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The Elephant in the Room - Sudha Singh EPISODE 43, 17th September 2021
43: Mantras for navigating workplace barriers with Romeo Effs, CEO Lumorus
00:00:00 00:43:50

43: Mantras for navigating workplace barriers with Romeo Effs, CEO Lumorus

Shownotes

The Elephant in the Room podcast is back this week with our guest Romeo Effs, Founder and CEO of Lumorus, a global consultancy focusing on addressing the disconnect, inequality and upheavals within society that stem from a lack of sustainable, forward-looking governance and leadership.

In this episode we speak about his name (Romeo), journey from Jamaica, a fairly successful international corporate career..........

  • Experiencing racism in the UK
  • His views on adapting like a chameleon (or Code-Switching) both as a survival tactic and as a strength
  • The epiphany that prompted the setting up of Lumorus
  • Why it is important to take an intersectional lens to address issues around equity and inclusion
  • He shares his mantras for men of colour navigating the barriers in society & the workplace. 
  • Role models and what drives him on this journey of change

We also spoke about the concept of 'bringing your whole self to work' currently bandied about as the panacea to all ills. Success of the concept usually rests upon the idea of psychological safety within teams and organisations.

To put a cat amongst the pigeons - should we not consider whether we really need to bring our whole self to work? Or only those parts that enable us to fulfil our potential and thrive? And what does that mean in reality. 

Romeo also believes that people of colour have been over-mentored, what they need now is sponsors - people who open the doors to roles, promotions, bonuses, prestige projects within the organisation.

If you want to know more listen here πŸ‘‡πŸΎπŸ‘‡πŸΎπŸ‘‡πŸΎ

Memorable passages from the podcast:

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Right, So I'm Jamaican, I was born in Jamaica but I have mixed heritage. There is a mixture of Cuba, German and a mixture of yes, Irish, African going on. And so I spent most of my life growing up in Jamaica, my dad used to be an accountant. And my mom was an English literature teacher. So yeah, all my values and everything that I live by now was because of that childhood or growing up in Jamaica. Yeah.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ So you're right. I did move mid-career. I moved to the UK when I was 35 and it just happened by chance because I came to the UK to study, to do my masters and the intention was to return to Jamaica. I had my businesses there, I was very involved in politics. I was on a trajectory to be either a member of parliament or being appointed an ambassador or a senator and given a ministry My political mentor at the time became prime minister, which I worked with him on in terms of the campaign. When I came to the UK, I went to a really, really great university Cass Business School, it's now called Bayes. And while there, I was able to have a tremendous network of individuals from all over the world. People from Bangladesh, from India, from Greece, from Africa, from the UK. But, I was able to meet a lot of these amazing individuals who were just kind of exposing me to other stuff that was happening in the world. And I created this quantitative method called the xxxxxxxxx test, which while doing my master's, which is a quantitative method of analysing risk in supply chain, financial risk.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And so while at the conference, my dissertation was sponsored by, I think the third-largest software manufacturing company in the UK called AG Barr PLC. So I moved to Scotland and lived there for about four months, doing this study this research on their supply chain and just being there and being able to see how they operated, being able to travel to their different locations across Europe and just seeing how things work.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ I quickly realised that in Jamaica, I was a big fish in a small pond, but in the UK, I had the ability of growing into a whale because it was like an ocean. And so I then started exploring the notion of staying in this country. And then after I did my dissertation, the company AG Bar PLC then hired me for a year. And so I ended up staying. And quickly after I was headhunted into Accenture which was also another massive eye-opener because I was able to travel, work with the likes of Marks and Spencers, DHL, Ericsson, Nokia.

I was travelling, Africa, Europe, all across America and I learned a lot. And so for me, the whole notion was, why don't I just soak all of this up? Because when I got much older, I would be in a better position to contribute better to my country, Jamaica, if that's what I wanted, And to come back to your point in terms of what do I think attributed to that level of success that I've had here in the UK?

