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#80 How To Accelerate Your Career as a Female Leader While Living a More Balanced Life With Deborah Threadgold
The 360 Leadhership Podcast, Episode 80, 05 July 2023 by Lucy Gernon
Do you want to achieve more in your career but find it a struggle to balance it all?
Being a dedicated leader means navigating the delicate balancing act of handling multiple responsibilities at work AND at home.
It can feel overwhelming! Can you relate?
I’ve been there, my friend.
I know it can be really tough, but I invite you to shift our focus to the positive side of things for a minute.
Think about the incredible sense of fulfillment you experience when you achieve your goals and receive a well-deserved pat on the back. It’s those rewarding feelings that fuel your drive to succeed as an ambitious woman.
But of course, there’s a flip side you should also be mindful of. Sometimes, this drive to succeed can lead to overworking, less quality time with loved ones and less time to put yourself first.
And let’s be honest, this road can lead straight to burnout.
This is exactly why I’m excited to bring you something special on the Powerhouse Revolution Podcast with our amazing guest Deborah Threadgold.
Deborah is a true powerhouse—a mother of three and the General Manager at IBM Ireland. With an impressive 25 years at IBM under her belt, she brings a wealth of experience and insights from her diverse roles across the United Kingdom, Ireland, and EMEA regions.
Deborah’s reputation precedes her. She’s known for her dynamic leadership and unwavering commitment to promoting inclusion and diversity. She’s the driving force behind business operations, revenue growth, and employee engagement throughout Ireland.
Talk about an inspirational lady!
In this episode, we explore the obstacles she faced and the strategies she used to conquer them—both in her professional and personal life. Her unique perspective and valuable insights will not only inspire you but also give you practical guidance to excel in your own career.
Whether you’re aiming to climb the career ladder while keeping your sanity intact or searching for fulfillment in your multiple roles as a leader, friend, parent, or partner— you don’t want to miss this empowering conversation.
Tune in now to episode 80 of the Powerhouse Revolution Podcast.
To help you get started on your path, below are three valuable tips Deborah shared for climbing the corporate ladder without burning out. These tips will guide you towards success and enable you to maintain a healthy work-life balance:
1. Be Intentional:
It’s essential to have a sense of direction and purpose in your career. While you may not have every step mapped out, take the time to identify your strengths, interests, and goals.
Consider the areas where you want to grow and the skills you need to develop. By being intentional and periodically assessing if you’re heading in the right direction, you can ensure your actions and experiences bring value to your future roles.
2. Stay Current with Skills:
The world is rapidly evolving, and staying on top of the latest skills and trends is crucial. Embrace lifelong learning and continuously seek opportunities to enhance your knowledge and abilities. Keep yourself informed about the skills required in your industry and role, and make an effort to acquire and refine them. By staying current, you can differentiate yourself and adapt to the changing demands of the professional landscape. This will change your life.
Check out episode 47 on why it is so important to invest in yourself so you stay current..
3. Cultivate Your Network:
Building strong relationships and connections is vital for career advancement. Let key decision-makers and influential individuals know about your presence, ambitions, and capabilities. Be proactive in sharing your aspirations and seek support from sponsors, mentors, and colleagues.
Or join a mastermind group like my one! If you want to advance your career without compromising your family, health or happiness, this is the community for you.
Here’s the episode at a glance:
[04:46] The Surprising Reason Why Exercise is Key to Success
[11:05] The #1 Strategy for Busy Woman Leaders to Achieve Better Balance
[21:14] Unveiling the Hidden Lessons from Gen Z Which True Leaders Must Know
[26:47] 3 Little-Known Secrets to Climb The Corporate Ladder (Without Sacrificing Your Sanity!)
[34:38] The Key to Making a Good Impression When Starting a New Role
Want to fall asleep tonight in 7 minutes or less? Introducing The Switch Off and Shutdown Technique™ for busy Women in Senior Leadership Roles.
Download this powerful FREE guided audio designed to help busy women leaders to switch off from work and sleep like a baby so you wake up feeling refreshed and energised.
Prefer to read?
Welcome to the powerhouse Revolution Podcast. I’m Lucy Gernon, ex corporate leader turned CEO of my dream business, helping corporate female leaders just like you to create your dream career and life. At 40 I quit the corporate world as I was tired of doing a job that no longer led me up and wanted to live my life my way. I created the power house Revolution podcast, to give you simple, actionable tips and strategies to help you create the perfect career and lifestyle that you and your family deserve. So if you’re a corporate female leader or manager who is ready to step into her superpowers and live the life you were born to live, you are definitely in the right place, because life is way too short to dread Mondays. Okay, let’s jump into today’s episode.
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of the powerhouse Revolution podcast. I hope you’re keeping well today I’m recording this on a gorgeous, gorgeous, sunny day. And as I always say to you know, make sure that you are taking the time for yourself. If you’re listening to this on your way to work, please, we’ll set an intention that you get out at some point today to get some fresh air to stretch the legs. And just to have a little check in with yourself. And, you know, how are you doing? How’s your day going? Is there anything now that you can adjust for yourself so that the rest of your day is better, because you always have a choice in every moment what you do with your time and how you feel. So that’s just a little kind of intro pep talk, but on to the main topic for today’s conversation. So I am honestly so excited genuinely to have my guests on today. So you guys know I’ve had lots of you know, celebrity guests on like, had Keith Barry have had crazy people like that who were all fantastic. But what I know that you guys really want is to hear from other women. It’s to hear from other women who are successful, who inspire you and to really learn the secrets to how they got to where they got to today. So without further ado, I would like to introduce to you my guest today. And it is Deborah thread Gould, who is the general manager for IBM Ireland. She is responsible for driving business operations and revenue within IBM in Ireland. She was previously a Chief Digital Officer for IBM and Ireland in the UK. She was listed in Cranfield University’s 100 Women to Watch she’s a board member. And above all, she is a mom of three. And she likes getting out for a bit of shopping sometimes too. So Deborah, listen, you’re very, very welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today?
