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16 posts from April 2009

April 30, 2009

Re-invent Yourself

    The way I see it, why not invent yourself? Why not step out of your comfort zone. Some people are being forced to change in order to find a new career. Others are being proactive and taking steps to make changes that will open them to new opportunities and personal growth.

    I love these ideas for adding change and fun into your life from executive/life coach Pat Morgan.PatMorgan

1. Try a new haircut. Maybe a new hair color? How about a new fragrance?

2. Rearrange the furniture. Paint a wall. Clean out a closet – get rid of everything you haven't worn for a year!

3. Leave work earlier. Get out of the office no later than 6pm!

4. Invite a new friend for lunch. New friends are everywhere if you are open to meet them – they shop at your grocery store, have kids that play with yours, share similar interests. Reach out!

5. Reconnect with your passion. For me it was dancing. What is your passion?

6. Laugh every day – often!

7. Explore a new profession. Research. Talk to people doing what you'd like to do to learn more.

8. Try something outside your comfort zone – scuba diving, a cooking class, karate, acting, singing.

9. Find your inspiration and plug into it. Make it a part of your day, every day.

10. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small.

April 29, 2009

Help! I think my co-worker might have Swine Flu. What now?

What do you do if you if that guy in the next cubicle is sneezing and coughing and you just can't help but worry that he might have the swine flu?

I took this question and others to Mark Neuberger, a labor lawyer with Foley & Lardner in Miami.Mark

Mark: "You should not take any risk. Report them to management. Every employer  should have a plan designed to handle these scenarios."

Me: "What if the person that's coughing and sneezing is your manager?

Mark: "Go up the chain."

Me: As an employer, how do you handle it?

Mark: "Communicate that coming in sick and an added level of diligence, while appreciated in the past, is not appreciated now."

Me: What if you don't have paid sick days and the person doesn't want to go home, maybe he even shrugs it off as allergies?

Mark: "Pull him privately into your office and suggest he go home. You can even say 'go home and I'll pay you anyway.' Or you can say, 'here's a laptop, try to do what you can from home for a few days.' "

Me: What if someone is so afraid they MIGHT get swine flu that they don't want to come to work?

Mark: "Try to have a rational discussion with them. Tell them no one in the office is sick, and their chances of getting it are remote. Say, 'I encourage you to come to work.'  Or, you might want to let them telecommute. Maybe it's time to start thinking again about letting more of your workforce telecommute. In Mexico, everyone is working from home. With technology it's fairly easy to do."

Me: What other advice do you have for employers?

Mark: If you have emergency plans start testing them out. Maybe those plans include letting workers telecommute. Let employees know the company policy.  Tell them not to take a risk. If they are covered by insurance, use it. Also make hand sanitizer available and encourage frequent hand washing. Look at your company's cleaning and sanitation practices. Maybe there are things that can be done better. Be sensitive to where your workers are traveling, know where the hot spots are and cancel trips to those cities. The biggest part of it is staying on top of the news.

April 27, 2009

Parenting influence: Raising Bill Gates

     Around the dinner table, I give my kids the big talks that I hope will influence them to live their lives a certain way. But often, my grand insights or are met with blank stares or giggles. So frustrating!

      So, it was encouraging to me to read Raising Bill Gates in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. It turns out raising genius, Bill Gates, wasn't exactly a cake walk. But it also turns out  Bill's parents had a huge influence on his life. The article says  Bill grew up in a close family that thrived on competitive board games and rituals such as Sunday night dinners at the same time every week. Bill Sr. was a lawyer that showed little emotion and left much of the day-to-day parenting to his wife, who spent a lot of time involved in philanthropy.

   Billgates                             It seems Mrs. Gates clashed often with son Bill. She expected her kids to dress neatly, be punctual and socialize with the many adults who visited their home. It sounds like Bill can thank mom for any people skills he has today.  "...she had high expectations of all of us,"says Libby Armintrout, Bill's younger sister. "Not just grades but how we behaved in public, how we would be socially."   Because Bill would spend so much time reading, his mom forced him to be social by being a greeter at their parties and a waiter at his father's professional functions.