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ I would say it was definitely my Jamaican origin and roots and the way I was brought up by my mother and my grandmother. Because when I came to the UK, people had to point out what racism was to me because I thought people were just being rude and I would just pretty much kind of tell them off. Because I grew up in a country where everyone looked like me, the prime minister, the doctor, the xxxxxxxx, everyone looked like me. So for me it was like, why someone treating me different? Why am I different from someone else? Why am I so-called quote-unquote, exotic? Why am I ethnic? What is ethnic? Right? I had to learn all of this. And it wasn't until then I started asking, what is this racism? And I had to be taught what racism was. But my mother/grandmother they instilled ethics, a sense of integrity, a sense of morality. A sense of believing in myself and a sense of spirituality. , which I think is the basis of who I am and it taught me the whole notion of, you are the only person that can set limits for yourself, right? You are in control of your life. You are the painter that painting that masterpiece. And so you have control, no one else has control in terms of where you go or what you achieve. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ So that kind of drive was instilled in me that look, no one can set limits to you. And in Jamaica we have the saying, "down the road me a go". Meaning, I am heading in a certain direction. And when someone said "down the road, me a go" it simply means that if you're in my way, I'm going to either go over you, under you around you, whatever, but get out of my way, because that's the direction I'm heading in.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ In certain circumstances, it can either be a strength or a survival technique. And you're right. I wrote about this in my book 'Enthusiasm Unchained.' And the reason I say that is because I remember working in corporate, I was not able to be my 100% authentic self. And companies keep saying, oh, you should bring your hundred per cent at work. But to be honest with you, if I bring my hundred per cent Jamaicanness at work, that is not going to work right? People are going to look at you strange, they're going to report you. All of the stereotypes that they have about Jamaicans or people from ethnic background, is going to come up. So it is not true, that people from an ethnic background can bring our a hundred percent to work.

We have to choose what we can bring into work. And what I found in the UK was that, yes I had to be a chameleon. When I'm home with my community, I behave in a certain way. When I leave to go to work, I behave in a certain way. When I was in corporate, they had this thing called dress down Friday. Dress down Friday was never applicable to me because, if I dress down, first and foremost, the minute I go and get on the tube, I'm being stereotyped right? Especially if I wore something like a hoodie or something, which I love, I love hoodies.. As a Black man, people just start looking at you strange right? White old women start clutching their purses and all of that because they just have this stereotype. So for me in corporate, it was a survival technique and this is what I say to a lot of ethnic minorities that I coach and mentor in corporate. If corporate UK is where you want to survive, if that's where you want to build a career and be successful, you have to understand that it's a game and you have to be able to learn how to play that game. And learning how to play that game is code-switching, which is another term, right? You have to learn how to fit in, how to build this executive presence, which is a term or a feeling which was developed by, white straight male, to be honest with you. And so you have to be able to understand what that is and be able to develop that in order for you to grow.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ So yes, for me, it was an advantage because I learned that quite quickly. And also a survival technique. But yeah, being a chameleon and being able to switch is very important. I'll share a story with you, in my early career, this was when I was in consulting. I got called by someone from HR and got a complaint that people believe that I was being aggressive in the office with my language. And I was like, what? And they're saying, sometimes you're nice and calm, but then sometimes you raise your voice and you start speaking in a language that no one understands. And I got to realise that what was happening was that sometimes I was at work and I would get a call from an elderly relative back in Jamaica. Now I know my great grand Uncle or my great grand Aunt, don't understand the Queen's English right? And in my culture, if you try and speak to them, as we would say, you're speaky spoke, are you trying speaky spokey with them by speaking the Queen's English, they see that as being disrespectful.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ So when I'm at work and they call me, I would go straight into my Jamaican dialect. And that was the issue, right? People thought I was being aggressive because I would switch right away and start speaking to my elder in my Jamaican dialect. And if you understand Jamaican, we can be very harsh in terms of the way how we pronounce our words. And then I had to start educating people around the whole notion that look, I can't call my elderly aunt or my elderly relative and start speaking the Queen's English because as far as they're concerned, I'm being disrespectful if I do that. Right. So that's how I have to be able to communicate with them. So those are some of the nuances that even though corporate UK wants to say, they want to be inclusive and they want diversity. They want diversity and inclusion on their terms, right? Not in the authentic true sense of what it needs to be. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ When I work with corporates, I tell them, I'm like, look, you guys need to stop telling people to bring their a hundred percent to work, because that is impossible.

