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7 Questions with Jodi D. Vermaas
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Jodi D. Vermaas
Name: Jodi D. Vermaas
Current title: Chief Leadership Officer
Current organisation: BASE4
In addition to parenting her 12 children, Jodi (J.D.) Vermaas is the Chief Leadership Officer of BASE4 where she provides executive coaching and talent management for her international team using the servant leadership model. Jodi is a quantitative researcher, published author, and double Ph.D. in the field of counseling and counselor education. She provides executive leadership for Priority One Worldwide and co-founded STONEPILE--The Online Construction College, a new institution of higher education, which she directs with her husband of 23 years, Dr. Garry Vermaas. Determined to use her resources and experiences to change the world, J.D. Vermaas recently released her memoir, Get Money Do Good, and hopes it will inspire you to share your story with her at www.getmoneydogood.com.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most challenging aspect of providing leadership for a large, international firm has been maintaining a long view of success. As the executive coach and talent leader, I hold fast to a servant leadership model, which is one that stresses the importance of leaders empowering others rather than aggressively taking on all the important tasks on their own. In the short run, leaders can accomplish a lot (even more) on their own; we know how to get stuff done quickly! However, for the long haul, the greatest value in our leadership is to raise up a group of others to come alongside and stand ready and able to accomplish even greater achievements than we do. It takes humility, honesty, and respect to expect others to do what we do, and by trusting the process, we will see success blossom all around us in ways that are more meaningful than we ever imagined--because the success is shared.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I am a licensed mental health counselor specializing in trauma recovery, so executive leadership was not my intent. However, I found through the years of working in non-profit organizations that understanding human behavior and compassion enabled me to have great insight into corporate leadership challenges. My firm is a multinational group of men and women striving to upend the architecture/engineering/construction industries via innovation and values-based leadership skills. Because they invest in people, they asked me to lead the charge of developing a world-class leadership program to be implemented across a worldwide team. Because executives are the most thinking, driven, and creative people, they require coaching that is equally challenging, insightful, and inspiring. Through actively listening, using quantitative program evaluation, and implementing tools of empowerment and change, I have found that I am able to support the firm in exponential growth--both in individual and collective goals.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
As a mother of 12 children (10 adopted from all over the world), I wake up at 4.15 am to work with our Eastern offices who are already at their midday point. After several hours (7:30ish), I take a break from work and prepare my children for school. Some of them school at home (more since Covid), so I can be found coaching my team in between school zooms and pre-algebra tutoring for my kiddos. I spend several hours a day writing and dialoguing with our team; I spend afternoon hours researching and honing program development. In between, I get to talk with team members around the globe in conference calls, problem-solving, training, and teaching servant leadership. Recently, I have been actively teaching college courses at our sister organization, STONEPILE, which is a new institution of higher education. There I get to write curriculum and teach classes in leadership. By 4 pm, I am cooking for my large crew and spending time with our large family. I am asleep by 10, so I can get up early again.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
In leadership, I have learned to measure success differently. With 12 children of varying abilities, I have had to learn how to measure success through a lens of acceptance and commitment. Everyone has their own weaknesses and liabilities in terms of their skills, personalities, and sanity; yet, we all have tremendous abilities, skills, quirks, and nuances that make us uniquely able to achieve meaningful success in this world. By embracing the messy and staying courageous in the face of defeats, we find that victory comes when you become self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and with them, to embrace hardship, empower your teams, and commit to your purposes.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I am an avid reader of all kinds of books with a keen interest in books on emotional intelligence, servant leadership, and enlightened capitalism (James O'Toole). If I had to choose only one, however, the book would have to be the Bible, wherein I have ingested themes of servant leadership throughout my adulthood. The Bible is all about finding the greatest fulfillment by supporting others in their success. Both profoundly simple and amazingly powerful, the Bible challenges me every day to ask, listen, and empower my team.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
In large enterprises, the temptation is to build programs rather than building people. I have found that all the research, assessments, and systems do not help anyone unless I engage with the team members openly, consistently, and humbly. You need to have genuine interest and curiosity about your team members as individuals for any large term leadership plans to work. This kind of engagement feels difficult amid our busy days, but if we commit to talking and listening to our teams on a daily basis, we will see results that far outweigh our expectations.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I will never forget the time I sat down to discuss with a team member to discuss her professional aspirations and poor job performance, and she chose to open up about rape and violence in her personal life. I remember how thankful I was that I began the meeting by asking and listening rather than by presenting a to/do list of how she could perform better on the job. Sometimes people's biggest challenges cannot be understood through our coaching lenses; often, we must simply open up to the people around us and allow them to open up to us in return. If we will listen--truly listen--what we find in our team members might surprise us--and move us. Let us never forget that leaders are there to meet our teams where they are at, and inspire, support, and empower them with the tools they need to grow.