4word mentor and highly-successful business woman Bernice J. Washington shares why first impressions are vital to your professional success, and what she believes it takes to achieve your career goals.
4word: To start, tell our readers a little about yourself.
Bernice: I grow up on a farm in rural Louisiana near Shreveport, chopping and picking cotton. LTC Lymon Washington (Retired) and I have been married for 43 years and we have two adult children, Andrea Wallace and Michael Benjamin Washington. Andrea is a graduate of University of Texas in the honors business program and holds an MBA from Northwestern Kellogg program. She is CEO/Owner of Blackshear Wyatt marketing firm and was featured on the front cover of Business Week magazine. Michael Benjamin Washington graduated from New York University Tisch School of the arts. He worked on Broadway for five years, on television shows such as Glee and 30 Rock, and is an award-winning playwright.
I’m a 4word mentor and International Motivational Speaker who travels the world spreading messages about leadership and self-development. I’m also a sought-after television and radio talk show commentator who has been featured on television, in magazines, and in news stories.
Education and politics are primary interests of mine because of their powerful impacts on the lives of people. All life owes any of us is a chance. What we do with that chance is our choice. I believe we must either take life by the throat or catch it by the tail.
4word: In business, impressions are everything. What are some ways professionals can create and leave lasting impressions on those with which they interact?
Bernice: People assume they know you based on a single observation of behavior or physical traits. Fifty-five percent of first impressions are attributed to appearance and body language. Before a single word escape your lips, people have already made assumptions about your level of intelligence, self-esteem, confidence, beliefs and success. Fair or not, that’s how it works, and visual presentation has consequences.
The way we treat people, the way we speak, and the way we conduct ourselves speaks volumes about our self-perception and confidence. Therefore, the first step in crafting a lasting impression is to understand YOURSELF and your comfort zone.
The second step is to determine how you want to be seen by others. Ask yourself what specific behaviors would be necessary to leave those fingerprints. People can see through disingenuous behavior in a heartbeat and will react accordingly. When interacting with an individual, your goal should be to make them feel as if they are the ONLY human on the planet at that moment. Look them straight in the eyes and listen to every syllable they utter. A firm handshake says that you are engaged in the exchange.
4word: You are the CEO and owner of Urgent PLUS Care. How did you arrive at this position? Have you dealt with any obstacles as a result of being a female CEO?
Bernice: Three medical doctors and I founded Urgent Plus Care with the intent to deliver an alternative to high cost and long wait times at emergency rooms. Since all three fellows know medicine and I had more than 40 years of healthcare executive management experience, I was selected to serve as Chief Executive Officer for the organization.
I have grown accustomed to the challenges of being the first black woman to hold various positions, so I have learned to turn obstacles into opportunities. People are always at an advantage when they are underestimated. The challenge is to stay focused on the objective and not get sidetracked by someone else’s issues. I have merged my knowledge and experience in healthcare with my motivational speaking business to become an internationally recognized consultant.
4word: What words of wisdom would you share with young professional women looking to one day become CEOs and company owners?
Bernice: My best advice is to know with certainty what you want, why you want it, and the price you are willing to pay to achieve your goals. It is imperative you jump through all the hoops and LEARN all you can from as many as you can, for as long as it takes to become fully prepared to sit in the big chair. When the title CEO is bestowed upon you, “the buck TRULY stops here.”
4word: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Bernice: Success and happiness can be an elusive creature. However, the rewards can be worth the effort if you are willing to never ask for lighter burdens. You must instead always pray for a stronger back. My father once told me that you are not the judge of how far you get in life. We are judged on how far we get from where we started. My life goal is to get as far as I can, utilizing the gifts with which I have been blessed. I have set my sight on the STARS…and have a plan to get there!
What do you want to accomplish with your life? Have you set your professional sights high and aren’t sure how to reach your goals? Heed Bernice’s advice and put in the necessary hard work to prepare yourself for your future successes. YOU are the one who controls how high you’ll climb the corporate ladder!
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BERNICE. J. WASHINGTON is President and CEO of BJW Consulting Group, LLC and CEO/Owner of Urgent Plus Care, LLC. She is a nationally recognized successful businesswoman with more than three decades of experience in sales, marketing and management. Washington is a retired executive from Bayer Healthcare, an International
Healthcare Company. Her responsibilities included sales and marketing of more than $50 million annually of diagnostic healthcare products to key clients.
Washington is a veteran trustee having served on Texas Health Resources Boards for more than 20 years. Texas Health Resources has 24 hospitals, 20,500 employees in Dallas/Fort Worth, North Texas. In addition, Washington has served on more than 18 other boards of directors holding major leadership roles on most. She currently serves as a member of DFW International Airport Board of Directors (Chair $2 Billion Terminal Redevelopment Improvement Program-TRIP); Regional Transportation Council of North Texas; Salvation Army Board (Chair Public Relations Committee) and Women Corporate Directors.
She is a sought-after television and radio talk show commentator and has been featured in movies, magazine articles and in News stories. She has been featured on CNN and NBC Today, and in Southern Living Magazine, Dollars & Sense, Jet Magazine and many other National publications.
Washington is a highly regarded keynote presenter and is a faculty member at The Governance Institute. The Institute is an organization serving not-for-profit hospital and health system boards of directors, executives, and physician leadership. In addition she is a featured speaker with Speaker Express an American Hospital Association affiliate.
Washington earned a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Missouri; is a registered Medical Technologist, MT (ASCP) Research Hospital and Medical Center-Kansas City, Missouri; and has a Bachelor of Science in Bacteriology/Microbiology from Southern University-Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is a Certified Master Coach by the Behavioral Coaching Institute and is a member of The International Coaching Council (ICC).
She is a member of Leadership Texas Alumnae Association (Former Regional Director-Life Member); Leadership Plano; Southern University Alumni Association (Life Member); Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Life Member); The Links, Incorporated; NAACP (Life Member); and St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church
Mrs. Washington is married to Lt. Col. (Ret) Lymon Washington, Jr. for 42 years and they have two adult children Andrea Renee and Michael Benjamin.