Ray, good leads, you’re giving away all my secrets. Are you say anything? Are you kidding? I’m listening to you saying start your day have some intention. So I’m trying to adopt this mantra in my head of looking at things first thing in the morning that I’m grateful for having but actually I did my walk this morning in this beautiful sunshine. So I took an arrow before I started working just too hard around the lobby area with my husband to the park and just enjoy. Enjoy this weather because it’s so unusual.
It’s so unusual. Absolutely. I’m definitely going to get back to that part on with with you a little bit later on the whole morning routine, because I’m dying to know your secrets. And what Yeah, look, you’re very, very welcome to the podcast. So I suppose maybe you wanted to say hi to my listeners. And there’s anything that you’d like to say about your your journey, I suppose to where you got to.
Well, hello, everyone, and thank you for listening in. You always think you are the least interesting person and nobody wants to hear your story. But anyway, I’m happy to share mine. And perhaps it might just resonate with some people listening today. I suppose usually you said I’m a mom of three boys actually their age 1614 and eight. And of course they are without a shadow of a doubt the biggest priority in my life. My husband and I lived in the UK for many, many years. But we came back to Ireland about two years ago when this role of general manager for IBM and Ireland came up. And so we’ve gone through major change, not just going through COVID Over the last few years we we bought a house, we sold a house, we moved our lives, we set up new skills and everything here in Ireland. So it’s been a really turbulent few years. But I should I should fess up and say I’m 25 years in IBM. So that’s not for everybody. Lucy right. But it’s been the path that I’ve taken for many good reasons, which I’m sure we’ll get into. But I feel very blessed that I have a fairly balanced life. But you know, maybe I’d be scratching my head at the end of this thinking differently. But yeah, it’s one of the things I know we’ll talk about is how do you manage the priorities in your life and keep that balance? But yeah, I’m happy to go into more about my background, my story and how I got to where I am, but that’s kind of me in a nutshell.
Amazing. And I think you know, I think I’ll just jump on to that. Let’s just let’s just dive straight into the balance piece because it is something that I’m so curious about so you just said a few minutes ago that you know you were out this morning enjoying the sunshine with your husband, you You know, you’re into your gratitude, like I’m a massive allergy or advocate for gratitude practice because it really does change everything. And you’re also then leading IBM in Ireland, you’re a mom, you’ve moved house. So how do you balance it all?
You know, I don’t think there is a magic potion. I think like everything in life, we’re great at thriving and surviving under pressure. So you take on these looks like a great idea at the time. And then you just mull your way through as best you can. But I guess there’s, there’s some rules, and everyone’s different. By the way, one of the things I learned very early on, particularly when I started having children is, we should never judge each other’s way of doing things. Because you know, everybody’s dear friend, and you know, we all have to change our habits depending on where we are in life. But for me, there’s no doubt about it, that physical well being is a huge connection to my mental well being without a shadow of a doubt, when I’m not exercising, or I’m too busy, to take time out for myself, I can feel the impact that has on me, and it’s pretty negative. So I try very hard to maintain some level of fitness, possibly not what I used to be many years ago. And yes, I did a triathlon once a sprint when I should add, but I do work out, I decided a long time ago that I didn’t have the time to be traveling to gyms every second day, and all the pallava that goes with that, though, I sign up to an online program, and I try and make myself workout three, four or five times a week, but they tend to be fairly short. So I’ve got a room in the back of the house where I go and lock myself away from the kids, and just turn everything off. But but you know, just work out and that’s great. I try and walk every day, if I can. It’s just gives downtime. Time for the brain. Often I do work with do work with my husband, if he’s around, or I’ll go off on my own, just to get that little bit of peace and quiet. And just to level set where we are each day and you know, what have you got on? What are you doing? What are that’s really important. My weekends are completely consumed with the children, because I’m busy during the week, I am around obviously, in the evenings. And in the mornings, I try and make breakfast for my kids every morning. It’s not anything fancy, trust me. So it’s really just trying to make sure that I’m spending time with them really giving a lot of my time on the weekends to them keeping myself healthy and fit. And therefore I’m in a more positive mind. But you know, things throw that out of kilter all the time, you see, so I’m not going to kid you that sounds like it was not a dream formula. It’s not, you know, I, the last couple of weeks have been mad, I’ve been traveling, I was in New York, and then I went to the UK for a funeral. You know, then there was the kids have got exams and you know, other stuff going on. And of course, I haven’t worked it out now for about two weeks. So I’m trying to get myself into it again. So you know, life life throws you curveballs, some more serious than others. But I just kind of keep those main principles if I can. And actually, and I should be honest here. All the time, we were having our three children, my husband worked full time as well. And you have to be very organized, very, very organized to make that happen. Because I never wanted a nanny living in the house. So we just tried to manage it as best we could with child Minders and what have you. But in the last couple years, my husband has stepped away from work for a while to help us with this big move over to Ireland and me that makes life absolutely quite a lot easier if I’m honest. Because I know the children are picked up and dropped off and they’re fed. And all of those things are happening. They’re doing their homework, and I can crack on with the day job. But then you’ve got to get that balance back at the weekend. So My poor husband doesn’t feel that he’s doing all of those chores himself. Yeah,
absolutely. And there’s a couple of things you You said I’d like to kind of touch on there. So one thing I’ve noticed is, you know, you are a very successful woman and I need to just say off camera. I mean, Deborah is the most down to earth, normal woman I think I’ve ever probably spoken to because and this is something actually I think you have this executive presence about you for sure. We were chatting a lot. My listeners know why love designer stuff. We were chatting earlier on today versus like, Nah, it’s not really for me and think I’m kind of over the little blue Bhutan days, which I just loved, you’re just authenticity in your you know, how genuine you are. But to bring it back just to you mentioned about the workout piece and the exercise. So I know that one of the all successful people and I would define you as successful, they all make time for exercise without fail. If you look at the Habits of Highly Successful People, if you look at anyone who’s an entrepreneur who’s a business owner or leader like yourself, they all make time for exercise because it is so important, like you said, but what I noticed is when you have people in that middle management layer, who were who were between the doing and the leading right there, they’re trying to kind of break into that executive level or they’ve just broken in exercise tends to go by the wayside. So what would you say to those people?
