#ITSTIME to Take Your Seat: “Iron Sharpens Iron”

My journey with the Black Corporate Board Readiness Program, part 2 of 4 — Merritt McKenzie

Recently, I began sharing my journey with the Black Corporate Board Readiness (BCBR) Program at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. In part 1 of this series, I shared my decision-making process in starting the program, as well as the impressive founders and advisory council. In part 2, I’ll discuss a brief program overview; my personal and professional growth through the program; my reflections; and the sense of community created by the BCBR Program.

THE PROGRAM

The BCBR Program has a very organic and interactive structure. We had an agenda with topics and focus items to cover, but when more challenging topics came up in conversation, we had the opportunity to pause, discuss, and reflect on them which allowed us to sit with them for a bit. The structure, coupled with the ability to adjust accordingly, provided just the right amount of flexibility.

In previous writings, I have shared about imposter syndrome within the Black community.

I want to emphasize how real this is for many individuals, especially those from underrepresented groups. Unfortunately, I experienced it firsthand at the BCBR. After our first meeting — in which I met the other 27 accomplished senior Black executive participants and our incredible advisory council — I told my wife that I did not belong, and I thought it was best for me to exit the program after the first day.

It was the impressive résumés and work experiences of this very talented cohort of executives, along with the fact that they appeared to have a clear picture of how to navigate through accomplishing their professional goals and objectives. They all seemed to have a clear and straight path from point A to point B, which at the time was less clear to me.

But my wife refused to let me quit. She told me that God brought me to this point for a reason, so there must be a reason that I’m here. I thank her and God because I found my reason…to be sharpened and evolve! The Bible says: Iron sharpens iron. That’s what it felt like within the BCBR Program — to be with other executive leaders who look like me and occupy the same space as me and have similar career aspirations. I felt like I was being sharpened and evolving as a more impactful executive. Additionally, I was assigned a very experienced corporate director as a mentor to support, coach, and help prepare me for board service AND my next senior management role. I learned a lot from my extremely impressive mentor, who I remain connected with today since the completion of the program in April 2021.

SENSE OF COMMUNITY

The BCBR Program presented such a unique opportunity, I had to experience it to believe it exists. The program created a safe space for us to be truly authentic and real about the career challenges that we experience or fear and let us hit pause to share our personal stories.

Everyone had these stories.

We shared experiences which included unfair treatment, prejudice, and micro-aggressions within the workplace — not to mention the feeling of being the “Only One.” We discussed strategies and solutions of how we can exert our influence and be change catalysts within our communities and organizations. As Black executives, there really are not a whole lot of spaces where we have the freedom to be open about these experiences. Those stories brought us closer together as a cohort, and I remain in touch with several of my fellow participants.

The advisory council — which included experienced corporate directors and C-suite execs who serve on the boards of Google, Apple, and Amazon, to name a few — shared with us their advice on how to act, how to behave, and what to be prepared for as a Black board director. Hearing all of this really drove home the sense of community and support that I felt in their company.

Stay tuned for part 3 next week. I’ll share details about the impressive BCBR Program’s “Meet the Cohort” event and the potential social good the program provides. To learn more about the BCBR Program, visit their website.

Merritt McKenzie is a healthcare executive and growth strategist. With over 25 years of experience, he builds high performing, diverse teams in organizations. Merritt has proven to be successful in sustaining high levels of employee morale and bringing teams together through common goals. As the Chief Operating Officer at Phoenix Physical Therapy, he works to create more effective and efficient operational strategies that benefit the employees, patients, and the company’s growth. A holistic leader, Merritt ensures high standards of employee engagement, patient care, as well as business strategy and execution, while growing company revenues, earnings, and market share.

A point of view is the angle of considering things. It’s a platform for people with a vision and a story to tell.