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6 posts from December 2010

December 21, 2010

Don't let the haters ruin your day

Holiday cheer? I say, humbug. It is so easy to get crabby this time of year when people cut you off on the road, hop in front of you in the check-out line and mutter stuff under their breath about your over-sugared kids. But my friend Michelle Villalobos of Mivista Consulting sent me an email that put me in a better mood about the craziness of the season. 

She writes: At the supermarket yesterday, I left my purse in the cart so I could reach an item in the isle. A woman walked by, growled at me and said, “Someone should steal your purse. It’ll teach you a lesson.”

Have you been in that situation? Someone is strangely rude for absolutely no reason.

I have found (and research supports) that responding in kind, makes you feel worse in the long run. It will make the situation play through your mind over and over. But “killing them with kindness”, gives you an immediate release from tension. And the situation is quickly forgotten.

So, instead of lashing back, I smiled and thanked her profusely for her caring about me.

Let the “haters” hate. Just remember not to engage in the negativity of the moment. By moving on, and forgetting, you will keep your focus on what matters.

Like Michelle, I had my own run in with a hater. A woman refused to let my husband and I cut over a lane to turn into the mall. She rolled down the window to my husband off, but took her off guard when he yelled first, "You're beautiful! Happy Holidays!" I think it made her think twice about her crabby mood. She rolled up her window and let him in front of her.

Michelle, You are so right! It's so tempting to do, but don't let the haters ruin your day.

December 15, 2010

The latest solution to advancing women in leadership

Do you think that juggling work and motherhood is what keeps women from advancing into the executive suite? On Monday, Catalyst put out some eye-opening numbers that show work life balance issues have NOTHING to do with why women aren't making it to the top jobs in Corporate America. Worse, Catalyst looked at MBA grads over 10 years and discovered males make more money in their first job and land more promotions and raises. Catalysts Michael Chamberlain sums up the harsh truth: "Women start behind and never catch up."

Why should men care? Because women contribute to the family income. And, because women buy the products and services that companies want to sell.

I talked to a few women in Corporate America for my article in today's Miami Herald. The general consensus is that women think their company is going to advance them when they are ready. But guess what? That doesn't happen. Women who advanced took it upon themselves to "stand out" across divisions, build relationships throughout the company, and ask the right questions to get the skills they needed to land promotions. Ladies, your career path is yours to create.

Even more, if you are going to get ahead, having a mentor isn't good enough. You need an advocates at high levels who can talk you up as the right candidate when a high level position comes open and you're not in the room to sell yourself. That's what men have that women lack.

Here's my article, please let me hear your thoughts:

Sponsors, not mentors, are key to corporate advancement


Research shows women aren't making strides up corporate ladder
   Cristina Gallo-Aquino, vice president and controller for Ryder System, stands with the 1933 antique truck outside the Ryder headquarters in west Miami-Dade.

Cristina Gallo-Aquino, vice president and controller for Ryder System, stands with the 1933 antique truck outside the Ryder headquarters in west Miami-Dade.
During her prime-time special last week, Barbara Walters asked Oprah Winfrey whether she regretted not having children. Oprah answered decisively, saying she couldn't have reached the career heights she has while caring for a child.

No one can put in 14-hour workdays and still be supermom or superdad. Yet in 2010, we are seeing that women can advance at high levels and still be a parent: 11 of 12 female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are moms, according to a recent survey.

But this week, an eye-opening report revealed what no one really wants to admit -- possible is not probable.

New research by Catalyst, a nonprofit working for advancement of women, reveals that the female progression in corporate boardrooms, executive office suites and the ranks of companies' top earners has stagnated. The 2010 findings represent the fifth report in which the annual change in female leadership remained flat.

The reasons have nothing to do with work/life balance. Catalyst also looked at male and female MBAs with high potential right out of school and followed them for 10 years. From their first job, women are paid less and receive fewer promotions and raises.

``They start behind and never catch up,'' says Michael J. Chamberlain, a senior director with Catalyst.

Companies have spent millions in diversity training, recruiting female graduates and teaching them leadership skills. And then, they've dropped the ball in mining this talent for the top jobs. Today, 86 percent of executive officers at Fortune 500 companies are men. To me, it's incomprehensible how public companies in the 21st Century can manage to exclude women from such critical roles when they make the bulk of buying decisions.

The recession may be a factor because companies are struggling to eke out profits -- not necessarily creating new opportunities at the top. Even more, men in high-level jobs aren't giving them up. But if women are going to advance as the economy rebounds, they need to think differently.

Catalyst's research points to a solution. It discovered that while women have mentors, men more often have the higher-level sponsors who champion them. Mentoring, or having someone who offers career guidance and advice, is not as effective as is sponsorship -- when someone at a high level with clout advocates for your advancement.

