Discover Bold Leadership

Our Story

Brave Birds Studio is a team building, leadership and coaching practice founded by Executive Coach and Communications Specialist Tracy Balash.

Passionate about investing in executives, teams and workplaces committed to a new way of working, Tracy and her partner Ayako have spent hundreds of hours digging in to what truly creates transformative change for business. As they dug for that silver bullet, they realized that true sustainable growth came from a commitment to ending toxic environments.

The Brave Birds philosophy is to approach client engagements with honour, humility and humour. With a pledge to listen, agitate, acknowledge and story-tell, the team works with organizations to facilitate a mental shift that compels clients to achieve new levels of awareness and ability. The results of our service offerings are greater personal and professional fulfillment, cohesive teams, improved productivity, useful meetings and engaged employees.

There is an intensity to our approach that creates an environment where engagement is unavoidable. We challenge, agitate and tell the truth, breaking down toxic barriers.

Tracy Balash

Tracy Balash

After 30 years as a broadcast journalist, communications specialist and leader in public administration, Tracy knew her passion was developing healthy teams and individuals and she knew she was good at it. Brave Birds Studio was born. Creating an environment of trust and intimacy with clients, Tracy nurtures and provokes teams and individuals until they have the confidence and strength to fly beyond their perceived limits.

Tracy’s diverse career path from reporter to business owner can best be described as organic as she gravitated towards positions that interested her while testing and developing her skills. The path has provided a rich and diverse background, allowing Tracy to cross paths with remarkable people, to explore opportunities, fail occasionally and succeed often.

Honoured to have interviewed great Canadian authors, politicians and everyday heroes during her broadcasting career, Tracy has also served in the communications offices of two Alberta Premiers and held several senior positions within the Alberta Public Service. Serving as Assistant Deputy Minister of Indigenous Women’s Initiatives was a rewarding finale to her government service.


  • Executive Coach, Royal Roads University
  • Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies


  • Prosci Change Management Certificate – AdPro
  • Administration of Myers Briggs Type Indicator Assessments.
  • Core Skills Practitioner of Conversational Intelligence.

Ayako Ohtake

A single moment while travelling in Budapest, staring into the Danube, shaped Ayako’s life path more than the 15-plus years she had spent working in the corporate world. Mesmerized by the beauty of the river and the flow of the water, Ayako suddenly knew she wanted to change her life, to prioritize purpose over climbing the corporate ladder.

Returning to Alberta, Ayako packaged her communications and change management skills into a war chest aimed at helping organizations across the province get healthier.

Now, through her practice at Brave Birds Studio, Ayako helps clients understand the roadblocks to organization health – barriers like team dynamics, leadership misalignment, toxic cultures, and unproductive meetings.

Collaborating with these clients, Ayako helps them overcome their challenges by developing strategies, approaches and teams that shift workforce behaviour and mindsets, driving healthier processes and aligning decision-making with business priorities. Her work leads to improved workforce performance and drives employee engagement through empathetic communication.

Ayako supplements her years as a practioner in the workforce through a commitment to lifelong learning and is an active member of the Table Group’s (A Patrick Lencioni Company) Consultant and Practitioner Alliance.


  • Public Relations Diploma, MacEwan University

Certifications and Professional Development

  • World Business Forum London 2021 – WOBI
  • CAPA Pro Training Program – The Table Group, A Patrick Lencioni Company
  • The UnConference, The forum for healthy organizations – The Table Group, A Patrick Lencioni Company
  • Behavioural Exchange 2019 Conference
  • How to Influence with Tactical Empathy – The Black Swan Group
  • EQ-i 2.0 / EQ 360 Certification Program – EI Advantage
  • Facilitation with Ease Certificate – Facilitation First, Enbridge University
  • Prosci Change Management Certificate – AdPro

I've recently had the opportunity to work with Ayako on obtaining clarity on a business venture that I wanted to pursue. I highly recommend working with her to save you time, money and to provide you insight on your organizational health. Ayako is intuitive and can identify in a short period of time what you or your organization requires to further define your target market, value proposition and the type of team member you are missing to make your team or organization successful.

Belinda Panganiban

Tracy has brought a wealth of experience, wisdom, and vision to our organization. She has elevated the organization’s credibility and visibility in many ways, including working with the Board to create a relevant and meaningful five-year strategic plan, communication plan as well as facilitate many staff team building events including individual coaching. Simply put AFCC would not be the success it is today without Tracy.

Shane GauthierCEO Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary

The workplace is more complex and more challenging with every passing day. The competition is stiffer, margins are tighter, expectations are higher, changes are more foundational. Our leadership team needed to reset with a bold new vision of who we are and what we deliver and Tracy and her team at Brave Birds challenged us to do just that. After taking the time to understand the organization’s journey and current state, Tracy challenged us to think differently about both; to reexamine our “truth” and throw away outdated ideas and plans. She was frank with us, honest with us, and she challenged us. It wasn’t easy but we’re leaders and our teams expect us to do the hard work.

Terry CurtisStrategic Leader/Culture Builder/ Six Sigma Master Black Belt

When I was experiencing existential issues with a partner on a creative project I sought out the expertise of Ms. Ayako Ohtake, a consummate communications professional and greatly respected friend, who had provided me counsel and solace with her wisdom in the past. Ayako was able to apply the “6 Types of Working Genius” tool/framework – seamlessly – to my vexing situation and both illuminate the underlying issue (expecting my partner to provide different strengths than were organic for her) AND provide the insight for a working path forward. The Table Group tool is a marvelous one and Ayako’s uniquely empathetic gifts will enable her clients to develop a practical wisdom of their own through the application of it.

Kara Aimee MaxfieldOwner of Maxlogical and Podcaster

I had the pleasure of working with Tracy when I was the Director of Stakeholder Relations with Women Building Futures. Tracy helped our executive team with strategic planning and our full team with Indigenous Awareness and Cultural Training. In both cases, I found her approach to be authentic, “no nonsense”, relatable and sensitive. Her level of professionalism combined with approachability is what makes Tracy a leader.

Jacqueline AndersenBrave Birds Client