Women’s Leadership Institute holds leadership workshop with alumna Michelle Needles

March 28, 2024 - Emily Jodway

Photo by Jacqueline Hawthorne.

The MSU Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) Student Cohort came together on March 21st for an in-person workshop with MSU alum and WLI supporter Michelle Needles (pictured above). Needles’ presentation, titled ‘Developing your Intuition: Better Serve Your Whole Self and Others,’ focused on communicating and working well with individuals with all different strengths and talents, setting boundaries and leading intuitively. 

Needles is a 1996 graduate of the James Madison College and has spent more than 20 years in the field of commercial real estate advisory. She is currently the Executive Vice President of Enterprise Client Solutions at Colliers International, engaging new clients and retaining existing client relationships. Needles is also a great advocate of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. She founded the Colliers IDEA Program, which sought to increase diversity both internally and externally among suppliers. Additionally, she was a founding member of the Colliers Women’s Networking Program, which has since evolved into an entire DEI division with Employee Resource Groups with training and mentorship opportunities. 

Needles spoke to the group about navigating the challenges of working with others and their diverse world of personalities, while also making sure to take care of personal needs and mental health. Rather than following the ‘Golden Rule’ of treating others how you wish to be treated, think of it as treating others the way they want to be treated, in order to reduce stress and create a more inclusive way of doing things. 

“It starts with outward communication and ends with inward communication,” she explained. “How we speak to ourselves, how we manage ourselves, and how we scan ourselves to make sure that we aren’t bringing on board unnecessary stress.”

Cohort members took the DISC personality assessment and discussed their results with Needles, who used these results to make several points about communication, relationship building and finding success as a leader. The students then broke into groups to look at two case studies - one professional and one personal - and talked about how they would communicate, motivate and work with people of all different personalities in these situations.

She also taught the group the idea of ‘Present You’ taking care of ‘Future You.’ Rather than making tasks a problem for the future by putting them aside and promising to take care of them later, prioritize tackling tasks head-on rather than letting them pile up, so that you can manage your ability to serve your whole self as well as others. 

Needles is passionate about guiding young women on their paths to success, as well as making that path more accessible to others in the future, an opportunity she was not afforded in her own early professional career. 

“When we were growing our careers in our early 20s, there were a lot of women who had made these great achievements and climbed the ladder themselves,” she said. “But when they got to the top, it was like they took the ladder, threw it back up in the attic and closed the door. The sense was, ‘If I had to work that hard, so do you.’ And the fact of the matter is, that’s not true. That’s why folks like myself are sharing what we’ve learned with you.”

Senior Megan Smejkal, a member of the Student Cohort, enjoyed the event and the opportunity to discuss personal development both with her peers and a woman leader in the professional world. She mentioned the benefits of an organization like the WLI and being able to connect with women who have garnered years of experience in their field. 

“It’s such a supportive community, and I always have that sense that if I’m not doing well, I can ask for help and they’re going to help me find solutions,” she said. “It definitely gives you a space to connect with other people who are either actively going through what you’re going through, or have gone through it and can lead you down the route that they took to success.”

Read more about the WLI and upcoming events here