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Sarah Z.

Three months after giving birth, I assumed a new role as the boss of a small financial institution in West Africa. With responsibility for 500 employees, 26 branches, and a big change management project, I felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities, sense of expectations, and a fear of failure. It took all I could do to keep it together, juggling board meetings and breast feeding, late nights in the office and sleepless nights with baby crying at home. After one particularly serious meltdown, my husband and I agreed that I should call up Michelle. From my shoddy Skype connection in Africa. I called up Michelle and we agreed to coach about my three M’s: management, marriage, and motherhood. I will be forever grateful for the experience of working with Michelle.

Michelle has a way of summarizing everything I’ve said in a way that helps me process what I’m feeling, what my priorities are, and what little things I can bear in mind to keep me on track during even the most stressful periods. Unlike a husband, a mother, or even a best friend, Michelle is someone who was both outside the inner tumultuous circles of my daily life, and yet ready to understand me for exactly where I am in life, in all its minutia.

Michelle has brought me a heightened sense of self-confidence, self-awareness, and the ability to give myself a break when I’m being really hard on myself. She has breathed cool air over my drenched-in-sweat brow many times. We talk about management strategy, about leading a team. We talk about my love-life (or then, lack thereof!) and how to bring warmth and understanding back into a stress and baby-logistics-filled relationship. And of course, we talk about how I can be the best mother I can be. Over the months, I’ve come to realize that the crises at work will probably never go away, there will always be another quarter’s targets to reach, another internal scandal or two, but I now feel that I can manage the rollercoaster. My husband and I are closer and more bonded than ever, having talked through many of our joint challenges and found ways to make space for each other even under stress.

I am so lucky to have had Michelle as a mentor, a coach, and a listening friend. She never passes judgement and she always leaves me feeling listened-to. She helps me structure solutions to my own problems. She has certain impressive technical knowledge which appeals to the type-A in me, but she is also such a warm and accepting person that I am always left feeling buoyed up and recognized. Thank you Michelle, your impact on my life has been priceless!