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11 posts from February 2010

February 26, 2010

Katherine Heigl speaks out on long days

Some people my think of Katherine Heigl as a prima donna but I like her. I like the way she gets what she wants at work. I really like the way she's been able to branch out beyond television at the same time she has become a mom. I think there's a lesson in there for the rest of us.

Heigl, who plays Izzie on Grey's Anatomy, is about to come back to set of the TV series after taking a three-month maternity leave to bond with her 15-month old daughter. Heigl adopted 10-month-old baby Naleigh on Sept. 10. Earlier this season, she took five weeks off to film the romantic comedy Life As We Know It— Heigl also returned to the set this week. People.com TV watch

Heigl earned audience respect for her outstanding performances on the show and in movies. At the same time, she has been outspoken. Last summer, she mentioned to David Letterman about returning to the Grey's set: "Our first day back was Wednesday and it was - I'm going to keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them - a 17-hour day, which I think is cruel and mean." This is all kinds of rumors out there that Heigl caused the long day by appearing on Letterman. Regardless, she's one of the few celebrity moms who has ever complained publicly about long work days. She's a new mom. I don't blame her for feeling like a 17-hour day is difficult. She's not the first new mom who's had to endure it.

I recently was given this advice by a workplace expert: "You can speak up about long days but you have to explain to your boss why it's better for him/her for you to go home. Suggest that if you tackle whatever you are working on from a fresh perspective in the morning, the work product will be much better."

Clearly, if you are good at what you do, you can speak up. Heigl has earned audience respect. Her bosses at Grey's know that. She can get away with a little bit more than someone who isn't a good performer. So, to Heigl, I say, you go girl, show people how it's done. Show them you can speak up, take a maternity leave, pursue other bigger things, and still be in command of your career.

So what do you think? Is Heigl a diva, reminiscent of someone in your workplace?  Or is she an employee with a legitimate complaint?

February 24, 2010

Apollo Ohno's dad -- crazy or devoted?



If you have watched any of the Winter Olympics, you've likely seen Apolo Ohno's father Yuki alone in the stands, cheering on his son. Yuki looks thrilled, but kind of lonely, too. There are no family members, friends or significant others by his side. Ohno's mother has been notably absent. This hasn't gone unnoticed by viewers, according to sportsyahoo.com.

Yuki is a single dad who raised Apolo, an only child, from a young age when his mother took off. I watched a TV interview with Apolo and he talked about how much his dad had given up for him to be an Olympic athlete. It's a great single father success story that's gotten lots of ink on the blogs. (I enjoyed this one on Ramblings of a Single Dad)But it's also the story of a dad, a hairstylist, who worked long hours to make ends meet and then made his entire personal life about his son. Apparently, Yuki would work long days in a small salon, then drive hundreds of miles to bring a young Apolo to rollerblading competitions. We've heard of stage moms but we don't hear a lot about dads who devote their entire lives outside of work, or who make it their work, to make their kid a star.

Writes Beth Harris for the AP. "Working as a hairstylist, he raised Ohno alone after the boy’s mother left early on. Not an easy task, either, with Ohno describing himself as 'a kid who had a lot of energy and was out of control a lot of times.' Their bond is more friendship than parent-child these days, with Ohno turning to his father for advice about everything in his life."

With Apolo now a huge winner at the 2010 Winter Olympics this father/son story is one with a happy ending. But is it? Should a parent be completely devoted to the life of their adult child? Of course all parents feel elated when our children reach their dreams, their goals. Most of us get tremendous joy from our kids. But is it crazy to want more for Yuki? Do you think it's okay for parents to make their entire lives about their children? I know plenty of parents who do it. Yuki sure looks happy in the stands. But what happens when Apolo skates after all those big opportunities that lie ahead? When I look at Yuki sitting alone I can't help but feel a little sad.


February 18, 2010

Higher productivity, less work life balance

Are today's workers headed for burnout?