You know, we’ve a lot of a lot of how we measure a success is on how productive we are. And we may think that if we’re running around doing lots and lots of different things, and spinning lots of plates, and let’s face it, we tend to be very good at that. But sometimes you have to take a step back and ask actually, am I being productive? Am I really getting the most out of what I’m doing? And you know, you keep on sprinting at that pace continuously and you will hit a wall eventually because at the end of the day, we’re all human, and we’ve got lost Some other things going on in our lives. I mean, we, you know, sometimes we get very drawn into our jobs and the work that we do. But there’s so much other stuff going on in life, whether it’s families or, you know, other complications or challenges or even good things going on in your life. But if you keep on running at that pace, you’re gonna hit a brick wall. And so everything is about building yourself up to be resilient, and that’s physically and mentally resilient, to face whatever life throws at you. And if you don’t invest that time in yourself in a continuous way, then, you know, when that curveball I mentioned before it comes out to you, and you don’t see it coming in and hit you. If you’re not at your best or close to your best, then it’s going to hit you a lot harder. So I think you have to be consciously aware of building in that time for yourself, really set that platform for yourself. And at the end of the week, when you look back and say no, I did a great job this week, make sure that you’re ticking the box against the things that you need to do for you, it is easy to get sucked in. And honestly, Lucy, I’ve done it, right, we’ve all done it, where you just run yourself into the wall, but it doesn’t help anybody ultimately. So just put yourself first you have to be selfish.
And on that whole area of investing in yourself. This is something that a lot of women I work with, would struggle with, you know, investing time in themselves, like putting themselves first like a lot of women, as you’ve probably seen yourself, you know, they put the team first, they put the family first. You know, they’ll invest in holidays thinking that actually if I just have two weeks, you know, I’ll just like keep looking forward to this two week holiday, I’d be fine. And they never are because I think you need the ongoing. So what would you say to the women who are listening? Who put everyone else first and they’re hearing you? And you’re saying yeah, I’d love to be able to exercise. But my to do list is too long? And I have kids? Like how can we get those ladies to shift their mindset to realize that they are they deserve it?
All? My goodness, it’s such a big question. And you know, I one of the things you know, I look back on over my career and how my life has evolved over the last few years is sometimes with a little bit of experience, you look back and think you should have done that maybe a little bit differently. And you start to deploy new tactics or new strategies around that. So some of it just comes with learning. It’s like everything in life. We talk about that with our kids as well, right? Sometimes they have to make mistakes and learn for themselves. But you know, somebody said something to me when I was much younger in my career, and it has stuck with me all the while you know, you work in organizations, no matter what size they are, there are people all around you who are talented, who are smart, who are interested could work really hard, just like you do. So the question is, how do you make yourself stand out. And so from a business point of view, I was advised taking 10% of your time, however you split that up, make sure that you are looking at your Northstar or looking at your plan or looking at your skills or looking at where you’re going next or looking at your network, whatever it might be. Because if you’re somebody sitting in a position where you’re going to help somebody to develop their career, for example, and you’re faced with all of these talented people, how do you know which one to go for? Right? So sometimes you need to take the time out to make sure that people know you’re there. They know what you’re doing. They know that you’re ambitious, and that you have the right people around you to help to nudge you along with that journey. And that’s just from a work point of view. But again, you know, from a more holistic life point of view, I think you almost have to put something in your calendar that says stop. Have you done something for yourself? There’s always other priorities. I bet you never walk out of your job at the end of the week and say I got everything done. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. So that in like, did I clean the windows? Did I take the kids to the dentist? Did I you know, whatever it is you were planning on doing? I mean, did I get the unit for the outfits or the communion, which I was trying to do a few weeks ago to drove me completely nosy? No, you nobody ever achieved everything well at the time. So it’s just a case of what’s most important. And honestly, I can only speak for myself, Lucy, if I’m not in the right frame of mind, that makes things so much more difficult. So, and for me, as I said, the physical exercise or going for a spa or whatever it might be that you’d like to do. You just got to put it up and it is a priority. Gotta get it as a mantra into your own head.
