“And the winner is…”
What?! Me?!? As I am being called to come on stage, to receive the Tribune Women's Award 2013 in the International category, my mind is racing with thoughts and emotions.
La Tribune is a leading business & economics newspaper in France. They have organized the Women’s Awards for the last 4 years, to acknowledge the talent of women entrepreneurs and top executives.
After winning the regional award to my great surprise, then the interregional competition – couldn’t believe it –, I have now reached the final step and I’m being given the national award.
This feels sooo good. The last few years of relentlessly pushing change forward, in the fields of gender balance in the workplace and social collaboration for stakeholder engagement, have been no bed of roses.
Despite all management literature praising change, and corporate mottos around innovation, change agents are hardly supported by their organizations. Quite often, challenging the status quo generates a variety of counter-reaction mechanisms and considerably slows down career development. Change agents are often cast out, or neutralized by the organizations. When they’re brave enough to continue, the best they can do is to get together to support one another.
But getting external recognition is a wonderful opportunity to facilitate the adoption of change.
What does external recognition bring to Change?
- It recharges change agents’ personal batteries through positive feedback. Certainly not a luxury. That’s why any opportunity of external recognition should be sought for, be it through contributing to a professional community or launching one, giving speeches, participating in competitions, organizing events and so on.
- It facilitates changes, thanks to the aura of credibility granted by other people’s opinion. What change agents says, that is sometimes inaudible because of the “antibodies” developed by the organization against them, suddenly becomes listened to, once valued externally.
- It publicly engages the organization into supporting change. Corporates love good news. A reward is such an opportunity for positive communication that it just can’t be ignored. Of course, it may happen that words are not followed by actions. But the “psychological” impact of a positive corporate communication around change is real. It “allows” people (management, employees) to consider it positively. Plus, it raises the expectations in terms of walking the talk.
Now, back to the Tribune Women’s Awards ceremony, which rewards among else my contribution to gender balance in the workplace: how to describe a tornado of feelings and emotions to an audience of 1,600 executives and thought leaders? How to connect with them by expressing in just 2 minutes what brought me there? How to share this reward with all friends and colleagues who have made the gender balance community a success? How to best seize this opportunity to share a passion for change, for diversity, for collective intelligence and renovated leadership?
In this fine theater of Paris, three words come to my mind: courage, gratitude and togetherness.
Courage. Because it takes courage to advance every day, in concrete terms, far away from the spotlights, the equality of human beings at work. Equality means allowing the organization to build upon all its talents, not just a fraction of them. In practice, this means a real struggle against old habits. It is far from being comfortable, and far from being valued.
Gratitude. Gratitude to those who publicly honor talented women. Gratitude to the thought leaders, women and men, past and present, who feed and nurture our actions. Gratitude to the change agents communities, which may be discreet but flourish everywhere. Gratitude to all coworkers who set up communities for equality, as I’ve done, across the world. Gratitude to our families and friends who make us become better persons. I feel so grateful to my parents who shared with me their taste for freedom and their passion for human connections – whatever the cultural differences.
Togetherness – such a beautiful word. Alone, one can get things done, but together, we can lead revolutions. Together we are powerful, we can change attitudes and organizations. The old world is still here… but not for very long now. We are shifting from "me" to "we." The new world of connections, collective intelligence, networks – it is right there at our fingertips, and it is up to us to build it, together.