    As he got older, Bill pushed against his mother's instinct to control him and expectations of a clean room and being at dinner on time, sparking a battle of wills (Can any of you parents relate to this?)

    And, if fighting with your kids has come to the need for intervention, you might feel better knowing Bill's parents actually brought him to a therapist who told them that their son would ultimately win the battle for independence and to ease up on him. They ended up giving him space and lots of time away from home to enjoy free use of the computers at the University of Washington.

   Still, even after Bill made it big, his mom again tried to guide him in the right direction. She pressed him to get into philanthropy, which irked Bill because he said he was too busy to give money away. Eventually, she got him to start a program at Microsoft to raise money for the United Way. When his mother died of cancer, Bill set aside about $100 million to create a foundation for now retired Bill Gates Sr. to run.

    As I tackle the daily challenges of raising kids that think they know more than mom, it's comforting to know that Bill Gates mom must have felt the same way, too. It's especially comforting to see that for his parents the pay off was big in many, many ways.

April 23, 2009

Take Your Child to Work Day, a good idea gone bad?

        My  8-year-old son woke up at 6 a.m. this morning because he was so excited about coming with me to the office. I'm not kidding myself, part of the excitement was over lunch at the nearby Cracker Barrel. Still, he was excited. And that made me excited.

      He's enjoying being in an office. While I love the bonding time, he's interrupting me every few minutes. This year, with company cutbacks, there is no formal program at my workplace. I suspect that's the case in many workplaces. Usually, my Inbox is flooded with press releases from companies trying to get coverage for their Take Your Child to Work Day activities. This year, I received only one release. Either companies have eliminated their formal programs, or they cut back on public relations. I suspect both is true. I suspect many kids are shadowing their parents at work today and frankly, driving them a little nuts.

    The day initially was created for girls -- to encourage them to be all they can be. Boys were included years later when it was discovered they were doing worse in school than girls. I must say I agree with Penelope Trunk and her assessment of Take Your Child to Work Day. She calls it an outdated relic of 1970s.

      Here's the graph from her blog that I most love: "at this point, every day is taking children to work. I’m on my Blackberry all the time, and my division between work and kids is very tenuous. This is pretty common for my generation. And I think we’re pretty happy with it – or we’d stop. So it’s pretty clear to me that we don’t need a day for kids being at work because they get exposed to their parents working all the time." 

    Here's my son hard at work:       Garret 002

    What do you think about Take Your Child to Work Day? Is it a huge disruption for people without kids? Does it serve a purpose anymore?


Highlights from the Work-Life Balance Conference

    What an amazing day it was at the 5th Annual Work-Life Balance Educational Conference for Businesswomen. For those of  you who couldn't be there, here are some highlights and photos.

   Conference 002                            

Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, author of Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want, shared some thoughts to inspire us.

Ray says he's made millions and lost millions and encourages others to believe they can bounce back from a challenge. Some of his messages were basic and timely:

  • It's not what you do that determines success, it's how you do it. 
  • Most people say they want something, but they are not willing to do what it takes  to get it. 
  • If you are in a job transition, congratulations. The universe just gifted you with an opportunity. 
  • Know what you want, what inspires you, put your attention on it. 
  •  Don't just think and feel, act. Go after what you want.
  •  Hang out with people who aren't doing the norm.
  • Financially, you will always be rewarded by the amount of value and service you provide.

      After lunch, I moderated a panel of South Florida business people who shared some great tips:

     Scott Brooks, Mayor of Coral Springs, was the brave man on the panel with five women. Scott's tips for networking: Try to combine work, philanthropy and family. He recently held a barbeque at his home, made it a charity fundraiser and invited some business people. Scott, who owns a business, says he understands when someone needs a work accommodation, maybe some flexibility, but he wants an employee to be direct with his/her request.

