How L. Michelle Smith is Empowering Women of Color in the Workplace

L. Michelle Smith—CEO and founder of no silos communications, a local tech-enabled media, content, talent development and strategic communications firm—believes women of color have been left out because they have not had access to the tools that most people inside of corporations have been afforded. She's here to offer them, for free, in her new book: “No Thanks: 7 Ways to Say I’ll Just Include Myself.”

As the CEO and founder of no silos communications, L. Michelle Smith develops rockstar leaders and brands that thrive at the intersection of tech, culture, and business.

Smith backs what she preaches. She has more than two decades of experience as a communicator and integrated marketer, having worked at global agencies, her own boutique agency, and a Fortune 10 telecom and media company. She’s also a certified executive and business coach and principal of professional private practice NSC Coaching.

Her past experience includes working with executives at American Express, Microsoft, AT&T, Lenovo, Mary Kay, Warner Media, CNN and more.

No silos communications is her baby—and an amalgamation of everything Smith has lived in business. The parent company has six media, content, talent development, and strategic communications consulting brands, all fueled by technology.

Her main goal? Developing high-performing female executive leaders.

Smith took her expertise and penned a recently published book to discuss the importance of supporting and uplifting professional Black women and women of color in the workplace. 

“I believe that one of the reasons why women of color have been left out so often is because we have not had the access to the tools that most people inside of corporations have been afforded, one of those things being an executive coach,” she says. “So, I am here to change that and make executive coaching accessible.

Recently awarded the Outstanding Book Award 2021 by the National Association of Black Journalists, Smith’s “No Thanks: 7 Ways to Say I’ll Just Include Myself” is the second installment of her “No Thanks” series, which provides a roadmap of affirmations, coaching, and actionable steps women of color can take to “lead like a rockstar.”

Dallas Innovates caught up with Smith to chat about the book and what comes next for “No Thanks.”

[Photo: L. Michelle Smith]

“This book is really to encourage women to go back and dream the way they used to and find a way to break those chains,” she says. “It’s a mindset shift and what is at the core of my inspiration is this entrepreneurial spirit.”

What do you want readers to know before reading your book? 

Smith: One thing I want folks to know is that there is a premise that goes into this book, and that is if you solve for the most disadvantaged, you solve for everyone. The heart and soul of this book is written with Black women in mind, and other women of color. But, it’s not exclusionary simply because if you solve for what researchers call the “double outsider,” and that’s the Black woman, everybody benefits. 

Who should read the book?

Allies are picking up the book with the idea that they want to learn, empathize, and be better. What is actually happening is they’re realizing the hardcore leadership, grounded and applied positive psychology, and the advice in the storytelling and coaching is something that they can use too.  

Some of my most emotional and public feedback in reviews come from white women who read it and read it thinking they are going to be better allies. And they are. On the other hand, they see themselves in the book, along with men who read it, because a common overarching theme is something we all understand and that is the feeling of being left out.

That is what I appeal to in the book. 

What inspired “No Thanks: 7 Ways to Say I’ll Just Include Myself?”

When speaking on my career journey, the lion’s share of it was in client service on the agency side of corporate. The past six years of it is what I call the hardcore corporate experience, where I was the client, but also dealing with the hierarchy within the organization. 

Being an entrepreneur in the midst of that, I brought visibility to this organization. Not everyone valued that. However, I was very fortunate to have direct reporting that actually did. They knew me from another life from my first job in public relations. 

The beautiful thing about it is those relationships afforded me so much. Everyone I am talking about is white. So, I share how important it is to have those one-on-one relationships with people that know you’re a good person and do good work, which cuts through the BS many run into in a corporate, which I did run into my fair share. 

How has discrimination in the workplace changed?

I started to see other people who looked like me struggling and their struggle is different than the struggle my father went through in the ’60s and ’70s, where you know they were discriminating and diversity wasn’t even a word. We are in the digital age where there are more enlightened people and those who are more open.  

But when we look at census reports, Black women are the most educated segment with the most advanced degrees. Yet, when looking at women who have some 10 to 25 years in corporate America, we are in the middle. Women are filing out of the leadership pipeline and nobody is asking the hard questions as to why.

Black women continue to express their desire for executive leadership more than any group. We’re overeducated, we’ve been in these corporations for years and proving we can do the work over and over again. So why aren’t we being promoted? 

What happens is we get satiated, we get comfortable. We can afford the red bottoms and travel with our girls. Then we come back and it’s time for the yearly evaluation and we are doing a polished tug of war over an incremental increase. If you talk to them everything is fine, but if you talk about what they dream about, what they always wanted to do; it is a totally different story. 

What’s next for L. Michelle Smith? Will there be a third “No Thanks”?

My coaching practice continues to thrive, which is great. I have more corporate clients where I am going in and coaching a dozen or half dozen executives at a time.  

But the next book isn’t my own. It is actually from my daughter. She came to me when she was probably supposed to be logged into school and I was trying to get this book out on a deadline and she says, “Mommy, I want to write a book.”  She had said it could be called “Little No Thanks” or “No Thanks for Girls” and a lightbulb went off that this little lady understands what I’m doing.  

She may not understand the word ‘microaggressions’ but she does appear in one of my chapters. The reason I share the anecdote is that I made the situation a learning moment for my daughter so she may not understand the word, but she’s able to translate it into teachers not treating her fairly or understanding what others may say about you isn’t necessarily true.  

The book is named “No Thanks for Girls: 7 Ways to Say I’m Beautiful, Strong, and Enough,” and drops on August 22, 2021.  

The next book in my own series is called “Yes Please: 7 Ways to Say I’m Entitled to the C-suite.” Ultimately, we’re going to unravel the secrets women of color need to know as they’re trying to reach for the C-suite and some of the things that high-powered women are learning as they go along.  

This book should go on preorder sometime around the holidays.  

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