Absolutely. I heard somebody say before, it’s so true that you’ll die with a to do list. You will die with a to do list so you actually will never get it done. Right?
That’s probably what I’m saying.
So, what where was I going to go with this one then? So the to do list the exercise? Yes. So from a from a, I suppose general manager perspective, obviously you have a lot of female talent that you’d be exposed to. And a lot of my, you know, people I would work with, and some of my listeners are would be worried about if they set boundaries, how they’re going to be perceived by others. So talk to me about like your view of women who are who are able to say no,
you know, I think if I go back years ago, early in my career, those boundaries probably were a bit of a challenge, or at least in my mind, they were a challenge and so I would be concerned I still even hear women talk about I’m concerned to tell people when I’m pregnant, or I’m concerned to say I have a parent who was ill and I need to take time out or whatever it might be. I think that thinking and a lot of organizations was not nearly as developed as it is now. And so they probably were actually real issues, those boundaries. But I think things have changed immensely. You know, we’re not where we need to be. But definitely inclusivity is such an important part of organizations now. And I think what’s really driven that along has been the whole COVID experience, as awful as it was, you know, one of the benefits that came out is that we can work in different ways flexibly, and it can make a difference. And we can be as productive if not even more productive, depending on how we apply ourselves. And so I think it’s now more expected even that when people come into the workplace, particularly when we start to look at Gen Zed and coming into the workplace, developing their careers, there is an expectation that that they will have that work life balance that I perhaps wouldn’t have dreamed of asking for earlier in my career. So I think you are going to get a more receptive ear. I think, here in Ireland, we’re about to bring in some legislation around having the ability to ask to work remotely. So that shows how thinking is changing as well. I think it’s important to understand and I talked about this as well, you know, that what I needed out of my work life, when I was engaged and getting married, versus when I had children versus when the children got to a certain stage, that all absolutely changed. And you need to sometimes take a step back and think, okay, okay, so do I need to work? Or do I want my life to be shaped the way it is now? Or can I work longer hours? Or can I travel more? Or? Or do I need to be at home or, and then you have to address it. But you know, the important thing is you have to communicate with the people around you, particularly your manager, right? At the end of the day, they need to understand how you’re working. I worked for a guy years ago, who became my mentor, and is still even though he’s not an IBM, now he’s still my mentor, and I go and talk to him. When I came back, after maternity leave on my second son, I decided I’d work three days a week, which I have to say, in all honesty was probably the most difficult time trying to be a mom and be an employee and be a leader. And doing it all in three days a week made me feel like I was doing absolutely nothing well. And I remember sitting with him and saying, you know, you can surely want me to come back in and take this promotion and do it on three days a week? And he said, Absolutely, I’d rather have you on three days a week than anybody else on five days, because I know you’ll do the job, you’ll do it smartly. And you’ll do it effectively. So you know, and he was very forward thinking if I’m honest at that stage, but I think we see a lot more of that I do think that everybody works more flexibly, I think the world has changed dramatically. And I think organizations, we want to retain talent, and remember you’re at the talent, people who want to retain you and develop you will be smart enough to know that we have to work differently. So as long as we’re not being overly selfish about what we’re asking for, because at the end of the day, we’re all part of a business and leaders have to run businesses and people have to develop careers. But if you kind of get that balance and have that conversation, you will understand what can be done on what can be done. And it most certainly shouldn’t hold you back. And by the way, you know, you see you and I are talking about women and equity and International Women’s Day this year talked about equity, which I think really resonated. For me more than any of the conversations I’ve seen on International Women’s Day. And throughout the year. This one really resonated in that people now recognize that we have to change the way we do things, to have a more inclusive workforce that we have to recognize people think and work and live in different ways. And that it’s not a case of everybody changing to fit the business. But actually the business has to shift here, as well. And so there is really a recognition that, you know, having mixed workforces having more women coming up through the pipeline adds huge value to organizations, not just because it’s a nice to have, but actually really does generate a difference in business and enables you to grow. And it also opens up the opportunity for much more talent to come into your organization, which is so important. So look, I think don’t let those boundaries hold you back. They’re the things that go around in our heads all the time that we think I can’t ask you this, I hide that. I used to do that when my kids were young. One of the kids got sick. Honestly, Lucy, I will say to my secretary at the time, tell everybody something urgent work, and I’m working on a report and lie through my teeth. But actually I had a kid at home who was sick, and I needed to take care of him. But I stopped that fairly soon after that and realized that that was I was kidding myself. Right. And I’m certainly not helping the passwords for anybody else by by trying to hide things, because that’s just what we call real life. Right?
No, absolutely. And you mentioned there earlier on about the you know, the women saying no, and pushing back and all of that news, you know, you’ve shared your story about your son and all that kind of stuff. Do you think do you see women now in your organization? Like do they have or not even in your organization? wherever you’ve made meet women? Do you see them starting to change how they’re approaching these conversations?