     I asked the panel how they like to be contacted -- e-mail, phone calls, personal letters?

  Tracy Wilson Mourning of the Honey Shine Mentoring Program says she likes e-mail. Of course, she admitted she has anassistant who helps answer her e-mail. Conference 016

     For me, the highlight of the day was Carolyn Kepcher, CEO of Carolyn & Co. Media, former executive vice president of the Trump Organization.

     Conference 008                           Rather than "balance" Carolyn likes the world "integration." She believes the key is knowing your priorities -- whether it's to earn a living, raise your kids, score a promotion. "Once you have that in check, it's amazing how easy decision-making becomes." She also says it's important for women to "accept the decisions we make and be okay with them." 

    Carolyn posed this question to the audience: Why don't women ask for a promotion? The answers varied but the general coconsensus was,  "Women don't want to rock the boat." Carolyn's advice: Rock the boat! For more, see the full interview with Carolyn that ran in The Miami Herald.

         Congratulations to Susie Levan for getting 1,200 people to the event. It's become a must-attend. If you  weren't able to come, mark your calendar for the third Wednesday in April 2010.Conference 010

April 21, 2009

How to hire a career coach

     Lately, I find myself giving others career advice. For some reason, the path others should take and opportunities that exist for them seem clear to me. Of course, it's a lot easier to give advice to others.

     Like so many people out there, I'm in transition too. And while journalism changes and I shift with it, I feel lucky to know I'm still in the right career for me. But who would I go to for guidance if I wanted a complete change?

     For those of you who are stuck, who want a change but can't figure out how, Marci Alboher has a great blog post on how to hire a career coach. She tells you just when it's time to bring a pro into help. Marci suggests you look to the International Coach Federation for professionals in your area searchable by your criteria. According to a study done by the International Coaches Federation, the international average is about $200 for an hour-long session. But pricing varies widely. Some may offer their services by phone. 

   You should know that a good coach will help you figure out how to come up with a plan and find a job. Just don't expect them to actually do it for you. They are not recruiters.

Also, you should know that Florida International University in Miami offers a course for those of you interested in becoming a career/life coach.

Also remember a career coach is not a therapist. On her post, Marci quotes  Maggie Mistal, a coach and the host of “Making a Living With Maggie,” on XM’s Martha Stewart Living Radio. Mistal says if someone has trouble looking forward, lives in the past and blame others she'll suggest that maybe a therapist would be more helpful.

   For those of you leaving jobs, your former employer may offer career coaching as part of the outplacement/severance package. It's worth checking into.

April 20, 2009

When Working Mothers need answers

      Last week, my two middle schoolers came home with elective choices for next year. The choices included high-school level courses such as Spanish. Should my daughter have the pressure of high school while she's still in middle school? 

      Once again, I turned to the "Mommy Network."  If I had any advice for a new mother who plans to balance work and family this is it: make sure you have a network of mothers who are plugged in to what is going on in your children's schools, the latest research on pediatric medicine, the sign up schedules for local sports teams, and the best deals in town on kid stuff. Some moms have made being in the know their full-time jobs. I respect them for that. Over the years, I have worked hard to assemble a Mommy Network of women in the know and it has paid off big time.

          Yes, I could have gone to school counselors for the 411. But any working mom who needs answers knows the Mommy Network can provide firsthand experience on how choices play out in real life. A few phone calls later, I had heard a variety of opinions on course selection including facts I would never have considered had I not made the calls. We all know there is a LOT of pressure on kids to start their college planning at an early age. My paper, The Miami Herald, had an article this morning on a 12-year-old boy who already is in college tacking a double major. I think that's downright sad. But I do want my kids to have the best shot possible at the college of their choice.