Ryder CEO Gregory Swienton says it's very possible. He believes the recent surge in productivity has a finite life. "Work life balance is good for employees," Swienton said. "They can and should not be all work." Swienton says as the economy rebounds, companies should want to add employees to allow for their workers to give time to their faith, family, community and other interests. "People should be working smart and use tech to be more productive. It should not be just about longer hours because of so few people."

Swienton addressed a group of business people today at a meeting of Women Executive Leadership(WEL) titled Conventional Wisdom - A View From the Top. WEL founder Cindy Kushner urged speakers to share what it is like to lead companies in these tough economic times.

Much like Swienton, Luda Kopeikina, CEO of Noventra, also believes companies need to make changes as the economy rebounds: "Employees can not sustain what they are doing now.'
Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, author and president of Advantage Leadership, had a pretty insightful take on how long hours are affecting productivity:  "Humans are designed to work 40 hours. If they put in an extra 10 hours on a regular basis, their productivity takes a nosedive. Pretty soon you have to put in more hours to accomplish the same work you were doing in 40 hours. It's a downward spiral"

(Below, founder Cindy Kushner addresses the audience)

Wel 001

February 17, 2010

Pregnant Athlete draws attention at the Olympics

Interesting blog post today on MomLogic: The headline reads "Are Pregnant Athletes Selfish?"

It notes that Olympic curler Kristie Moore is five months pregnant. She is the first Olympian in 90 years to compete while pregnant.

 Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, an OB/GYN weighs in: I can tell you with confidence that of all the Olympic sports, this one might actually be one of those best suited for a pregnant woman! Exercise and fitness are encouraged during pregnancy. Regular, moderate exercise is known to decrease fatigue and nausea during the first trimester, and to increase stamina, flexibility and potentially endurance in later trimesters -- possibly even during labor!

Those exercises off limits? Dr. Giblerg-Lenz says no-nos include downhill skiing, contact sports, surfing, horseback riding, skateboarding and scuba diving. Obviously, most X-Games athletes would probably need to take a break. I usually advise my patients, "If you fall, will you freak out? Then don't do it!"

I think it's interesting that this pregnant and selfish discussion even came up. It's the same discussion that has come up in business and has resulted in pregnancy discrimination lawsuits. Some employers believe certain jobs are not suited for pregnant employees. By most definitions, competing in the Olympics is a job. So it gets back to the age-old debate, are there jobs that should be off limits to pregnant women and whose decision is it to make, the employer or the future mom? Is it right for the employer to step in if he believes the safety of the unborn child is in jeopardy? In this case, should the Olympic Committee allow Moore to compete?

February 16, 2010

How to raise an entrepreneur

Last Friday, I judged a contest for theNational Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Fort Lauderdale/Broward chapter. The contest to recognize contributions made by women in the community was divided into categories. My favorite was the Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year. All I can say is WOW! Talk about juggling responsibilities. The three candidates ages 12-19 launched their businesses while still in school. One of the young women, Shea Gould, is 15 years old and runs a commercial bakery business. As a mother of a teenage girl who complains she can't do chores because she has too much homework, I found Shea's story inspiring.

  From Shea's Website (sheasbakery.com): In 2008, I started selling gourmet cheesecakes and seasonal breads as a way to make enough money to keep baking and developing new recipes. (Good ingredients are expensive!) Suddenly, orders started rolling in, and I was officially “in business”.

Shea now rents commercial space and sells both wholesale and retail. Even more, 10% of ALL Shea’s Bakery profits are donated to charity. During the interview with the judges, Shea, who also is in the marching band, said balancing work, school and friends is challenging. But having a business, she said, "makes me feel independent." She told the judges: "No one is making me run this business. I do it because I love it. You should love what you do."

Shea is being raised by a single mother who works full time, yet she is Shea's biggest supporter, handling the business side of Shea's Bakery. I noticed a commonality among all the young entrepreneurs up for this award - very supportive parents. 

