As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Janelle Reid.
Janelle Reid is the founder of Divine Career Solutions who teaches and equips career professionals with cultivating competencies that add value to employers and delivers inclusive workforce solutions to businesses on how to select & develop key talent & leaders within the workplace to maximize results. As a global executive with 15 years of experience in Human Resources, she is committed to empowering individuals by identifying career needs, providing strategy consulting, and creating the roadmap to excel & advance in their career or business.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
In my early career days, I worked in the mortgage industry for a few years. I was making decent money, but I felt like something was missing and I needed more. I felt like I did a lot at my job, yet I was not progressing in the way I needed to. I felt stuck! I thought to myself, “I need a career change, but how do I even go about doing that? More importantly, what do I want to do?”
A defining moment in my career came the day that I attended a Career Day event. There was a presenter who spoke about the field of Human Resources. As she spoke, I felt a fire ignite in me. I became so inspired about helping people understand employment resources that were available to them; compensation, benefits & training. I finally felt passion and purpose and it was for helping others. I made the decision to change my career path to Human Resources. Even though I was excited about walking into a new career, the hard part was just beginning. When I made that decision, I also had to accept the fact that I had to start from the bottom. This meant also taking a major pay cut to follow this new passion. That’s right. I had left a $60k job and went to a $40k job all in the pursuit of my purpose. It was the hardest but best decision I’ve ever made and the most humbling experience of my life. I learned from both the good and bad bosses. I learned that the space in between experience and readiness is study; I learned to master, not just to know! I mastered being a loyal follower and becoming a leader. Most of all I learned the value of climbing up the ladder from the bottom.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Your failures & rejections are part of the lessons that prepare you for success.” In both your personal & business, you are going to experience rejection and have some failures along the way. Being a hard-core perfectionist and my drive to always operate in excellence, my perspective of rejection and failure was very personal and I only viewed it in the sense of me losing. It wasn’t until much later in my career that I realized that rejection & failures are not about losing, it’s about learning & growing and using that as a catalyst to succeed.
There was a management position with a very well-known Fortune 500 company that I applied for, a year ago and I nailed that interview. At least, I thought so. About two weeks later, the hiring manager called me and said that I didn’t get the job. My spirit was crushed, and I was overwhelmed with feeling rejected. How could I have not gotten the job? I answered every question correctly and gave clear examples. Each interviewer said that I would be a good fit for the position. I asked the hiring manager to provide me with some constructive feedback, and she told me that I did everything right. The only reason they went with another candidate is because of the extensive retail experience that I didn’t have.
Fast forward a month after that, the same hiring manager who did not hire me called me and asked me to go to lunch with her. We went out to lunch, and she told me that even though I didn’t receive the job, she remembered how well I interviewed and that she was going to keep me in mind for another position that may be opening up in the future. About three months later, she kept her word and called me again and wanted to offer me a new management position. By this time, I had already accepted another offer with another company for a senior management position equivalent to the position the hiring manager was trying to recruit me for.
The reason I shared that example is to show you that if I had been offered the position with the Fortune 500 company, I would not have been available for the right position. Also, I used rejection as my catalyst to continue pushing and preparing myself to be ready when the right position came.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?
The book ‘Everyone Communicates Few Connect” by John Maxwell is by far one of the most influential books that have impacted my leadership style, which servant leadership. It exudes, servant leadership at its highest and finest level. Leadership is about putting the needs of others above your own and serving them well to bring out the best in them. One example that comes to mind is when one of my former HR Director was feeling undermined & inferior to the business leaders she was supporting. She was frustrated and she started leading from that place of frustration. She came to me for some advice and ultimately asked me to speak on her behalf to the business leaders on her concerns. After allowing her to vent, I communicated to her that I had the perfect solution for her. I put her in charge of leading a project with those same business leaders she was feeling inferior to and she immediately got upset with me tears and all. She asked me, why would I put her in a position to lead a project with those business leaders when they clearly didn’t respect her or want to work with her. At that very moment, I gave her some tissues and I said to her, that her value doesn’t change just because of other people’s inability to see it. I reminded her that she was not inferior to those business leaders, but that she is a collaborative thought-leader with the power to help them deliver solutions to achieve business results. I reminded her that she didn’t need me to speak on her behalf to those business leaders and that she carried her own strength as a leader. I could have easily done what she asked and spoke to those business leaders but I needed her to remember her strengths and that she had the power to influence the business leaders and work collaboratively with them. She still had some tears after that but, she thanked me for pushing her and in the end, she successfully led the project and those same business leaders now value her thought-leadership.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Divine Career Solutions has a dual specialty in both career & business where our competition focuses on just career coaching. We are also not just a resume writing company, we provide a customized roadmap to help career professionals advance within their careers. We are also unique in that we create the roadmap for career professionals who want to successfully make the transition from corporate America to entrepreneurship while continuing to make income. Lastly, we offer HR consulting services for small & large businesses to fit the specific needs and culture of the company.
