Sparking Innovation, Encouraging Curiosity and the Importance of Saying ‘No’: Advice from a Manager

Sponsored by BNSF Logistics

Penni Chaney

Image courtesy of BNSF Logistics.

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Fairygodboss
May 21, 2024 at 7:26PM UTC

“I’m always trying to be more innovative,” says Penni Chaney, an Operations Manager at BNSF Logistics — a multi-modal, third-party logistics services provider specializing in the movement of freight around the globe.

Chaney is constantly looking for ways to innovate in the day-to-day details. “We often get stuck in those processes and/or tasks that become our comfort spots,” she explains, “but I want to improve on stepping out of that and seeing things from new eyes or perspectives to achieve even more success, instead of being afraid to completely change something.”

This drive to find new and better approaches and utilize her creativity daily is truly encouraged at BNSF Logistics, which has a company culture of finding new paths forward and solutions to the world's most complex problems.

During her time at BNSF logistics, Chaney has learned a lot about leadership, creativity and growing her career. In this article, she shares her best advice for future leaders, her top management tips and how she finds ways to improve every day.

Tell us about your job.

I’m currently an Operations Manager on the Agent Support team, where I mentor and manage three direct reports and act as a leader to the entire team of five. I also act as a day-to-day liaison between our corporate team and network of agent offices across the U.S., where I provide daily operational assistance, as needed, and get to work with all internal departments, such as Credit, AR and Billing & A/P. 

I’ve been in this role for three years and with BNSFL for nearly six years. I began in an entry-level role before I was placed as the New Agent Trainer prior to my current role. 

Before BNSF Logistics, I spent six years working as a customs brokerage entry writer back home in Texas and as an Import Manager at CEVA Logistics.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership? 

Make yourself as visible as you can, and don’t be afraid to step out of the box of what your current role is (as allowed). Meet as many people as you can outside of your team and/or department and build relationships.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My style is open and transparent while giving each of my team members room to find their own way. I provide the base knowledge, share as much of the “how-to” knowledge as I have and hold nothing too close to the vest, so that they can be successful in their own right. I’m also not afraid to share about my failures so they can use them as a learning tool.

Can you identify anything you did that earmarked you as someone ready for advancement?

At every new job, I’ve always been the one to say, “Tell me more, give me more and show me more.” I always have the curiosity to see what else I can do to impact my performance or even job satisfaction. As a manager or leader, those are characteristics to look for in potential future leaders on teams — they’re normally the individuals who want to go further in their current or future roles.

What’s been your most valuable career mistake? 

Early on, I learned that you have to say NO at some point, and you must delegate. By not doing this, you’re only hindering your and your team members’ development. That was the greatest lesson I’ve learned.

What opportunities did BNSF provide that ultimately helped you land your role?

Cross-training was a big part of what landed me in my current role, not just by title but also the partners who endorsed me.

My previous manager always allowed me to fill in when the training department requested assistance or a voice to represent our team, and this strengthened my skills and prepared me for the next step in my career. This also let me use what I’d learned to better train and prepare my replacement.

Simply, the opportunity for input and being able to have a forum that allowed for honest feedback to be given and received was a huge benefit.

How has having or being a mentor enriched your own work experience? 

There’s a feeling of inclusiveness. Getting to be a mentor recently was an honor. It meant that someone in the company had the confidence and trust in me personally to know that I’ll be able to have a positive impact on the mentee.

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Fairygodboss is proud to partner with BNSF Logistics. Find a job there today!

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