Name: Jarrod Nichol
Title: Chief Revenue Officer
Jarrod is the Chief Revenue Officer at eeva, a revolutionary start-up looking to change the way you manage your homelife forever. He is also a Director, Administration and Operations at McGill University, and President of the Vivarium Operational Excellence Network. He holds an MBA, and multiple professional designations in fields including process improvement, project management, change management, and organizational behavior. Jarrod believes in putting people first and creating a culture of continuous improvement and inclusion. He also believes, much like Steve Jobs before him, that the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Jarrod's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
I believe the most challenging aspect of being a leader is inspiring others that change is a force for good, and positive for the organization and the individual. In many of the organizations I’ve worked with over the years, change has been rushed or forced, and most people view change as this negative force that exists only to disrupt. Getting people, and by extension an entire organization to realize the true potential positive change brings is one of the greatest feelings someone in a leadership role can have. It isn’t easy, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have a rather unique story given the time we live in. I started at McGill University, at age 19, I was hired in the very lowest position the organization had. I eventually worked my way up to a Supervisor role when I was 26 years old, and I learned a very important lesson, managing people through a large change is not easy to do. I was blessed to have been given the opportunity, but I felt very ill prepared for the role so I decided to do something about it, I went to night school to learn all I could about management. It was during this time that I discovered continuous improvement, Lean management, and Six Sigma process improvement. I became obsessed and made it a mission of mine to learn all I could. As the years went on I earned multiple professional designations including a PMP, Prosci Change Practitioner, and acquired my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, amongst others. I eventually moved into a Program Management position within the organization where I was responsible for a unit’s continuous improvement program. Around this time I began consulting, and decided it was time to get my MBA. After that I quickly rose through the ranks to an Associate Director, and eventually Director, and over the past year I co-founded a technology startup and am the organization’s Chief Revenue Officer. I have also been heavily involved in the Vivarium Operational Excellent Network as a Board Member, and was made President of the organization in December 2022.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I begin my days with a two-hour walk in the early morning to get some exercise and to recharge. I head to work quite early in the morning to have a nice breakfast and coffee with one or two of the leadership team before the endless onslaught of meetings begin. I try very hard to disconnect for the lunch period for at least 30 minutes, but truthfully that doesn’t always happen as there are many days where pressing issues require immediate action. I spend about 8 hours in the office before making my way back home, and from there I make it a point to be the cook. This forces me to disconnect for an hour or two while I prepare the day’s meal. After that I spend about an hour or two on any residual files I may have from the Vivarium Operational Excellence Network before jumping in to my eeva work. Afterwards I typically sit back and read or watch a television program for an hour or so as my final discharge for the day before heading to sleep and repeating the process. I have an incredible support structure that allows me to work as many hours as I do, which can range from 14 to 16 hours a day depending on the day.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Self-reflection. Recently there has been an incredibly amount of stress placed on me and the team, and I couldn’t quite understand what was going on with me health, sudden hearing loss, abdominal pain, difficulties sleeping, etc. This coming from an individual who has worked around the clock for over a decade and never felt any of these symptoms. After a few good discussions with close colleagues I realized it was because of all the stress. One lesson I continually mention to my leadership team is knowing yourself, knowing when you need a pause, a break, or a vacation. It’s easy to say, and something else entirely to do, and I was humbled by the reminder. It’s extremely important that you listen to your body, because if you crash, you aren’t going to be an effective person, let alone an effective leader.
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?
Recently Adam Grant’s Think Again had a profound impact on me. As the synopsis of the book says, “Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there's another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.” This really struck a chord with me because we’re always taught to stand by our decisions, and ensure people believe in us. Reading through the book I came to realize that it’s entirely ok to be wrong, and to be wrong in a way that my team understands. A year or so ago I was adamant that a policy being put in place would benefit the entire department, change is good remember, well it wasn’t, and it took me a while to come to terms that I had made a glaring mistake and that it was ok to admit that and course correct instead of being stubborn and having everyone suffer as a result. Today I think of Adam’s book as the real catalyst for being a leader who accepts mistakes for what they are, learning experiences.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Be true to yourself, but listen to the people. You can’t know everything, and if you surround yourself with incredibly smart and talented people, make sure you listen to them. I would also tell them not to forget everyone around them, even the lowest level position. People at all levels have tremendous talent and a voice, and more often than not they just want to be heard.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Several years ago I was just put in charge of a fairly large department, and I knew there was this one individual who could bring about such positive change if he was given the chance. Unfortunately things didn’t work out as intended and he left the organization. I kept in contact with him for over a year and when another opportunity arose, I asked if he would be interested in coming back. Keep in mind he was in another country at the time. He decided to come back, and my original feeling was proven true. The positive changes he made to the program upon his return have benefits the entire team, and it was truly remarkable to see. I am so thankful that he put his trust in me, but also that he put his trust in his people. It has worked out so well that even when I am no longer part of the organization I know that he’ll still be there doing incredible work.
The moral of this story to me is that you stick with great people, even after they move on to something else because you never know what the future holds. Had we not kept in contact with one another this would have been a very different kind of story.