One of my clients, Linda, came to me wanting to know to make more money with her employer. She felt stuck within her career and frustrated by that glass ceiling within the company. She was over 40, not making the money she wanted to make, and thought that she was never going to be able to have more and that she was too old to do something different. I sat down with her and had a very detailed discussion on what her goals and aspirations were and then developed a roadmap with a strategy to accomplish her goals. Although she came to me simply wanting to make more money, the roadmap we created and executed with her allowed her to double her salary, but she was also promoted into a leadership position. She said to me “You help change my life with my family and my career. I have the financial freedom that I never had before and I now look forward to going to work.” Linda was my very first client and from that moment on, I knew that my company was destined for greatness by helping others.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Of course, the first thing is to always seek God first to order your footsteps. Master serving well in all that you do, you will need to exercise this in every aspect of your life, career & business. Learn from both your failures and rejection as they are critical parts of your development to help you understand the difference between pushed away and being available for the right thing. There will always be someone who doesn’t see your value, don’t ever let that person be you. Set your goal to be valuable and success will attract itself to you.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
So early within my career in my first management role, I was so motivated & competitive at being the best leader so I remember going to one of the VP’s at the company I previously worked for and asked them to give me their best advice on leadership and the VP told me that, leaders don’t give explanations, they give expectations and that if I follow that, I’ll be a great leader. I took that advice and ran with it.
When I had my first management position, I had three direct reports. When I assigned tasks and projects to the team, I expected them to be done right away, with no exceptions or excuses. During one of our team meetings, I assigned the team a special customer service project that I needed to be done by the next day. After our team meeting, one of my direct reports asked if she could speak with me. She told me that she wanted to ask me a question but didn’t want me to “take it the wrong way.” After assuring her that I would do my best to be objective, she asked if I had ever considered myself to be impatient.
I was perplexed. I had never considered myself to be impatient, and I couldn’t recall a time when anyone had told me that I was either. I went on to ask her what prompted her to ask me such a question. She said that when they asked me questions to understand the reason behind the sense of urgency for some projects I had assigned, I seemed to get impatient and frustrated. I still wasn’t entirely convinced until she provided me with an example of a customer service project I assigned on Monday with an expectation to have it completed on Tuesday. I didn’t provide clarity or explain the urgency of the project, ask for their feedback about the timeline, or offer resources or support.
It was at that moment that she gave me the example, that I became self-aware that as a leader, and realized that I was only as strong as my team and that giving both expectations & explanations helped the team. I owned it and took actions to change to be more self-aware and to also be a better leader to my team.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1.) Lead while serving well- I believe the reason that I am a successful business leader is because of how well I served others. I remember leaving a former company I worked for, and they had a good-bye celebration for me that literally brought me to tears. The tears weren’t about all the accomplishments and milestones I had achieved but, it was about the fact that when I started with the company most of them were not leaders at that time, and by the time I was leaving the company, they were all leaders that I had the privilege of leading and serving. Each person during the good-bye celebration said that I left a legacy of serving & leading that they would always remember and that they were now committed to doing the same. It’s all about servant leadership for me.
2.) Accountability & Ownership- Accountability and ownership create the discipline for consistency.
3.) Humble — I constantly do my best to stay in the position of humbleness. Throughout my career I have found that when you recognize that you are not here to see how important you can become, you are here to see how much of impact and difference you can make in the lives of other people, that is what makes what you full of purpose.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?
C-Level executives establish the longer-term and bigger picture corporate strategy 5–10 years out to ensure corporate viability as they are accountable for the full company’s performance. Leaders develop the function strategy and focus on the here and now or current state to ensure harmony.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
One of the myths about being a CEO or executive is that they earn millions each year. Let me be clear, there are some CEO & executives that do however they are about 1% of the 1% because of the enormous amount of money they make. Most CEOs & executives are fairly compensated earning in the moderate six-figure salary range based on the size of the business and industry they work in. Another myth is that CEOs & executives have all the answers which is absolutely NOT true. Believe it or not, successful CEOs & executives though they are incredibly knowledgeable, they also master learning how to learn by using wisdom to find answers amongst their teams & networks. CEOs may not always be the subject matter expert in various topics but they partner with highly intelligent people who have the levels of expertise for the answers they may not have.
