Lauren Wesley Wilson’s ‘What Do You Need?’ helps Black women ask for what they deserve at work

“We need to be seen, valued, respected, heard and understood — and of course, compensated,” says Lauren Wesley Wilson, author of “What Do You Need?”

Black women in the workplace have long known that succeeding is about more than hard work. The unwritten rules of the game can often make or break a woman’s experience as she strives for her dreams. Relationships with bosses and co-workers matter; but even more so, what a woman asks for can make all the difference. That’s why communications executive Lauren Wesley Wilson has authored a new book to help women ask the right questions on their journeys, titled “What Do You Need?: How Women of Color Can Take Ownership of Their Careers to Accelerate Their Path to Success.”

“I think we’re so busy trying to meet the expectations of our managers, of the company,” Wilson explained to theGrio in an interview, adding: “And how many of us, when we decide to accept a role, do we sit down and say, ‘What do I need here to be successful?‘” 

Wilson is the founder and CEO of ColorComm, a woman-centric platform dedicated to diversity and inclusion across the communications, marketing, and media industries. She packed her years of business experience — including some hard-learned lessons in her own journey — into “What Do You Need?”, crafting chapters with key questions women can ask themselves each step of the way. For instance, much earlier in her career, despite a track record of excellence and hard work, Wilson got feedback from an employee that she was seen as “unknowable.” After the shock wore off, it clicked for the charismatic comms professional that her “unknowability” had really been about availability.

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Cover: Hay House Business

“It took me many years to realize that I hadn’t participated in the culture,” Wilson reflected. “I hadn’t participated in the cultures. And you need to be participating in the culture if you want to advance. 

“I remember I was working at a company, and the common thing that the employees loved to do [was] go to sporting events, and they loved to go to ice hockey games, and that olive branch would be extended to me — ‘Do you want to come to the ice hockey game?’ Now, I don’t love ice hockey, so I would say ‘I’ll pass,’ but it’s not about whether or not you like the sporting event. And that’s what I didn’t realize back then; is that it’s not about whether or not I like ice hockey, it’s about the opportunity to get to know your coworkers and your employees outside of when decisions are being made,” she continued.

“Because these employees know who you are, they like you, they care about you, they’ve gotten to know you. And if you don’t get to know them on a personal level, they don’t know you. It doesn’t allow for you to move up, which allows for you to just stay right along where you are,” she added.

Wilson framed the chapters of “What Do You Need?” around answering the question from various angles, with directives such as, “You Need to…Make A Name For Yourself,” “You Need to…Know Your Value,” and “You Need to…Move Up or Move Out.”

Wilson is giving advice she knows worked for her. After working for years in public relations, the Spelman College and Georgetown University alum saw that the industry was missing a knowledge and skill set that she was uniquely positioned to offer. She set out to officially launch ColorComm in 2011, eventually building it up from an intimate group of 34 professionals to 40,000.

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Now, as she looks at the women she regularly encounters and thinks of the many she has yet to meet, “What Do You Need?” is a way of extending her impact that knows no generational or age limit.

“I see common mistakes people make, like young people asking folks to be your mentor and how you can get mentorship without asking,” Wilson tells theGrio.

“I see common leadership mistakes that more experienced leaders make, which is withholding feedback because they just don’t want to deal with it. I wanted us all to get on the same page, [to] start asking the question, ‘What do you need?’ And start figuring out our needs because they’re really simple: We need to be seen, valued, respected, heard and understood — and, of course, compensated … Basic needs for us to feel like, ‘OK, we’re going to give you all that we got here and you’re going to get the best out of us.'”

Learn more about the national bestseller “What Do You Need?” on Wilson’s website, and watch her interview with theGrio above.

Natasha S. Alford is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and media executive driven by the power of storytelling. As the VP of Digital Content and a Sr. Correspondent, Natasha tells stories that inspire and inform.