Equal Housing - A Discussion with Chan Kataria
Welcome to the final blog post before the Equal Housing event on 07.02.18, we'll have follow-up posts from the other speakers, but this week Ben Farquharson speaks to Chan Kataria about his views on Housing.
Chan Kataria is the Group Chief Executive of EMH Group, a housing and care group with a turnover of over £100m, over 1,000 employees and around 20,000 homes in management, Chan has been in this role since 2004. Prior to this, he worked for various local, regional, and national housing organisations. He is currently a Board member of a regional Hospice and Further Education college and also an Honorary Associate at De Montfort University. Chan was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2017 for his services to Housing in the East Midlands.
BF: What are your thoughts on the figures that have been published around the level of diversity within senior leadership roles? CK: It is interesting, we were having discussions and debates about this 20 years ago and in many ways, things appear to have got worse and you've got to ask yourself why; part of the reason has to be that we have lost our focus as leaders within the sector. We live in a more diverse society, yet the sector has become less diverse, part of the reason has to be that we have lost our strategic focus. We have failed to sell the Housing sector as an attractive sector to work, if we compare the Housing sector to other industries such as Banking, IT and Accounting, people have become more attracted to those sectors. We need to sell our industry to attract the right talent.
BF: What is it that you and other leaders can do to tackle these statistics? CK: We need to ensure that there is a strong strategic focus and that this continues, not least because there will be other issues such as development and new builds that we will be obsessed with as it is a Government ambition to deliver new homes across the country and we as sector need to do a lot more to deliver that. Having said that, we must not forget the issue of diversity because there is a strong business case for diversity and we all know that those with diverse work organisations generally perform better than those that do not. One of our values at EMH is diversity, so we need to convert that into actions and we try to do that through our leadership programme where we convert all of our values into actual behaviours for leaders and strategically at the board level we need to ensure that this continues. We also have a sector leadership role, as CEO I see myself as leading the sector through different projects such as the NHF, CIH and PlaceShapers and we need to use our influence in those bodies to ensure that there remains a focus within the sector.
BF: What do you think the biggest challenges are for yourself and other leaders within the sector? CK: As a sector we know that we need to deliver new homes and provide the right level of service at a high level for our residents, particularly in the context of the Grenfell tragedy as there are lessons to be learned from that, not least the fact that the balance of relationship has not always been right between landlord and resident and we need to address that by ensuring we empower residents and communities. We need to ensure that we are not treating our tenants like second-class citizens and in doing that the more likely we are to attract people with diverse communities into the sector, diversity not just in our sector but also in our consumer base is important. The onus is on us as leaders to ensure that this remains a key priority to get the best people for the job and try to attract people from as many diverse backgrounds as possible because that is what makes a vibrant organisation.
BF: As one of the few BME CEO’s within Social Housing, what advice would you give to people who aspire to be in your position? CK: Firstly, be extremely focused, be very clear on what you would like to achieve and make sure that you are true to yourself as the best brand that you have is yourself. People buy into you as an individual if you are values based and have a high level of integrity as well of all the other competencies to do with the role. The higher up you go, the more leadership roles you take, the more it becomes about you as an individual and how you are going to motivate and inspire people and that is all about leading by example. Being highly consultative and empowering as the old traditional method of top-down leadership doesn't work and can backfire heavily if you are employing talented people you should give them the maximum amount of autonomy and empowerment to not only make decisions but refer them upwards. This has dual benefits as it motivates staff and furthers their skills and improves you as a coach and above all, as leaders, we have to be strong coaches as opposed to command and control leaders.
Check out our previous installments of the Equal Housing Diversity blog series:
Volume I with Aileen Evans: Link
Volume II with Faisal Butt: Link
Volume III with Chantelle Miller: Link
There are 12 spaces left for the inaugural Equal Housing Event on 07.02.19 for a panel discussion around "BME Participation in Senior Roles". Equal Housing is a campaign Ben Farquharson and the Housing Team created at Niyaa People to work with the industry to facilitate discussions, raise awareness and hopefully, help make changes.
We've got a fantastic line up for the panel and guest speakers so if you're interested in you or your company securing one of the few remaining spaces (tickets are free), please get in touch with Ben Farquharson or Matthew Guest on 0121 790 0980 or contact the Niyaa People offices on 0121 773 0966.