Simon King calls for us to all become BAME allies

Head of Operations for Beds and Luton, Simon King is here to share his thoughts on how we can all support our BAME colleagues. He is joined by HR Recruitment Specialist Sheeba Shah.

Hi, I’m Simon, I’m the Head of Operations for Beds and Luton A&E, and also for PTS in Beds, Herts and West Essex. I’ve been working for this Trust for 30 years, so I guess I must quite like it here. But I’ve recently been really challenged by the whole Black Lives Matter campaign. And Sheeba and I just wanted to put together a short message, particularly for the leaders in our organisation, to help you think some more about that.

I was recently chatting to a friend of mine who is a black leader in another Ambulance Trust, he’s their equivalent of our LOM. I was just checking in with him, seeing how he is during the Black Lives Matter period recently, and I was also talking to him about the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic, or BAME, leaders there are in that Trust, and he was saying to me, ‘yea, I’m pretty sure within operations, I’m the only one’, and that really shocked me. And it made me come back and think about our own organisation, the East of England. What does it say to the black, Asian, minority ethnic community around us, and I wonder what it is like to work in the Trust as a member of the BAME community?

Hi, I’m Sheeba Shah. I have been working as HR Recruitment Specialist for the Trust since February 2019. I really enjoy my job, as it gives me a chance to meet a lot of new people from diverse backgrounds. It is a privilege to work with people who dedicate their time and save lives.

As Simon mentioned, we all have a part to play in making the community more inclusive and cohesive, and the starting point towards that goal is to positively engage with our BAME colleagues. It is imperative that our senior leaders take the initiative to fill senior roles in the Trust with BAME colleagues who wish to rake up such roles.

Recognising, nurturing and appreciating the talent and the contribution of our BAME colleagues towards the Trust must become the cornerstone of our compassionate conversation. Such recognition will further motivate our BAME colleagues to take more suitable and senior roles within the Trust. All the things that I have mentioned feed back in to our core Trust values, and helps to achieve our objectives in a more holistic manner.

Thanks Sheeba.

So, it’s clear to me that we need to fix this together. It’s true that we need to support all of our colleagues, not just our BAME colleagues. But it’s also true that some of us have a lot more opportunity to influence than others. So, if you’re a leader or a manager in our organisation, and I guess I’m talking mostly to people who are rather like me – probably male, probably white. In our organisation we have a great opportunity and actually a responsibility to use our position, our power, to start that change.

And we do need to change. I’m just reminded of that quote from Henry Ford, that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. And we do want to change, don’t we?

So, what can we do differently? Look, I’m not an expert, I’m learning just as you are. But, I have got four ideas of things that might help.

First of all, let’s educate ourselves. I’ve recently been reading this book. It’s called ‘Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People About Race’, it’s by someone called Reni Eddo-Lodge. There are other books available, but I found this quite helpful. Just a warning, if you are a white leader like me, it is quite challenging. But I think it’s worth it. It makes you think differently.

Secondly, have a private conversation with your BAME staff. Just ask them how they’re getting on. How are they being affected by the whole Black Lives Matter campaign. What can you do to help them?

Thirdly, would you be brave enough to ask one of your team, or a BAME member of staff that you work closely with, to buddy up with you and provide you with personal feedback in the way you’re conducting yourself, and your decisions and how they affect them, and maybe give some ideas on how that could be better.

And then fourthly, looking at your whole staff group, including your BAME members of your team and thinking about how you can more help them with their career aspirations, and helping to break down any barriers there are for them getting on.

So, in conclusion, our BAME colleagues need allies in the Trust. How do you feel about joining me in being of their allies?

Thank you for listening.

 Published 16th September 2020


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