``It's not a question of knocking on the door and saying, `I'd like you to sponsor me,' '' says Jan Combopiano, vice president and chief knowledge officer at Catalyst. ``It is about having a career plan in mind, knowing the unwritten rules, and talking to people about what you need to get there -- including the experiences, skills and exposure to the right people in positions of power.''

In Miami, Cristina Gallo-Aquino knows she's a rare breed as a recently promoted high-level female executive at a Fortune 500 company. The mother of two landed in the executive ranks at Ryder System two months ago, becoming vice president and controller. Gallo-Aquino says she has advanced because she worked hard not only to make her supervisor advocate for her but also to showcase her skills across divisions.

``The more people who have had positive experiences with you, the more likely you are to succeed. That's how you build champions.''

Carnival Cruise Lines doesn't have a formal program to identify women leaders, but Brenda Yester has climbed to senior vice president of revenue management. Yester landed a promotion in April to report directly to the CEO. She says she got promotions by knowing when to advocate for herself and when to ask others to help.

Even more important, she discovered, is going out of your way to get the skills you need to advance.

``People I mentor expect the company to do it for them, and I tell them you have to create the path for yourself.''

To be sure, women are making some progress during the recession, just not enough. Catalyst believes the onus lies on senior leaders at public companies to view women managers as critical to their success in selling a product or service.

Companies such as Coca-Cola are the exception. Its leadership realizes women make up an increasing percentage of entrepreneurs worldwide who are buying services and products from big corporations. Muhtar Kent, chair and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co. has formed a council of senior leaders at his company to identify and promote opportunities for women, calling it ``smart business.''

In Florida, Cindy Kushner founded Women Executive Leadership 10 years ago to give female executives a place to go outside their company to find champions and get the skills to advance to high levels.

In January, WEL will reveal its 2010 Census report at its Corporate Salute and expects the results to be consistent with Catalyst's. But the good news is that six Florida public companies have added women to their boards for the first time.

``That's why it's so important for us to continue our efforts. It is a slow process, but we have to get companies to see women as ready for leadership positions.''

December 13, 2010

Overwhelmed by the holidays? How to make time choices.

Overwhelmed holidays I still haven't sent out holiday cards and I'm not sure I'm going to this year. But each day when my mail arrives and I open other's cards, I feel horrible. We all have experienced that moment when the smallest undone "to-do" convinces you that your entire life is out of whack. During the holidays, these unaccomplished tasks at work and home weigh on us like the pounds from seasonal feasts.

 "If you stress over one thing, you can quickly go into a downward spiral, " Nancy Solomon, a Miami stress/mental health counselor said to me a few years back. "One thing leads to another and you start to tell yourself that everything in your life is not OK, it never was OK."

But there are ways to juggle it all during the holiday season:

  •  Don't set yourself up for stress. Even if you like to bake, if you're bringing something to the office  holiday party, don't spend the midnight hours baking and go to bed angry or arrive at the party stressed.


  • Delegate. Before you take vacation days, figure out what must be done and what can wait. Ask a co-worker to handle small elements of a task that needs to get done so you don't do it all before your vacation. You can return the favor.


  • Be prepared for the boss. Know what to say when a boss asks you to take on tasks performed by a now-vacationing coworker. Do what you can do, but if you are going to walk out of the office and start swearing at your family or kick the dog, you've got to say no.


  • Postpone big decisions. Don't make any major life or career decisions until after the new year. Some of us feel overwhelmed in our efforts to balance holiday shopping, work and family. In January, you may see things differently. Or not.


  •  Limit personal appearances at events. Choose which business and social events you will attend. Then, make brief appearances. Solomon suggests: "When you walk in, find the host and say, "I can't stay for long, but I wanted you to know I care about your business.' Stay 10 minutes and leave. If it's a person you want business from, that person will remember that you came and not remember when you left."


  • Prioritize your to-do list. If your priority for the day is to wrap gifts at night, plan your around it. If you do things in a scattered way, you'll look your to-do list and think, "How am I going to get that all done?'


  • Stay calm when one of those to-dos gets complicated. A friend of mine couldn't find her business holiday card list. Complicating the matter, she has a new secretary. She devoted a morning to it, found an old list from a few years back, updated it and completed the task rather than stressing over it.


  • Don't give up routines. Regardless of how harried you are, don't give up exercising, meditating or sleeping. It keeps you sane during this chaotic season.


  • Stop trying to be a perfectionist at work and home. People want this to be the best Christmas ever or the best New Year's ever. It is just supposed to be a happy time. That means you might have to let something go or change the way something traditionally is done.


  • Think experiences. Instead of spending hours and loads of cash searching for the perfect gift, come up with something fun to do with your child or spouse, maybe a Christmas day bike ride or a night looking at holiday lights and drinking hot chocolate. People remember experiences more than what they open in a gift box.

The goal is to get to the new year with energy to strategize for a great 2011!


December 09, 2010

Urban Meyer resignation: citing family as an explanation? Get real!

