Driving federal citizen engagement with optimism and innovation
This interview marks the fourth installment in the Making an Impact series, a collection of profiles and articles introducing some of our best and brightest leaders — individuals who are making tremendous impacts in the government sectors we serve.
Michelle Paiz, Vice President, Federal Projects and Programs
Michelle is the vice president of projects/programs, overseeing Maximus Federal’s citizen engagement programs. Her focus on capturing, documenting, and implementing best practices that support enhanced customer experience and positive Citizen Journeyempowers and accelerates dozens of Maximus projects — from federal agencies in D.C. to helping states across the Health and Human Services sector. Having led the CCO CMS contact center in Brownsville, Texas, she has tremendous insight and experience in building excellence into contact center operations.
She took some time to discuss her career at Maximus and what advice she has for future leaders.
You’ve been with Maximus since 2013, starting as a director of operations and rising to vice president. What do you love most about your job?
There are so many things I love about my job and working for Maximus, that it’s difficult to name just one. I’d have to start by noting how much I appreciate and value being empowered to make a difference every day. The projects that my team and I support and the citizens we serve are tremendous motivators to go to work every day. I am very grateful to be in a position to make a real and positive impact every day.
How about the challenges?
I believe one of the biggest challenges we all share as we keep working to drive results in government programs during this time of social distancing is finding new ways to connect and collaborate and solve problems with my peers and my team. Staying in touch and grounded is our new collective challenge — and we’re all in uncharted waters. I relish the challenge, but truly miss the people I work with. I’m sure we are all looking forward to the time when we return to what will surely be our new normal.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Know that you have something unique and amazing to offer and recognize that everyone around you does as well. Listen to other people’s ideas, give credit where credit is due, and never be afraid to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. Everyone has a voice; recognize that you can make a difference. No one can advance in their careers by staying silent and not speaking up.
What is your approach to leadership and mentoring?
I have been very lucky to have had great role models in my career, and I believe I have learned something from everyone I have ever worked for. I try to always lead by example and listen to everyone’s opinions before I assume that mine is correct. When mentoring, I try to find someone’s greatest strengths and find opportunities to develop them. Every member of my past and current team is exceptional in some way. It is my job as a leader to identify what is extraordinary about my team members, make sure they know how amazing they are, and help them grow along whatever path they choose.
Everyone has a voice; recognize that you can make a difference. No one can advance in their careers by staying silent and not speaking up.
What most excites you most about working on the federal side of Maximus?
Having been a member of the federal leadership team for more than seven years, I’ve had the opportunity to see the remarkable growth of our segment and the great opportunity that still lies ahead. We are now the largest contact center provider in the federal space, but there is still so much opportunity to grow and new challenges to face while finding new and innovative ways to improve. It is difficult not to be excited knowing that the best of Maximus is yet to come.
What separates great programs from average ones?
At the very core of a great program is the expectation of excellence versus the acceptance of adequacy. The ongoing pursuit of perfection, process improvement, and the firm knowledge that while we may not have the answer, we simply do not have the answer yet. Having worked with Maximus staff and leadership over the last seven years, I know that this is an ideal that is shared across our organization as we continue to serve our citizenry to best of our ability.