Q&A with Jani Barnard, Business Operations Manager at Telstra

At amge+ we like to highlight some of the business leaders who inspire us through the work they do and they way they run their business. Jani Barnard of Telstra is a Business Operations Manager for Business Process & IT Operations and is an expert in business improvement and process management strategies. We caught up with Jani about her business style, what makes a great leader, and what she looks for (and avoids) when hiring new candidates.

How would you describe your style as a leader?

I focus on a person’s output and the value they add. I am not a clock watcher.

What is a professional weakness you had that you turned into a strength?

I am somewhat of a control freak. Moving into a leadership role and letting go and trusting people to deliver on a task or project was a huge adjustment for me. It was not just delivering, but doing it according to my standards.  I turned this into a strength by effectively delegating and communicating my expectations and exact deliverables.

What are the top three habits you have cultivated that consistently contribute to your success?

Work hard, be ethical, and follow through.

What was the first sign that you were made for the career you're doing?

When I was offered my first management role, I realised my ability to organise, manage and delegate was fairly good, from thereon I continued to develop.  It is important to me to be a good leader, not just a Manager.

Please name a person who has been a great influence on you as a leader.  How did this person mould your style?

George Savvides (MD, Medibank Private). George seems to put his people first. He knows where he comes from and doesn’t seem to forget that his people are his biggest asset. It has taught me to be more aware, supportive and empathetic.

What does it take to become a leader that people want to follow?

Give people opportunity to grow, to be innovative and creative in their roles.  If it helps them to work more effectively and efficiently, you stand a better chance of retaining your best people.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Always back yourself in any decision or choice you make. Rightly or wrongly, never doubt why you've done something, it will only make you question your ability. Everyone makes mistakes, learning to deal with them is the true test of character and confidence.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

I take in as much as I can on a daily basis. I learn from my surroundings and reflect on my wins and my losses throughout my day.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?

Skills and experience speak for themselves, but if there’s a clear gap in cultural fit, then none of it matters. In my environment you need to collaborate and be a team player. People who have one sided views and opinions are counterproductive and disruptive to our operating rhythm.

What advice would you give someone who was interviewing with you/your company?

Be yourself, be honest and don’t try too hard.

What personality traits do you most look for in a candidate and what might we be surprised to learn that you don't look for?

I look for someone who has confidence and who backs themselves.

I am a little cautious about someone who has an extensive job history at a young age unless he/she is a contractor.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Don’t try too hard, if you were born a leader it will come naturally. Go with your gut and remember that not everyone is going to like you.

As a a working parent, how do you juggle your work and home life priorities?

Working full time is pretty tough when you have a 5 year old at home and no family to support you. I have a very hands on husband and the support of amazing friends. It doesn’t make it any easier but definitely more bearable.

If you had chosen a completely different career, what would it have been?

My family has been in the events and catering industry for a very long time. It’s in my blood. It’s hard work but so rewarding.

What excites you most in your day to day work?

My portfolio of projects presents daily challenges. Juggling these to produce the best outcomes is quite exciting and I’ve been very fortunate with good projects thus far.

 What is your favourite Melbourne location for unwinding? 

I love the beach!