Absolutely, because I think the door is open. I mean, I still think women for whatever reason, we always seem to need that little nudge and that little push which is why you will always hear me talking about mentors and coaches and sponsors because, you know, every now and again, depending on where our mindset is that we need a little bit of help and support from somebody else, but I I think it’s I think the door is open now to have those discussions. And I think we just have to be a little bit braver, I do think women are recognizing the value that they bring, recognizing that the pipeline needs to be developed more of bringing this female talent into our organizations understand what we bring to the party. And it’s a lot, right, it really is a lot. It’s a huge value to organizations. And so yeah, I think there’s still a lot of discomfort, right, we still have that little impostor syndrome, or that voice in our head telling us, oh, my goodness, they’re not going to want you, they’ll take somebody else who’s working five days a week or, you know, whatever. But if they’re smart employers, and if you’ve got a great manager that you have a good relationship with, and I know you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go and open up the door, because actually, it’s also a form of paying forward for who’s coming after you, right?
Oh, my God wants him to present. And I think that’s, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head is like, you know, I quit my corporate career to help women with this area, because I have two daughters with three kids, but two of them are girls. And I just the thoughts of our children, our nieces or nephews having to walk into, you know, what we would have maybe, you know, started in years ago, in terms of, you know, the corporate world was very male dominated. It was built for men, a lot of people say, and no women are really starting to rise, and women are really starting to own their value, like you said.
So I do think especially, you know, leaders, female leaders, in particular, one male as well do have responsibility for the next generation, because you mentioned earlier on Gen Zed, right? I’m hearing lots of stories about the changes that are in leadership that are required there.
I think they’re more vocal, I think they do have the confidence to speak up. I think, maybe, I mean, I just think back to when I started working, and I was just glad somebody gave me a job. I mean, I did that anybody wanted me. And, you know, I wasn’t sitting there thinking, I have all these ambitions to do X, Y, and Zed. I think they come in, they’re much more switched on, when they join organizations. You’re, I’m not saying we weren’t aware of the world around us. But I think I was a bit oblivious, if I’m honest. But maybe that’s just me. But you know, they’re very conscious of the world that they’re in the very conscious of the challenges that we face in society. And I think they talk about that much more. And I’m not saying we weren’t conscientious about our world. But I think they talk about a lot more, and it gets an awful lot more airtime. I think, because they’ve lived through COVID, as we all have done, and maybe for many of them, they were either already in career or early in their family lives, it has changed dramatically. And not I think you hear a lot about particularly for Gen Z kids wanting that more work life balance, I suppose in many respects, but I think with my old head on, I think I actually feel like ovarian doesn’t come there and tied to do it. But actually, it’s absolutely true, right? Because, you know, I’ve been where they are in terms of the stage they are in their careers with assays, they’re on their families. And you know, back to what I’ve been saying, if you can get that balance, right, then you ultimately are more productive. And so I and again, I think organizations are changing. I mean, companies like mine talk about all the time about the importance of acquiring talent and developing talent and retaining talent. And we don’t just say that, because it’s not as nice. It’s absolutely critical. I mean, no business is successful without our people. And so talent comes in many different shapes and sizes. It’s not all just the next generation, the next generation, we’ve got great people coming back to the work, you know, after taking time out, and what have you. But, yeah, I think Gen Xer just generally are more aware of what’s important to them, and more vocal.
And so how can leaders because again, I’m hearing, you know, obviously there’s there’s a difference in generation in terms of in particular, and when we’re talking about work life balance for a while, but it’s, it’s where it’s kind of coming in, they tend to kind of don’t ask for as much permission, whereas I would notice with the kind of my generation, we would be more going in with new seeking permission, can I do something more as I think the gens Ed’s are much more or less than I’m committed to what I’m doing here, but actually, I’m not going to be in on Friday. And I think their energy is so different. So I’m hearing from some leaders I work with, they’re finding it challenging to deal with that, because it’s kind of new. So what advice would you give them
into the Gen Zed or to the leader to the leaders, to the leaders? Look, everything is around Thailand, everything is about conversation. I mean, what I’m very mindful of, as I said, with my old head on and, you know, the role that I do is that it would be lovely to be able to give everything everything they wanted, right. And so sometimes some of the asks are a little bit ambitious, I think, when you have to explain where you’re coming from, you know, it’s like any relationship. At the end of the day, we are running businesses, we do have goals to deliver against. There are expectations very often in our organizations that are sometimes outside of our own control in terms of how we are expected to behave or deliver or whatever it might be. And so I think we, you know, we just need to explain the challenges and the opportunities Listen to what they’re asking for and come to a compromise where that makes sense. So you know, if it’s every Friday, you actually probably for most companies, that works, right, because lots of people tend to go into the workplace on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays. If they’re looking to take half days, it comes out sometimes to theirs. Does the organization have those policies? And sometimes they don’t. And that’s just the simple answer. Other times, it’s, you know, we’re going through a period or into a lot of pressure or people are ideal, and we’re short on capacity. And that might not work right now. So I guess what I’m saying is, we’re really looking for a little bit of versatility. So yes, listen, I think it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of what your organization and what your team are looking for, I think the back as they say, as a gift as toys, that sounds, you understanding why they’re asking for something, and, and what they want things to be like, is incredibly valid. And we’d be fools not to listen to that. Sometimes, when it’s just not in our gift to give right now, you just got to be very clear about why that’s the case, that doesn’t mean to say it’s off the table forever, just to table for an hour. And I think if you have that good relationship and expectation of each other, then hopefully that actually is acceptable. And you move forward from there. So I just think you have to have your sensitive hat on so to speak.
