Everyone has that one friend they lean on: the one who sees possibility in every pitfall, who’s direct and honest, and who truly wants to help you be your best self. It’s rare to find that person in an office setting, but VMBC has done it. The person that people in the office turn to for guidance, organization, and feedback is Danielle West – better known as Dani.
Though her title is technically “Executive Associate + 4CS Leader,” Dani is above all VMBC’s alignment specialist. She brings people together to meet and make key decisions; she keeps an eye on company practices to bridge them with the company’s mission and vision; she strives to contribute to strategic projects and facilitate them moving forward with true momentum; she participates in creating virtuous life cycles to help processes continually improve; and she’s always finding new ways to help promote the company culture across teams and bi-continental offices.
And her alignment efforts start at the top. Dani, who started at VMBC in 2012 as CEO Jesse Crowe’s Executive Assistant, soon became the Executive Associate. In this role she aims to bring harmony to all three VMBC executives: Jesse, VMBC president Joe Cox, and CFO Melinda Chelliah. Immediately, she started looking for ways to align the executives around particular goals and improve communication. Each of the three was necessarily focused on different goals, championing different projects, and Dani wanted to serve as a bridge to keep them all connected as best as possible in any way she could. Overtime she sought to broaden her reach to help create increased alignment between the executive and management teams.
Dani has also arranged for each of the executives to receive a high level of support from an Executive Coordinator. This frees up time for Jesse, Joe, and Melinda to work within their “Genius Zones.” VMBC defines a Genius Zone as an area of outstanding, natural ability that each of us has which allows us to perform at a high level and adds to our overall energy and satisfaction. When working from your genius zone, you experience energy gains, feel deeply engaged, have high personal satisfaction, and elevated productivity.
In 2014, only a year after becoming VMBC’s Executive Associate, Dani took on the project that put her in her own Genius Zone: the creation of the 4CS Team. This team strives to bring Communication, Coordination, Care, and Culture throughout the company. Dani works with Federico Celina (the 4CS Leader in Buenos Aires, Argentina) to oversee thirteen coordinators who in turn work directly with the Executives, Directors, Managers, and functional teams at VMBC. These coordinators reach company-wide and help to bring organization, clarity, love, and care to the teams by serving as their partners. Above all, the 4Cs team strives to act as ambassadors of the VMBC culture, bringing the spirit of heart-centered clarity to every interaction.
“We love to hear that we’re making things easier and better,” says Dani of the feedback she gets on her team. “People see that we’re working hard to add value to their work as well as take tasks off of their plates to free up time for them to work in their Genius Zones.” But for Dani, who always seeks to contribute on a higher level, her current focus is to find a solid way to track and measure the team’s impact. Measuring where they are at, how they can improve, and how to optimize the opportunity they have to positively affect each area is important to her.
Leading the 4CS team is a natural fit for Dani. “For the past 15 years I’ve been interested in self-development, awareness, and bettering myself. Since my son came along 11 years ago, my passion for growth exponentially increased. I’ve been deeply inspired to be a great example for him and to guide him to be the best he can be as well. I want to make the same impact where I work – with the people that I have the privilege of working with.”
But until Dani started with VMBC, she’d never found the right work environment to push her personally and professionally. She laughs when she says that her three years at VMBC is a personal record for employment. Before VMBC she had an average tenure of 2 years. She grew from an HR Coordinator into a Staff Accountant and then into an Executive Assistant. Everywhere she worked, Dani was regarded as a standout employee. But for all the awards and glowing reviews, “the path to growth was long and slow with little opportunity to contribute beyond what I was able to achieve within a couple of years. I would just gain increased work quantity but lacked learning opportunities as well as challenges. That is not an environment I thrive in… I love to (and need to) give it my all, learn, grow, and make a difference.”
Immediately prior to working at VMBC, Dani was recognized with the Shining Star award, an honor greater than Employee of the Year, for her job at a utility company. When seeking to build the vision of her future with the company, she was shown that it carried more quantity of the same type of work. As someone who is always seeking growth, Dani started looking for new opportunities that might excite and challenge her. Something about the VMBC ad on Craigslist stood out to her. It wasn’t like the others, full of technical jargon straight from a standard job posting template—it had a significant touching quality resonated with her.
When she went for an interview, she fell in love. The office layout felt different—open, bright, and had a fun style. “As soon as I walked in, I loved the place. I talked with Jesse for an hour. It was very unique to walk into an interview and to have him treat me with such respect, recognition, and appreciation right off the bat. He was clearly a visionary—I felt energized with sparks of excitement for his methodology and philosophy on where he wanted to go with the company. I was really drawn to what he told me regarding his goals and the opportunities I saw to be able to contribute to what he was doing.”
Then in Dani’s interview with Joe, he asked her, “What role do you want to grow into?” That question was music to her ears. She knew she wanted to be in service to an organization that genuinely wanted to benefit everyone and cared about where they wanted to grow. She loved the challenging question and it took her more than a year to answer it. She was delighted in that exploration!
When you ask Dani what her greatest accomplishment has been yet, she will tell you that she is incredibly proud of her team. “We’ve gathered the most amazing group of people and it is such a pleasure to see them shine, grow, and rise above challenges. We have such an outstanding team. I’m proud to be a part of the group. They are truly my extended family and some of my best friends.” She loves being able to contribute to the incredible work that they do. She feels like she’s finally found a place that will nurture her talents, challenge her to grow, and support her along the way. “Here I’m never, ever bored. It’s always fun. It’s always challenging. The people here are awesome. It’s the perfect home for me.”
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