Michael Fuller changed the course of British history when, in 2004, he became the first Black Chief Constable. Following a long and influential career in the police force, Michael now campaigns for racial equality, via his candid autobiography, ‘Kill The Black One First’, media appearances and corporate speaking engagements.
We sat down with Michael to hear what Black History Month means to him, and how businesses must tackle workplace prejudice – both in October and every other month of the year. Read Michael’s exclusive account of his history-defining career, in our latest interview:
What must businesses do this October to recognise Black History Month?
“I think businesses should celebrate Black History Month. It’s the one time in the year where we recognise the valuable contribution that Black people have made to the success of this country. It’s important that Black people feel included.
“There are lots of ways that businesses can celebrate [Black History Month]. I think the most important thing is that there’s public recognition. It should be celebrated through cultural events, acknowledging the fact that it is Black History Month, in some way, both publicly and within the company.
“Black History Month ensures the contribution of Black employees are valued and seen by that company.”
Outside of October, how can businesses continue to tackle workplace bias and prejudice?
“Well, I think the thing that businesses need to do is focus on fairness and fair treatment. Everybody, whoever they are, whatever colour or sexual orientation, should be treated fairly.
“I’ve run two organisations and I found that by focusing on fairness and fair treatment, nobody objects to that. Everybody wants to be treated fairly, so nobody objects to it and you make everybody feel included and part of that organisation.
“And it’s actually highly motivating. When you have that feeling of inclusion and belonging, and when your views are actually listened to and responded, you feel part of that organisation and you’re inspired.
“Certainly in the last two organisations I ran, when I managed to actually build that environment, both organisations became very, very successful and the performance improved exponentially.”
Can you describe a time in your life when you faced failure, and how did you overcome the challenge?
“Well, I think one of the biggest things for me was not getting a promotion, as the impact on me was quite devastating at the time. I went to an assessment centre to become a mid-ranking Superintendent in the police, and I was unsuccessful at the assessment centre. The feedback I got was not at all helpful as to why I had failed. They said, there’s no ‘one thing’ or reason, it was not obvious as to why I had failed, so I was quite despondent and disillusioned.
“I’d actually been very, very successful in the level below, in reducing crime. Wherever I went, I was asked to come to different policing areas as a Detective Chief Inspector and reduce the crime problems in those areas. I’d done that very, very successfully. I was quite pleased with my performance, more importantly, my bosses were and had written good recommendations.
“But I didn’t succeed. So, I was going to leave the police – I think at the time, I was feeling very despondent. But then, I was asked to actually go to the Home Office and work with the Home Secretary and the Chief Inspector of Police, to be an advisor to them for two years.
“So, I did that, and you can imagine my morale and motivation improved. I found it very, very satisfying that my knowledge and expertise was being used on a national level – not just in London, but on a national basis. I think that restored my faith and that’s why I stayed in the police.”
What would you say to your younger self?
“I think the one piece of advice I would give to my younger self is, if you’re facing seemingly impossible challenges, don’t give up. If you can’t get over the challenge, you go around it, and vice versa!
“But, either way, you don’t give up. You remain determined. Persistence for me wins the race – if you’re persistent, you keep trying. You might have to be adaptable with the way you try, but either way, you’ll generally be successful. And if you’re not? Well, try something else!
“You mustn’t give up – that’s the thing I’ve learned.
“I had a brilliant career, fully enjoyed my time. I think if you find the right job and you’re doing the right thing, then it doesn’t feel like work and that’s hugely beneficial as well.”
See Champions Speakers’ list of the top Black History Month speakers for 2021, including Michael Fuller, then get in touch to find out more. Then get in touch to find out more