Yeah, amazing. So it’s the it’s the dialogue, it’s having the relationship and then just explaining, I think that’s so important, I think you really hit on something that’s super important there is that if there was a study done that said, when you explain why the compliance rate goes up to something like 90%, whereas a lot of people will just say, No, you can’t have this day off. But they are they’ll say, we’re so hard on people, but actually, what’s the impact if you’re not in? And why is that so important? And I think the more information you give the person, the more you can kind of rationalize, and it kind of makes sense. So I love that you said that. So I’d love to move off work life balance, and Gen Zed and take us over to strategies for success.
So a lot of my listeners, like I had said, are going to be looking at you going, you know, you’ve done so well, I did some research, obviously before and I know you started out your career as a secretary. And now you’re a general manager in IBM. So tell me your your top three tips for and I know this is hard, right? Some people hate these these questions, but your top three tips for women who are listening who want to climb that ladder without burning themselves out.
Right? So again, please note that this comes with many years of experience under my belt. So and I most certainly wasn’t following this when I started my career. So I’m going to be honest about that. So the first thing is now I find myself saying to people, look be intentional. And what do I mean by that? I would say early on in my career, you know, because I did a number of jobs. Before I joined IBM, I was a little bit of a crazy young one running, I went over lived in London, and I was doing all sorts of mad things. But even in my early stages, when I sort of settled down into my career thing, you know, job moves were happening to me, opportunities were being given to me, it wasn’t that I was setting out a plan to say this is what I want. This is where I’m going, this is what I need. And to a certain extent, I look back and think God, it was all a little bit chaotic, but I didn’t know any better. But as I started to develop my career, I began to think, Okay, I might not know the next job I want to do, I might not know the next job I want to do in three moves. But what where am I strengths? Where do I want to be? Do I want to be in sales? Do I want to be in industry? Do I want to run teams? Do I want to travel? Do I want to work with international teams? So what is it that’s important to me? And when I have a view now of what I think is next for me, then I have to sort of look back at that and say, Well, what have I done and skills do I bring to this? And where do I have gaps. And so that’s what I mean by intentional, I’m not saying that you’ve mapped out line by line, every single thing you’re going to do and every next move, but it’s basically every now and again, lifting your head above the parapet and going in my roughly going in the right direction. And because everything I’ve done and everything I’m doing actually bringing value to what I bring into my next role. So I think that’s important. And I can’t underestimate the importance of skills, because the world around us is changing so dramatically. So quickly. You know, they talk about lifelong learning. And it’s true, right? And it’s really difficult. By the way, we talk about work life balance, trying to get in all of your learning as well as you know, I find that a real challenge. But you have to stay on top of what skills are required in whatever job you do whatever industry you’re in, because they do change. And that’s what will differentiate you is when you keep yourself current. The other thing I would say is you got to tell the people, the powers that be the people who are making decisions around careers who are hiring people into roles, you got to let them know that one you’re there and to what you want. So this is I think women in particular find this so difficult to sit in front of somebody and say, right, I will be doing your job in three years time or I want to be you know, two steps up from where I am or whatever it might be. We’re absolutely awful at going in and having those conversations, but go back to the person who’s sitting in the boardroom making the decision around who’s who they’re going to move to where who’s gonna get the next job who’s on the slate, if they don’t know who you are, and they don’t know that you have an ambition in that direction. Why ever would you be on that slate? Let’s be honest. So there was nothing embarrassing and bad or negative about going along to all the right stakeholders and say, by the way, I’m here, this is what I’ve done. This is what I do. This is what I want Do so please bear me in mind when that comes up, give me give me a go with that. So I think keeping your your network aware of what you want to do is important. And then keeping your network current. I think I’ve mentioned probably about five times already about sponsors and mentors, and coaches and so on. It’s amazing how those people can come and go a little bit. Sometimes they’ll stay with you a long time. But sometimes they leave companies, they retire, they move countries, whatever it might be. So and also organizations change direction, always be clear, the strategic direction of your organization, where are the where are the good roles, right? Where are the roles, you know, that fits your skills, but actually you can develop into as well? And who are the people in those areas that need to know who you are? And who can help you who can drop your name into the right conversation, who can connect you with the right person who can give you an opportunity to work on a project or whatever it might be to develop skills in that area? So yeah, have you have your plan every now and again, stop and look up, make sure you’re going in the right direction, make sure people know what your ambitions are. And then make sure that network is good and strong around you. And you keep it current that going to be the top three things.
Amazing. Okay. I wanted to dig into one of those those things there. Right. So again, I love that you’re saying this because I preach this stuff, right? But I had a client recently whose boss wasn’t overly supportive of her moving. And so this is something that can happen in organizations where you have all of these I heard Steven Bartlett saying, I talked Soto on diary VCEO there last month, I think it was he was talking about within your organization, you don’t have one culture, you have micro cultures. So every manager has its own culture, and depending on who you’re reporting to, that can dramatically change your whole experience of an organization. So if somebody has a manager, and they’re loyal to their boss, okay, and their boss is saying, you know, you’re so valuable, I need to retain you, which is I hear this all the time, and they’re not supportive of the moving. There’s often a feeling of disloyalty or this hierarchy, especially with like older women, you know, the hierarchy, I have to get my boss approval to move forward. What are your thoughts in that situation?
