Five Successful Women in Construction: Embracing Discomfort to Surpass Goals

by | Jan 6, 2022 | Article

There’s a war for talent in the construction industry right now. There are not enough skilled people to do all of the work required.

If you’re a woman in construction, that means you have control over your career right now and there are opportunities that are available inside your company for you to level up.

The ability to navigate relationships and motivate other people are most in-demand right now. The behavioural and transformational side of leadership is what the industry desperately needs.

I talk about this a lot more in part one of this series. You can also listen to our podcast episode to learn more about the transformational leadership model. 

When You’re Ready to Succeed

Coaching is the fastest pathway to personal and professional growth. Mindsets shift perspectives in real-time conversations. People gain skills, empower themselves, and learn how to empower others. Personal and professional growth is a lucrative asset to every company. Employees with coaching experience build trust through vulnerability and curiosity. Each participant can then take these behaviours back to their individual teams and create a culture of trust.

What happens when you do coaching with Ambition Theory?

Four women who have participated in coaching with us are experiencing success beyond their initial expectations.

“Great things never came from comfort zones.”

Michaela McGinn joined a coaching group two years ago and worked on confidence, setting boundaries, finding sponsors, and getting out of her comfort zone.

Did she see immediate results? Absolutely.

She got a promotion during the term of coaching, but two years later there’s even more magic happening.

When I was scrolling on Facebook in January of 2021, I saw a picture of a postcard that we send all of our clients. It has a small dark circle that says “your comfort zone” and a big yellow bright sun that says “where the magic happens.”

Michaela had posted a picture of this card with snow in the background, and a picture of her with 2 massive suitcases at the Toronto Airport.

“So unbelievably grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to see what this year has in store both professionally and personally. Packed my life up into a couple of suitcases and I’m on my way – See you soon Australia!! ✈️🇦🇺 🦘 🏝 🌊 🌍🦋🦜🌞💫 “

It looks like Michaela learned the skills from the coaching to make immediate progress and reassess the path to long-range goals to make exciting changes.

A couple of months later, she sent me a FB message of the same postcard, which was on the windowsill of her apartment in Australia.

For Michaela, what did the coaching do for her?

In the short term, it was getting her promotion and feeling more confident.

The real work was on mindset and embracing this concept of being uncomfortable and looking for growth.

Coaching provides the tools you need to be able to embrace the discomfort and choose personal and professional growth.

That’s the real difference between what we do at Ambition Theory™ and a traditional construction leadership course.

Leaning into Discomfort

Cheyanne Hammell did coaching with us in early 2020, and it provided a marked difference in her career.

Now she is a role model for other women in the industry.

The concept of getting out of your comfort zone was most valuable to her. She explained that instead of retreating from challenging situations she now leans into them.

And the biggest impact she noticed was on the next generation of women.  The value of one person’s coaching experience multiplies exponentially to everyone in the workplace.

Cheyanne told me how when she was mentoring other women through the formal mentorship program, she looked at the performance review together with them.

When it was time for her mentees to put new goals into the performance review system and tell her manager about them, the mentees experienced discomfort and fear.

The Ambition Theory™ coaching had prepared Cheyanne so that she encouraged the mentee to imagine what she really wanted in her career. Cheyanne encouraged the mentee to set bigger goals.

This mentee felt comfortable sharing the big goals with Cheyanne but to wanted to set smaller goals for the performance review system.

The mentee was worried that if she told her boss what she really wanted, she would get backlash, and her boss would tell her to make the goals smaller.

Cheyenne encouraged the mentee to go all-in with these big goals.

And she did.

What happened? The boss was happy to support this person to achieve these big goals.

Without Cheyanne, these goals would have stayed in her head and her boss would never have known her real career aspirations.

These are the types of outcomes that you can expect when people lead transformationally.

Where the Magic Happens

Michelle Hood came to our workshop at Autodesk University in 2019. At that workshop, I handed out the same postcard with the “where the magic happens” on it.

I got an email from Michelle about 8 months later that said:

“I hope you are doing well. I have been extremely busy with my new role and wanted to let you know that the card you made has spoken with me in the year since we have met at AU.




Crazy things have happened this past year, and I have done way more public speaking than I have ever cared for–but trying to embrace it. 2020 has been a year of learning for me in so many ways. I look up from my cube and see this card as a reminder to keep going. Thanks to this reminder to embrace change, I have gone out further on a limb, and am I pleased to share that I am speaking at AU this year.”

One of my topics is “Knowledge is Power.” We should not be afraid to learn new things.

I attended Michelle’s virtual talk in 2020 and was so proud of her. This is another example of transformational leadership where you’re going out on a limb and taking a risk to inspire others.

This postcard is a powerful symbol, but I want to be clear. You can’t just buy the postcard and expect all of this to happen. Putting in the work is why these people got these incredible results.

They worked on their mindset and took action which made room for the magic to happen.

Shifting from Advice to Opportunity

Kati Mercier is a senior engineer who joined a coaching cohort with us in early 2020 as well.

For her, the concept of sponsorship was what resonated the most.

When she tagged me on a LinkedIn video post a few months ago, I was gratified to see that not only did Kati benefit from the Ambition Theory™ program, but now she is creating countless opportunities for other women to rise and lead too.

She was in a recorded discussion group for women in construction tech.

They were talking about mentorship, and Kati stepped into the conversation to share her story about how shifting her mindset from advice (which is the mentorship model) to opportunity (the sponsorship model) is what started the progress in her career.

The cool thing about this is that it’s not just Kati benefitting. All growth is valuable and multiples beyond the initial investment of time and resources.

No Judgement

How much time does It take? 

One big block to working with us is time.

When you’re working in construction, it is really hard to find the time to do all the things. 

The way that we structure our programs is to make it easy for you. 

Part of our curriculum is on-demand: short videos that you can watch on your phone or computer with worksheets and articles to read on your own time.

Our coaching times are flexible. There are multiple times to choose from because we want it to be easy for you. 

We’ve also had people join from their site trailer or car. One of our rules is ‘no judgement.’ 

You show up wherever you are and with whatever is going on for you.

Coaching that navigates Pandemics and Preschoolers – Kaylee Shannon 

Kaylee joined a coaching group with us during the first lockdown of 2020. 

She was working full-time as a project coordinator and had a 2-year-old at home because her son’s daycare was closed. She said: 

“The coaching tools I learned through Ambition Theory™, helped me to prioritize what was really important in my job. I was able to carve out the time to not only do the course but to also focus on what is going to get me ahead.”

Three months later she emailed me to tell me she got put into a stretch role.

Replacing Talent Costs More

The approach that we take at Ambition Theory™ is to get our clients ready to lead faster so that companies can fill leadership positions with the existing talent pool instead of going externally. 

The cost of a recruiter to fill a position is more than 10 times the cost of one of our coaching programs.

Women are often unintentionally excluded from industry networking events

One thing I have noticed over the past 4 years of coaching women in construction is that most women don’t have the same networks as men do. Men in construction naturally get to know other people through going about their daily jobs–even in their own companies. Within a big company, most men know people in multiple provinces across the country, whereas women are often isolated in their city or in their department. Sometimes a small need arises, and people need something simple: like having someone you can call with a question about a project in another city. Most women don’t have that. 

Researchers call this ‘the lack of social capital.’ This phenomenon is based on the article by Victor Callan and Neil Paulson: “Gender disparity in the C-suite: Do male and female CEOs differ in how they reached the top?

Ambition Theory’s Vision

Ambition Theory works to enable women to reach all levels of the construction industry, and we are looking for people to help.

We’ve redesigned our signature 8-week coaching program to align with the Canadian Construction Association’s Gold Seal standard for construction leadership. 

Our goal is to bring women together from across Canada, with at least one woman from each province in the cohort that is launching at the end of January 2022. 

It’s for people who are in a leadership role and want to level up and inspire others. It’s for people who are individual contributors who are ready to take that next step.  We will go through our leadership curriculum together. There will be small group coaching sessions every week, and the best part is that you’ll get to meet smart, motivated professionals from across the country to grow your network. 

This is our vision, but we can’t do it alone.

We are looking for companies who are serious about changing the industry to take a chance and enroll a few employees in this program. 

We are looking for people to raise their hand and say: 

  • I’m ready.
  • I want to leverage my natural leadership skills.
  • I want to be surrounded by other high-performing women in construction. 
  • I want to contribute more value to my company.

Enrolment opens on January 17, and the course will start on January 31, 2022. Space is limited, so if you are interested, make sure you’re subscribed to our email list to get the notification to register on January 17, 2022.

Imposter syndrome:
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