A team-building volunteer activity encouraged by the Foundation: 20 managers practice and learn about diversity and inclusion

As part of the Senior Leadership Program, a team of 20 Thales managers participated in the first Thales Learning Hub team building volunteer activity, initiative promoted by the Thales Foundation.
On Sunday 8 October, they spent a day at the CPCV Ile-de-France to cook and meet migrants living at the social and educational centre, whose mission is to serve as a place for people to gather and develop plans for their future while respecting each person’s individuality.David Butler, head of the Leadership and Diversity Practice at the Thales Learning Hub, told us about the initiative.





Why choose a team building volunteer activity?


DB: “In this training programme, Sunday is dedicated to a cultural team building activity or an introduction to the country hosting the training. This was the first “learning expedition” in France and we wanted an activity that was related to the subject of diversity. We also wanted to give international managers a different, less ‘arrogant’ image of France.
After speaking with the Thales Foundation, we met with the team of Ça me regarde, which specialises in organising volunteer activities. They both convinced me to give it a try and designed this day for us in response to our needs.


What was the biggest challenge of the day?


DB: “First of all, the element of surprise! Participants were not told about the activity ahead of time and only found out about it once they arrived. They were surprised and excited at the idea of doing something different and being taken out of their comfort zone.
Unlike previous ‘team cookings’, where we usually cook for the team, this was an ambitious challenge: cooking for 120 migrants typical French dishes in a very short time!


But a little pressure never hurts : we have succeeded in this bet and we were able to sit down with them. Preparing a meal and sharing it is a welcoming gesture that shows hospitality and kindness at the heart of any culture.
However, the most impactful part of the day were the discussions we had over the meal. As we lunched with them, we witnessed their stories that were often incredible, full of strength and resilience. The profiles were varied and not all had the same mastery of language. But on that day, we were enriched by their stories and culture and impressed by their courage.”




What does such an experience offer for Thales managers?


DB: “First of all, it helps to develop the emotional intelligence of each person. Faced with these people so strong who are so resilient in the face of life’s challenges, you can’t be in denial. We are face-to-face, speaking as one human being to another, and these exchanges bring down our prejudices and our preconceived notions. Empathy, listening and understanding are essential qualities for the leader if he wants to convince, motivate his teams and be seen as legitimate and credible.


This kind of experience also gives managers a perfect illustration of what diversity and inclusion mean, whether in terms of gender, cultural origin, age, and, obviously, social background. We met with migrants under 30 from Afghanistan, Sudan, etc…. And they impressed us in many ways.


A day like this also proves the power of teamwork. Speaking with others and working as a team to achieve a common goal with minimal pressure clearly show that we are stronger together.
Finally, the people who helped us, especially the representatives from CPCV and Ça me regarde provided excellent examples of leadership through their commitment and motivation.”


Is this experience something you would do again and recommend to others?


DB : “Yes, completely. I wasn’t sure if the current was flowing, but in the end it went very well, as I was sure it would. I obviously recommend that we continue this kind of experience, which provides meaning, greater openness and strengthen many of the skills and values necessary for our leaders.”





This action was organized in partnership with the organisation Ça me regarde, which supports companies in the development of their social responsibility initiatives.
Do not hesitate to contact the Thales Foundation for more information: