“There’s a High Cost to Being the Boss” Words of Wisdom with Aniesia Williams

I had the pleasure of interviewing Aniesia Williams, Director of Content for Barkley US, and previously an influence marketer for major brands including Ford Motor Company, Family Dollar, Shell and Lionsgate and contributing journalist for Business Insider, Black Enterprise, Ebony Magazine and Madamenoire. When it comes to understanding the ever-changing relationship between consumers and brands, Aniesia is known for keeping her finger on the pulse and making those relationships stronger and richer.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

My backstory is colorful and a constant career-climbing adventure. I’m originally from North Carolina (born, raised and educated). However, I’ve built the bulk of my career experience in LA, where I really started honing in on my brand strategy, new media marketing and lifestyle entertainment interests. I always knew that I wanted to “be in the know” of how media and marketing shaped the business environment. So my MBA gave me the information I needed to jumpstart my career while my working experience and relationships solidified my plans to become a “branding beast.”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started at Barkley?

Barkley is one of those companies that doesn’t do things “by the book”. The walls are bursting with creative energy in everything from dialogue to dress code and strategy to structure. This probably won’t be funny to anyone else but me, but for the first few days of working at Barkley in a leadership role, I’d look at myself in the mirror before leaving the house and say “Today, I will be the best damn unicorn that I can be!” The meaning behind it was to make sure that everything I said, thought and contributed helped showcase my imagination and my willingness to show up in full creative energy.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Barkley is full of fresh ideas, yet sets its foundation on practical and proven data and information. We’re able to deliver highly unique, custom and measurable strategies while not straying too far away from credible and meaningful practices. Also, we focus on helping brands build recognition through storytelling. We don’t brand companies so that they can “sell more, don’t engage companies so that they can be “trendy.” We inspire them to build their brands on engaging stories that impact their audiences and naturally compel them to make the decision to become loyal to them.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Let your employees “be themselves.” You picked your team for the capabilities and how they “showed up” at the interview. Don’t force that to change and conform simply because they work for you now. You saw something in them that made you think “this person would be a great asset to our company.” So remind them of that and remind yourself of that. Ask them to contribute to your company based on what they’ve proven they can do very well. You’ll strengthen your team, clients and company by building an environment where everyone is showing up in their full potential and best strengths.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I would have to say my mother, hands-down. My mother reinforced incredible values into my life including the need to be resilient, confident and feel beautiful from the inside out. She also taught me that at the core, I should be respectful and full of dignity. However, I should be tough, no-nonsense and able to get the job done. I remember these values every day and owe so much of who I am and what I’ve accomplished to her.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Absolutely! In fact, I think the two are cyclical. For every accomplishment, you have to replenish the goodness in the world. And for every good seed you sow, the more you’ll accomplish personally. I love working with philanthropic and humanitarian efforts to bring more awareness to their initiatives. I’m constantly looking for ways that philanthropy and social marketing can merge and bring the same vibes as for-profit business and traditional marketing. So when I team up with initiatives such as the Clinton Global Initiative and Black Girls Code, the goal is always to enhance the voice and tell the story. I use my accolades to give back and build up. And I’m always hungry to do more.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became Director of Content” and why.

Take yourself seriously: You’ll always hear “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” but I don’t agree with that — treat yourself like your most meaningful and high-paying client. Would you not take them very seriously and not try to do your best with them at all times?

There’s no such thing as work-life balance so just roll with the punches: It’s easy to try to compartmentalize your lifestyle so that every role you play has a nice and neat little space of time and energy. But that’s so not the case. I take work home and I also act a little silly at work. When you figure out how to peacefully merge multiple areas of your life, you’ll get the most out of your day.

There’s a high cost to being the boss: Being the decision-maker has a price. You won’t always be popular. You may not even be liked. You’ll unfortunately isolate some folks and ironically build stronger connections with people you wouldn’t think of. If you’re willing to constantly re-adjust your expectations and realign yourself with your goals, you can be the “boss”. Still, it won’t be easy.

You won’t know everything, so rely on people who are be smarter than you: There’s this “pressure” when you’re a leader to always know the right thing to do. First, that’s humanly impossible. And secondly, that’s why you build strong teams. As a leader you’re the decision-maker and the person who determines the direction, but you may not be the person who comes up with the idea or establishes the plan to get you where you’re going. So don’t isolate yourself on your “throne.” Use your position to get the right people involved in the goals you want to reach.

You’ll spend a lot of time in meetings. Learn to be an active listener: Meetings can be redundant and somewhat boring, but they happen for a very good reason. And when you’re in a leadership position at the table, your demeanor and responsiveness will set the tone for other attendees. So be an active listener. Listen more than you talk. Show enthusiasm when other people contribute. Do anything and everything besides doodle, scroll on your phone, look disinterested or rush others. You can’t get away with the same things that your subordinates might do.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for”- Oprah Winfrey. I interpret this to mean ask others, but ask yourself too.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

Hi Oprah! Let’s do brunch. I’d love to meet Oprah because she’s a media mogul who’s been in front of the camera and behind it. She’s a philanthropist and a business woman. She shows up authentically, yet we can reasonably assume that she knows how to maintain poise and professionalism. She’s the both sides of so many spectrums. I want to know how she does it.

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