Setting the Tone: Nila Yousufi on Leading and Supporting at Bank of America

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Nila Yousufi

Photo courtesy of Bank of America.

Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss

Relationships are critical to Nila Yousufi’s leadership philosophy.  As Senior Vice President and Advanced Client Solutions West Region Executive at Bank of America, this approach allows her and her team members to know one another as people first. Recently, Fairygodboss spoke with Yousufi about her career, how she supports other women, her leadership style, prioritization strategy and more. 

She also shared the one thing everyone should know about careers at Bank of America, saying that the company wants its employees to have “fulfilling careers.” Read below to see what else Yousufi shared with Fairygodboss. 

Describe your job. 

I’ve been with Bank of America for 20 years and have held nine leadership positions throughout my tenure with the company. Currently, I’m the West Region Executive , leading consumer and small business sales in call center sites across the Western United States. I’m responsible for the end-to-end operations of over 600 teammates.

What’s the first and last thing you do at work every day? 

I’ve learned that setting the tone for your day is critical. I used to be more focused on reading emails and catching up on anything I missed.  But now I know that if I start my day without a plan, I often react, which is less effective. 

Now, I start each day by writing down the major focuses and tasks I want to accomplish, helping me prioritize and ensure that I know what a successful day should look like in case I get off task. At the end of the day, I check on my team, often sending them a quick message to see how their day went and if there is anything I can help with.

How do you prioritize?

I love lists. I find that physically writing down deliverables even if they’re obvious tasks allows me to visualize and prioritize better. I’ve learned that life happens, and, often, you’re pulled away from what you planned. Having a list allows you to reorganize and prioritize the things that are most impactful or that have imminent due dates. 

How would you describe your leadership style?  

My leadership style has evolved based on the level and skill of the leaders I’m managing. When I worked directly with teammates supporting clients, I provided much clearer directional feedback. As I’ve worked with managers, my leadership style has evolved to be much more visionary and transformational. This allows the leaders to understand the vision and create their own path for success. 

In my current role, I’m leading experienced leaders who often have great ideas and suggestions that would otherwise go unfulfilled if I were more directive. I have them work through their plan and support and guide them as needed. I truly believe that strength lies in differences and not similarities.

What’s one thing you think people should know about your company?

Most people don’t stay with companies just because they need a job — they want careers, stability, innovation and inclusion. They want to be proud of their organization. Working with both new and seasoned professionals, it’s been a pleasure to experience our company’s investment in its communities firsthand and recognize its focus on diversity and inclusion. We want people to have fulfilling careers. 

How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you?

It helps tremendously to see other women that we can relate to navigating families and careers successfully. Throughout my career, there were several women who were key in my growth and development, and it’s critical to pay it forward. I know that sometimes women need forums to come together and work through challenges. 

That’s why I lead a local chapter advocating women’s leadership. I also know that sometimes women don’t seek out support or mentorship and need help advocating for themselves. I look for strong female talent and get to know them to establish a relationship/mentorship. I currently have several mentorship/sponsorship relationships — it’s my favorite part of what I do.    

What’s something you’re especially good at in regards to work?

Effective communication is something that I’ve worked at for years. While I don’t believe that you ever master it, I do believe I’ve learned how to be intentional with my communication. I strive to listen, understand and have emotional awareness before I respond. I try to be clear in my feedback and create an environment where teammates feel comfortable speaking their minds. 

What about outside of work? 

I think it’s important to model the things that make us human. The line between personal and professional often gets blurred, and I believe it’s important to share who you are outside of work with your team so they get to know you and feel comfortable sharing, too. I often talk about my family, community work and how I balance it all. I hope that encourages my team to be their authentic selves — inside and outside of work. 

What are you trying to improve? 

I’m a lifelong learner. I look for new ways to be a more effective leader and person. I often like to read or listen to self-help and personal development books and articles. One of my biggest focuses has been to be a more holistic leader. I’m actively leading courageous conversations about the challenges we face in the increasingly isolated environment. I also encourage conversations on race, gender and inequities that exist. I truly believe that in order to be an influential leader, your team has to know you’re human.

What top three qualities do you look for when interviewing a candidate? 

I look for someone that has confidence and can articulate their story. I spend less time reading the resume and more time feeling the energy and confidence that the candidate exhibits. The content and business can be taught, but the willingness and ability to be an effective leader cannot. I also look for someone who can clearly formulate a response that includes a problem statement, their impact and the outcome. Finally, I look for a person who’s not afraid to be a lifelong learner, take feedback and grow. 

How is your company a particularly supportive work environment for women?

We’ve taken important steps to support and invest in our female talent. This year, the International Women’s Day campaign theme was #choosetochallenge and focused on gender bias and inequality.  

According to our 2020 Human Capital Management Report, women make up 50% of our global workforce. We’re one of five S&P 500 companies with six or more women serving on our board of directors, and 32% of our management team are women. We also invest in attracting and developing strong female talent through our internships and development programs.  

We all have the opportunity to choose and celebrate women's achievements, and, collectively, we can help create an inclusive world. 

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