Listen, Learn and Lead

Col. Jenise M. Carroll, commander of the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill Air Force Base, shares the guiding principles that have helped her climb the ranks in the U.S. Air Force.

Kallee Feuz Mar 31, 2021

Colonel Jenise M. Carroll, commander of the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, spoke to Zions Bank employees and guests on March 30 as part of the bank’s Power Speaker Series.

In a virtual panel discussion, Carroll reflected on how bravery in leadership affected her professional and personal experiences in the U.S. Air Force and beyond.

The discussion was led by Sui Lang L. Panoke, Zions Bank senior vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and included three facilitators who are leaders of Zions Bank’s employee diversity forums: Military/Veterans Business Forum co-chair Jessica Vattioni, Women in Technology Business Forum chair Maribel Saenthavisouk, and Women’s Business Forum co-chair Milisa Wolfley.

Carroll commands the 75th Air Base Wing, which provides installation support for the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, two fighter wings, and 50 other associate units, totaling 27,000 members consisting of active duty, civilian and contractor personnel.

Prior to her current position, she served as Director of Legislative Affairs and Washington Office for United States Central Command at the Pentagon. 

Following are some excerpts from the discussion.

Sui Lang Panoke: Who did you look up to as a young child and a young woman?

Col. Carroll: My true hero was my grandmother. I epitomized everything she did. I looked to her. She was a caregiver, she was a rock star in the community. There was nothing she was not willing to do for someone or someone’s family.

As I joined the military, my grandmother drove me to my first installation. On each assignment as I traveled the world, she was the first one I called. She inspired me to do what I do and to keep pushing forward to make a difference for all women.

Milisa Wolfley: How did the time away from your family influence you? How did it change your view of women in the workforce?

Col. Carroll: When my daughter was 7 years old, I wanted to go serve remotely in Korea. At the time I was still married, and for the woman to leave home and serve abroad is not always accepted. I challenge the status quo in everything I do.

That was an amazing experience for me being a woman in another country in a key leadership position. All of my colleagues were men. It shaped who I am today. I got to see how other countries do thing and really start to say, “Why don’t women decide to raise their hand and go abroad and serve?”

I still have letters today that my daughter wrote me when I was in Korea. When you’re apart you grow stronger because you deliberately have to have conversations with each other. It caused us to stop and pause and evaluate what we’re doing as a family.

Milisa Wolfley: Your mantra “listen, learn, lead” is powerful, and it’s brave because sometimes the hardest thing we can do is listen to understand. How has this become part of your leadership approach?

Col. Carroll: As a young officer, I was sought out to serve in a position and I said “no.” My mentor at the time asked, “Why do you think you can’t do that?” I said, “I never said I can’t, but I don’t see anyone that looks like me.”

Most of my mentors have been white men. Those white men saw something in me and gave me the opportunity. I took that time to listen to him and he’s still a mentor of mine.

When you see someone, reach down and give them that opportunity. But listen to their story first and help them work through any issues they believe may be barriers. That’s where the listening part comes.

Maribel Saenthavisouk: How do you approach the work of inspiring other women leaders?

Col. Carroll: I always let women know there’s nothing you can’t do, and it’s within you. You decide how far you want to go. I also tell them it’s not easy.

Every day it’s game day. It’s your Superbowl every day. So every day you show up, you show up ready, you show up smarter, you show up ready to articulate the message, and you do so unemotionally. 

If you have something to say, don’t be afraid to speak up. That’s the courage and bravery. Do it not with a soft-spoken voice; do it with a level of emphasis. When you speak, make sure you speak to be heard.

Jessica Vattioni: What are your thoughts about how to build a culture of inclusion?

Col. Carroll: We’re talking about it (diversity and inclusion), but we’re not executing. We need to execute policy that monumentally changes things. We need to accelerate this momentum, or it will become something of the past.

There are many people who are currently serving who have been overlooked for opportunities because they have not been welcomed to the table. They have all the skills and competencies, but they have not been given opportunities. I’m a data-driven decision leader; I want to go back and look at the data.

As we continue to fight for diversity and inclusion, a lot of women and minorities leave because of the way they’re treated. I am in possession of a report from 1984 talking about diversity and inclusion, and we’re still talking about it today. We have to stop talking and do.

Zions Bank’s Power Speaker Series features discussions related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as part of the bank’s larger DEI efforts. The March event was held in celebration Women’s History Month.

Kallee Feuz is a Public Relations officer with Zions Bank.

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