FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Melody Wisoley
November 1, 2016
Melody Wisoley [wiz-oh-lee], was born in Drumheller to parents living in the village of Michichi. Today she’s principal of InTandem HR Consulting Inc. – and I’ll try to cover the parts in between. And her love of dogs. "I've always had dogs."
We chatted at Good Earth Café – over coffee and a white chocolate berry scone for me, tea and a nervous look for her! We finally figured out how we first connected. When Agrium Inc. was in the running for a BOMA Building of the Year Award many years ago, I was chairing the jury – I met Dan Krysko, who in turn connected me to Melody - who began reading and occasionally responding to my daily columns – not sure if that is because she loved my writing or just because she is a dog lover and I often write about my pooch Gusta. In any case, with that out of the way – we began an exploration of how Melody came to be 'the Melody the HR world knows so well'.
She’s the middle kid of five; two older sisters, a younger half-brother and half-sister. Her mom died when she was three, dad remarried. Much of her early days were in Delia, then Hanna, then back to Delia – an unstable childhood. Dad was first a grain elevator operator, then jack-of-all-trades who left the family. When the family split up - Melody was eight - she and her siblings went into foster care. Melody and a sister were in two foster homes in Stettler, than back with dad in Calgary, then to Fort St. John. When she finished high school there were few choices: ‘work on the rigs’ or get out of town. Melody didn’t want the rigs or to keep on with her schooling – she needed and wanted to work – so headed back to Calgary in search of office work. In 1982 she landed a job doing secretarial work at Dome Petroleum.
Her career path around the oil patch, shifting to training, organizational development and growth - punctuated by a marriage and divorce (no kids), Amoco (17 years), HR work, leading a training project in Azerbaijan [“much vodka and caviar – loved it, fantastic people!”] with staff working on a JV pipeline project across the Caspian Sea. Then back to Calgary working on ‘continuous improvement’ – a facilitator role [“my favourite job”]. BP bought Amoco, she moved to TransAlta during re-regulation days and was influenced by an outplacement consellor "can't recall his name" who worked for legendary Calgary HR guru Garth Toombs, to get back to school. With support from employers – TransAlta and later Nexen, she completed an MA at Royal Roads University. Along that path – trip to Egypt, a move to Ontario doing contract work in banking with CIBC – a second marriage [“we got married in Greece”] to Kelly Wisoley – and honing her skills in delivering distance learning.
Recruited to return to Calgary, she joined Agrium’s Calgary head office in 2003 as the senior ‘organizational effectiveness’ person where she spent eight years. She loved working for Mike Wilson, the company was growing rapidly and then there was a tilt, in terms of ‘numbers’ shifting from manufacturing focus to retail focus with expansion in the U.S. “I liked the consulting piece: leadership development, tools & partners, succession planning and team effectiveness”, and it was time for moving on her own. “I’m good at many things – but not so much at marketing myself! I established a plan, got to work – and here we are!”. She has become a workshop delivery firm of choice for the Vital Smarts program and has developed a roster of her own clients as well.
Why are you successful? “surrounding myself with brilliant people and being open to their coaching. Accepting personal and professional changes and challenges notwithstanding my fear. Always - I always try - maintaining a positive attitude – and believing that everything happens for a reason, even if it is a bad reason.”
What has held you back? “lack of self-confidence early on. I still have those moments sometimes – when I feel a bit like an imposter. There were times I needed to be more motivated.”
How do you see your business – HR (human resources) consulting – going forward over the next quarter?
… can I say bleak? It’s challenging. Many of the things I love to do – what clients need right now (though many have trouble seeing it that way) – is ‘do you keep the right people and are you doing the right things to make them leaders of your business in the future’.
And over the next five years?
… there will always be a need – because people can’t know everything. Things will be better. Might be robust! In terms of what we do, and how we do it, I have seen a lot of fundamental change in the last 20 years. Technology, and many an ‘app’ might help you, companies still need people with the skill and patience to interpret that data …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… flexibility is a big thing for me. Nobody wants shoddy work, or products – and I think it is a balance in relationships that works best. I have to feel comfortable I’m dealing with someone who is principled.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Melody Wisoley, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… my confidence – which is hard won, it comes from my real-life experiences. Determination. I credit some things to my parents, my upbringing – which taught me the principles of strict religious viewpoint.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… open and collaborative. I focus on who I’m talking to – they get my undivided attention. When I’m leading a team, I encourage feedback from direct reports. I want them to know that when they need me, I’m there – my door is always open. Just as I need them to make time for me, I need to make time for them when they need it.
… now, YES. A big shift since I went out on my own – I used to be a workaholic, but after five years I was going berserk doing 12-hour days.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… the fate of the U.S. election and how it will impact us. That the ‘extremism’ is creeping into Canadian culture.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… not having an easy childhood, not having active parents, not having money – on my own since the 12th grade, and though I had part-time jobs, I saw no path in Fort St. John – I had to get out of there. And my project work in Azerbaijan. It was only two months, but it was pivotal. Scott Morris recommended me, supported me, went to bat for me. I was terrified. And then that Garth Toombs' counsellor telling me “Of course you can do it.” I gained so much confidence …
… golf (25 handicap), travel, we golf a lot in the winter (we share a vacation home in Arizona with friends), two rescue dogs named “Smith & Wesson” – my husband is a pistol shooter.
What do you read?
… marketing books, leadership books. For leisure, James Patterson etc. – espionage, fantasy, Game of Thrones …
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