GRACE UNDER FIRE
If there’s one thing that most C-suite executives in the energy sector have in common, it’s that they don’t particularly enjoy being publicly acknowledged for their excellence. It’s not that they’re not proud of the work they do or the achievements they’ve racked up, mind you. It’s just that when you ask them to stand on a stage and get showered with praise, they start to squirm a bit. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. There’s something inherently Canadian about the instinct to avoid the spotlight, and the desire to share credit with the co-workers who helped make it all possible.
But in times like these, which we’re currently facing, we need those high-achievers to stand up and step forward. We need people that we can look to for inspiration, for guidance and for a reminder that, yes, this too shall pass. We need people who demonstrate the value of underrated virtues like restraint, caution, patience and discipline, ones that tend to fall out of favor in headier times. Most importantly, perhaps, we need people who exemplify the importance of having grace under fire, and who know that weathering the storm this time will make the next one a lot more manageable. That’s what this year’s class of C-Suite Energy Executive Award-winners are all about – grace, dignity, class and humility. They’re the values that Alberta’s past was built on, and that its future will need in greater volumes than we’ve seen in recent years. If nothing else, we can all look to the 2016 class of C-Suite Energy Executives for evidence that those values are inextricably linked with success.
What is the most important quality that a senior executive can have? Being forward-thinking. As the leader of an organization, you have to ensure that short term goals are met, but as importantly, you and your team need to look out five to 10 years and develop a clear long term vision for your company. You also need to identify potential obstacles that may prevent you from achieving the long-term vision and develop strategies to overcome those obstacles. Once the vision is established, you need to articulate the vision in a way that engages and mobilizes the entire workforce and have them all working towards a common goal. This engagement and clarity of purpose is what, in my opinion, creates a high-performing organization.
What is the least important quality that a senior executive can have? Over-confidence. A good leader has to be confident, but also needs a certain degree of humility. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. A good leader has good listening skills and uses these skills effectively, especially when they’re making major decisions for their company. Good listening skills allow you to seek input from others in a collaborative way to help you avoid getting blindsided by something that you failed to notice. These skills, coupled with good decision-making skills, help you ensure positive outcomes.
What is your greatest fear? Failure. I have a need to be successful and I strive for excellence in most things I do.
“When people worry too much, they sometimes take their eye off the ball and lose track of what they are really here to do.” Q+ A with our CEO of the Year Lorenzo Donadeo
Which living person do you admire most? My father. He immigrated to Canada and left his family and his beautiful coastal homeland in Southern Italy at a young age in search of a better life for his young family. When he got to Canada, he toiled in the underground coal mines of northwestern Alberta. But together with hard work, perseverance, and a positive can-do attitude, he and my mother went on to live a happy and rewarding life. They taught us the importance of family and how to enjoy the simple things in life: family, friends, good food and good wine. “La dolce de fare niente.”
What is your greatest extravagance? Organizing family vacations and adventures abroad that include our immediate family as well as our extended family. Our last trip was to Italy where there were 22 of us. We started with a visit to my parents’ homeland in the Puglia region of Italy. When we got there, we organized a family reunion including our relatives from Italy and had 110 people. It resulted in a real emotional and memorable experience. We then went on to rent a yacht for a week and toured the Amalfi coast. We did some cycling, touring and too much eating. It was a great family adventure that created some lifelong memories and some good times.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Sometimes I can be too driven, I constantly strive for perfection.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? On the personal side, it would be marrying my high school sweetheart. We’ve been together for 42 years (seven of those while dating), and have been blessed with a great life together along with three boys that have grown into grounded, intelligent and caring young men.
On the business side, being a co-founder of Vermilion and generating a 33 per cent compounded annual return over 22 years, which makes Vermilion one of the top-performing companies in our sector. These strong returns, coupled with our longevity, leave a legacy of financial performance that is recognized and appreciated by our staff, our shareholders and the broader investment community. Aside from this, what makes me really proud is the strong corporate culture we have created at Vermilion. This is an organization that cares about its people and gives back to the community, that strives for excellence, but knows how to have some fun along the way. It’s an organization with a good corporate soul. All of these accomplishments are a result of strong team efforts and are a positive reflection of the dedication and commitment of all of our bright and capable people.
What is the most important quality that a senior executive can have? Leadership, and all aspects that fall under it. That includes identifying key people and their attributes, empowering your staff, making the tough decisions with confidence and identifying strengths and weakness in yourself and others.
“I cut my teeth in coveralls. Operations is my background, so I kind of like going back to my roots.” Q+ A with our COO of the Year Jason Jaskela
What is the least important quality that a senior executive can have? In a small company every quality is important, because weakness is failure.
What is your greatest fear? I don’t live that way – I really have no fears. But I’d say my greatest concern at the macro level is time. There is so much more this world has to offer and so much more I can give back. I have big dreams on further career development, supporting charities, coaching my children in sports and enjoying my family. I have no idea where the time is going to come from. Twenty-four hours in a day is not enough for me.
Which living person do you admire most? I admire different people for different reasons, so it is hard to nail it down to one person. One caveat for me is that in order to admire someone I have to know them. In general I admire all volunteers, because they donate time and in many cases do not even get a thank you. I have a ton of admiration for my colleagues at Raging River, each of them for different reasons. My career has been full of amazing mentors.
What is your greatest extravagance? Most people would say my farm would be my greatest “extravagance.” Animals have huge family significance, the whole family loves them.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I often get very focused and lose my ability to slow down and enjoy quality time. Multi-tasking is nearly impossible for me.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Eight years ago we lost our first son to brain cancer at the age of two and a half. Concurrently, the market collapsed pushing the company I worked for into bankruptcy. It was obviously a very challenging time for our family. But through the help of family and friends and pure resiliency we clawed our way back. We have since had three beautiful children and I have been part of building two very successful companies. It is fundamentally what keeps me humble, and defines for me the difference between success and significance. Our first son was a trooper and never gave up, and a lot of my motivation to this day comes from him.
Enerplus HR EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
Sanjel CHIEF LEGAL OFFICER
OF THE YEAR
PUBLIC AFFAIRS EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
Bonterra Energy CHAIRPERSON OF THE YEAR
CEO OF THE YEAR
Raging River Exploration
COO OF THE YEAR
Plains Midstream Canada
CIO OF THE YEAR
CFO OF THE YEAR