Female Leaders Raising Up the Next Generation - Jania Bailey
Name: Jania Bailey
Years in franchising: 24
No. of units system-wide: 40
What do you wish you had known before taking your first management role? I wish I had known how hard it is not to hold people accountable for not living up to my work style, expectations, and commitment.
Which leadership skills were the most difficult to develop? Patience was the most difficult for me, with the willingness to face conflict quickly being the second most difficult.
Who helped you on the way to the top? I had several people give me opportunities and encourage me along the way. The bank president of the first bank I worked at in Paducah, Kentucky, believed in me and encouraged me more than he probably realized. A female executive with Fantastic Sam’s gave me a massive opportunity in the organization and let me know she believed in me from Day 1. She is still a friend and cheerleader for me.
What was the best advice you ever got? “Give yourself permission to be human.” I was hard on myself for many years. I learned that it was okay to say no to extra projects or outside commitments.
Is that different than the advice you give? I find myself giving a lot of the same advice given to me.
How do you mentor, and what advice do you give those you mentor? I allow my mentees to set the agenda for our meetings and the topics they want to address. I need to be what they need when they need it. A lot of the advice involves being patient with themselves and being sure they work toward work/life balance. Many of us ignore the personal side of our lives while trying to get ahead. Later in life, we must make peace with the sacrifices we made and the things we missed. I encourage my mentees not to make those mistakes.
What skill sets do you think are imperative for young women leaders? Today’s leaders must be resilient, strategic, willing to lead by example, not take themself too seriously, know when to be firm and when to be flexible, know when to cut their losses with a problem employee, and learn to trust their gut instincts on everything!
What are your leadership do’s and don’ts? Do stay humble and approachable. Don’t believe your own press. Do surround yourself with people who complement your work style and personality. Don’t always hire people like yourself. Do protect your team from the outside. Don’t let your team be the fall guys for mistakes.
How did you learn to embrace risk-taking? My training as a commercial loan officer taught me that you must take calculated risks. If you wait until you have all the answers and are 100% sure of the outcome, you will never make a decision. No decision is a decision, and it is usually the wrong decision.
How should aspiring female leaders build allies? Be yourself! No one likes a phony or someone wanting to use them to get ahead. Work hard and get to know the successful people in your industry, but don’t be pushy or assume they should make time for you. The right people will be available to you, and the connection will be natural.
How do aspiring female leaders balance patience and perseverance? Perseverance is needed throughout our careers. Work hard, and do not let the day-to-day frustrations get in your way. I still struggle with patience, but I have learned that everything comes to those willing to work hard and not lose sight of the goal.
What roles do education and experience play in leadership development? Education is essential, but experience is invaluable. Commit yourself to learn everything about the industry and the various specialties. Read the industry magazines and multiple articles, and attend the educational sessions at conferences. Internally, become the go-to person at your company for all things in your specific area. Volunteer to cross-train when the opportunity arises. Learn all you can!
What about attitude and mindset? Attitude is critical if you want to climb the ladder. You must stay positive and have a “can-do” attitude. Do not be seen as a complainer or someone who “expects” special treatment. Your mindset has to be that if you will work hard enough, they cannot help but promote you. Avoid the attitude of “entitlement” at all costs!
Was there a time when things didn’t turn out as planned? How did you bounce back? I accepted a position with a bank that recruited me hard, despite being very happy with my then-current bank. The new bank made many promises, increased my pay by a large percentage, and offered stock options. Accepting this position was the worst mistake of my career. The bank did not live up to many of the promises, and their culture was toxic. I bounced back by quitting the bank and exploring other options, which ultimately led me to franchising. I would never have left the banking industry without this “mistake.”
What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned, and how has it proven invaluable? Not to let disappointments or misplaced trust make you bitter or unwilling to give the next team member complete confidence and effort. At some point, everyone in leadership will have employees who disappoint you, who leave without sufficient notice, and that you find out have lied to you. You must take these situations with a grain of salt and move on. I have found that after these disappointments, I can always look back and see that things turned out for the best!
Why is it so important to give back to the next generation of leaders? We must mentor the next generation and share what we have learned along the way. If we can spare them some of the mistakes and heartaches by sharing our experiences, it will help them move ahead more quickly. None of us in leadership today did it alone. We all had people open doors, pull us up, and encourage us along the way. We owe this to the next generation as our thank-you to the generation that came before us.
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