Elevating Voices: Linda Taliaferro on Empowering Black and Brown Women in the Corporate World

In a world that often overlooks the unique challenges and opportunities faced by Black and Brown women in the corporate sphere, Linda Taliaferro stands as a beacon of hope and transformation. Her dedication to nurturing emotional intelligence and cultivating an authoritative executive presence among women of color has marked her as a pivotal figure in the fight for equity and inclusion.

With a career that spans various Fortune 500 companies, including a senior-level executive role at a $35+ billion organization, Linda’s expertise and insights come from a place of vast experience and a deep understanding of the corporate landscape. Her strategies in building confidence, recognizing the value of relationships, and enhancing interpersonal skills have empowered countless women to navigate the complexities of the business world with grace and authority.

However, Linda’s story is not just about achieving personal success. It’s about elevating others to reach their highest potential.

Check out our full interview with Linda Taliaferro below.

Linda Taliaferro
Linda Taliaferro

You’ve had a remarkable journey working with Fortune 500 companies and now focusing on mentoring Black and Brown women. What inspired this shift in your career path?

Linda Taliaferro: Actually, my career in the automotive corporate sector has continued. The focus on supporting Black and Brown women to successfully achieve their career goals has been a passion of mine for a number of years that was fueled by mentoring.

While having dinner with one of my mentees in 2016, she shared how being my mentee has greatly impacted her career in a positive way, shaping and expediting her growth. This led me to consider branching out beyond the walls of the particular company I was at or via connections from conferences. Hence, I launched my firm, The TEE – The Extra Effort.

Can you explain the AMA Method you founded and how it specifically helps Black and Brown women overcome systemic barriers in the workplace?

Linda Taliaferro: Accelerate (A): This was specifically developed to help Black and Brown women get real clarity regarding what their actual gaps are, and why they exist. I have found that challenges we have developing ourselves interpersonally are rooted in personal lived experiences that we usually don’t connect to the professional side of our lives.

Maximize (M): Here, specific tools and methodologies are chosen to address the root of the gaps identified in the Accelerate section. I state specific tools and methodologies because it is not a one-size-fits-all process. Although there may be a common thread, each woman’s lived experiences and particular way of learning and implementing are different.

Achieve (A): As the tools and methodologies are implemented, we assess and measure the level of positive growth and impact. This is a continuous improvement area of assessing, regrouping, shifting, measuring, strengthening, and growing.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a cornerstone of your coaching. How do you work with individuals to uncover and boost their EQ?

Linda Taliaferro: I uncover their EQ by assuring that they understand what EQ is, its power, and the possibilities that are available once EQ is elevated. That work is followed by having them take an assessment to understand where they stand at that time. This is followed up by providing them with key actions and steps to take to address the gaps that are implemented in real-time in the work environment. This provides a canvas to give immediate feedback, which is invaluable.

The concept of executive presence can sometimes seem abstract. How do you define it, and why is it crucial for women in corporate environments?

Linda Taliaferro: Executive Presence (EP) is the special ability to influence the room, even in the midst of chaos, and move everyone positively forward. When one has high EP, they are recognized as leaders, as people who draw people in, can establish connections, and articulate a vision in ways that excite and motivate them.

Having a high EP is a differentiator for women. It gives us the opportunity to reshape the narrative and show that we can stand toe-to-toe with men. We can do so by being our authentic, full female selves. This can erase the false belief that it’s either assertive or nice and establish that it definitely can be assertive and nice.

You talk about the connection between personal and professional identity in your “Peel Back, Connect, and Grow” approach. Can you provide an example of how understanding this connection has transformed a client’s career?

Linda Taliaferro: Yes, I would love to provide that example, I had a recent client who avoided and was strongly against doing the work of peeling back. She was adamant in the belief that her personal lived experiences had nothing to do with her professional ones. And that the fact she was stuck and not moving forward and upward had all to do solely with the system and those who didn’t want her to succeed.

Once we began the Peel Back work, she immediately saw the point. There we numerous sessions with tears and conversations around why she was fearful and resistant. She let her walls down, halfway, mind you, and allowed herself to have simple conversations on Mondays regarding her weekend activities and what brought her joy. This allowed others to see and get to know who she was beyond the HR procedures and whatever situations they were working on.

She made connections and established relationships that shifted the narrative in the workplace. It was not long after that when those in decision-making authority and those who were connected began speaking on her behalf when she wasn’t around. Doors opened for opportunities to lead impactful P&L-related initiatives.

However, after running into a person who was determined not to see her succeed, she decided to leave. She accepted a VP position, two levels above the one she previously had, and is killing it in this new role!!! This success is due to her doing all of the necessary work and taking the extra effort to Peel Back, Connect, and Grow!!

Throughout your career, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed many changes in how companies address diversity and inclusion. What progress have you seen, and where do you see there is still significant work to be done?

Linda Taliaferro: Progress has been made in acknowledging the lack of diversity. This is blaringly evident given all the data that exists and the annual research done to update and publish the numbers. The massive focus on the numbers has driven quotas, which is definitely not the way to make meaningful change. And that is where significant work remains to be done.

    Systemic change in the pay gap, true inclusion at all managerial and executive levels, including corporate boards. Truly creating space in every way for women, by establishing cultures where micro/macro aggressions, double binds, etc. are not acceptable. These are just a few of the areas where significant work still needs to be done.

    Linda Taliaferro
    Linda Taliaferro

    On your podcast, “Being Brown at Work,” you share insider perspectives on climbing the corporate ladder. What common challenges do you see recurring for Black and Brown women in these narratives?

    Linda Taliaferro: The most common challenges Black and Brown women face are being in their own way – not understanding that their personal lived experiences shape who they are and impact them professionally. No separation.

    Also, the fact that Black and Brown women rarely if ever build meaningful, strategic relationships at work, Most Black and Brown women think that doing so would somehow mean that they can’t be themselves or that they have to tell everyone “their business, both are so far from reality.

    Building key relationships is a part of your coaching philosophy. How do you advise your mentees to forge these relationships, especially in environments that may not be as welcoming or inclusive?

    Linda Taliaferro: Even in environments where inclusivity is not the norm, it is possible to build key strategic relationships that support career growth and development. There will be people in the organization who will become the advocators and supporters when the proof of the need to do so is prevalent.

    I have found that when environments are non-inclusive, it tends to be from a fraction of people. If it’s the culture supported from the top, then a different decision may need to be made overall. Outside of that, one can still build the necessary relationships that can be career transformational. The key will be to assess the organization and understand who is connected and has the ear of decision-makers, and that is not defined by the organizational structure.

    What do you believe are the most critical skills or qualities women should develop to succeed in their careers?

    Linda Taliaferro: Have demonstrated that they are experts in their respective fields. Have the wins, and successful achievements to support it. It is true that high performance is the price of entry, you wouldn’t have the job if they didn’t believe you could do it. Having the evidence to support it solidifies the necessary foundation.

    Command the room. Know your stuff, lead with confidence, and be able to motivate and inspire.

    Ability to build key, strategic relationships. These people will advocate for you when you are not in the room. I can’t express how important it is to have a group of people who have your back,
    And, of course, high EP that is rooted in having high EQ as the foundation.

    Reflecting on your coaching career, what would you say has been the most fulfilling aspect of helping women achieve their professional goals?

    Linda Taliaferro: I am greatly fulfilled when my clients first experience the “ah hah” moments, the times when they are getting clarity around what has stifled them and, most importantly, that it can be overcome.

    Then, all of the hard work of believing in the process and actively implementing the tools takes place. They reap the benefits by either getting the long-term recognition they deserve, getting the promotion, or garnering the offer of a role at the leadership level, executive positions leading teams at a six-figure salary commensurate with their skills and expertise.

    What advice do you have for someone just starting their career to proactively build their emotional intelligence and executive presence from the start?

    Linda Taliaferro: Get a mentor! It can be the difference in one’s career. It has been proven that those women who do ascend to the C-suite have one thing in common – they were products of workplace mentorships. Additionally, understand the value of relationships and begin strategically building them.

    Lastly, looking towards the future, how do you hope to expand or evolve your services to continue supporting women in the workplace? And what’s next for you?

    Linda Taliaferro: I want to provide a self-paced course for clients who would prefer not to have 1:1 coaching but want to get exposure to my tools and methodologies.

    What’s next for me? I want to take my Being Conference to the next level. My dream is that it becomes a three-day destination conference with speakers, a choice of workshops, networking lunches, and dinners, plus a banquet that closes out the event.

    Additionally, I will focus on more speaking engagements sharing the AMA methodology and PCG approach worldwide.

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      Emily Sprinkle, also known as Emma Loggins, is a designer, marketer, blogger, and speaker. She is the Editor-In-Chief for Women's Business Daily where she pulls from her experience as the CEO and Director of Strategy for Excite Creative Studios, where she specializes in web development, UI/UX design, social media marketing, and overall strategy for her clients.

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