If I was to bring my a hundred per cent, although I'm bald right now, I'd probably cornrow my hair or have it in locks. On my dress down days. Oh my God, like I would just turn up in some Jamaican outfit. I would bring my plantain, and rice peas and my jerk chicken in the office. So, it's not true for them to say that. And that goes for most people as well, actually. Unable to bring your a hundred percent to work.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ So Lumorus started when I left corporate in 2014. And so it didn't start as Lumorus, it started out as something else. So when I left corporate, I really wanted to do something that I felt could make a difference. Because while I was in corporate, I started a number of networks for people from an ethnic background to help them to kind of progress because in most of the organisations that I work in, the UK, I was the only person of colour or the only Black person at that level.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And so I would seek out these other people from ethnic descent and I would coach them, I would mentor them. I would make sure that they have what they need. I would become their sponsors. I would be their voice in the room. And my last big corporate role was working for a company called Mitie Group PLC. And while I was at Mitie, I was their group director of supply chain and projects, Mitie is 85,000 people in the UK, there were about 3000 directors. I was the only Black director at the time. But of 85,000 people, 50% of them were from an ethnic background because, the company is one of the largest facilities management company, security firm, engineering, most of the people who work, you know this, are people from an ethnic background. So I designed a project to diversify the supply chain and started looking for suppliers from a diverse background. So woman-owned suppliers, ethnic owned suppliers, suppliers from an LGBT and disabled background. And I found it very hard to find them, and those who I found they didn't have the skills or the know-how in terms of dealing with a company of our size, because Mitie is listed company. And so I embarked on a one-year program in terms of training some of the suppliers in order for them to be able to do business with us.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And over that year, we trained I would say about 200, 250 of the suppliers and we incorporated about 120 or so of them in the Mitie supply chain. And won a number of awards across Europe for this work in supply chain diversity. I spoke at the house of Lords. I helped to write policy documents, that number 10 used, in terms of supply chain diversity.

When I left corporate, I wanted to kind of continue in that vein because I just had this inbuilt feeling that I needed to continue helping and using my knowledge and my skills to help people to gain the success that they need as well. Between 2014 and 2018, which is when the name Lumorus evolved. I did a number of things, one was when I left corporate I started a small private equity called Aspire group. And we were investing mainly in ethnic owned businesses. And I would bring my skills to these companies, help them to build their strategy, help them to get funding, help them to grow. Within 12 months I grew the business from 0 to 27 companies in the portfolio.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And I did that for about two years and then I had, an epiphany, in 2015 I suffered a brain aneurysm. So I lost sight, I lost mobility, I couldn't speak, all of that. I remember being in that hospital and the doctors kept saying to me, Mr. Effs you're suffering a brain aneurism. And I remember quite clearly just lying there and just saying, I'm like, God, listen, this is not a request right now, this is a command anywhere you have those healing angels, I don't care where they are. You need to send them right now because I have shit to do. Right. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And I remember just lying in the hospital for eight weeks. I was in a room that had a window, but the window looked out on a wall. There was no television, no nothing. This was after I came out of intensive care and I just had a lot of time to think. And I remember, one night I was just there thinking, what is happening? Like, I lost my most prized job in 2013, my job title, like back when I was at my Mitie was the king of my being, it open doors for me right. And so after losing that job I got extremely depressed. Because I lost my mantel, I lost my crown. And I remember feeling the same way when I was going through this, with the aneurysm, because the aneurysm happened at a time when I just signed one of the biggest deals for the private equity firm to help distribute funding for a government program throughout the south of London.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ But Lumorus didn't evolve until about a year or two after that. So, I had all of these three different things going. I had the boardroom secretariat, I had the strategy consulting. I had empire builders, which was dealing with the ethnic business and ethnic minorities, et cetera. And I still felt as if there wasn't that connection and I wasn't on the right path. And that realisation also came after the brain aneurysm, because I was just thinking that, if I had died, what would my legacy be? What would they say at my funeral? What were the things that they would talk about? 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And so we started out by writing the word legacy, framing it. And so the legacy then turned out to be this foundation, which I named after my mother and my grandmother called the IBRIE foundation. Which works a lot in developing countries, helping to develop the next leaders, using young people and especially focusing a lot on women initiatives. And then we said, how the hell do we fund that? And then that's where the business And so we kind of looked at the three entities that we were working on and we looked at the stuff that we were really good at and we pulled those out. And then we saw where they all fitted in the notion of governance, organisational health, and sustainable business practices. And so that's what we currently do at Lumorus. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ So we say IBRIE foundation is changing the face of leadership, one individual at a time, and Lumorus is changing the face of leadership, one institution at a time. So we work with companies around to make them more purpose-driven. We believe that companies should operate in a way that is good for both people. And when I'm talking about people, I'm talking about their employer population. And, their customers, the community that they work in, planet, around the environment and also the wider community and the wider world, justice issues, et cetera. And to be profitable as well but to be profitable in a way that is sustainable. Not only for them, but for the business as a whole. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ I strongly believe that we have an obligation for those of us who have kind of gone through some of the obstacles and paved the ways. We have an obligation to help those that are behind us right. We should leave trails so that people can understand and see, oh yes, okay this is how we kind of get there. I currently run a mentoring circle, which has about 30 people from around the world. I also do a youth shadow board where I have a group of young people that I take into the boardroom with me so that they can understand the whole notion of governance and how businesses work. Because, I strongly believe that boards are the custodians of the culture of an organisation. And the board sets the tone in how the organisation is governed and run and the impact that it has. And businesses are very powerful instruments in our society, right? They donate to political parties. They lobby to change policy. They have people that work in them that live in communities.

