A member of Boardroom Advisory board, Mohamed Mezghani has been appointed Secretary General of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in January. Boardroom has asked him to contribute a monthly column in which he explains all about the challenges of holding such a position. This is Mohamed’s very last contribution, in which he reflects on the year that passed by.
Already one year passed since I took office as Secretary General of UITP. I didn’t see it pass. It was such a busy and exciting year! I faced many challenges and enjoyed many opportunities, not necessarily those I would have imagined. But I am so satisfied with my role and my involvement!
The global dimension, relevance and size of UITP have attracted a lot of interest from numerous national and international organisations. I no longer count the number of invitations received this year to speak at events, participate in the launch of new products, contribute to panels, answer interviews, etc. The reputation of the association and relevance of the topics we cover are a strength that put us in a prominent situation to be approached to represent the sector. This is a priveleged position. Unfortunately we can’t say yes to all solicitations, not that we snob them but because it is practically impossible. It gives a feeling of pride but the stakes are very high at the same time. It requires proper preparation because I respect the organisation who invites me, the attendees who expect my contribution and the association I represent. And my team is outstandingly helpful at preparing my speeches and contributions. I can’t accept any compromise with the quality and relevance of them. I think all went well but only those who attended can judge.
One issue that has been very topical this year is the growing importance of gender balance in our entities and activities. I am happy I identified this before taking office, as a priority for the association. It is not an easy task in a 133 year old male dominated organisation to decide introducing gender equality. Because you can’t just erase the past and start from scratch. You start from an existing situation and habits. We needed to adopt new ways of thinking, to act with diplomacy, and to dare questioning the statu quo. It’s actually a work in progress and it will be growingly reflected in our coming events and composition of committees and board. Our determination is big: we even introduced gender balance in our new bylaws formally.
Amongst the fundamental changes there is also the adoption of transparency in our management and communication, and the empowerment of staff and board members. Here too it is a fundamental cultural change. Because transparency means taking the risk of sharing details, being accountable, and putting problems on the table to which you don’t necessarily have the answers. But isn’t it better as it will involve others in sharing the issues and finding solutions? They (the staff and the board members) will feel a sense of ownership and concern about the issues and the future of the association. It will also empower them to concretely lead or contribute to solving the issues. It is the approach we adopted in our financial management, as we reformed our bylaws and reorganised our internal structure. When you do that, you don’t need to spend energy convincing your partners because they co-design what you want to achieve. It’s about giving the leadership to those who own the association and those who make it work.
These were few examples of this year’s achievements. A year I’ll never forget as it was so exciting. I had the opportunity to share my views and approach on many subjects in this column. It was a pleasure to do it and a honor to receive your ‘likes’ and comments. I hope I have succeeded to engage you with me, in a world that I do hope it’s yours too now. In the end, whatever our field of activities and our professional domain, I have tried to share issues of common sense. We all have so much in common!