You can delegate authority, but you do not delegate responsibility. Although you may give someone the authority to complete a task, mission, etc. if you are the leader or person in charge it is still ultimately your responsibility to ensure it is completed. I found this to be true throughout my time in the Reserve when I delegated a task and it did not go as planned. I was responsible for the outcome and learned the lesson that the result would ultimately fall into my jurisdiction, and it was important to train and lead to ensure that team was prepared to be successful.
As a part of my series about “Life and Leadership Lessons Learned In The Military”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janice Kennedy. Janice is the Owner of The Goddard School in Olathe, KS. She started her career in International Business specializing in Transportation and Logistics. After a successful career, Janice was able to raise her children and began looking for new business opportunities like The Goddard School. Janice has been a Goddard School franchise owner since opening the Olathe location in 2007. Shortly after opening her school, it became clear to Janice that The Goddard School was far more than just a good franchise model; it filled her passion to provide the best childcare available to families.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I am from a family of six children — my five older siblings were born within a couple years of each other. Then I was born nine years later, so I had the childhood of an only child. My dad had been in the US Army throughout but retired within six months of my birth. Even though he was retired, we still had influences in our family from military life. My parents separated when I was in 2nd grade and my mother raised me by herself. I knew that if I wanted to go to college, I had to find a way to do it on my own and began looking for options. I applied and was accepted to a small college in Nebraska, but knew I need to find a solution that would allow me to support myself. It was popular within this college population to join the Army Reserve to help pay for school, so I applied and joined my classmates in learning some of the most important and influential lessons of my early years.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
Today, I am a Goddard Systems, Inc. franchisee and oversee the success of The Goddard School in Olathe, Kansas. I was interested in the franchise model as it is a good business opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to have a little more security. I had a background in education and experience in international business, so The Goddard School fit perfectly at the intersection of my passion and experience. I am proud of all the work I do each day, but it became apparent that I was making an impact when I had parents coming into my office after their child had transferred into our school and shared the impact that our teachers and environment had on their young child. The most memorable moment was when a parent came in with brownies and tears explaining that we had brought their child back to life. From that point, I knew this was more than just a business — it was a mission-driven business with a purpose behind it.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I served in the US army reserve for a total of six years with a little over a year of that spent on active reserve in various positions. I spent most of my time in logistics but was able to learn from all units as we worked closely together to achieve our goals.
My last position in the Reserve was in the training division. Soldiers are trained throughout the states at different military bases by active military members. In the case of an emergency in wartime, the active military trained soldiers would need to leave, and the Reserve units would take over the training base. One summer, we were called to take over an entire basic training group in Washington. This was a surreal moment as I realized that I was supporting our next line of defense soldiers and stepping up to a new responsibility. Although I joined the US Reserve, each branch of the military can ultimately be called upon to support during wartime and we were able to do so to ensure the future safety of the country.
I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
There isn’t one specific experience that defined a hero or pinpointed heroism in my career. In my opinion, all military personnel and/or first responders are heroes. They have dedicated their lives to serve and protect others knowing that they may put themselves in harms way or ultimately give their life. I consider anyone who has chosen a career path that will put their life on the line for a stranger as a true hero.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
A hero is someone who believes in something that is greater than themselves and is willing to sacrifice for that cause. I believe when someone is in a situation where he or she must make a quick decision to protect or help someone else without a given benefit, they are becoming the definition of a hero.
Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?
I do not think someone needs to be facing a life or death situation to do something heroic or be called a hero. If someone sees something that needs to be changed, addressed or supported and acts upon that, then to me that is a hero. They would not need a title or degree to be given the hero title. For example, some of our teachers become heroes to our students. They are stepping into lives each day and enriching them for the better whether that be introducing new habits or teaching STEAM to the youngest generation in hopes to inspire interest for future careers. There are heroes everywhere and each situation calls for a different level of heroism to change it for the better.
Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- The most successful leaders do not try to know everything. They surround themselves with the people who do know and then lead them. In my experience, I had a leader that would constantly praise me for a job well done and thank me for my efforts in helping him accomplish his job. This made me want to work even harder and achieve new levels of success.
- You can delegate authority, but you do not delegate responsibility. Although you may give someone the authority to complete a task, mission, etc. if you are the leader or person in charge it is still ultimately your responsibility to ensure it is completed. I found this to be true throughout my time in the Reserve when I delegated a task and it did not go as planned. I was responsible for the outcome and learned the lesson that the result would ultimately fall into my jurisdiction, and it was important to train and lead to ensure that team was prepared to be successful.