Mystery of the Pasha Diamond-Use Recently, I interviewed Sydney Kramer, a high school sophomore and who started her own children's mystery book publishing business, www.cookiedalmatian.com, when she was 11. Sydney told me she writes at night after finishing homework.  She's had to postpone writing when school gets intense. Sydney made a YouTube video to promote her four-book series. Like Shea, she gives 10 percent of what she makes to charities. She has sold almost 1,000 books. Sydney says she's not sure whether she wants to turn her hobby into her profession but holds out the possibility.

Of course, Sydney also has supportive parents. Her dad, Marc Kramer, an entrepreneur and faculty member at Wharton School of Business, helps her market the books. I asked her dad how as a parent you encourage entrepreneurialism in a child, without turning him/her off?

Marc's answer: "I believe in exposing them to a variety of experiences and see what peaks their interest.  I also believe people are either hardwired to be entrepreneurs or they aren’t.  They have this need to create stuff.  You can force a child to do anything initially, but then they rebel and you have wasted your time and theirs.  Not to mention the resentment for forcing them into something that they didn’t want to do.”

Of course, most kids love the idea of making money for something they enjoy do (adults do too!). Says Marc: “Sydney was interested in starting her own business because she wanted to make more money than what we paid her in allowance."

A recent survey by Challenger Gray found that the number of start ups jumped to a 4-year high in 2009, mostly because unemployed workers saw entrepreneurialism as an alternative to unemployment. I can only imagine how well prepared these young business owners will be for whatever lies ahead.

Do you wish you learned more about being an entrepreneur when you were younger? Do you think parents should encourage kids to run businesses or does it take away from being a kid?



February 11, 2010

Valentine’s Day, the Perfect Time to Talk to Your Child about SEX

  As a mom who tries each day to juggle work and family, I'm finding that when it comes to my middle school kids, I'm often late to the party. By that I mean by the time I think I need to talk to them about a life matter, and actually make the time to do it, they already seem to have a strong opinion on the subject.

  So today, when a press release landed in my Inbox suggesting Valentine's Day is the perfect time to talk to your child about sex, my first reaction was "not a bad idea." It helps that Valentine's Day is on Sunday, a day when parents typically are home with their kids. Now, there's that issue of how to get the conversation started.

What is your child’s understanding of love, relationships, health, and sex? That's not an easy thing to assess. Recently, when I asked my son if he kisses his girlfriend at school he told me I'm being nosy. These days, it's his standard answer to almost anything I ask. I'm not even sure what having a girlfriend in middle school means but I don't want to wait until it's too late to find out.

“We don’t want to over-manage our children where sexuality is concerned,” says Laura Gauld, parenting expert and Head of Hyde Schools."But we want to give them a strong sense of values and a foundation of principles where sex is concerned."

Laura Gauld along with her husband, Malcolm, authored the book, The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have. “I really liked their advice for talking to your kids about sex. Here's what they suggest:

1. Begin with a solid foundation of principles, a clear definition of what matters in our lives, as individuals and as a family.

“This is different from a set of rules,” says Laura. “Often we approach kids with do’s and don’ts, but they mean little without clear underlying principles. Sex is not a ‘don’t because it’s wrong; it’s a ‘be careful, because it is powerful and can change your life.’ We need to be clear about these things.”

2. Ask your children to describe what kind of person they are striving to become.

“If we give our children the opportunity to define what kind of person they want to be ---if we start when they are young, and help them to define the principles they can stand up for in order to get there --- they will stand equipped with the tools they need to face this challenging world,” says Laura.

“This is not the same as what they want to own, or what kind of college they want to attend, or what they can accomplish — this is about who they are,” adds Malcolm. “In the end, who we are matters more than what we can do. True self-esteem in teens comes from doing what they believe is important.”

3. Share examples from your own life.

Remember high school? Parents should share some of the moments when they were faced with tough decisions about being ‘cool’ or being true to themselves. It wasn’t easy then; it isn’t easier now.