So if you can impact the people within the organisation in terms of the way, how they think and the stuff that they believe and inspire them to do good and to change and transform, they will take those new kinds of thinking into the community and there's a snowball effect.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Good question. `And especially on the back of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year. I had to seriously stop and reflect. Because, yes, Lumorus we do a lot of work in organisational culture or as we call it organisational health around diversity and inclusion. Around leadership development, around all the politicking and the microaggression and micro instabilities that exist within an organisation.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And we saw some of our clients who we thought were making significant leaps and bounds kind of just fall off during that period. We saw companies that we thought implemented some really amazing initiatives. And when you saw how they just botched and completely got it wrong during that period and still are, I had to really reflect and start thinking, all of this 10 plus years i've spent that working in the space, has it been wasted? But change takes time. And as I say to my clients all the time, you have to realise that the work you're doing in the space of inclusion and belonging is a Mo Farah, it's not a Usain bolt, right? It's a long-distance journey you're on. And so you have to pace yourself. And what you find is a lot of companies, they want the a hundred-meter dash. They want to be like a Usain Bolt with this. But changing people's perspectives and people's attitudes take time. Because they live in community and so they're bringing all of that domestication and socialisation from community, into the corporate space into the corporate culture. And for a long time, companies used to think of corporate culture as something that was very monolithic, something that is, "oh, but this is the corporate culture", and think that the corporate culture operates outside of everything else. And yes, each corporate culture is different, but we have to understand that what we call corporate culture is made up of people that comes from different communities, right? With different levels of domestication around certain things with different level of socialisation around different things.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And so you can't look at them in isolation. And so I think for us, we're now taking a completely different look at the whole notion of inclusion and belonging. And we've developed this amazing tool call the cultural diagnostic index. Where we've been working over the last 18 months with behavioural scientists and the lady that helped to create the credit rating system in America and a neuropsychologist to look at how can we use the scientific techniques in terms of helping organisation to determine, where the gaps exist in their culture. So we look at it from a human perspective. So we have something called the 'human insight evaluation'. We look at it from a team perspective, that's the team insight evaluation. And we also look at it from a social perspective, which is the social insight evaluation. And we get the data from that, and we are able to tell organisation how open and empathetic individuals, are the teams are and the overall culture within the organisation are. How open and empathetic to difference that is, and difference doesn't seem different to anything because your level of openness and empathy doesn't start within the organisation. It starts from the ages of domestication and how you have been socialised. If organisations start taking a different perspective in the way, how they view their culture and how they deal with people, I think that we will begin to see this kind of elevation in terms of the difference being had.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Am I hopeful? Yes, I am. I'm very hopeful, even though I see some drifting going back, I'm very hopeful because I see my God kids. I see those young people who I have on the shadow board, who I mentor, who I interact with. I see them being more open and empathetic to difference than us? I see the way how they interact, they don't see, oh, you're a male, I'm a female. You are gay, I am straight. You are Black, I am white. They don't see that and I think the internet has a lot to do with that. I think a lot of the education and knowledge that they're building outside of the formal system is actually helping that. What I hope doesn't happen is that once they hit the corporate space, I hope that they don't then get drummed into thinking and behaving in a certain way because there are certain groups of older straight white, individuals over here who wants to ensure that the status quo maintained, 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Or they're trying to fit in. And I'm pretty hopeful that when my God kids and when my kids grow up and start entering the place of work, they don't have to worry about being a chameleon. They would still, of course, like everyone else still be able to make sure that they are comfortable with bringing as much of themselves as they want in the workplace, but I'm hopeful that when they get to that age, the world of corporate will be far more open and far more accepting, not tolerated, far more accepting of difference. And I think COVID is kind of changing a lot of that as well. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's the only way we work, right? When you work with our clients we tell them point-blank that anything we do around the space of organisational health, we're going to do from an intersectional standpoint, because it's difficult for you pigeonhole an individual into one of these silos or wanted these boxes. Where would the ethnic woman fit? Does she fit in the gender agenda or she fits in the ethnic agenda? Where does the LGB woman fit? Does she fit in the gender or the LGBTQ agenda? Where does the ethnic person, the Chinese person, or the Black person that is disabled, do they fit in the disability box or in the ethnic box?

