User story:

Michelle Vermaak
Markham - Area Manager
... the Mygrow journey helped me crawl back to who I used to be as a leader.
Beyond Metrics / User Stories / Michelle Vermaak

I’ve always been an optimistic person. Well, I was before Covid. Lockdown hit me hard. 

The stress impact of Covid on my mental health, really took its toll. It’s taken months to bounce back. In fact “bounce back” is not really an accurate phrase for what happened at all. It was a slow process. I am still not back to where I was but I have Mygrow to thank for the progress I have made.  If Mygrow hadn’t come along when it did, I don’t think I would have been able to pull myself out of the negativity that Covid created for me.

At the beginning of the pandemic, work got crazy, really quickly, for everyone in a leadership position. Everything got thrown up into the air and landed all over the place, and we were scrambling to try to pick up the pieces. 

I have always tried to be a very people-focussed leader. I am an area manager in retail. I have 16 store managers who report to me, with about 80 staff that I am responsible for. Perhaps one of the strongest areas of my leadership style was to be encouraging and optimistic about finding solutions – getting over problems and hurdles. (I am hardwired to find ways to “get better” at what we do.) But lockdown added so much pressure that I quickly became very deadline and delivery driven. I didn’t do well with the digital communication options that we all had to adopt. (I am someone who would rather drive to where you are and work out what we need to do.) So I “checked out” of the digital thing, and didn’t engage with my staff like I used to. 

Covid made me become very process-orientated, instead of people-orientated. Without the face-to-face interactions, I think I became a bit of a “tickbox” manager. I had stopped putting time aside to intentionally connect with my staff. I clearly wasn’t performing well, I had stopped enjoying my work, and I probably would have resigned. (I was looking for other options – even willing to take a pay cut to get away from the constant feeling of failure.) I was on a one-way ticket to early retirement.

Then Mygrow…. 

Slowly, slowly, the Mygrow journey helped me crawl back to who I used to be as a leader. It was hard at first. I struggled to get into it.  But the daily process of Mygrow was a huge help for me to put the work in, step by step, to get back to a healthy place. 

“In some ways, I still don’t think I am back to my old self yet, but in other ways, I can see how my leadership has even surpassed where it was before Covid.“

In the past, even though I was people-focussed, I would get into ‘problem-solving mode’ very quickly. Now I have learned to empower my team to solve their own problems. The skills I have gained from Mygrow have helped me to do that. I wish we could take the Mygrow programme down to all our managers. 

As I am approaching the end of my career I have been thinking about the legacy I want to leave. I definitely don’t want to be remembered for “checking out.” I don’t want people to be happy to see me go. I want to be remembered as someone who gave the best version of myself to my work and my people. So I am grateful to Mygrow for helping me get back there. I want to be someone who leaves people better than they were before I met them. Mygrow has done that for me.


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