“It is helpful for teens to learn that their parents went through the same tests among peers –- about drugs, sex, bullying, whatever,” says Laura. “Parents are an enormous resource, sharing what it takes to help our children ‘zig’ when their friends ‘zag,’ to say no when their friends say yes to things that can hurt them.”

Finally, the Gaulds urge parents to stand by their kids.

“Today’s teens are under a great deal of pressure, and they are presented with so many challenges and offerings that can easily lead them down a path of self-destruction,” says Malcolm. “Saying no to the things that can derail them is only part of it. They stand the risk of being unpopular among their peers for not participating. They will need your support that much more.”

Click here to hear more of Laura Gauld's parenting tips.

Wish me luck with my Valentine's Day talk!

February 10, 2010

Fall back in love with your job

Lately, I've been hearing so many people complain about their jobs, even those who are their own boss. With Valentine's Day and the focus on romantic relationships, I thought maybe it was time to help people fall back in love with what they do for a living. I scoured the country for experts and was thrilled to share their suggestions in my Miami Herald column today.I posted it below. Let me know if you have anything to add to the conversation.


As Valentine's Day nears, most people focus on romantic relationships. We want to spice them up a bit, rekindle the passion, or maybe we just want to find that special someone. Yet, coming out of a difficult 2009, we might have lost the passion in one of our most important and time-consuming relationships -- the one with our jobs.
Indeed, less than half of American workers, 45 percent, are satisfied with their jobs, according to a recent survey by the Conference Board. Whether you are an employee buried under a pile of added responsibilities or a small-business owner just trying to stay afloat, there are ways to fall back in love with what you do for a living.

Just like in a romantic relationship, don't wait for your partner, in this case your employer, to make things better. Take charge in the quest to bring sexy back. I talked to some experts for suggestions:

Go back to the way things were.

Remember how it was when you started and you were motivated to do your best? You had a clean desk and an optimistic attitude. Maybe you even had a grand plan for how you were going to move up the corporate ladder or build your business. What was it that first excited you about going to work -- your co-workers, a great boss, a good location, opportunity to grow your skills? Make a list of those things that attracted you to your job and spend more time on them.

Executive coach Steve Schack, director of Clear Blue Associates in New York, says he recently coached a CEO who missed the interaction with the customers he once had in sales. Schack suggested the top executive spend one morning a week calling on customers with his sales people.

``Sometimes it just takes having a serious talk with yourself to figure out what energizes you.''

Bring something new to the relationship.

To bring the spark back, ``maybe it's time to propose a new project,'' says Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career, life and wellness coach with Surpass Your Dreams in East Moriches, N.Y. Everyone, especially people who feel trapped in their jobs, needs something to look forward to in the workplace, even if you already feel overworked. ``You are not doing it for your company, you are doing it for you because it's something you will enjoy,'' Brown says.

For example, Susan Boone, marketing director for Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, launched a program called ``Make A Difference'' as a way for the hotel to give back to the community. Boone and some of her colleagues visited schools to teach children about saving the planet. It was a program she came up with and it helps kindle a passion for her job.

Love the one you're with.

At some point, we all fantasize that we would be happier in a different situation -- whether it's at work or in romance. But the reality is that no job is perfect just like no partner is perfect. Talk to other business owners or to people in your profession. You likely will discover every job comes with some aggravation.

Try looking at your job differently, suggests Kandee G, a motivational speaker and corporate development leader based in Plantation.

``The more you focus on what's going right, the more right things will show up for you,'' says Kandee G. Even if you are down on your profession, there always is some aspect you enjoy. ``When I was selling real estate, it was not the job of my dreams. However, I value being of service. I found ways to be of service to my clients and it made what I did delightful.''

Make time for each other.

When was the last time you gave up multitasking to spend time on the favorite parts of your job? For Miami corporate attorney Tom Schultz, an exciting part of law is pro bono work. Schultz has learned to steal moments of time with the door closed -- especially during court holidays -- to focus on a 5-year-old case in which he is helping a housekeeper reestablish her rights to a condo she bought from a women who later passed away. The women's daughter has been trying to void the contract.