How would you know I had this conversation with a mentee of mine, just not too long ago, actually. And look, isn’t it wonderful that the person you work with thinks you’re so great that they want to hold on to you, that’s the you know, take the positive out of that, and it’s wonderful. However, you know, my sense is, when anybody in my team comes to me and says, I think it’s time I move on, if I think they really are ready to go on. And I think they have an opportunity to go to who am I to hold them back? Right? I just think we we really, as leaders need to understand that you need to let people go fly, and sometimes it’ll work out for them. And others don’t. Of course, if you think it’s a desperate decision, you have to say that as well. But you can’t be held back by somebody so but you can be courteous and polite about how you go about doing it. So you have the conversation, you say, look, I think I want to go for this, this is really in line with my, my plan and what I want to do next, I hope I have your support. If they say Well, no, I want to hold on to you, then you know, you have to be right and say, Well, look, I would like to at least look into it more, because this is part of my career path. And, you know, at least in IBM, we always say to, to each individual, you own your career path, right, it’s not a manager’s job to find your next job is not the manager’s job to define how successful you are going to be, that’s your job. So therefore, in my view, as an employee, you’re only doing what we’re asking you to do. Go and look at other opportunities. But be open with the people you’re talking to that there may be a little bit of a challenge with leaving the role you’re in. But these things can all be worked out. I mean, they will always be worked out. They’re not, you must certainly shouldn’t hold yourself back. Because you know, you feel loyalty to a manager. Because if you keep them abreast of what you’re doing, and you keep the dialogue open, and you explain where you’re going, and then you spend very often this is a tactic, I’d say, go back and say to them, you’re not my manager anymore, like when did this new role, which means you can now be a mentor for me, you can’t have your manager is not your mentor, right mentors have to be somebody completely different. But if you have a really good relationship, and you really value this person, and you think the role that they perform is brilliant, and you can learn from them, and by the way you trust them, then you can have that open relationship with them, then go back and, you know, give them the gift of saying, well actually, I think I can still learn a lot from you, but not in a manager employee role anymore, but actually come in, come and support me as a mentor. And because I know I can talk openly to you. And very often that works very, very well. And you know, people get over, because we’ll get somebody else into the job. And they may not be as good as you but they might just do the job completely differently, right? A new dimension. So don’t just don’t let that hold you back. I really would encourage you not to let anybody hold you back.
Amen. Amen. And what do you think about succession planning then?
So obviously, I think that’s one place I know at your level succession planning will obviously be discussed, but like middle management, it’s not so much whereas I’m like, you get somebody ready, and it’s gonna be much easier for you to move. So how would you advise women to begin to think about successors?
So you’ve absolutely said it there, Lucy. I mean, the very first thing if you decide I’m going over there now Next, I’m having great conversations. And I know these people want me and I know this job’s going to come in three months time. One thing that the stock you go in there, if you don’t have somebody to backfill you, because you’re just giving somebody else a massive headache. So it’s just should be cumbia, you that every time I mean, I always think myself when I go into a job, by the time I’m ready to go on to my next role the people in the layer below me so the people who are reporting to me should be able to run this business with without me being there really I mean, I should dip in and out, but actually they should be independent, developed enough and, and skilled enough to actually run this business without me. And in many ways they become your successors, but also was good to cast your net wide. This is why I think you know, we talked about pay forward, you should be mentoring people, as middle managers, there’s lots of young people, men and women who are early in their career, and they’re looking at you at whatever middle manager level you’re at, and going, Oh, my God, that person, so cool. And I really would love to do what they do. And they’re an amazing at what they do. And I’ve heard them talk about this, or I’ve heard all their employees talk about what a great manager they are, or whatever it might be. So you know, make yourself open to becoming mentors and coaches, then because you will appreciate how much they mean to you in terms of developing your career. So therefore, go go and pay for it. And when you do that, that’s when you meet some real gems. Because you know, in your day to day business, you get exposure to the people in your business and in your work, and you know, who you value and who’s doing a great job and who needs a bit more support or coaching. But actually, when you throw your net out a little bit wider, you know, you come across people go, Oh, wow, you know, that person with the right little bit of development, if it couldn’t be over in this part of the organization that they’re not even thinking about, because they don’t even know it exists. And I can help them to get there, they may become your successors. So for me, it’s business as usual, you know, you can’t leave a job until you’ve lined up a successor. Therefore, just make sure and you don’t line up successors, because in three months time, you’re changing jobs, you’re always keeping an eye out for who’s coming next. Because, you know, who doesn’t at some stage get get get an opportunity to go for another job that you weren’t even thinking about. But the jobs come up because somebody has left or something’s happened, or they’ve created a new division, or we’ve made an acquisition, and they’re going, you’re the right person for this job. And then you’re sitting around going, Oh, my goodness, I can’t go because I don’t have anybody to backfill me. So just build it into the plan? Oh, absolutely.
Absolutely. And I think as well, you know, for your team, as well, like, I remember when I, you know, would have led a team, when the very first things I would do, like, within the first six months when the person got up and running, I’ll always be thinking, Okay, now if this person leaves, who’s going to do their job, and I think if you actually always have that mindset, you just have this continuous flow, ease of flow, we will go through all these crazy, crazy hiring situations that we kind of had gone through, I think if you do that,
and you know, listen, with a bit of luck, they’re coming up, and I’m not sure Dorka so much of us now. So we sit on floors, and don’t sit out in offices anymore. But hopefully, they’re also come to you and saying, okay, great, you know, like, tell me a little bit more about how I get here, there and everywhere. And actually going back to our conversation around Gen Zed, and other people, right? They are more vocal about what they want. So you know, sometimes maybe they’re How can you about being your successor, rather than you actually looking at them? And that’s great as well.
