Cherron Inko-Tariah was invited to be a panellist at the Coaching Squared event hosted by Sodexo. Coaching Squared is an award nominated development programme where participants from different organisations establish coaching partnerships and mutually support each other towards achieving their own development goals.
This event celebrated the success and achievements of the most recent cohort of the Black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) programme. Facilitated by Kåre Sivertsen, Programme Director, Coaching Squared, the panel comprised of:
Osama Rahman, Ministry of Justice
Cherron Inko-Tariah, The Power of Staff Networks
Shamial Afzal, Coutts
The discussion centred around the importance of networking, leadership and how staff networks can play their part in supporting and promoting BAME talent in the organisation. The following is a summary of the key Q&A:
How can staff networks help promote BAME talent?
Staff networks can help in a number of ways. Successful staff networks can provide support to staff, and work hard to improve outcomes for employees. They can also offer the opportunity to gain exposure and access to certain parts of the organisation not afforded in the 'day job'. In addition, effective staff networks can act as a pipeline of talent and foster a diverse and inclusive workforce; enhancing the health and success of the business.
What role can individuals play in staff networks?
Involvement is important. Every staff network needs active ambassadors to help'evangelise' about its work and impact. Moreover, staff networks also provide the opportunity to test out new skills and behaviours in a safe arena and also learn from each other.
For those who are leading or aspiring to lead a staff network, it's vital that they're prepared to study for the role. It's like no other leadership position. Master the skill of straddling the strategic aspects of the network's activity as well as helping members solve the real issues they encounter in the coalface.
How do you overcome barriers?
"I asked myself: Do I want to be me or should I conform and be like everyone else? I chose to be myself...we sometimes think that everyone around the table is more knowledgeable than us but the reality is, that they aren't. So be yourself." (Osama Rahman)
"I admit that I was passive in challenging the status quo and accepted what I was told about my ability; that I wasn't quite up to the mark. However, there comes a point when you decide to give yourself permission to believe that you can excel" Cherron Inko-Tariah)
"I considered what was perceived barriers vs actual barriers and then navigated my self with a 'go get' attitude to break through any such barriers which resulted in me succeeding"(Shamial Afzal)
What constitutes good leadership?
Integrity. A good leader is interested in people. They have a business mindset but they are inclusive and collaborative in their approach.
Be prepared to have those honest conversations. You should also push for specific feedback so that you can improve. Good leaders will be constructive rather than destructive.
In addition to integrity, good leaders walk in character and excellence. They keep an eye open for their own replacement and are not threatened by upcoming leaders but rather they encourage and help to nurture them.
How do you manage the priorities and be an effective conduit between senior managers and members?
It's important that the priorities of the network and those of the wider organisation are aligned. Staff networks need to push and challenge the organisation to move beyond the rhetoric.
It's important for staff networks to mirror the values of the organisation. Everything you do should have a link to the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategy and have a strong connection with the D&I team because they've been officially charged with overseeing the agenda for the organisation. It's also important to keep the communication channels open.
Investigate the need of members - which could mean some quick wins as well as long term strategic goals. Find out what is the biggest/challenging problem facing the organisation and use your connections, experience, social capital to present a viable solution. This will help the staff network be seen as a trusted source of information.
How do you handle apathy?
Apathy occurs for a number of reasons such as members are tired, cannot see any change, unaware of improved outcomes, they've made assumptions about its effectiveness etc.
Sometimes staff networks need to take a step back and ask some difficult questions. e.g. If we stopped doing what we do, who would miss us? Are we still being relevant? Tough questions but necessary to have that honest conversation.
Speak to the key players throughout the organisation to identify the root cause of the problem. Be genuinely interested and think about the long term. Focus on building momentum - not excitement. The difference between excitement and momentum is depth.
Final thoughts for the individual and organisation
When applying for new jobs, go and speak to the reporting manager of the vacant post because this is when you start to sell yourself.
Get out of your own way and give yourself permission. Think about what you want, study for the role, be coachable, and get ready to step out of your comfort zone.
Be you. Talk to people across the organisation who you admire and respect. Get yourself in a position where you're putting yourself forward for opportunities that you may not have done before. Be prepared to mentor people.
Invest in your staff networks and help build their capacity. They are a bank of inclusive leaders who can act as internal consultants for the organisation.
For Staff Networks
Think strategically, and think about your mindset, put egos to one side and focus on bringing change for members and improving the corporate health of the organisation.