In her own words…
“I spent more than three decades persuading corporations that redesigning and renovating their office environments would result in happier employees, increased productivity, a stronger bottom line, and a more positive corporate culture. Sometimes it worked.
But while I was busy extolling the virtues of ergonomic seating and the benefits of collaborative spaces, something else was happening right under my sales and marketing nose. My own organization’s culture was changing in a way no one… especially me… would have anticipated.
The company I worked for hosted a signature event where clients and colleagues came together every winter for a wildly popular industry activity that benefitted Special Olympics Illinois. The event, produced solely by our employees, provided our company with an annual challenge. Make it bigger, better, and raise more money!
Working together as a team on something aspirational changed us. The event and Special Olympics became strongly associated with our organization, and our employees developed an enviable sense of purpose, teamwork and pride that became part of our corporate DNA.
It was powerful. So much so that I wanted more. For three years, I flirted shamelessly with the folks from Special Olympics Illinois at our event, and with the idea of shifting my sales and marketing prowess from the for-profit to the non-profit sector. I wanted to use my superpowers for something more altruistic.
And then Special Olympics said yes!
The first question I received from HR was, “what size polo shirt do you need?” Uh oh…“Goodbye” Ferragamo shoes and spa days. “Adios” expense accounts and skyboxes. I realized I’d be foregoing more than a few corporate comforts but I was ready.
Four years later, instead of analyzing how many workstations can fit into a 40,000 square foot space, I figure out how many athletes can receive free vision and hearing screenings with a foundation grant. Instead of recruiting and hiring the next marketing phenom, I am the job coach for a Special Olympics athlete who is learning to tell her personal story in public.
Now when I meet with corporations, I can talk about how a real commitment to diversity and inclusion, especially neuro-diversity, can impact their corporate culture. I can challenge them to take action so what they publish on their websites and in their annual reports reflects real attitudes, and not carefully crafted platitudes. I am able to show them that our athletes have more in common with them and their companies than they might have ever imagined, and that those athletes deserve their support.
I know it because I live it, and love it, and want others to see what I see every day. I see beautiful, determined people who overcome immense challenges to be their very best. And because of them, I wake up each day and want to do the same… in sensible, moderately-priced shoes.”
*** Please follow along on instagram as well and learn more about Michelle. This year for my birthday, I am embarking on a weekly photo essay project highlighting 52 Phenomenal Women. This is week 30 of 52. Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!**