 πŸ‘‰πŸΎ We've just kind of erased these kinds of silos. Because for me, I see it as a way of just stereotyping us as individuals as well and putting us in a box. And one of the biggest bugbears I have, is the gender agenda because I think the gender agenda has been predominantly about middle-class white women and have completely forgotten the ethnic woman or the working-class woman, right? That kind of stuff. And also forgotten the LGB woman as well right? And so intersectionality has got to be the way how we approach anything as far as inclusion and belonging is concerned. Because one people that don't fit in any one of these boxes. But if you look at it from a joint up perspective, instead of saying, oh our focus now is on gender or our focus now is on ethnicity or our focus is on disability or LGBTQ. If you do that, then you have a tendency of alienating. And I see that happening a lot throughout my work in corporate, the gender agenda would get so much money to get things done right? The LGBTQ networks would get so much money to get stuff done.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Then when you see the ethnic networks, or the Black networks or the Asian networks or whatever they want to be called. They have to be walking with bowls like they're begging for offering in order to get initiatives going right? I see the same thing with the disability network. So there has got to be that kind of joint up approach, because that's the only way that you would be able to make the progression as quickly as you can. And, just another valid point around this is that when I speak about intersectionality, I don't mean just intersectionality as far as the protected characteristics are concerned, I'm talking intersectionality, which also includes the straight white male. Because the fact is that we cannot make progress on this agenda unless they are on board. If we're talking about inclusion, inclusion means everyone it doesn't just mean inclusion for those with protected characteristics. And so we have to make sure that we create a space where these individuals believe that they're part of the journey, but understand the importance for them to be on the journey.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And so it's one of the first things we do when we work with our clients is to make sure that , we have this kind of development work going with the straight white male. Most of them tend to be on the board or in the C-suite in terms of getting them to understand why it's important for them to be part of it as well. But if you think about it they are also the ones that allocate the resources. So if you don't get them on board, then your journey in is going to be so much difficult. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Which is what I see happening right now. So, I say to people like, so why aren't you visiting the woman's network, "oh, but we're the ethnic network" Yeah but go and visit, understand what they're doing, let them understand what you're doing. Invite them to your network right? You have to start creating, that whole kind of ecosystem that works, right? 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ I mean, you're so right. Even now when I step out of my house, I make sure that I'm dressed in a certain way. Even if I'm walking to the corner shops. Because I run the risk of being stopped and questioned by the police. I remember once I was coming from playing golf and I took the train and I was walking home. I live in a predominantly, middle-class white community, and I was walking home and I got pulled over by the police. And the question was, where you're coming from and I'm like, excuse me. I'm like, you don't have a right to be asking me where I'm coming from. He says what are you doing in this neighbourhood? I saying, I'm heading home. And he says, are you sure? I'm like, I'm damn sure I'm like, you can give me a ride home if you'd like. He thought I was being cheeky then. So he came out to the car and because in the UK they have this stop and search, proceeded to search me. Didn't find anything, found my IDs, found my business cards, et cetera. And then he saw with the golf clubs and he says, are these yours? I'm like, yes, they are. He says, how can you afford to buy golf clubs.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And I was like, excuse me, I'm like, you shouldn't even be asking me that question. And then I said to him, I'm like, sir am I going to be, let go? And then I said to him, I'm like I said, that's why I'm an advisor for your senior officers at the minute. And he's like, you're an advisor for them? I'm like, yes. I said, it's things like these, why they've asked people like me to be in a group to advise them how to help you guys relate with the community. And I'm like, this, what you're doing right here is just not appropriate right? And I left. And as men of colour, we have even more stereotypes being put on us. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And so it's very important that, especially in the corporate space coming back to the whole notion of being a chameleon or code-switching or whatever you want to call it. If that is where we want to be successful, we have to behave in a certain way. It's sad, but that's just it. I had to learn to bring my tone down, the tone of my voice, because I'm Jamaican speak loud and very aggressive right? And that in itself, people think that I'm always angry. No, that's just how I speak. I had to dress a certain way, as I said, I never dressed down. My dress down Friday was no tie and maybe no jacket. But the same formal shirt, and really formal pants, that's my dress down. You also have to be very careful in terms of your performance as well, right? You have to perform 10 times better than your white counterparts.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ But one of the most important things I would say to any Black male or men of colour or person of colour in corporate, is that it's important for you to become a subject matter expert in that area that you're dealing with. Take the time out to really learn and understand your area of expertise. Because that is how your performance is going to stand out, there are so many other things going against you that if you underperform or you perform less than that is expected, that is going to be the biggest tick. And then they're going to use all the other stuff to sort and separate you. So make sure you become a subject matter expert.

