Daphne Jones: Defying Doubters To Write Your Leadership Narrative

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I recently spoke with Daphne Jones, a seasoned leader who has held C-level positions at several Fortune 500 companies, including IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and GE. Despite the underrepresentation of women of color in leadership roles, Daphne has made a name for herself in the corporate world and shares her experiences, lessons, and advice for aspiring CFOs and other executives looking to foster a culture of equity.

Currently, Daphne serves on the boards of multiple public companies and has recently published her first book, “Win When They Say You Won’t,” which is receiving rave reviews as a guide for professionals, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, to break free from negativity and achieve their professional goals.

Daphne attributes her success to four key factors: the right mindset, vision, pattern recognition, and PIE (performance, image, and exposure). Growing up in a low-income community in Illinois, Daphne was instilled in her a growth mindset by her mother, which ultimately led her to pursue success despite the odds. Daphne’s early career as an executive assistant (at the recommendation of a high school guidance counselor who failed to see her potential) allowed her to study successful people and adopt their habits while setting developmental milestones helped her stay focused on her goals. Lastly, having a clear performance plan, a strong brand image, and workplace exposure propelled her to the top.

The advice and wisdom of several mentors has played a critical role in Daphne’s professional journey. Her branch manager at IBM sponsored her and provided valuable corporate advice, while a colleague taught her the importance of listening and asking the right questions, WAIT (Why Am I Talking) being my personal favorite! Daphne also notes that mentorship can come from a variety of sources, including role models and peers. Presently, Daphne draws inspiration from historical icon Harriet Tubman, who was born into slavery and, after escaping, made 13 missions to rescue other slaves.

A sought-after mentor and coach today, Daphne advises leaders to practice servant leadership, focusing on serving their employees, clients, or stakeholders rather than prioritizing their own needs. She also emphasizes the importance of not overloading oneself and approaching feedback strategically rather than taking it personally. Ultimately, Daphne reminds aspiring leaders that excelling in the corporate world is a game and encourages them to stay focused on their goals. Daphne has identified the “Five F’s” to help her strike a balance her career: faith, finance, family, fitness, and furthering your career.

“Win When They Say You Won’t” is a book that is born out of Daphne’s personal experiences of being told that the dreams of a Black, Jamaican, immigrant woman in the corporate world were unachievable. Her realization that many others, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, are given similar advice was her inspiration for writing her book.

The book serves as a framework for controlling one’s own success, thinking like a

leader, and creating a winning narrative. I believe that the most impactful part of the book is the EDIT (envision, design, iterate, and transform) framework, a step-by-step, logical approach that helps professionals develop a winning mindset and continuously improve. The EDIT framework does not assume that everything will go smoothly, but rather it is a plan that is well-defined yet adaptable.

I concluded our conversation by asking how finance chiefs can be involved in creating a level playing field in their organizations. Recognizing the influence and power modern CFOs hold, Daphne identified prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion as true corporate initiatives, not merely words that are used without actions. The five Ps of pipeline, policies, pay equity, procurement and philanthropy can guide the thinking. The CFO should take a look at their talent pipeline and invest in individuals from diverse backgrounds with leadership potential. They should revise their hiring and promotion policies to support diversity. Pay equity between men and women should be ensured. Procurement should be done mindfully, as CFOs hold the purse strings and have the power to invest in minority or women-owned organizations. Lastly, philanthropy can be directed towards marginalized students or organizations of color.



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