- Treat everyone with respect and professionalism. Whether you were a private, sergeant, Lt. or General, my commanding officer treated everyone with the same respect and professionalism. He would provide guidance and constructive criticism when necessary but never in a demeaning or degrading manner. He taught me that when you respect your employees you build loyalty and trust. That motivates them to want to do a good job for you.
- It doesn’t take training or titles to become a leader to others. You can inspire others around you by simple actions and should never take your influence for granted. Each member in my unit had influence on my actions and in any situation, I had to be prepared to lead and provide direction.
- In any team setting, you are as strong as your weakest link. In my experience, we would rely on all members to achieve a goal or complete a mission. This has been useful to look back on as a franchise owner as I have to remember that my whole team supports the success of our school and not just an individual teacher or director.
Do you think your in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
In the military you are taught many skills that are required to be successful in business such as leadership, respect, professional, preparedness, following standard operating procedures etc. Anyone can be a leader. It does not always have to be the person in charge or the owner. The military has levels of leadership from squad leaders, platoon leaders, section leaders, battalion leaders, and so on. A leader works for the good of the group, encouraging and helping them to be better. When you can do this at the lowest level, the overall organization benefits. The leader works for the good of the group rather than the good of the leader. If I can get one teacher within my school to help someone become better, then that is one step toward making the whole school a better place. I have used my learnings to build an amazing team. Throughout different military branches, it is taught that respect must be earned, not demanded. I was able to use this with the different levels of personnel at The Goddard School to earn their trust and respect.
To me, one of the most important skills to be successful in business is professionalism — almost everything you do falls under professionalism, from your appearance, how you speak, your actions, etc. The military provided a platform rooted in professionalism, and the lessons I learned follow me in everything I do today. Additionally, the military is the leader in teaching preparedness. In business, you need to be able to prepare, or at least anticipate, the situations you will encounter so you can handle them to the best of your ability. Finally, learning the concept and importance of standard operating procedures has led me to great success. The military has SOP for everything. It allows for the procedures to be trained, duplicated and enforced. As an owner of a franchise it is very much the same. The SOP for running your franchise has already been created, and if you follow the procedures already established, you will be successful.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. How did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
I was not deployed so I did not have to adjust from deployment to civilian life. I am fortunate to be able to use all my learnings and experience from the military in a positive way throughout all aspects of my life.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Opening The Goddard School in December of 2007 has been the most exciting and ever-changing project since leaving the Reserve. As The Goddard School franchise has grown over the years, we have seen the introduction of new curriculum and technology to teach and inspire our students. As a franchise owner, I am able to experience the overall success of the brand as well as the localized wins at my school. For example, just over two years ago we added classrooms and gyms to the school and have been able to provide the additional benefits to our community. The Goddard School is a business that helps children succeed and thrive every day. I am proud to have a hand in raising future generations.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Management focuses on tasks, and leadership focuses on people. If you focus on people and on their strengths and weakness, then teams thrive. If you only focus on tasks, then you have a team that will struggle and not find success on their own.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Find out who your cheerleaders are and who believes in the mission. These are the individuals that inspire others at the peer level, and you can utilize their influence to motivate the rest of the group.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband Joe Kennedy. Before we opened the school, we were looking for business opportunities where he could be a leader. We came across GSI and although he did not want to run a preschool, through collaboration and brainstorming we decided to invest, and I became the onsite owner. He is continuously supporting me and has been there through the ups and downs, with complete trust in me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As I had previously stated, there is immense impact when a family comes to you after their child has flourished and their behavior has changed after struggling so long in previous situations. I love being able to transform a child’s life with strong supportive teachers and an inviting environment. There is nothing greater than receiving positive feedback from the parents since children are not able to tell you what is happening to them or why they are performing a certain way. It takes a parent’s intuition to know what is right, and I love that we are able to provide parents with the relief that they are sending their children to a school where they can thrive.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 love to see a change in our educational system to enrich and empower more children.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do the right thing even when it’s hard.” If you don’t have integrity in what you are doing, then everything is tainted. Once you lose trust with someone, it is extremely hard to get it back.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Yes, being an educator and a leader of teachers, I would love to meet Ron Clark. He is an amazing educator who founded the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. He has taken a different approach to teaching children, transforming classrooms and motivating teachers. If the public-school system would learn from him, we could change the face of the school system in America.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.