Sitting at the helm of all major proposal submissions, Heather is responsible for compiling, strategizing, reviewing, rechecking, and triple-confirming before anything is presented to the client. Drawing from her diverse music background, her approach to leadership can be likened to a conductor and their orchestra: inspiring each section to work together to produce a symphony that blends the technical, client needs, and pricing perfectly. We had the chance to chat with Heather to learn more about what informs her unique leadership style.
Q. What is an area of leadership that you are most passionate about?
My background and personal passion is music and it is difficult to overstate the significance that music culture has had on shaping who I am today as a person, team member, and leader. This passion for music draws me to the importance of active listening and is what sits at the foundation of my leadership approach.
In music, much like in any team environment, you really need to understand your instrument and how it fits into the broader orchestra or band, and this requires very intentional listening. For example, whether playing in a duo or as part of a group, you need to listen to synchronize with the other instruments and sections. You are constantly listening to maximize your own sound and perfectly blend it with the broader orchestra or musical group to make music that is sweet to the ear.
Timing is also key – you have to know where beat 1 is at all times, so you know when to come in. To me, leading strategic proposals has many parallels to this musical experience.
I see our proposal team as the conductor for Englobe’s technical ‘orchestra’ of resources. Our team works with such a diverse group spanning geographic and technical backgrounds that active listening is essential to producing a harmonized proposal that goes beyond meeting the RFP’s criteria; it needs to be our team’s magnum opus every time.
Q. Who are the mentors that had the greatest impact on you?
I have a couple. The founders of Naylor Engineering Associates where I got my start in this industry, Dave Naylor, Dennis Kelly, and Byron England, all had a profound impact on me. They were the first real leaders that I worked with, and who actively developed a corporate culture that was both driven and dedicated, while also fun and exciting. The biggest impact for me was when Byron brought me into the field to show me our services. As a non-technical resource, this was when the descriptions we crafted for proposals and the actual boots-on-ground work we did for clients connected.
When I started preparing strategic proposals, my first supervisor was Yvonne Monette – I listened to her. Whether I was in a start-up meeting, proposal strategy sessions, red team meetings – I took tonnes of notes and ideas from her. She really helped me focus my musical creativity into our submissions, but also harness that competitive drive.
Q. What do you do to improve yourself as a leader?
Again, this answer comes right back to active listening! I listen to learn, I listen to grow, and I listen to inspire and be inspired. For me, continuous improvement is driven by thoughtful listening, and I have learned that this means stepping back from email to instead kick-it old school and make a call.
There is no doubt that emails are a quick and efficient, but they are one-sided, can often be misleading or misinterpreted, and if you are rushing or skimming, important information is missed. I had a manager once say that “you can’t have a conversation through email, a conversation is action and reaction’ and I think that they are right. Talking to people allows you to gather information, ask spontaneous questions, and build off one-another’s candor. As a non-technical resource who manages technical content, I learn from our technical staff by asking lots and lots of questions and build that into our proposals.
Q. What currently motivates you?
I’ll start small with my team, and then go big to say our people, Englobe’s people. Other than our great composting group who delivers quality products to market, Englobe doesn’t sell tangible stuff, we sell the expertise of our people. What I am always inspired by is just how passionate my colleagues are about their work. When you feel that kind of great passion, a true love of what they do, right from the top from our President’s Mike Cormier and Alain Robichaud, it is contagious and reverberates through the entire team. That is something that motivates me, and it is something that I try to bring into my team.
Q. What is the final word you would like to leave on leadership?
Creating a masterpiece, whether the perfect song or perfect album or perfect performance, means managing a lot of variables that need to come together harmoniously. As a musician, especially when you are up on stage alone, if you have a perfect performance except for 1 note, everyone seems to remember that 1 note. This is the same for proposals. As much as I drive for perfection, what I have really learned is how to drive for teamwork. When we work together and draw on each other’s strengths, pulling them all together, the end ‘song’ that is produced for our clients or employees will sound sweet. There are days where you hit the wrong note that is OK, because unlike a solo performance, we are not in the show alone. We have a team with us to pick up and make sure that the symphony continues, and that the performance is still beautiful. For me, this is what I strive for in my day-to-day, that when the project or proposal is finished and we log off for the evening, I want to feel like we played some good music together.
For me, this is what I strive for in my day-to-day, that when the project or proposal is finished and we log off for the evening, I want to feel like we played some good music together.
Heather’s Picks! As a once long-time university radio DJ, Heather has always marched to the beat of her own drum. Holding special appreciation for buried musical treasures, she is up to date on the best underground and less known artists. She loves all forms of music, and is frequently inspired by a song or an album. Whether driving in her car or cooking in her kitchen, she will get ideas for submissions or team improvements or creative executive summaries, just by hearing a good mix. Here are her two favourite Twitch, an interactive livestreaming service, DJs who motivate her through the workday.