Jen Vanmeter, Executive Coach

As an executive coach for The Get Real Project, I get to help leaders and teams do something radical: shed their “work” personas and bring their full selves and talents to the office. As they unlearn conventional business wisdom in Get Real workshops, I nudge them with spicy questions to put their un-learnings into daily practice. Watching leaders dig deep, lean into discomfort, and unlock new possibilities inspires me to do the same. Clients say that hallmarks of my work are playful humor, catalyzing questions, purposeful prodding, and a collaborative approach.

Clients say that hallmarks of my work are playful humor, catalyzing questions, purposeful prodding, and a collaborative approach.

When I’m not coaching, I do strategy consulting and facilitation. I also design and teach leadership and management workshops to executives and rising leaders. Over the last 25 years, I have worked with federal, private, and non-profit organizations including the Capital Area Food Bank, Kids Connection Haiti, Markon Solutions/Anser Advisory, POLITICO, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Health and Human Services, U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence – Navigation leadership development program, and the World Bank. I have a B.A. in International Studies and French, an MBA with a focus in finance, and certifications in executive coaching, team coaching, and the Leadership Circle Profile 360 assessment. I’m also trained in IDEO’s Design Thinker approach.

An extreme extrovert, I get my energy from others. When not talking with clients, I’m talking with my three sons, spouse, neighbors, friends, and sometimes strangers on the street, usually while walking, hiking, or knitting (sometimes all at once). I’m a crafter with an excess of creative energy, so I’m always designing and making. During the pandemic, I painted two murals inside our home in Washington, DC. My spouse says no wall is safe!

My Get Real Story

I was eight months pregnant with our second child, still very busy at work, and scrambling to find daycare before the baby arrived. I had heard about a nearby facility that miraculously had an opening. (The joke in our area is you have to get on the waitlist before you get pregnant.)  This one was run-down but respected, a bargain compared to other options, and we were desperate.

I took a Monday morning off work to check it out, anxious to still finish that day’s work then pick up our toddler from school.

The center director greeted me at the door, dressed in a sharp suit with an even sharper, formal tone to match.  Maybe she would warm up if I was extra nice and grateful?  I knew that winning her over was key to getting that coveted spot. With my giant belly forcing a physical gap between us, I overcompensated with smiles, gratitude, and my story of this baby arriving in a few weeks.

Un-charmed and clearly unimpressed, she frowned and admonished me: “You can’t tour today. Tours are on Thursdays.”

“But I called you last week…you didn’t say Thursday…and I’m already here…”

She interrupted, “The website outlines this policy. Come back Thursday.”

Scolding and no smiles?  Squandering my precious time for work and the toddler? Policy over real-life customer service?  Out went my midwestern charm and in came controlled vehemence. Thirty seconds into my angered response, it dawned on me that I was burning this bridge.

I shut myself up and got ready to sulk out when the director said abruptly, “Can we start over?”

Dumfounded, I mumbled “Whaa?”

She extended her hand and softened her shoulders. “Hello, Jennifer.  My name is ___. Thank you for coming to see us today.  We normally do tours on Thursdays, but why don’t you peek in on our infant room?”

I stuttered, “Hello…” and it dawned on me that her “we” meant both of us.  She was embarrassed by her behavior and she realized I was embarrassed by mine.

I took a breath, gave a relieved smile, and apologized for my outburst.  I admitted I felt guilty for not securing a spot months ago, and admitted that we were—newsflash—up against a wall. I apologized for overlooking the policy and thanked her and her staff for their flexibility.  She said they liked to clean more before company and I assured her I appreciated how spiffy they kept things in the midst of a normal day.

Our family enjoyed three years in that center. The director remained a stickler for policy—that was her job, after all. But we were partners from that day forward, thanks to her role modeling.

Now that baby is 16 and I still reflect on the director’s boldness, vulnerability, and transparency. She graciously salvaged my fail, forged a personal connection, and taught me a way to accept others and manage myself on the worst days.

My Get Real Services

I specialize in coaching Mastery program participants on specific ways to apply what they are learning. I help them look “underneath the hood”: together we examine the thinking and learned habits that are limiting their success. I do group coaching as well as one-on-one sessions. I find it especially rewarding to teach coaching principles in the process so leaders can both expand and deepen the ways they engage with their own clients.

My Trust Temperament™

The Connector

What Clients are Saying

“Exceedingly over-the-top helpful … often pointing me in a new and better direction”—VP, Global IT Consulting Firm

“Working with you has been a game-changer for me. You came into my life at exactly the right moment to help me reframe complicated challenges, put them in context, and identify paths toward integrity and impact. I am so grateful to you, and I will be relying on our work in the days, months, and years to come.”– Executive Director of a national foundation

Who I’m Reading/Following

Getting a Little More Personal

Words people often use to describe me

Loquacious, perspicacious. Always looking for ways to make work fun. Weirdly insightful. Quick to see humor and to go deep.

What inspires me

People who push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

What brings me joy

Watching my kids learn, wabi sabi beauty (same thing).

What anchors me

Walking outside, knitting and creating.

What drives me nuts

People rushing in no direction.

My guilty pleasure

Brownie batter.

A favorite quote

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.” ― Edgar Allan Poe

What I can’t do without

Connecting with quirky, kind, and fun humans, especially my three boys.

My secret ambition

Being a marine biologist. Running a textile arts cooperative in the mountains.