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Melissa Thompson: A Community-Oriented, Passion-Driven Coach

Leaders aren’t born or transformed overnight – they are coached. As Success Lab’s newest consultant, Melissa brings years of experience helping leaders build confidence, add value, and give back to their communities. An expert in effective communication, public speaking and talent development, she has shown a deep commitment to furthering the people and businesses of Baton Rouge throughout her career. Read on to learn more about Melissa’s leadership journey and what drives her pursuit of personal growth.

I love working with people to realize their potential

Melissa credits the influence of great educators in her life with helping her along her career path. Asked where her leadership journey began, she brings up her teachers in kindergarten, high school, college and graduate school… and in her family. “My grandparents were all educators, and they pushed me to learn as much as I can, so I pay it forward and teach people myself. And my favorite thing to learn about is other people – I love watching people communicate, and helping them get better at it.”

Born in Louisiana and raised in Arkansas, Melissa was taught the value of service early on – in addition to her educator grandparents, she was raised by a physician and a nurse. She assumed she’d follow her parents into the medical field, but that plan began to transform as an undergrad at LSU, where she learned that chemistry was not her strong point. However, a class in health communication pointed her in a new direction.

Her new path led to the University of Memphis, where she received an MA and then a PhD in Communication. Melissa’s research examined communication and power dynamics, with a focus on healthcare and the doctor/patient relationship. This background has translated well to working with young professionals just entering the workplace, and emerging leaders progressing up the career ladder. As it turned out, her path to serving others was in helping them realize their potential, communicate around tough subjects, and turn their own dreams into action.

“In my work, I’m a big believer that you can have the best skills and best ideas in the world, but if you can’t articulate it well, it’s hard to turn into action. Communicating effectively helps change move beyond one person, which leads to better team building, better results, and more impact in the community.”

Melissa’s Career Journey

Graduate school confirmed her love of teaching, which brought her back to Louisiana to serve as a coordinator for LSU’s Communication across the Curriculum (CxC) program where she helped students of all majors communicate more effectively and prepare them for their intended career path. In 2013, Melissa and the CxC team founded TEDxLSU, an intellectual and creative experience that brings communities together in a way that enables them to imagine the possibilities, spur discussion and dialogue, and generate big ideas that will move Baton Rouge forward. In addition to serving as a curator and speaker coach for TEDxLSU, she is also adjunct faculty for the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business.

Melissa has served as Director of Talent Development at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) and as Director of Communications at Baton Rouge General Foundation. Above all, her work has allowed her to be a storyteller for Baton Rouge and its people, and help young professionals hone their skills and add value to the local economy. At BRAC, she was tapped to lead young professional recruitment and retention strategies where she partnered with universities to connect graduates with the community and help them realize their potential.

“My work centered on professional development, but I also hyped up Baton Rouge. I would always have students who said, ‘I didn’t know Baton Rouge was this cool, I can now imagine staying here after college.’”

“I always talk about how I love Baton Rouge. No place is perfect, but I chose to come back here, and I want to be here for the long haul. So many young professionals are here doing work to make this place amazing for everybody, and I want to help them become better leaders for the community.”

For young professionals and emerging leaders who wonder where to direct their skills and passion, Melissa has some excellent advice – do the thing that scares you “big.” A small scare is one that makes you feel small, like you’re trapped or ducked into a corner. It feels restrictive. A big scare brings up big feelings of excitement and infinite possibility. Still scary, but in an expansive way. As a leader, fear is not something you should run from – you should examine it to see if it’s possibly leading you down the right path.

At Success Labs Melissa will be harnessing her skills to help the leaders we work with get the most out of their careers, and determine which big possibilities they should head towards. In her free time, she enjoys being with her family on Lake Bruin, spending time with her dog, and being a member of Delta Gamma, Forum 225, and the Junior League of Baton Rouge.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to grow leaders, build teams and drive results through great people strategy. Contact us to get proactive about expanding your company’s potential, and stay up-to-date with our latest news and leadership development updates here.

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