        The Today Showrecently offered tips to become tech-savvy and plug into the online Mommy Network. The Internet is a wealth of information for parents and I love sites like MomLogic, the Parenting and Pregnancy section of WebMD, Yahoo! parenting groups and iVillage.  But one-on-one conversations with moms or dads in your local area with kids who have the same teachers, the same friends, the same doctors and join the same sport teams are crucial to those of us with questions that we need answered at the same time the boss awaits a return e-mail.

      Once again, my Mommy Network has come through for me with answers. Now, if only my kids would realize mommy knows best.



April 15, 2009

Furloughs -- the ultimate test of work/life balance

        Imagine being forbidden to check work e-mail, listen to voicemail or answer phone calls. Could you do it?

   Furloughs are the new trend --mandated unpaid time off, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a week. Unlike vacations they have rules preventing any communication with the office. See how workers are coping with the ultimate work/life balance test in my Miami Herald column today

    Here's a quote from Winnebago Industries CEO Bob Olson who struggled with disconnecting during his furlough: ``There's a natural urge to want to be involved every day.'' Olson admits having a dinner conversation without handling an issue at the office took some getting used to. He had to completely rely on his management team. His biggest challenge: ```disciplining myself to not call the office or answer e-mail.''


April 14, 2009

Win tickets to Work-Life Balance Conference

     The 5th Annual Work-Life Balance Educational Conference for Businesswomen is going to be great. This is one of my favorite events. More than 1,000 women attend. There are all kinds of giveaways and opportunities to network. The food is good, the vibe is empowering and the speakers are very inspirational. Each year I leave the conference feeling like I can do ANYTHING if I set my mind to it.  This year's conference is on April 22 at Signature Grand in Davie. Plan on being there most of the day.

    Speakers include James Arthur Ray, who will talk about ''The Secret of Attracting theLife You Want,'' and Carolyn Kepcher (Donald Trump's former boardroom judge), who will address ``Lessons for Career Success.''  I will be there, too, moderating a panel of South Florida business people who I will coax into sharing advice on job-hunting, staying positive, finding work/life balance and overcoming business challenges.

      You have two options. To guarantee yourself a spot, register at http://www.balancemagazine.com/events_page.html. Next option is to enter our Miami Herald contest to win free tickets. Tell me in 100 words or less why you want to go to this event. Email me at balance@MiamiHerald.com. We'll chose two winners on Sunday. Can't wait to meet you!


April 13, 2009

TV director Mark Burnett says being a male nanny was key to success

   Mark Burnett                   Mark Burnett, Emmy Award winning creator of Survivor, The Apprentice and Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader, was a former nanny. Who knew? In fact, Burnett says it led him toward the path to big time success.

  Burnett told Best Life Magazine that when he left the British Army Parachute Regiment and arrived in Los Angeles, his friend had been a chauffeur in Beverly Hills and heard of another family looking for a chauffeur. It turned out to be a job chauffeuring kids around, as well as being a nanny and a housekeeper. Burnett, a 22-year-old ex-soldier had to sell himself to get the job that would give him $125 a week, a roof, a car and time to figure out his next move. He sold the couple on his experience cooking, cleaning and doing laundry in the army. He calls it his defining moment.

   Wondering how being a nanny changed his life? Burnett says living in the home of multimillionaires opened his eyes to possibilities. The father suggested Burnett start a small, service-based business and use it to build what he and his wife had. Burnett took his advice and started selling T-shirts in Venice Beach.

   Burnett says he learned this important skill --- something that should ring true for all of us: Only an idiot sells the same product the same way to every person. "The first mission in commerce is to analyze the person opposite you, get to know him a bit, and then adjust your sales pitch to match the person," Burnett told Mike Zimmerman at Best Life Magazine. He says it's the same strategy he used to sell Survivor and every other TV show since.

  "I often look back on those nanny days as fundamental," he says, "No matter what you're doing, you have to be determined to make it work."

   Now, there's a lesson we could all use.