Michelle Brailsford (1962-2018)


Meaningful work brought Michelle and I together a couple of years ago now, and we bonded over a glass of wine and the shared belief that the time you spend at work should be time well spent. She’d read one of the articles I’d written about meaningfulness and came along to a workshop I was running, and I’d attended an event she’d been involved with. Although many management consultants had approached me and wanted to collaborate, it was Michelle I chose. I thought she was cool, sassy and fun. Like so many others, I was drawn to Michelle by her warmth, her professionalism, and her joie de vivre. Together, we organised and ran workshops and training sessions on meaningfulness, and were busy developing new ideas and projects when she so suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on 13th June. 

At her funeral, it was clear Michelle had brought a great deal of happiness and positivity to many people in both her personal and her professional capacities. I know that delegates at events we ran often came up to me and said how much they liked Michelle’s open and engaging manner, and how much they had learned from her. Many people said that Michelle enabled them to be the best possible version of themselves.

I miss Michelle, and I miss the future work we had planned together.

Here are some of the most important things I learned from Michelle about meaningfulness:

  1. Embracing meaningful work means being willing to take risks. Michelle took a leap of faith in quitting a successful corporate career to branch out on her own and, in doing so, found a way to gain control over her work and focus on the things she loved doing.
  2. Work is more meaningful if you play to your strengths. Above all, Michelle had great self-awareness – she knew what she was good at, and what she enjoyed, and she organised her working life to make the most of this.
  3. Meaningful work is about other people. There is no doubt at all that Michelle was a real people-person. She loved being around people, she loved figuring out what made people tick, she loved helping people to learn and grow. Through other people, Michelle found her own meaningfulness.
  4. Meaningful work needs to be a balance. Michelle threw herself into her work and devoted enormous energy to it. But she also knew that, to do her work well, she needed to recharge her batteries, and so she had built a wonderful life for herself away from her work where she could focus on family, friends and places she loved.
  5. Meaningfulness can’t be postponed. We say to ourselves things like, ‘I’ll look for some more meaningful work in my next job’, or, ‘when I retire, I’ll get around to doing all those things I really want to do’. Michelle’s untimely passing has shown above all that we cannot and should not put off finding what really matters to us until tomorrow, next year, or some indeterminate time in the future. At Michelle’s funeral, the moving poem, The Dash, by Linda Ellis, was read. The poem serves as a reminder that it’s how we live our lives each day that matters. I draw some comfort from knowing that Michelle lived life to the full, and enjoyed not only a highly successful and meaningful professional career, but also a loving, happy and meaningful personal life.

Thank you, Michelle, for being a part of my life, and I’m just so very sorry it couldn’t have been for longer.

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