Interviewee Name: Mireille Landry, President & Managing Director
Company Name: Solution ML Limited
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Mireille Landry: I was born in Quebec City, moved a couple of times – Montreal, New Brunswick, and Toronto. I married my high school sweetheart and we have one daughter who is 21 years old. I had 21 years of successful corporate leadership career and became a new entrepreneur last year.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Mireille Landry: I don’t have a typical day, at least not yet. I did in my previous roles. The kind of day that I’d like to see typical is that I get up a little bit later than when I was in corporate because I’m not an early riser. I enjoy a bit of reading and reflection time in the morning before it gets crazy. A perfect day for me would be when I have client assignments so I am with clients in the mornings and then have time to do business development later in the day.
Because my business is very new it really is dependent on the type of project I’m working on, so that’s why I say there isn’t any typical day yet.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Mireille Landry: There are a couple of things that I do. I am a very positive person so I surround myself with positive messages. I say my motto, “Believe, believe, believe,” so I keep that close to me. In my office I have pictures of great events, great moments, whether it me family moments or travel, or certificates of accomplishment, and I keep those around me. The visuals are really important and “Believe, believe, believe,” make a big difference to keep me motivated, particularly when the times are tougher.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Mireille Landry: There are a couple of things I would do differently. They are not major but they would be impactful. I would start networking or paying attention to networking much earlier in my life, and nurture that network throughout my life. I also include in that networking with friends and business professionals and all the people in my life. I would also get involved in volunteering earlier. I find it’s great now that in high school they are encouraging kids to do volunteer work to graduate. I think that’s a great thing. That’s one thing I would have liked to do differently, and sooner. And I would have taken a more active role in women and leadership.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?
I discovered that I can be a really good business advisor, and I’m absolutely able to be a business owner/entrepreneur. That’s always something that has been in the back of my mind that maybe one day I would do it, perhaps when I’m a little older. As I’ve told you, I launched my business last year and that’s a great discovery to realize that I can be successful doing that and that I love it.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the biggest advances in your industry over the past five years?
Mireille Landry: It’s a big advance but it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough yet but it would be women in leadership positions. It’s getting attention so we are starting to see more women in leadership positions, more women on boards, but the percentages are so low and the growth is not in double digits. So we don’t see gender balance on executive teams, in boardrooms, and I think one of the reasons why we’re seeing some advances, some improvement is that there is more focus on developing talent, both genders, not just women. It’s good to see more focus put on developing talent, but it just needs to be done a lot more.
Avil Beckford: What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
- There are many players. There are many consulting firms, large and small. So being a small player is even more difficult. I am often up against bigger firms that have great reputation or have been in business for a lot longer. For that particular threat, my perspective is to differentiate myself and work on the relationship, and it’s the personal approach that I can offer that perhaps different firms cannot offer.
- Another threat is the patience and persistence doing the business development, although you expect results quickly, and it doesn’t happen like that. We need to persevere and persist so from that perspective the threat is really to lose that vision and not hang on.
- As my business is growing, and customers really enjoy working with us, how fast can I grow, and how quickly can I ramp up to handle higher demands? It’s a threat, but it’s a great problem to have. What I am doing to handle that – I like to say I am proactive and forward thinking – I already have some thoughts on who I would hire in each of the areas of my business practice so that when I am challenged with a fast growth, I’m able to reach out into my network and I already have people who could jump on board and work with me.
Avil Beckford: What’s unique about the service that you provide?
Mireille Landry: What we provide is business consulting, but with a people angle. When you look at our website, we say trusted business advisors with a people focus. I like to be able to say to business leaders that we will help them to optimize their business results by leveraging their most important resource which is their people. So if they have challenges and problems, it really is about deconstructing those problems and always taking care and understanding the people impact and how to get the best out of their people. I personally found that that was a huge contributor to my success in my career, expecting a lot but giving back a lot to the people surrounding you. I think that’s very unique because in both streams of business in my firm we focus on the people aspect to make sure that companies and business leaders are successful.
Avil Beckford: What do you observe most people in your field doing badly that you think you do well?
Mireille Landry: Follow-up! I think a lot of people don’t follow up or say something. They don’t deliver. They don’t do what they committed to do. I am strong at the follow-up and delivering on my commitments.
Avil Beckford: Describe a major business or other challenge you had and how you resolved it. What kind of lessons did you learn in the process?
Mireille Landry: I’d like to give an example when I became a manager for the first time. I was passionate and motivated. I had the right intent but I was a little bit rough around the edges, a bit abrasive perhaps in my management style. I was young, and I appreciate the leader who saw in me the future qualities of a leader but I certainly was not a well-rounded leader at the time. Some people on the team had a nickname that was not quite nice for me. I was their Godzilla so I had to really soften my approach. I had to resolve it obviously, and I did. I had some extremely successful years after that. That team that had me that first year in management lived through the process of grooming a new manager. I had to get into mentoring and I was being coached to be better in what I did.
