Monday, December 03, 2018
by Kathryn Holleman • firstname.lastname@example.org
BJC | The audience came to hear how some of BJC’s most dynamic leaders got to where they are. They weren’t disappointed.
Panelists shared enlightening, wise and sometimes painful stories about their paths to leadership as persons of color at the BJC Blended Connection town hall event, Nov. 8, at the BJC Learning Institute.
“We decided to do this because our kick-off event was a panel discussion with leaders from across BJC, and people loved it,” says Karen Barnes, Missouri Baptist Medical Center women and infants program director and Blended Connection group co-leader.
While the kick-off event panel was made up of senior leaders, the Nov. 8 panel featured a range of leaders, from managers to a vice president, showing the path to leadership as a series of attainable steps, says Barnes.
The panel included BJC human resources director Jada Reese, Barnes-Jewish Hospital chief nursing officer Angelleen Peters-Lewis, BJH therapy services director Hilary Harris and BJC design/construction and real estate diversity manager Charles Henson. They addressed topics including their career journey to their current position, what inspires them, how they deal with disappointment, and how they approach conversations about race.
The four come from different backgrounds: Reese and Henson are St. Louis-area natives who came to health care from other professions; Peters-Lewis and Harris have spent their entire careers in health care and moved to the region from other areas.
Despite their differing backgrounds and work histories, the panelists touched on some common themes. For instance, all four stressed the importance of resilience when faced with disappointment.
Peters-Lewis said she realized after not getting a job she had been a finalist for that “a ‘no’ might just be a ‘not yet,’” she said.
She and Harris both urged the audience to maintain work relationships in the face of job disappointments because those relationships can end up being long, fruitful and “transcend institutions,” said Peters-Lewis.
Harris recommended looking at failure as a blessing and applying lessons learned from it to improve your performance.
Reese meanwhile noted that sometimes the best way to handle disappointment is to admit you can’t fix everything, “and cut bait and move on.”
The panelists also all advocated taking a straightforward approach to conversations about race — no matter how challenging or uncomfortable they may be.
Henson, a lifelong Ferguson resident, facilitated community discussions after Michael Brown’s death. It was useful to ask participants to envision others as they see themselves when trying to understand their point of view, he said.
Reese noted the importance of advocating for yourself — telling a story about a supervisor at the beginning of her career who repeatedly confused her with the only other black woman engineer at the company.
“I wondered, ‘Who are you thinking of when you do my review? If you don’t know what my name is, how do you know what kind of work I do?’ So, I told him, ‘Here are two ways you can tell me apart from (the other woman).’ He never called me by the wrong name again.”
BJC Blended Connection group welcomes all
The BJC Blended Connection group wants all BJC employees to know that they’re welcome at group meetings.
The group was formed to provide diverse employees a way to connect, network and share different perspectives on work and the world. And while many of the members are persons of color, allies are welcomed with open arms, say group co-leaders Karen Barnes and Deborah Bennett.
The group embraces diversity with the goal of helping members bridge gaps and foster understanding, says Barnes.
“Our committee is diverse, and it’s an amazing group of people,” she says.
At a time when race relations can be tense, and rhetoric can be heated, the Blended Connection group offers a safe place to ask questions and exchange views, says Barnes. “We all are respectful of each other. Everyone who comes has an open mind and embraces learning.”
For more information on the Blended Connection group, go to https://www.bjc.org/BlendedConnection.
To see a full list of “take aways” from the panel discussion, click here.
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