Mohamed Mezghani, secretary general of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), wrote a monthly column for Boardroom in 2018. Here’s a look back at some of his top observations:
About his Role as a Secretary General
The multiple demands [of] meetings, delivering speeches at events, or interviews need careful organization and priority management. It is obviously very good for the ego. I call it the “red carpet syndrome.” This is precisely the trap in which you shouldn’t fall. That’s why I decided to involve the president as much as possible in representing UITP, and to share [tasks] as well with my directors who, according to the topics, might be in a better position than me to speak on behalf of the association.
About the Association Members
The specificity of associations is that their shareholders are their customers, i.e. the members. They govern the association, decide on the rules, membership fees and programs, and then they produce and consume services. It means that they have to safeguard the general interest while assuming the consequences of their decisions at an individual level. There is a risk of conflict if the governance structure and bodies don’t reflect the diversity of membership. Therefore, it is important to have rules all members can follow equally.
About Cultural Differences
When we work in an international context, the cultural dimension is essential. We shouldn’t see it as a constraint but as an opportunity to enrich our own experience and to learn. In this regard, there is one fundamental principle: The world doesn’t have a centre. If you don’t accept this, you’ll be always considering your perspective and your point of view as the reference and you’ll often fall into cultural misunderstandings.
About Digital Tools
At UITP we made the choice to launch a restricted networking tool, called MyNetwork, which is exclusively [for] our members. It is the way to offer them one more exclusive benefit. Indeed, if all communication is public what would be the added value to join the association? The aim is to offer information and share knowledge which will not be easily available on public forums, and package it according to the preferences of the member: by topic, by profile of member, by region, etc. This is a way to offer personalized services and satisfy individual needs.
About Happiness at Work
Happiness at work is a recognized science that is more and more studied, and its concepts are implemented in a growing number of companies. This is what convinced me to introduce the position Head of People Management, playing, amongst others, the role of chief happiness officer at UITP. Her (Cecile Sadoux) main mission consists [of] ingraining the association values into the culture of the organisation in a sustainable and determined way. The objective is to grow the engagement and fulfilment of staff by proactively fostering well-being at work and supportive attitudes towards colleagues and the organisation as a whole.
Being diverse, credible, and equitable and remaining available for our members strengthens the association and makes it more relevant. But … we shouldn’t forget that the association is first and foremost made up from our members, and operates thanks to them. Our role is that of a facilitator. So let’s stay humble.
This article was excerpted from Boardroom, a Brussels-based magazine covering the work of globally based associations. It has been edited for use in Communique.