Being The Boss When It’s Black Over White
by Kwame Salter
February’s Author Spotlight we’re featuring is a book we printed called “Being The Boss When It’s Black Over White” by Kwame Salter! Below features an interview with author Kwame Salter and his editor for the book Janice Fenn. We also wanted to highlight that Kwame retired as Senior Vice President of Human Resources Global Supply Chain at Kraft Foods, which plays a role in what he discusses below.
PUBLISHED – FEBRUARY 8, 2022
Featured book: Being The Boss When It’s Black Over White by Kwame Salter
What is “Being The Boss When It’s Black Over White” about?
The book is about experiences that a person of color, particularly a black person, would have in corporate America. Given the fact that it’s not always a level playing field.
As Blacks are promoted, one of the things that needs addressing is what I call the elephant in the room. For example, what is the impact that systemic racism has on your role as a leader. Are you affected as a black person when you’re given the responsibility and the authority to be the boss over a multicultural staff – prominently white staff? Are there things that are different that contrast with a white boss, being the boss over white and black [employees]?
I realized that as I was moving up the organization, there were always certain, unspoken, and obvious differences in the way I was being perceived. There is always this notion that somehow, I got this job because of my hue and not because of my abilities or what I contributed. It was presumed, “well they needed a black guy or needed a black woman”, so that’s how you got the job; I’m being denied of my abilities and just being viewed as a corporate public relations move.
I decided, why not share with people what things you should anticipate, and how to prepare yourself to be a leader. A leader who is – regardless of their color or gender – literally more concerned about the development of the people beneath them including their own personal growth and development within the company.
This book is a diary or journal of things I went through. I’m sharing with people my personal experiences, which may be different than their own. I think my experience has some applicability and is relatable. Therefore, I wrote the book.
I was inspired upon the realization that there were so few mentors (given the short tenure of blacks holding key positions within corporate America) for the future generation of leaders to learn from. I felt my job was to document and prepare them for what they should expect – whether they are impacted by this or not.
I’m saying: “Anticipate these things that can happen. In addition to anticipating, here is the way you should, or how I would recommend you should respond.” The book is almost a call and response. The call: What got us here? The response: What do we do now [that we are here]? This is what I try to answer in this book.
What inspired you to write this book?
I do want to highlight that Kwame Salter retired from Kraft Foods as a Senior Vice President for the Department of Human Resources Global Supply Chain. During the peak of his tenure, there were 96K employees. The Global Supply Chain’s span of control covered 66K of those 96K employees. He had an opportunity to see all the things that he experienced at a very high level and address them. While being a high-level executive, he was also connected to people within every level of the organization. They found Kwame to be very honest and candid with the employees and would steer them correctly in their careers. It is a diary, but it’s very much a diary with a plethora of people and real-world experiences.
I was Senior Vice President, Human Resources, for the global supply chain of Kraft. The global supply chain included procurement, operations, customer service, and logistics worldwide. Our Function oversaw 66K employees out of 96K because those are the people that came through the global supply chain. I also got the opportunity to travel the world including Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Bulgaria, Germany, just to name a few.
That’s important because even though he’s retired, there seems to be a large class of people of color who have been unable to reach those levels. It’s been hit or miss because they are truncated there, derailed at levels much further down. That’s why he wanted to write this book.
What we must be concerned about is how much talent, particularly black talent that is lost in the pipeline. They never get to the top, they’re always ready now or “5 years out”. These are bright and engaged people and realize they have options, so one of the things I tell a company is that you are in a war for talent. You have no time to traffic and extrapolate criteria, like race and gender, we are looking for talent and we don’t care what the package is, it’s the talent we’re looking for.
In summary, this book is my contribution back to the community that I came from and to the community that I worked in. I want people who are anticipating or have the desire to enter the corporate world to at least come in with some advantages, some awareness, and some knowledge of what to expect. Experiences may differ from person to person, but, there are some experiences that, we as black people, uniquely encounter.
I’ve been told that every book I’ve written (and I’ve written a couple of them) applies to women. Well, I feel that my books apply to anybody that is marginalized. You can take out the word “black” in many of the statements that I’ve written and replace them with the word “women”. It’s a way of explicating what goes on behind the scenes, in a corporate environment.
What was the response when you published the book?
We’ve got beautiful responses! A lot of write-ons, a lot of spot-ons, and thank you notes for writing this book. Overall, we have gotten several flattering and supportive comments.
One in particular that I will highlight, is from a gentleman who works at Harvard. He read the book and sent a beautiful testimonial to me. He sent me an email stating that he would go post about the book on LinkedIn (which he did). He also recommended it to his entire learning and development team at Harvard.
How did MyBookPrinter help your
vision become a reality?
First of all, let me just give some kudos and praise to Janice. Her editing and ability to focus on certain key points made the book more impactful. As writers, we write from a stream of consciousness. An editor like Janice looks at what was written and says, “This is very important, this is very personal. What needs to be done to effectively communicate the KEY messages you want?”
Thank you, Kwame. I was the one who knew about MyBookPrinter through many years of being a consultant. I also self-published “The Diversity Fairy Tales” and “Development Ladder Game Facilitation Guide” through MyBookPrinter. I was familiar with the quality of the printing and the turnaround time. I worked with Kim Warner for years, so it was my natural go-to.
Kwame had a different printer in the past. I said I can work with them, but he told me to go ahead and work with the printer with whom I had familiarity with. It was an easy process for me because I was familiar with the company.
Where can you find Kwame Salter?
Where can buy “Being The Boss When It’s Black Over White”?
Salter Consulting Group Website