``It's very satisfying and professionally fulfilling to use your education and skills to help people who desperately need it,'' Schultz says.

Choose the right influences.

Marriage counselor Joel Block regularly advises couples to hang out with people who have good relationships. In the workplace, he advises spending time with people who feel passionate about their jobs. ``Find someone who loves what they do and does it well. That will put your mind in the right place.'' Block, who works in New York, also suggests putting effort into your relationships with your co-workers or staff. ``If you want to love your work, you will need to relate well to the people around you. Treat those relationship as valuable.''


Every good relationship is based on strong communications. If you want something different out of your job, make your boss aware. Many workers would like a more flexible schedule, better benefits or a small policy change that would make a huge difference. The worst that could happen is the boss says no. ``This might require some self-awareness and recognition of judgments you are making about your job,'' says Dan McNeill, CEO of The McNeill Group, an executive coaching and leadership development firm based in Plantation.

Along those lines, make sure your boss knows how you prefer to be acknowledged for hard work. Do you want to be included in high-level discussions? Are you looking for a pay raise or bonus? If you are the boss, ask your staff for ideas to make them happy and the workplace more fun. ``There's a presumption that senior management ought to know,'' McNeill says ``If you are the employer, make sure your suggestion system functions effectively.''

Take breaks.

Everyone tires of their partner if they never spend time apart. Schack says people need to get up and walk around during the day, get out of the office, socialize at lunchtime and keep your time off as work-free as possible.


Here's a comment a Facebook friend made when reading my article:

Alyssa Horn Lerner commented on your link:

"Hi Cindy, as an Attorney Recruiter and Executive Coach, I LOVE what you wrote! Very useful ideas that anyone can put into practice on a daily basis. Focusing on the positive aspects of your job can make going to work more pleasant. If you can't find anything positive in your job, create something. For example, go to your boss and suggest a project that you would enjoy working on. Your boss will be impressed with your creativity and you will enjoy what you are doing!


February 09, 2010

Undercover Boss gets a thumbs up

One of the best shows on television has to be the new CBS reality show, Undercover Boss. If you missed it Sunday night, I recommend you catch it next week.  Apparently, 38.6 million people watched the debut of the show in which executives work incognito within their own companies.

Undercover Sunday's episode revealed the huge disconnect between corporate policy and how it affects the work/life of employees. It showed how far removed the top executive can become from the bottom rung employees who have interaction with the customers. Larry O'Donnell, the president and COO of Waste Management, posed as an entry level worker and took on jobs such as sorting recycling, picking up litter and cleaning toilets. He learned from a recycling worker that she is docked two minutes for every minute she is late from her half-hour lunch. He learned from a female garbage truck driver that she has to pee in a coffee can to keep on schedule. He learned from a plant worker that she is doing the job of several workers and getting paid an hourly wage. At the end of the episode, O'Donnell made changes, handing out promotions and raises and allowing breaks into the schedules for the female drivers.

I heard O'Donnell in an interview yesterday withElvis Duran (radio host) and O'Donnell said he had no idea the effects of his corporate policies to drive productivity and he never would have known because although he visits sites, he arrives as president and doesn't get the candid feedback from employees. He was amused at the way "corporate" was used to describe the jerks at the top, knowing he was the guy the workers were talking about.

A critic for Time Magazine had some gripes with the show. He writes: "Every problem O'Donnell witnessed comes out of shareholder demands for productivity, to wring more work out of every penny of wages. Does anyone believe there aren't plenty of other workers in the same straits in a company the size of Waste Management?  You stop cutting costs, you disappoint the market, and you get canned. If Larry O'Donnell has too much of an Ebenezer Scrooge change of heart, Waste management can find another Larry O'Donnell.

