My journey in the EU Institutions

My journey in the EU Institutions

Three years ago, I shared my journey in the EU institutions with a group of women leaders. I thought recycling this speech would be a good way to share who I am and where I am coming from for those who would like to know more.

Fifteen years ago I was working in the communication industry in Paris. Today if I had followed this path I would be on the management team of a French advertising agency, owning a beautiful flat in the French capital…

I can tell you this is far from my reality now! I don’t even know what my future in two months will be like. But let me tell you something, this precarious state is very much worth it.

In fact, at 40 I’m convinced that life is better lived as an adventure. Especially when you want to increase the ambition of the European project.

When I arrived at the Commission in the training department back in 2005 for an unpaid internship, my head of unit told me “We don’t need a creative person”. My first steps here were harsh! I did not know what I would be doing, but as a matter of fact, I wanted to contribute.

My stage happened to be great. I made a difference to cheer up some internal professional networks and improve strategies.

Following it, the director of the newly created European School of Administration hired me as responsible for communication.

Let alone the traditional communication job, what I tried to instill in all my initiatives was this: I wanted to improve staff’s well-being. And I was already reading tons of book from my resource centre, attending various training courses in the UK on the topic.

You would not say that focusing on improving well-being was risky but oh yes it was! I don’t think you can imagine how badly the word was perceived at the time here. There was everywhere this fear of seeing as a shame any investment in well-being for the luxious EU public service. How wrong we were, when we know how important it is to improve the outcomes.

Hopefully, now things are a bit different.

Afterward, I moved to Eurocontrol, I was 30 and I brought my creativity and positive communication style to make a difference in scientific sometimes complicated subjects. I also created an internal publication to accompany the change that was focused on how people were living it. Again, my focus was People and exemplary leadership traits. But I was missing something…

So I came back to the Commission in the internal communication department. Soon I would see in the internal network, Yammer, an opportunity to make our communications more modern and interactive, and develop people-led initiatives…

In fact real collaboration. I did not have neither budget nor human resources to support. And I was told on a regular basis that everything would crash. But again I loved taking all the risks and showing the benefits of having a human-driven organisation, challenging the competitive culture.

After this experience, it was time for me to continue develop my knowledge but in a more academic way this time. So I went back to university at 37 years old to follow a master degree in social science.

During that year I got the opportunity to publish a first book and a research on collaboration at the Commission. I also became freelance consultant, my goal was to have the freedom to explore other practices from outside that I could then inject inside.

I have to say the freelance journey is wonderful but full of doubts and lonely struggles as a mother of two, freshly separed. It did not go smoothly at all.

But there are always two facets to any coin, and I like to look at the positive sides of things: I got the opportunity to grow in a tremendous way, by doing various missions all over Europe.

You know “Guegan” means “warrior” in Breton. And no matter what it costs me in terms of disillusion and insecurity, I am staying positive and pragmatically optimistic for the benefit of Europe. I can tell you that would be much simpler for me to leave the project since I am offered great job opportunities in the private sector, but no

I hope you will understand by now that there is an energy which inhabits me for an empowered, positive, collaborative and committed Europe.

What I want to prove is the following: if we are successful in creating a mini-Europe which thrives, then we will be successful in creating a Europe which prospers. Recently, I delivered the results of 14 years of research in the form of a framework called “coleaders of the future”.

What does it say? That people are not given the conditions to better impact. One consequence is that many talents seem underused, there is sometimes a feeling of passivity, an apprehension to embrace new opportunities and accept the risks.

Also we are very good at adding more layers, more innovations, and fancy stuff far less to address worries, concerns, and support mechanisms for what really hurts.

And what really hurts is this: we are fantasizing about being more impactful and more connected. We want our voices to be heard, we want authenticity, the ability to focus, sense of control, we want constant feedback loops to be able to grow and we want that safety framework to be able to thrive.

We want to speak up and we are fed up with this craze to tick boxes… I thought it was now or never that we needed to move forward on our ambitious agenda for Europe. And you?

At the moment, I have discussions with some of the human resources colleagues, I hope, that I will have another story to tell you soon. Thank you for your kind attention.

Following this, I would wait eight months to be able to join the training department of the European Commission, thanks to a course I would deliver at the beginning of the pandemic on “team dynamics during a crisis” to more than 700 managers of the EU institutions.

And then? We would launch Together-Ensemble with Obhi Chatterjee, and start those conversations which have the capacity to make our civilisation move forward.

And what about the next steps? Well, we started a few months ago to think about global collaboration…

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