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My personal soundtrack to success

Friday, August 05, 2016  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Lisa Bisaccia

Recently, I was asked a question about my career and road to the c-suite: “What qualities helped me achieve success?”

Success is a subjective thing, and I suppose every woman whose career has led to a high-demanding position has her own insights to offer. For me, I've listened to my internal soundtrack, which plays in a continuous loop.

Related: 3 ways to embrace risk (and move ahead)

Call it a set of beliefs or an attitude, but my inner playlist continues to serve as a constant source of perspective and motivation. As a Baby Boomer, it’s not surprising that this set of beliefs is rooted in rock and roll.

“To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn.”
— The Byrds (Song by Pete Seeger with words from The Book of Ecclesiastes)

I advise young people starting out that it’s important to recognize that careers (and life) are full of ebbs and flows. In fact, the toughest challenges — and most rewarding opportunities — are often the ones you didn't see coming, or did not plan for.

The truth is, not only do you not have to have all your plans set, you really shouldn't. Having it all figured out too early might just limit what you should be focused on — expanding your horizons.

Looking back, my own career was a different kind of journey with many stops and turns along the way. When I began in business, I worked as a recruiter in the human resources department for St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.

Like many women starting out, I suppose I thought the hospital would be the stage for an entire career. But then I relocated to Boston with my husband, who had gotten a new job, and I eventually landed in compensation and benefits in financial services.

Health care and banking couldn’t be more different. Yet, over time, my responsibilities in the HR department at FleetBoston Financial grew. I recognized along the way that the most impressive leaders were those curious enough to ask for projects that challenged them. My openness to take on new assignments and learn new skills eventually positioned me for greater leadership roles.

In 2004, I joined CVS Health, a move that represented another change and another challenge. Five years later, I was leading all of human resources for one of the nation's leading health care companies.

It’s funny. Had I mapped out this career path, I probably would’ve missed the professional and personal opportunities that presented themselves and never would have gotten here. It should be a reassuring reminder to the next generation of leaders that there is a season and a time to every purpose.

“You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need.”
— Rolling Stones

I've always found a resigned pragmatism in the genius of these lyrics. I do believe that women (and men) can successfully manage a fulfilling career and a dedicated personal life outside of the workplace.

For me, it's always been a question of priorities and sequencing. Some days, some weeks and even some years your career will come first; at other times, your personal responsibilities are top of mind. But that's balance for you; it's a dynamic state that requires you to constantly make adjustments, while being patient and confident that other opportunities will come along.

In my particular case, my husband and I made career choices together. We jointly planned how we were going to balance our work and our parenting together. We both made trade-offs in the pace and intensity of our careers so that we could share our young family's joys and responsibilities. Maintaining balance in partnership with a spouse, significant other or support system makes the journey much more rewarding and a lot less lonely.

Perhaps the biggest lesson that I’ve learned in my own journey and in observing other successful people is this: Worry only about the things that you can control and figure out a way to manage the rest. In my profession, I regularly see the stress and anxiety of people who try to do it all, 100 percent of the time.

I suggest that we all give each other credit by remembering that we're all doing the best that we can.

As I said, success is subjective. It depends on one's attitude and overall perspective. And, I might add, a great soundtrack couldn't hurt either.

Lisa Bisaccia is executive vice president and chief human resources officer for CVS Health, where she serves as the human resources business partner for the company’s CEO and is responsible for direction and management of all human resources functions, including oversight of a billion-dollar benefits budget. A version of this blog first appeared in Providence Business News.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.

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