Are you sitting comfortably?

At last September’s conference of the ‘The Women’s Business Forum’ Nancy Staisey, MD of Life Sciences at IBM shared her fascinating take on “It’s Time… to Realise Your Potential: the importance of support”.

Nancy explained how she often gets asked “How do you do it?” ie balance a successful career and a thriving family. She also pointed out that this question is rarely asked of men, yet they often share the same journey as their professional working spouses.

Support networks are a vital part of her success, enabling her to have a baby between each of her 3 degrees including her PhD and to make choices both in her career and personal life. She was thus able to seize opportunities when appropriate.

Nancy used the useful analogy of a 3-Legged Stool: The seat of the stool is your self-belief without which the legs are holding up air[1]. She went onto share what were the three legs of her stool:

First Leg: Build your personal support structures, including any outsourced support such as access to trusted childcare;

a)    be prepared to ask for the support you need both at home and at work, and be grateful if it’s good, but also be aware of the difference between support and advice

b)    maintain your social networks even over miles, continents and over time (it’s easier to change jobs than family and friends)

many hands make light work

Second Leg: Seek professional support from advocates, mentors, sponsors, and colleagues at work and be prepared to offer support in turn, even with people who are undermining you;

a)    You can transform a negative relationship with the right kind of attitude and turn an awkward colleague into a grateful ally

b)    De-clone your professional network; most of us now appreciate that diversity helps Boards make more balanced decisions, but also seek diversity in your personal network including geographically, socially, industry sector and background

Third Leg: Develop the right (authentic) CORE VALUES and be guided by them throughout your professional life. Nancy gave the example of IBM’s policy statement letter number 4, written in 1953 at a time of racial segregation and turmoil in the US. This very radical missive stated that the best people, regardless of race, colour or creed, should be appointed for IBM to be successful.

A values-based business case… way before its time! Check it out here.

Top Tip

So what would comprise your 3-Legged Stool of Success?

rethink your success strategies?

  1. Have you a well-developed sense of your own Self-Belief, or is there more you could work on to build your confidence and have a greater sense of your authentic self?
  2. Then what would make up the 3 legs of your stool, to enable you to be seated comfortably and with confidence?
  3. If you think hard about it, have you also a stool for your private life kept separate from your professional existence, what’s different about it and why? Could your deeply held values could be the bridge to a more positive existence?

Questions, questions… have fun pondering!


[1] Research shows that women’s self-belief is less well-developed than men’s, and this can have a detrimental effect on their success behaviours and their ability to spot and exploit a professional opportunity.

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