I remember when I was in consulting, I wanted to become the head of supply chain for xxxxxxx. And I would spend all my time going to conferences, reading up about it speaking to people about it, and within six months, I was promoted to lead of supply chain. So it's important for you to become that subject matter expert that people will depend on you for knowledge and for expertise. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ The other thing is to make sure that you seek out and build a community or build relationships within that workspace. Or external to that workspace. And I'm talking about relationships with people who are senior to you in that workplace get a sponsor, right? That's the other bugbear for me in corporate like ethnic minorities we are over mentored and sponsored right? We don't need mentors. We need sponsors.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ We need people who will open the doors for us, who will look out for us when the promotions and the bonuses are being allocated right? The thing that a lot of people don't understand, especially in major companies when bonuses are being allocated a lot of times we are not in the room. And if you don't have someone in the room who is good to speak up for you, then it's not going to happen right? So seek out those persons who can become a sponsor. One of the things I did was that I would look for people on the senior leadership team who share the same values that I do.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And I would make appointments to go and see them. I remember making an appointment for our global CEO. It took me three months to get 15 minutes in his diary for a coffee. And that 15 minutes turned out to an hour and a half because we were just kind of having a really good conversation. I offered to help him on any project he was working on. I ended up working on a charity project he was doing and from that day, he just kind of looked out for me and became a sponsor within the organisation. And we kind of teach the each other stuff because I was able to teach him a lot of stuff around my culture and my upbringing, all that kind of stuff which he really, really appreciated.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ So it's making sure that you also understand that corporate is a game and you have to understand how to play that game. And if that's where you want to survive, you have to learn how to play it. And also don't limit yourself because if you're in one space and you don't feel as if you're moving and you feel as if you are their stumbling blocks, there are many other organisations out there that you will be able to go to and thrive right. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And the most important thing I would say, don't take on this racism burden, right? Be aware of it, understand that it exists, understand that it can be an obstacle, but it's not your burden to carry. Because racism is not your problem. It's not my problem. It's their problem right? It's that person who is racist, it's their problem. So the way how I see it is, when you throw that ball at me, I'm going to take my bat and I'm going to hit it back to you right? Because I'm not going to allow that weigh me down. So why would I take on your baggage, I'm going to be aware of it. I'm going to be dubious about you and watch out for you, but I'm not going to take on that baggage. And I see where a lot of people from an ethnic background, they take on this racist baggage in corporate. Just kind of weighs them down and just gets them so depressed and just prevents them from shining and being who they really are.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Yeah, my mother and my grandmother, but I think one of the biggest role models in my life was my uncle Busha as we call him. He was my dad's best friend and he's also married to my dad's, let's call her my dad's sister. And uncle was my dad pretty much where my father died. He was so integral in our lives and he is a great husband, he's a great father for 12 children he has with his wife. And he's also a super entrepreneur. He had a trucking business, he has a farm going, he's just constantly at it. And I think I learned a lot about being very committed in terms of your family, but also being committed to whatever you set your mind to. It's the whole notion of integrity. And is an engineering word, which means something was designed to work the way, how it should. Engineers talk about the bridge having integrity. So when I speak of integrity, I'm not talking about morality or ethics. , I'm talking about honouring your word and making sure that you live up to your commitment. And he was a great example. of someone who was extremely hard working. I've also had quite a number of other role models, I remember my mom the first person to promote me in corporate.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ When I was twenty-five years old was this lady called Diana Fraser Campbell. And she was a tower of strength for me. And she has been a really, good role model. Over the years I've had some really good role models in my life. My, former CEO at Mitie, Ruby McGregor Smith was very instrumental and a really good role model as well. 

