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Moment Of Clarity

LESSONS LEARNED: Debra Lee

Who’s the woman behind BET?

Debra Lee, the first female chairman and CEO of the prominent African-American network, has expanded the brand’s reach to more than 90 million households worldwide.

Recently, I caught up with Lee during her latest trip to Chicago and asked her to share the lessons she learned during her career and tenure at BET.  While her advice was specific to women and young professionals, her words of wisdom ring true for men as well.

“Sometimes when I look at my career, I feel like I was pushed and pulled a lot. When I became COO I wasn’t looking for a COO position, I was general counsel and I was very happy being in general counsel,” she recalls. ” … When I took it, I found out that two or three guys at my level had already asked for it. But I was like, ‘There wasn’t even a job, how did they know?!’

That just shows the difference between how I was looking at my career and how they were looking at their career,” she continues. “They were positioning themselves for the next step and I was just being happy where I was. I would encourage women to seek out those opportunities and take the next step even if you’re not 100-percent ready; you can learn on the job.”

Lee also shared the following advice for both seasoned and young professionals:

FOR SEASONED PROFESSIONALS: 

1) Be prepared for what you’re going to do. “Learn as much as you can about the position. That will take you a long way in terms of self-confidence.”

2) Realize that you have as much to offer as any male in the company. “You have your own ideas and you shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and let your ideas be known. I think women are good listeners and that makes us a good executive, but sometimes women take too long to jump into the fray and let their ideas be known.”

3) Take some risks. “People say, ‘Women are promoted on accomplishments and men are promoted on potential.’ We need to start fighting to be promoted on potential. Tell yourself, ‘OK – I haven’t done this job yet, but I’m smart and I can learn it.’ Be self confident about that.”

FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS: 

1) Stay in school and get a great education. “That’s always important [because] no one can take that away from you. College is a time to learn and try different things. It’s not just to prepare for what you want to do. I tell my kids all of the time, go, learn, and study whether it’s English or communications, just go and do it! You have the rest of your life to work, go to college and figure out what you’re really interested in doing.”

2) Find something that you’re passionate about. “We all work so hard … it’s always easier if you’re passionate about it. So whether it’s a cause, a company or an industry … make sure you do what you love and what you really care about.”

3) Be true to yourself, your values, your beliefs, and what you want to accomplish. “If you’re true to yourself and your values, you always make the right decision. That’s something that I’ve learned over the years. You have to listen to your inner voice and be true to that. Sometimes that’s difficult if you’re trying to sell a product, or get ratings and you want to do well at your job but you also want to be true to yourself.”

Thank you, Debra Lee, for sharing your LESSONS LEARNED. As always, we wishes you continued success and pleasant journeys as you pave the way for others!

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt "The High Achiever's Therapist"

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at digitalpitches@ebony.com. We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development, Jinnie has a nearly 90 percent success rate with her clients.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!