Amazing, amazing. Well, listen, we are coming to the end of the interview, and I’m just so so much gold here, I can go back and unpack it for the listeners later. But tell me something I always ask. My guests are what is the best piece of advice that you have ever received? It doesn’t have to be career related. It can be anything, and who was a from?
Um, well, I was thinking, you know, if I think about that, from a career point of view, this expression I have in my head, keep yourself market fit. And it was somebody actually in IBM said this to me years ago, you might be loyal to an organization, and you’re working through your career. But there’s a big, bad world out there, right and, and things are changing all of the time. So every now and again, as you look up and look at your Northstar, whatever you call where your ambition lies. Also take a look outside, right, see what’s going on, make sure that you’re up to date on the market context, the skills, the lingo that they use, because we all get caught up in acronyms within our own organizations. So I kind of call that keep market fit. Always know your value. But if yes, that’s what I’m really saying, know how much you are valued. Because sometimes when we stay in organizations a long time and I’m a classic example, you perhaps lose sight of how valuable you are to other organizations. And I’m not suggesting that you get up and you leave. But it’s just a good conversation to be able to have in your own organization. So that’s one thing. I suppose one of the things this is actually happened in work, but I think it’s true of everything. I was probably a bit disillusioned many, many years ago when I was younger. In my career, I found some of the people I worked from very tough to deal with it was it was a much tougher culture and environment back then. And I you know, I didn’t have the nerve to speak up when I felt people were making bad decisions. And we’re making things very difficult. I think this happens in life as well, right? And I was on this course. And at the last day of this course we were asked to stand up and say what were we going to do next? Now this was within IBM, I should say but, but again, this applies to real life outside as well. But I had to speak up and say what I was going to do and I said well actually I think I’m going to leave I don’t Think I belong here, I don’t feel like it’s the right place for me to continue my career. And you know, after that session, the coach took me aside and said, That’s really interesting. And it’s very brave of you to make that decision. And if that’s what you’ve decided to do, then you know, you have to go for it. However, all the things that are making you leave, how’s it ever going to change people like you don’t stay in change. And that was such a powerful statement, because things things that were upsetting me were how leaders were behaving, how they were speaking to not just female employees, but to female employees, how they were making decisions about things, how sometimes aggressive and assertive it was, and when it didn’t need to be like that. And I found that very difficult, and I was very frustrated by it. But you know what, now when I’m talking to people about leadership, and where you go, next, we’ve all worked for people where we’ve learned amazing things. And we’ve all worked for people where we’ve learned bad things. And so I always think it’s so important that as you move forward into your next step, take the things that are good. Take the things that are good about you. And make sure you don’t put in place the things that you didn’t want happening to you when you were working for somebody else, remember those things and change it. And I think that really applies to every part of your life, you’ve got to look at the things that weren’t so good and learn from sometimes they are the best learnings we’ll ever have. But you have the ability to change and control that and to do it differently for everybody else around you. So I think that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.
That literally gave me goosebumps, because had you not had you left and had you not, you know, made the changes, like maybe the world wouldn’t be the way it is today and taught You’ve no idea of like, I always talk about the ripple effects, you know, the ripple effect that one woman decided to hold, you know, hold her ground and start to instigate change, as opposed to running away, has a massive ripple effect on not just the organization, but their families, their kids, their extended family. So I love I absolutely love that you did that. And I really believe I know this to be true is that life will still keep giving you the same tests until you learn the lesson. So I would talk to women all the time who want to leave their career, because they’re not able to handle a certain stakeholder or two, there’s normally one or two. But actually those same people show up in the next job and in the next job and in the next job. So I love the fact that you you didn’t run away like and you’d made the change. So unless look where you are today. getting serious. Listen, thank you so much for that I really appreciate your time. This snip my listeners want to find you can they follow you on LinkedIn or?
Absolutely. And I’m not saying I don’t respond to every single person, but actually I am guilty of responding to loads of people when they reach out to me. Look, I love hearing from people, of course, they’re very welcome. If anything in what I was going on about today, you know, resonates in some respects, then, you know, I in fact, I spoke at an event recently, and I’ve had a woman from that come and contact me because she’s going through looking for a new job at the moment. And so we talk intermittently about progress he’s making and you know what’s going well, and what’s not going well. So yeah, no, absolutely. Please do. I love hearing because you know what final point for me, we none of us are perfect. And we all have so much more to learn. And you know, I spoke to you Lucy about this, you know, I went to this event, I spoke at this event and I stood on a stage and I saw 800 women looking back at me it was quite overwhelming and terrifying if I’m honest. But the warmth in the room was amazing. The genuine desire to listen and to learn. And then come and talk to you afterwards and say that really impacted me because I recognize myself in you. And I feel the same way about so many of them as well, right? Because every time you go somewhere or meet somebody else, you learn something new and you think you know what, I could adapt that actually that would make me better. And I think that’s a real privilege, right? So
amazing. Well, listen, guys, I will link Deborah’s LinkedIn article in the show notes. Don’t bombard her or maybe just say hi. But like she said she’s there. Anyway, so listen, Deborah, thank you so much. I will talk to you again soon.
Thank you, Lindsay.