Published: 06/01/2005, Volume III, No. 5937 Page 34

Kay Dhesi is an executive associate at East Midlands Ambulance Service trust.

Mentoring has played a vital role in my development and I too have mentored many junior managers. My mentors have respected me as an individual, understood my needs and allowed me to be stretched in areas that I probably would not have considered.

While I applaud initiatives such as the Breaking Through programme for black and minority ethnic managers, I would like to challenge the NHS to stop seeing me as a tick in the box because I am of Indian origin, but as a person in my own right. Developing BME managers could be seen as a numbers exercise rather than an attempt to ensure diversity is spread across all areas of the NHS.

I have been an assessor for the management trainee scheme and Gateway (the programme to recruit managers from outside the NHS) for several years. It is in programmes like these that I feel future BME leaders should be trained and developed, not segregated courses.

Leadership is about personal destiny and the choices you make. It is an individual's responsibility to craft their destiny and to equip themselves with the necessary skills, tools and techniques to move forward.

I hope mentoring and development do not stifle people's perception of individuals, especially when BME managers are being sought as mentees.

Mentoring is a personal challenge: it enables a relationship to be built that may last for years. This relationship is two-way.

In my case I have chosen my mentors because I have wanted to understand their leadership styles, their thinking and their outlook on the NHS or leadership.

I chose Modernisation Agency director of innovation and knowledge Helen Bevan as my current mentor to understand service improvement through a renowned leadership style and develop my skills in using improvement tools (see box). She also has the same sense of humour as me, which helps!

In November, Helen and I accompanied a paramedic and technician on a night shift. The experience left Helen with an insight into my world of service improvement and allowed me to 'scratch the surface' in terms of winning hearts and minds. More importantly, it reminded me why I joined the NHS - to care for patients.


I gain much more from my mentoring relationship with Kay than I give.

Kay is very proactive and manages our mentoring process. She sets up the meetings and makes sure all actions get followed up.

The time I give to Kay is totally focused on her. We work on aspirations, goals and personal development plans. Often I offer Kay personal opportunities by including her in things I am doing anyway.

It works because there is such a strong match between my own experience and areas of expertise and Kay's areas for development. She is now arranging personal development opportunities for me.

Kay is an extraordinary person and I think she is beginning to believe it!