The biggest learning for me is that you can’t force people to do things, you need to coach them and help them to understand the goals and support them. A title is a title. Leadership is not about the title. It’s about helping people do, take action or execute or deliver on the business commitments that you need them to do without them feeling that they are forced to do it. For sure you team has a job, but the best testament is to see people who want to really work with you again – they are lining up to take the opportunity to be led by you one more time. So the biggest lesson for me was that it’s not about saying, “I’m the boss and I expect you to do,” and being short and abrasive like I was in that very first year. I grew and learned a lot that year, and I’m glad that the nickname disappeared.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Mireille Landry: I had many. I talked to you about this first management job, so we’ll use this big break. This was back in New Brunswick and I took on my first management job. As I said, from the outside I looked more like a chunk of coal than I did a diamond. It took lots of massaging and coaching and guidance so I could become a really strong, remarkable leader. That business unit executive who gave me than chance, who not only hired me as the manager of that group but also took on the leadership and responsibility to help me become a good leader and teach me the way. It required a lot of his time, it was a hands-on for him, he needed to coach me closer, and he made a big difference in my career in having a long career in leadership.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Mireille Landry: I’ll fast forward a few years after that, this would have been in 2001. I wanted to complete my MBA. I had decided that I wanted to take my MBA at Queens University, and there was a sponsorship case that I was putting together to present to my company for financial sponsorship. When a business leader makes the commitment to complete an Executive MBA there is a time commitment that is expected of the leader.
And of course your employer needs to support you in that. I built my sponsorship case. I put a lot of work into it. The university helped and coached me in making sure that my sponsorship case was the best or was very strong and compelling. I knew I had the support from a time away perspective. I was looking for financial support, and it was a big failure.
I assumed that the sponsorship case would speak of itself, and the lesson I learned was, you can’t assume that that proposal, that document will do the work. I had not navigated the political web. I had not talked about it off-the-record, offline. I had not done my networking, my due diligence, sure that this was taking no one by surprise. I simply built a big sponsorship case and presented it to my senior leader at the time who sent it up the line. But when it was received by the Canadian CEO at the time, this kind of came out of the blue.
So I had really done a poor job of communicating and navigating. I didn’t have any political savvy for sure. How did it contribute to a greater success? Trust me, I learned. I learned – no surprises. Always have a strategy of no surprises, making sure that you understand who the stakeholders are in any kind of decisions, and being able to read and expect and plan for the outcome and play all the scenarios: the best case, the worst case. The learning from that failure, it was a failure because I was not sponsored, and it was a huge failure for me because I had to delay my entry to Queens University by one year because now I didn’t have a Plan B to pay for myself. It was very emotional for me to postpone for another year. It was frustrating and I was ready to go to university, but I didn’t have the money.
The learning came in handy as I occupied more senior leadership positions within different corporations. It came in handy as well in sales. When you have a business meeting or make a proposal to senior leaders within your company or with clients, you need to look at all angles and always plan what different stakeholders position may be so that you are fully prepared.
Avil Beckford: What has been your biggest disappointment in your life – and what are you doing to prevent its reoccurrence?
Mireille Landry: From a business standpoint I would say the biggest disappointment I faced was the one described above. From a personal standpoint I would say it was not having a larger family. We have one daughter and we were certainly hoping for more.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Mireille Landry: I worked for IBM for 18 years and I decided to leave for another great opportunity. From a professional standpoint that has been one of the toughest decisions I have had to make. From a career standpoint it did impact my life because obviously after that I took on another position with a different company, grew and developed my leadership skills and abilities. I was entrusted with greater responsibilities, large revenue commitments, and that was the beginning of a series of different steps that brought me to where I am today. Had I not made that decision to leave the company although a great company, I would probably still be there because it was difficult to leave something that was secure, good, where I felt fulfilled.
Also, from a business leader standpoint, not from my own personal career, I had to ramp down a team and that was very difficult because I was dealing with the business decisions, and also the human drama and tragedy of people losing their employment. It was because we needed to close down a division, and that was a tough decision to make to decide who could be deployed and who could not be redeployed.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
- This was a really long time ago. When I was a little bit of a crazy teenager, grandfather passed away and it sent me an interesting reflection about how life is priceless. And suddenly the thought that my grandpa could now see the things that I was doing that was not always of good judgement. I certainly think that that made me make better decisions after his passing.
- When I left IBM for Bell Canada to lead one of their largest enterprise accounts, that ended up being very impactful and shaping my life by making me redefine what success was all about. From a financial standpoint, it was a very good opportunity. But the job ended up being in Montreal and I had to commute back and forth every week and that was very difficult and taking a toll from a family perspective. I ended up coming back to Toronto and leaving that job opportunity. I realized that living in Montreal during the week, and living in Toronto during the weekends was not the kind of life I was looking for even though the dollars and cents were good and the professional role was excellent. It was not the type of life from a personal standpoint that I was looking for. So that was a big event.
- Becoming a mom shaped my life in big ways. Certainly in growing myself and developing. The way you negotiate with teenagers you need a better approach sometimes. You need to develop additional sets of skills, and you see life differently through the eyes of a child.
Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
Mireille Landry: Going back to school and completing my MBA. As a working mom, I’m really proud of that, and as much as that was for me personally, my daughter when she graduated referred back to that and stated before her peers that I had been such a great role model for her in showing that it was important to have goals and dreams.
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
Mireille Landry: In plenty of ways. They’ve been supporters. They have allowed me to walk a mile in their shoes. At times some of my mentors were saying things that I didn’t see just yet, and I believed enough in them. It was easier to believe in them than myself at times, so I would trust them. I think it made me wiser. It was different views and opinions. They were great advisors to me.
Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Mireille Landry: I would say it was believe in yourself, your clients do.
Avil Beckford: An invisible mentor is a unique leader you can learn things from by observing them from afar, in the capacity of an Invisible Mentor, what is one piece of advice that you would give to readers?
Mireille Landry: I would like to say, “Great leaders serve. They give back.” If you take the serving leadership attitude, as leaders we get in different ways. Great leaders serve and there is a great book on that.
How can you use this information? What do you have to add to the conversation? Let’s keep the conversation flowing, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Many readers read this blog from other sites, so why don’t you pop over to The Invisible Mentor and subscribe (top on the right hand side) by email or RSS Feed.