From Burned Out Leader to Owning her Promotion with Confidence: Michelle's Story
Michelle, Senior Principal - Business Center Practice Leader with Stantec
I’m an archeologist by practice, with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in anthropology. I’ve been practicing archeology as a consultant for the past 21 years, the last 7 have been with Stantec, where I’ve moved into an executive role.
I oversee our North American practice of Canada and the US for social sciences. I also have a role within my business center, which is Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California as our business center practice leader. I oversee environmental services – archeology, biology, and geology.
I had worked with a previous work coach but was finding I needed more help balancing work and life after moving up the levels of leadership. I was really struggling to keep up with all the different kinds of hats I wear. I approached my boss to ask if they would pay for me to use my own work coach and they came back and they said, “We’d like you to work with our Stantec sponsor, Maya.”
I had heard great things about her through other women within our company and was excited.
Working with Maya
Working with Maya has been great. She is to the point, focused, and keeps the sessions short and to the point so that I could gain a lot in a small amount of time in our one-hour sessions. I appreciated that because I can go a million different places. She kept me focused on the tasks at hand and had achievable goals in each of our sessions.
In our sessions, she taught me new ways to solve time-related problems, while still driving for results. I find I’m still using them and even sharing what I learned with others. Additionally, she gave me homework each session.
We used an app called Voxer between sessions so that she could send me voice messages about what we weren’t able to fully chase out during those one-hour sessions. I would send her messages as I was doing my homework to check in with her about my homework and she would always respond. This kept me accountable between the times that we weren’t having a session and continually drove me towards my goals.
Goals & Challenges
I told her early on that I didn’t want to be a typical leader that fits in a box. Archeology is kind of a cowboy science, so it’s important that we’re relatable – we are out there hiking and digging. I wouldn’t ask my team to do something I wouldn’t be willing to get down in the trenches literally and do myself. It was important for me to find models of leaders that were not status quo, or that were a little quirky, or led from a place that felt they were very comfortable in being themselves and weren’t apologizing about it. She taught me how to research these types of leaders using tools I was already using, which I enjoyed. It didn’t feel like homework!
I often wish I could have more time to think about all these concepts and strategize. I am just so strapped for time. I’m never going to have the time I need, so she taught me ways that I can set aside 10 minutes to strategize. I time myself and cut it off after 10 minutes. I’ve been utilizing this a lot.
I was also getting totally overwhelmed with to-do lists. I was killing myself daily trying to cross everything off the list. She taught me to focus on the must-haves and toss everything else off the list.
I learned to really narrow down my to-do list into what is essential to get done in a day. This has been incredible.
This is the craziest one – She wanted me to work on trusting myself to be prepared in meetings. I give frequently give presentations to staff or host meetings with leadership or clients. She taught me that I don’t have to prepare so much. She taught me to be comfortable with my skills. I was super nervous at first, but I did it! I presented to 300 staff over Zoom. I came across more relatable, more myself, not over-prepared, and it went totally fine. She taught me to trust my own knowledge.
In the short amount of time that we've worked together, she has given me a lot of tools that I'm now using frequently. I now have the boost I need to speak confidently.
I am seeing the fruit of working with Maya in my own behaviors, as well as with others. I’m more comfortable in stating how I’m available, in what I’m bringing to the table, and I am not as worried about saying no. I no longer think that if I am not the hardest working person in the room that I’m going to lose my job or something. I still get stressed out, it’s just the way it goes. Having this toolkit has been extremely helpful.
I am finding that I’m sharing the tools with my team. I’m hopeful that they’ll use these tools and then maybe they’ll relate to me in a way that’s a little bit easier for me to relate to them. I may not be seeing it with the people above me and how they relate to me, but right now I’m helping mold how I want my team to interact with me.
The Difference Between Maya and Other Coaches
Maya is very relatable and open, and she’s very good at what she does. I think she could get along and help a lot of different people. Maya has a toolkit she uses and she’s got names for it and how she works with things on the screen. I’ve gone to other coaches where it’s just concepts and it’s very touchy-feely and I’m like, I don’t care, give me things to do! For me, that’s just amazing, because these are the things I’m going to take forward. I like that she’s tangible and action-oriented and that I feel, especially in the workplace, is what’s needed.
The most valuable part for me is probably that so much can be accomplished in small amounts of time. I don’t have to alter my approach to everything or completely shift my approach or my work life. Rather it was fine-tuning the dial that lead to huge changes. I did not have to erase everything in my life and do everything in a new way. Instead, it was just small tweaks, finding time here, or crossing off things, or learning to go “unprepared”. It’s very realistic.