My very good friend Michelle Pockey has found her voice. I don’t mean she was silent before, not by any measure, but in the last eight months her insights are laser sharp, her vision is acute, her commentary is finely tuned and, most important of all, her audience is ready to listen.
A good story needs a good story catcher – and those of us in Michelle’s vast field of influence are finally catching it all.
Michelle rocked her audience when she accepted the 2016 Women of Influence Award from Business in Vancouver. A beam of sunlight in a dark room, Michelle directed our hearts and minds to the issues she is passionate about.
“I became acutely aware of how positioning and jockeying around differences of opinion, rather than first focusing on commonalities, could derail a potential deal at significant cost to both parties and could thwart real opportunities to move forward positively on these issues,” she said in reference to her many years negotiating project agreements and partnership arrangements between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parties.
“I spent a great deal of time lamenting this and working to find a way to shift the focus at the beginning of the negotiations to our common goals, to our shared human condition, and to our shared desires.”
Shift she did, often walking away from the negotiation tables with new friends, new ideas and new models for living.
"We solve community problems, organizational problems, we overcome personal challenges and we have the opportunity to solve difficult global risks to our very survival when we focus on each other first and ourselves second,” she told the audience of business leaders. “When we do this, whether in our personal lives or in business, magic and miracles can happen.”
And always, business is personal.
“The time we have is now,” she said. “The past is behind us and the future does not yet exist. All we ever have is today. We have today to look into the eyes of everyone we are with each and every day – in our homes, in our offices, in the boardroom, in our communities, and to find the commonality in the strength that binds us together as a collective to find elegant solutions to our human problems and challenges.”
Michelle has been saying these things for years. Her belief in what is possible through collective action and shared interest is what drew us together, and has helped build her vast network of friends and supporters.
While her message hasn’t changed, her audience has. Disrupted by complex problems that can’t be solved by one individual or organization working alone, and deeply shaken by Michelle’s personal situation, we are all listening closely.
“It is often difficult, when one is neck-deep in the daily grind within a large and sophisticated organization that is home to many talented business leaders, to feel confident about one’s place there, and the strength of one’s voice,” she said.
Few of us speak openly about finding our voice. That introspection is left for essayists and novelists. As I reflect on what I’ve written here, I am aware that I have used Michelle’s voice to express my own. It is so much easier and safer to articulate your own thoughts through someone else’s courage.
“It is often difficult to know whether the voice you take risk to share with others around you on topics of concern is really being heard, and how that voice is regarded,” she said.
Thank you Michelle for taking the risk to share your voice. By sharing your voice, you are helping us all find our own. And when we bring our collective voices together, we really can make magic and miracles happen.
Michelle is a partner with the law firm Fasken Martineau, the founder of the Professional Women's Network and an advocate on issues of gender equity and corporate social performance. Michelle was named a 2016 Influential Woman in Business by Business in Vancouver.
The full text of her speech can be found here.