What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?
One of the most common mistakes I have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading the team is when they operate under the premise that they no longer need to serve and the truth is in order to be successful as a C-Suite leader, it’s imperative that you lead while serving. And it’s very hard for some leaders because it requires them to constantly check their ego at the door, but keeping in mind that leadership is a privilege, not an entitlement. Leading while serving means you are always being self-aware that leading is not about you, it’s about putting the needs of others first, inspiring them to operate in excellence and become the best version of themselves and replicate that to produce other leaders. Connect with people so that they feel important, don’t just simply communicate with them. It’s in the connection that the trust and relationship to both serve & lead them.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Companies & businesses oftentimes feel that when they hire a person or staff and after they are trained and then assume the role, that their part as the employer is done and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s actually after the person or team assumes the role that the real work begins. Growing talent is so very important in companies & businesses and you do so by developing & investing in your teams. Companies & businesses oftentimes, undervalue the need to grow talent for various financial constraints, limited resources however, you made an initial investment in them when you hired them so you need to continue to develop them. The more you develop them the more you cultivate the best in them and the more loyalty you get from them and the more value they create to the business.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1.) Work-life balance is determined by what boundaries you establish or not. If you don’t set boundaries and discipline, on how you work, your time, etc. you will not have it. It’s important for other leaders to see you lead this by example so the boundaries are paramount. I learned this the very hard way by working hard at everything and not setting boundaries. I said yes to everything because, I thought that was the sure and best way for me to get recognized, acknowledged, and rewarded was by working all the time but it came at the expense of burnout, my burnout to be exact. I needed to establish boundaries for work for myself but so that others would also respect them. I needed to lead by example and not only establish the boundaries but also be consistent with them so my team could see it and also do the same.
2.) Understand Your Role Change & Results- As a C-Suite leader, the results most times are not as immediate with gratification as in previous leadership roles. In previous leadership roles I had, it was much more hands-on, I was able to shape the functional strategy and assign the functional teams to support it and perform against a mission. In C-Suite, you are completely removed from the day-to-day hands-on and leading the business while directing, teaching, and coaching others.
3.) Learn the power of leveraging your strengths- You benefit nothing from the strengths you identify but do not apply but identifying them doesn’t always mean you are the one to apply them. Sometimes as a leader, you are meant to teach your strengths to show others how to leverage them. Remember leadership isn’t about you, it about putting the needs of others first and bringing out the best in them so when you have someone on your team that has an area of opportunity and can benefit from learning your strength, teach them and allow them to sore.
4.) Master taking constructive feedback & conflict well- One of the true strengths of leaders is how well they manage constructive feedback and how well they deal with conflict. As a leader, you must be able to have people around you who can disagree with you and your perspectives and still be able to respect them without getting defensive while learning & embracing diverse perspectives.
5.) Accountability & Ownership are different- Both accountability and ownership are different but equally important. Being accountable is about fulfilling your commitment to achieving a result and accepting the consequences of your actions. Ownership is your choice and initiative. Whether it’s your goals for your career, business, or even your life, accountability, and ownership create the discipline to be consistent. It’s not just about your goals or commitments. It’s about acknowledging that your actions affect your abilities to accomplish your goals.
In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
1.) Employee Engagement- Connect with employees by actively listening to their mental, emotional, and behavioral commitment to their work. ACT on the employee’s feedback and prioritize that engaged employees make the business more successful. What do we need to fix? How we will approach it? & How we will sustain it?
2.) Performance & Potential Management- Engage in regular & ongoing communication in support of achieving the strategic goals of the company. Conduct assessments of both performance and potential assessments. Allocate work, goal alignment, setting expectations, providing feedback, recognizing outcomes that help both the employees and the company drive results.
3.) Learning & Development- Establish programs to improve individual and team performance by improving competency-based strengths. The competency-based strengths will build capabilities, grow their strengths and develop their areas of opportunities.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would start the self-worth movement because I am a firm believer that how and what you believe in your self-worth shows up in every aspect of your life, business & career. Far too many times, when self-love is absent, our standards and expectations are low and we end up settling versus being a trail blazer in our purpose.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Readers can follow me at: