Global Business Executive Michelle Desreux: How “Let’s Give It a Go!” and Story Shaped Her Life. Join Us for Part 1!
by Diane Wyzga | June 10, 2021 | Guest Podcast, Podcast | 0 comments
Coming to you from Whidbey Island, Washington this is Stories From Women Who Walk. You’ll recognize yourself in these true-life stories from women who are walking their lives while their lives walk them and the lasting difference their journeys have made. I’m your host, Diane Wyzga.
Today my guest is my long-time dear friend, storyteller and international business executive Michelle Desreux who is joining us from Victoria on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.
Once upon a time I was teaching story in university. Michelle missed our first class but came dashing in to the second having just gotten off a plane from an international business trip. She introduced herself to the class and then I asked who was ready to tell a story based on the homework. No one moved. Michelle raised her hand, said, “I’ll give it a go!” And stood up.
What happened next was an invitation into a long-ago summer night on Gull Lake, Alberta when a young girl tried sneaking out of the family’s cottage to join the other kids for a bonfire at the lake. I can still see and hear Michelle count down the steps, skip the ones that creaked, getting caught and sent back to bed after a fib about needing the outhouse, and starting all over again until she escaped! We were mesmerized.
Yes! Michelle’s extensive CV covers global business executive positions, business strategist, speaker, and educator who has devoted her career to helping people find relevant, timely solutions to a variety of business challenges. I expect we’ll hear about that as well as how a savvy international businesswoman succeeded because she knows how story can help people at all levels of organizations build their knowledge, skill and capacity to grow their business and their careers.
I’ve invited Michele to join us so we could cover some of that ground as well as learning how to shift from illustrious career to living not retired…but ReFired! Welcome to the podcast, Michele!
00 to 3:03 Intro
3:03 to 8:25 An Experience About What Drives Story
- Reminiscing about the place we began with story
- Diverse group of storytellers learning together
- You never know where stories will take you
- Cohesion from beginning semester to master class to StoryWerx with performances
- Recalling Michelle’s story: can still see and hear it, the images, the sensations and feelings which is evidence of masterful telling: the teller goes away
- When we tap into the stories of our own lives we tap into the stories of others; it’s a form of memory
- Cottage life and part of Michelle’s growing up
- The listener enters the story and repeats and enjoys the story all over again
- It’s a wonderful form of memory making even as a listener
- What happens when we hear,”Once upon a time” there’s an exchange: the teller and listener each become someone else
- The essence of the memory is what connects us – the images remind them of something in their life; that’s the power!
- Difference between an anecdote and a story: something happens, something changes, something happens
- Something was, something happens, something changes
- Emotional connection: What happens next?
- Stories eventually became a deep part of Michelle’s work
The Back Story: We All Have One.
8:30 to 18:10 And Then the Phone Rang; “Sure, I’ll Give it a Go!”
So we have some context for the life story you’ve been walking, I understand that 3 phone calls determined your destiny. Would you briefly share how the woman who wanted to work with elephants ended up cleared for take-off.
- Michelle was absolutely lunatic passionate to have a horse when she was a child and realized that dream living a child’s country life
- Phone Call #1: A friend called asking if Michelle would be interested in working in reservations in a Canadian start-up airline (Ward Air) and she said, “Sure! I’ll give it a go!”
- This was supposed to be a part-time university gig until Michelle graduated so she could be the next Jane Goodall with elephants
- This path was not for her but discovered a leaning toward psychology and business
- Graduated and now what?
- From there Ward Air executive offered her a job from Calgary to Toronto and Michelle said, “Sure! Let’s give it a go!”
- 4 weeks later arrived in Toronto wondering, “What have I done?”
- 5 wonderful years followed of teaching others and travel!
- Phone Call #2: Would you come and comment on this new travel start-up which became a job opening back in Vancouver although Michelle knew nothing about company’s mission: franchising and travel agencies
- Sure! Let’s give it a go!”
- Began consulting in sales, marketing and operations with 1 travel agency franchise
- 30 years later the start-up went global which allowed Michelle to globally experience the world of travel and franchise business
- Phone Call #3: Surgical service business wants operations specialist so Michelle said, “Sure! Let’s give it a go!”
- Super-sophisticated business, fell on her face, learned fast, and made improvements to the company before it was abruptly bought-out
- Now begins the latest “Tweenior” chapter of creating webinars and learning how to have self-time care and fun
18:10 to 22:11 Over-Arching Life Guiding Themes
What have been the three over-arching themes that have guided you as you moved from one opportunity to the next to the next (“I don’t know but why not give it a go!”). Q: Do you happen to recall what brought you alive as you were taking those chances and what were some of the unexpected insights?
- With each new opportunity there is terror and possibility
- There’s no right and wrong, there’s no win and lose; there’s only win and learn
- Exploit the idea, the risk: at the very least I’ll learn something and how bad can it get?