You know my father died when I was nine years old, my mom and my grandmother raised me. And I think it's because I just have this innate belief that if you need stuff done and just give it to a woman. Cause I see my grandmother and my mother, they were able to move a mountain man, with just speaking it into being. And even right now, I have a lot of role models who are much younger than I am. I have these two guys who are in charge of the foundation right now. They are under the age of 30 but man, they're just doing some amazing things. And when I see some of the other young people that they are speaking with, who are just doing things around, climate change and human trafficking and health care and all of that, just changing the trajectory of this world. Yes, they are definitely an inspiration. 

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ What gets me out of bed now is, so years ago it was about what society dictates success is and for me before the aneurysm, success was about material stuff, like the big house and the car and having money and being able to do all of this, being a show-off pretty much, a pretender.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And I remember when I was going through the healing process after the aneurysm, I was having a conversation with my mother. And I was saying to her, "Mom do you consider yourself successful?" And she was like, without even thinking, she's like, "Yes" I'm like, "How come, you have no material stuff?" and then she’s like my son, success is not about that. She says, "look, since I was a child, I wanted to be a teacher and I retired as a teacher." She said, "I've had five children and none of you have brought the police to my door or have gotten in any kind of trouble and all of you are thriving. You are doing the things that you love, of course, I'm successful. I'm happy. I'm happy to see my children be successful. I'm happy when I walk on the streets. And I hear someone say, Mrs. Effs Mrs. Effs. And I look, it's one of my students and they start telling me what they're doing. They're doing this or they're doing that, all that kind of stuff. Yes, I am successful. And I'm happy because of that". My mom travels every year, I mean during COVID she doesn't travel and sometimes we don't even know where our Mom is because one of her students would send her a ticket to go to Boston or Baltimore or wherever and she's just gone and that changed my perspective in terms of what success is and what should motivate me.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ So what motivates me now is the fact that I really, really and truly just want to make such a dent in this world that when that day comes, that my spirit leaves my body, that I have changed a lot of people's lives. I have actually changed an entire community. Like right now I'm working to change the trajectory of an entire parish in Jamaica, which is actually classified as the poorest parish in Jamaica, which is the parish that I grew up and I want to know when I die, I've just kind of I've just implemented so many projects and done so much stuff for that parish that it just looks completely different. So those are the stuff that motivates me. I want to be able to know that when my children and my grandchildren grow up, they can look back and say, yes, my dad or my grandfather did this.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ And because he did this, the world is a different place. So that's what really motivates me. And it's funny enough that you say, and people keep saying that you should do the thing that you love and you'll find out that you'll wake up everyday doing. I mean, I'm up at five o'clock and like no one even has to say it, twice I'm up and I'm ready to go because of this motivation, because I know that, people keep telling me I'm impatient. Yeah, there's a level of impatience because I really want to just see this difference happen.

πŸ‘‰πŸΎ Thank you for having me and willing to come back at any time.

Follow Romeo Effs on: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/romeoeffs/?originalSubdomain=uk

Twitter: @romeoeffs

Important links

www.lumorus.com 

https://ibrie.org/

https://www.amazon.com/Enthusiasm-Unchained-Unshackling-Professional-Perspective/dp/0993292801

https://festivalofgovernance.org/events/ceo-cultural-cookbook

https://www.wandsworthoasis.org.uk/news/wandsworth-oasis-board-announces-romeo-effs-as-new-chairman

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