Good point. But I like a show that details the reality of how hard some people work to earn a buck. I like a show that shines a light on how far removed those in the executive suite can become from the reality of how hard it can be to balance work and life when you are facing health issues or financial hardship.

Even though Undercover Boss is a prime-time entertainment show, and maybe even cheesy big network PR for executives, I'm a supporter. If Undercover Boss makes even one CEO consider spending time with front-line workers, if it leads to one change that's favorable for employees, I think it's done a great community service. I'm willing to give this show another hour of my time next week.

If you saw the show, did you think it was manipulative, entertaining or realistic?

February 08, 2010

Superbowl, the day after

It was so much fun to watch the Super Bowl being played in my hometown last night. I felt compelled to watch it all the way to the end with friends and family. Of course today, I'm among the millions in America who feeling sluggish. Maybe you enjoyed Super Bowl hoopla, too. Maybe you didn't even make it into work today. In either case, you are not alone. Employers across America now know that Super Bowl affects worker absenteeism as well as productivity he day after the game. 

Statistics say that the Monday after the Super Bowl has the single largest rate of absenteeism from work and school than any other day on the calendar -- about 1.5 million adults will be calling in sick today and another 4.4 million will arrive late. Miami Herald Editor Terence Shepherd wants the day to be called Super Sagging Monday. There's a movement under way gaining ground virally on Facebook calling for the day after Super Bowl to be declared a national holiday or maybe even to move the game to President's Day weekend. I doubt that will ever happen. 

But I am wondering if employers owe it to their workers to be a little lenient about tardiness, sluggishness or absenteeism. After all, Super Bowl is part of American tradition. And for the last few months, worker productivity has jumped, which means most of us have been working extra hard. Of course, is that many of us feel lucky to have jobs today and don't want to risk losing them.

Will you call in sick today, or with the tight labor market, will you shake off the hangover or fatigue and go to work? And, will you join the viral effort to make Super Bowl Monday a national holiday?

February 03, 2010

New rules at work for Valentine's Day

Office romance
It's February and romance is in the air and so is the conversation about office romance. If you are single, work is the most likely place to meet someone, especially if you are putting crazy hours into your job. I love to hear the success stories, those people who met their spouse at work and are madly in love. But then you hear the stories of relationships gone bad like the woman who bought those billboards in Times Square to embarrass her former lover/co-worker. Even worse, technology can make rebounding from a bad romance, so much worse than in previous decades. I know someone who sent an email blast to her entire office to embarrass a co-worker who dumped her.

So, if you are going to go there and date someone you work alongside, here are 5 guidelines from etiquette expert Barbara Pachter to help you and your significant other share a copier by day and a bedroom by night without hurting your professional image:

1. Do Not Broadcast Your Relationship On Any Social Media Sites.Keep the relationship private. Your coworkers do not need to know the intimate details of your romance. No posting information or photos about your latest love interest on Facebook or sending tweets about it. You never know who will see them.

2. No Giant Billboards In Times Square! If the relationship fails—be professional and adult about it. A recent billboard in New York publicly announced the affair between Charles Phillips, co-president of Oracle Corporation, and his mistress. Even if you have been jilted and the relationship ends badly, you cannot vent your negative feelings in public. This is the risk of office relationships. They sometimes don’t work out and then you have to continue to see or work with the person.

3. No Physical Contact In The Office. No romantic displays. No secret kissing, caressing, hand holding or sex in the office. This also includes your behavior at office parties.

4. Don’t E-mail X-Rated Valentine’s Day Cards. E-mail is not private. Do not mail an unsigned Valentine’s Day card to a coworker. Being a secret admirer is not a corporate concept.

5. Your Boss Shouldn’t Be Your Valentine. Relationships are tricky enough without your boss or subordinate being your Valentine. If you are dating your boss, have your reporting relationship changed.

By the way, Pachter just published  NewRules@Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, you may want to dig into it for more workplace advice.

What do you feel are the right ingredients to turn an office romance into a success story? How do think technology makes it more complicated to date someone you work alongside?