questions to trigger someone’s thought process versus “Do you have any questions?” That’s a yes, no. And people are closing, “No, no. Not have anything to say. That was great.” Because Mr. Confident is going to probably-- I’ll be embarrassed if I challenged something he said. But it’s like, “Hey, what’s coming up for you?” And-- that then is you putting in-- you’re meeting folks halfway. We don’t know how they’re going to be when you first set up, but it’s about how you prepare for being in that situation. Rodney, what’s coming up for you is I threw out a couple of ideas there.

46:17 Rodney:     I agree. I definitely agree. And I love the point you made about pausing in the midst of rather than delivering all of it and then asking. I would also like to add to that an element of self-deprecation. When you-- and I even think about the psychology of things as well. Oftentimes in the environments where this would happen to me, everyone else was sitting down. I was standing. So, now you guys, six-foot-two, dark skin, bald-headed black man who is educated. You put-- you package all of that up. Yeah. Maybe a little bit intimidating. I don’t want to say anything. Right? So, sitting down and the psychology of just coming to their level. I even read once about how just the desk itself presents a power barrier and sitting on the same side of the person that you’re doing a one-on-one. I’ll never forget the first time I did a one-on-one with one of my employees, and I sat on the same, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m sitting over here. I want to sit with you and not across from you.”

47:24 Monique:     There you go.

47:26 Rodney:     And so, that opens the door for them to engage. And then the other thing that I would ask is almost like planting a seed. Like I say, going into those situations, planting the seed of, “Hey, I’m going to share some things with you, but I bring to you one perspective. Yours is another.” So, as I’m sharing, yes, some of this stuff is factual. Probably it can’t be argued, but you’re going to have a perspective. I’m interested to know your perspective so at the end, I’m going to ask for that perspective, because I want to know what you all are thinking because that could be a value-add for the next time I give this. So, planting that seed beforehand and it goes back to being on their level. Now they see that “Wow, this person is delivering information that I don’t know or don’t have. And they’re also asking me to be a part of the next time they go out. I’m important. I’m valuable. Yeah. Let me give them what I think.” And everybody likes to talk and give you their opinion. So, the floodgates will open.

48:28 Monique:     Nice, really nice. So, hey, rich content and techniques are being dropped here. So terrific. I know we’re coming up at the end of our time together. I do want to invite you before we leave because I know this was a passion project of yours, the Corporate Swagger book. And so, I just like to know what aspect of Corporate Swagger is closest to your heart. 

48:49 Rodney:     Ooh. Nice. So, in writing the book, I thought about how I got to where I got to by no means the top of the mountain but experienced a level of success outside of statistical norms. And I asked myself, okay, what helped me get here? And one of them, you brought up, which was The Humble Narcissist. That was one of my-- out of the eight, that was one of my two favorite chapters. The other one, to answer your question, would be the B-side. And that’s because I found that it was so-- the way that I was able to capture people’s attention and compel them to want to engage with me longer. And the longer that I could have them engage with me, the more I increased my chances of accomplishing my goal was by going beneath my resume, beneath my LinkedIn profile, beneath what was on paper. And I did it here on purpose. When I shared, I majored in Music, I’m trained to sing classical music in multiple languages. Come on. How many black males do you know that sing opera in multiple languages? When I was at the University of Texas, I was the only black male [inaudible]. Exactly. So, that in itself is a “Wait, what?” And it becomes a, “This guy, Rodney, is deeper than what we expect.” And so now, they want me in the circle a little bit longer. And the longer I’m in the circle, the more I get to show you who I am, and the more you see who I am, I just increase my chances of when I want that position, I can ask for it. when I want that next meeting, I can ask for it. So, that would be the one that’s near and dear to my heart is the B-side. I would tell everyone out there, if you don’t have some banging B-side tracks, go get them. And I’m telling you, you don’t have to look far, you can look back as further as T-ball when you were Little League or whatever. Everyone has them. It’s just a matter of knowing which ones to play at the appropriate time.

50:45 Monique:     Nice. Nice, Rodney. Thank you so much for joining me here on the Tuesdays With Coach Mo podcast. 

50:51 Rodney:     Thank you for having me. This was dope. This is dope. I love it. I love it.