- Perspective: “Give it a go!” is a sense of optimism because rare that you can’t re-wind, re-direct, change course
- Didn’t know her exact career path so it meant that the field was wide open to possibilities
- The joy of discovery and working without a net; although friends and family are the net
- Worked with people and helping them do what they needed to do better aligns with her: teach, help, encourage, inspire, do best work
- Watching the light bulb turn on is a joy! When people get ideas and actions they can own and absorb
- It’s a matter of magic and imagination
Coming to Story and the Process of Helping Others
22:11 to 28:05 Authentic Narrative and Business
I’d like to shift a bit to story, narrative, and how it shows up in the business. You are recognized for helping people at all levels of organizations build their knowledge, skill and capacity to grow their businesses and their careers. Would you share with us how you came to storytelling and how that led you to actively invite story into your speaking and training portfolio.
- Michelle came to story when she was transferred from Canada to Orange County, California where she joined a band and was singing/song-writing
- Michelle knew it would be beneficial to balance out the left-brain logical work with fun and encountered the host’s storytelling course.
- Decided to give it a go!
- Why Michelle stood up that night and told her story was a way to get the party started!
- Surprised because she didn’t expect to learn the power, strategy, and reality of well-crafted stories and where it would fit in lives
- Powerful concept: “The stories that you tell others about your life are also the stories you tell yourself about your life; choose you words wisely.”
- That is a powerful concept because this informs your own sense of who you are in the world
- When you tell your stories you can make yourself a hero or the bad guy in the black hat
- This idea became the foundation for Michelle learning to tell stories in marketing: seeing how something might be a solution to a uniquely human problem
- How? Relate to the story elements
- Today story is a key component of marketing
- Learning how to craft an excellent, compelling, evocative, emotional connected story gets to the heart of what folks believe and what they believe is how they behave
28:05 to 35:33 The Benefits of Authentic Story
Benefits of authentic narrative goes hand-in-glove with conscious marketing instead of story as silver bullet, market to sell. It’s the connection that matters. As Dr. Carmel Finnan calls it, “Story Dialogue” which is the telling of the story, the listening to the story and the listening to the responses. There has been a real shift between the ways story was conscripted to behave on the part of business and how it is being recognized today as real, organic, authentic, and relationship-based. Q: What shifts did you see taking place over the decades professionally?
- Personally experienced what it means to craft story well: executive management involves giving feedback which is not about speaking but asking questions which the host taught as inviting the story out of the teller by well-crafted questions
- Michelle relied on her former story experience to coach with generosity in her professional life
- Recalls how host coached her and other tellers to examine the story themselves, to find the right refinements and edits to polish their story to be even more compelling
- This methodology of approaching feedback carried on in her career; other professionals modeled Michelle and her skill set
- The more you do these skills the better you get at them
- Host: Sometimes we take things for granted and fail to regard the influence on others with the skill set we bring to the table
- “Charles in Charge” upbringing takes personal discipline to reverse, to back off, to find the “what” and “how” question
- How to offer feedback
35:33 to 37:33 Your Own Story Voice
For those of us who are not going to become certified coaches this notion of finding the question that listens the story out of the teller, that’s the direction you want to go in. In this way you are helping someone develop their own story voice. Q: What is your own story voice?
Here we are, at the end of the road but not the journey. Thank you for listening to Part 1 of this episode of Stories From Women Who Walk with your host Diane Wyzga and my guest Michelle Desreux. We hope you enjoyed and were nourished by our conversation between Victoria, BC Canada and Whidbey Island, Washington, and will return for Part 2 on 17th June 2021.
You’re also invited to check out over 350 episodes of this podcast Stories From Women Who Walk found on Simplecast, your favorite podcast platform and my website: Quarter Moon Story Arts. This is the place to thrive together. Come for the stories – stay for the magic. Speaking of magic, I hope you’ll subscribe, follow, share a nice shout out on your social media or podcast channel of choice, and join us next time! You will have wonderful company as we walk our lives together.
ABOUT/BIO for Michelle Desreux
Michelle Desreux has roots deep in the prairie soil of Alberta Canada and credits that, along with the story –telling branch of her Nova Scotia heritage with much of her life’s trajectory. A house in the country, a horse of her very own and a family summer cottage at Gull Lake Alberta provided a solid foundation for a life that started toward working with African elephants’ ala Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, but, instead, led to a career as a global business executive, public speaker and webinar leader.
Michelle has held senior executive positions in both a privately held global travel franchise company with over $5billion in sales, and a public national medical and surgical services company with sales over $40million, as well as serving as a recognized business strategist, speaker and educator. Michelle’s speaking and published topics have ranged from travel company management and development to franchising, sales and marketing, international business development and change management across a variety of industries. She is known for helping people at all levels of organizations build their knowledge, skill and capacity to grow their businesses and their careers. Michelle identifies story skills as being the linchpin that helped her help others discover and implement relevant, timely solutions to a variety of business challenges.
Now in her “tweenior” chapter, Michelle has moved to beautiful Victoria, BC and is enjoying the perfect imbalance between consulting projects, crafting webinars and enjoying ALL the hobbies that were sampled during her working years but always given short shrift because of limited time and a lot of absence. Family is close, the lifestyle is heavily weighted toward play and Michelle is not retired…but refired.
Production Team: Quarter Moon Story Arts
Music: Entering Erdenheim from Crossing the Waters by Steve Schuch & Night Heron Music
Sound Editing: Dawin Carlisle & First Class Reels
All content and image © 2019 – Present: for credit and attribution Quarter Moon Story Arts