“Why did THEY win an Honour??” The Hidden Depths

When the Queen’s Honours lists are announced, it can be easy to criticise the selection. In some cases, it’s because the public feel that the recipient has done more harm than good – as can be the case with politicians’ knighthoods which often anger many people that petitions start circulating and social media boils with fury.

In other cases, however, especially when it relates to peers or colleagues in your local area, it’s tempting to jump to ‘but I’ve provided services to charity/the arts/the business sector too and I haven’t got an award’.

Or – “Why did THEY win? Are they better than me??”

Of course there’s an element of simple human nature that comes into play. If we’re honest, we can sometimes be bitten by the jealousy monster when it comes to applauding the success of others. But the other reason why it might be easy to jump on this train of thought is because the public rarely hear the full details behind the recipient’s award.

‘Services to the Arts’ is vague. Not every talented and committed theatre director or performer receives an award for ‘Services to the Arts’. So what is it that the panel are looking for when awarding an honour?

Firstly, no matter how good you are at your job, your impact needs to be significant. It needs to go beyond delivering on your job description. For example, growing your audience or customer base by 25% if that’s your objective and in your job description just isn’t going to cut it – even though it’s obviously a superb achievement.

The work that goes into submitting a nomination for a Queen’s Award is extensive and there is so much more involved than simply looking at somebody’s role and associated responsibilities – no matter how impressive they appear to be.

In order to be successful, nominations have to demonstrate that the nominee has gone ‘over and above’ the day job. This could mean, in addition to having an impressive CV, the individual has shared their expertise through extensive voluntary mentoring, or lobbying government to affect change in their industry or simply raising the profile of their sector more broadly. Or, they may have done something outstanding that has transformed the lives of their colleagues. Additionally, there are many people who carry out mentoring and support in their own time, which might not be something the recipient has shouted about within their professional world.

There’s also the fact that an individual may have had to overcome extreme adversity in order to succeed. That they got to where they are today despite the odds being stacked against them. Some of this information might not necessarily be available in the public domain, so its hard for those of us reading the honours lists to understand what’s really led to the nomination being successful.

Other considerations relating to business are based on innovation and impact. For example, Sir Jony Ive might have been employed by Apple when the iPhone was invented, and therefore you could argue he was ‘just doing his job’ when he came up with his new design. But as his design transformed the way millions of people around the world communicate, his creative thinking, innovative talent and world-wide impact is well worthy of an honour!

Additionally, nomination forms contain a huge amount of information that evidences the nominee going the extra mile more generally. So even if the focus of the nomination is on sector profile, the nominee may have undertaken extensive voluntary or charity work in other sectors that increases their chance of an honour. Perhaps they donated lots of money to charity, or personally set up a small grassroots charity that has since helped many people. These things may not appear in the headlines we read in the papers on New Year’s Day, but they could well be the reasons that compelled somebody to make a nomination in the first place, and that subsequently ensured that the nominee was at the top of the priority list when the competition was so fierce.

In providing professional support for the collation of information and writing of submissions, we can look at nominations with an objective eye. Firstly, we never take on a submission if we don’t feel that there is hope. But for those that we do take on, we look at all the supporting letters, CVs and additional information carefully and identify the key points that we feel link to the Queen’s Honours priorities – factors that we are incredibly familiar with. It’s not about changing the content, but about presenting it in a way that places the most important and relevant information with prominence – and asking the right questions if we feel there could be more to the story that hasn’t been included.

If somebody has been awarded an OBE for working in a similar role in a similar sector to you, don’t feel that you’re not up to scratch! It’s highly likely that many other factors played a part. And it’s also worth remembering that the panel looks for a consistent and sustained contribution – so impact and experience throughout a nominee’s history all stacks up. It’s not just about what they are doing now, it’s about what they may have done for many, many years.

Celebrate their achievements and have a closer look at what they’ve been up to over the years. It may well inspire you and place you in line for a future Queen’s honour.

To find out more about how to make a nomination, read our handy guide here.

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