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HomeCatalyst – April 2021 – The winds of change

Catalyst – April 2021 – The winds of change

MHCC welcomes new president and CEO Michel Rodrigue 

Change is never easy, conceded Louise Bradley, C.M., outgoing president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).

“But that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary,” she said from her home office in Newfoundland, where she’s been working throughout the pandemic.

“I spent a lot of time reflecting as I went on early morning hikes. Moving on from the MHCC wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly . . . but once it was made, it did feel like a weight had lifted.”

Bradley has been championing the advancement of mental health for her entire career, beginning with her earliest days as a nurse on a psychiatric unit. “People expressed sympathy, implying that I wasn’t up to snuff for a real nursing job,” she said, laughing. “I can see the humour in it now, but at the time it was cutting.”

For over a decade, Bradley has brought her expertise on direct health care provision and administration to the MHCC leadership table, and that effort has borne fruit.

“I look at where we are today, and my heart really does swell with pride at our collective achievements. Truth be told, that’s when I knew it was time to step aside. I never wanted to leave a job undone, and with a new strategic plan in hand, deeply committed leaders and staff, and exemplary partnerships, it’s time to pass the baton to someone who is ready to tackle the next ten years.”

Passing the baton
MHCC board chair Chuck Bruce conceded that Bradley’s decision took him by surprise . . . at first. “But then I reflected on what it means to be a CEO for a full decade. And Louise went above and beyond running the place. She took it upon herself to speak to countless audiences in Canada, and around the world, to change minds, to open hearts, to open doors. And that level of commitment is what you see reflected in the strategic plan the board envisioned.”

It is appropriate, then, that the architect of the new plan — Answering the Call — would be the person stepping into the role of president and CEO on March 24. As vice-president of Public Affairs and Organizational Performance, Michel Rodrigue has been walking in lockstep with Bradley for the last five years. In that time, he has helped to create a culture of forward-thinking innovation that has led to key breakthroughs like championing the Stepped Care 2.0 e-mental health initiative and knitting together communities in the name of suicide prevention with the national Roots of Hope program. 

An eye to the future
“When we were building this new plan, I didn’t know how the future would unfold, but I did know that the board had a bold, ambitious vision that built on the foundational pillars Louise embedded in our organizational culture,” said Rodrigue. “And now, as we embark on the next decade, we can take the knowledge we gain, year over year, and compound our progress.”

Rodrigue, a CPA by trade, with wide-ranging executive leadership experience, believes his greatest asset is curiosity. “I am someone who loves learning, loves challenging myself, and loves being challenged. I went back to school later in life to complete an executive MBA and become a chartered professional accountant, and I found that experience energizing. Too often we become entrenched in our identities, but I think we have to constantly revise our thinking.”

In good hands
Bradley believes Rodrigue’s open-mindedness will serve him well. “The mental health landscape is constantly changing. Best practices are always emerging. You can’t afford to be static in your thinking, and Michel is someone who is willing to listen to the experts and is unafraid to change course.”

Bruce agrees. “We had an exemplary list of candidates, as you might expect for an organization as well respected as the MHCC. But Michel rose to the occasion time and again in the process. He not only understands the organizational culture and helped set us on a course for the next decade, he also has the kind of questioning mind-set that goes hand-in-glove with quiet confidence. You cannot run this organization without a willingness to bring a learner’s mind to work every day.”

As the MHCC begins a new work plan with a new president and CEO at the helm, Bradley for her part, has one last question.

“I wonder what great things the organization will do next?”