Urban meyer 
As a Gators alum, I'm sad that Urban Meyer has resigned as University of Florida football coach. But more than being sad, I'm mad at him for his explanation.

Meyer,46, squirmed his way out of the job with time left on his contract by using the "family" excuse, that fallback explanation men use when they want their resignation to appear more palatable. "At the end of the day I'm convinced you'll be judged on how you are as a husband and father and not on how many bowls you win," Meyer said at a Gainesville news conference, explaining that he had not seen his volley-ball-playing daughters play in high school. The truth is Meyer was just plain exhausted and burned out. He has grown tired of 18-hour work days, recruiting road trips and the relentless pressure to be No. 1. It had led to health problems for the coach. And worse, his team was performing poorly this year.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't blame Meyer or any top executive for stepping down when they are burned out. And, I'm sure Meyer does want to spend time with his kids. But that rarely is a top motivator for a man at the prime of his career.

I remember in 2005 when Stan Van Gundy resigned as coach for the Miami Heat. His explanation was the same: he wanted to spend more time with his family. He said that because of travel, games and practices, he would have seen his children at home only 49 days out of 170 during the basketball season. "That's just not enough any more for me," he said at a press conference. (It just so happened, the team had come off of a horrible playoff loss) Shortly after, he took a job with the Orlando Magic.

What happens when a women cites "family reasons" for leaving a top job? Just ask Brenda Barnes. When she stepped down as head of PepsiCo’s Pepsi Cola North American unit in 1997 to spend more time with her children, people accused her of setting the women's movement way back. Double standard? You bet.

Frankly, I tired of men hiding behind the "family" excuse for leaving a job under pressure. If men really want to spend more time with their family, they will advocate for change. They will make workplaces more family friendly so the workload is spread and people at the top can balance their job and see their kids every once in a while. The goal is not to make it either/or. The goal is to make it both.

As Herald columnist Linda Robertson writes today: "Meyer will soon be tempted to win more titles. Can he balance family and football? Or does it have to be family or football?"

I'd bet the farm we'll see Meyer back at work soon, just like we did Van Gundy. I'd like to think in his next job, he'll advocate for balance.




December 06, 2010

Should you bring a partner to your company holiday party?

Holiday party 

One year, I had the uncomfortable experience of standing with my co-worker's husband at our company holiday party while she went to the restroom. He was plastered and telling an extremely inappropriate tale about his naked fishing trip not only to me but also to his date's manager. It was awful!

But there's also an upside to bringing your partner to a company holiday party. Whether most people realize it, company holiday parties are a key time for your partner to feel part of your work life.

Here's how to balance the risk and rewards of bringing a partner/spouse/date to your office holiday party, with some great input on this debate from Karsten Jonsen is a Research Fellow at IMD business school.


* Integrating work and home: The holiday party is an excellent occasion for your spouse to meet the people with whom you are spending so many hours working. Furthermore, having your spouse next to you may prevent weaker souls from ending up in what might be regrettable the following morning. Your spouse may turnout to be a life jacket when the others start drowning in the holiday punch.

Showing off: Having others meet or chat with your ‘trophy’ could provide respect, glory and, who knows, maybe even a promotion. Wouldn’t it be nice to think so?

* Multi-tasking: Going to the holiday party as a pair is a great way to spend more time with your partner and your co-workers at the same time. 

Now the risks:

*  It could make you anxious. The what-ifs run amuck! What if your partner is loose-lipped and mentions something you’d rather your colleagues didn’t know about? What if your partner (accidentally, oops) drinks too much? Both, dangerous situations for internally marketing yourself in the company. Is your partner likable? You don’t want your chances for promotion to be harmed by the misfortune of a boss or colleagues who do not particularly like your partner.

* You could lose schmoozing time.  During the 3 to 4 hour event, time goes to waste in introducing partners and making small talk. The valuable time that is lost could have been better invested in getting to know colleagues better – and kissing up to the boss.

* Adding another to-do.  During the busy days leading to the end of the year, people value spending time at home. The holiday season, with all its joy also comes with a lot of stress.The company party demands another time slot, in an already busy period. Will your partner find this an inconvenience?

To me, the worst is leaving your partner behind when everyone else has a date. I think it sends the message that your spouse isn't supportive, regardless of what excuse you give for his or her absence.  I really like holiday parties that include spouses. What about you?

Do you think holiday office parties should be just for employees? Does your spouse/partner give you a hard time about going to your company holiday party? Do you think taking your partner to the company holiday party makes integration of work and home easier the rest of the year?


December 01, 2010

Kathy Ireland on being passionate about work and family

Kathy ireland Kathy Ireland is much more than the supermodel many people know. She's a businesswoman who is building a worldwide brand, finding solutions for busy moms and raising three kids ages 16, 12 and 7. 

She's also a control freak, or at least she's been accused of it, she tells me. However, she says she is just extremely passionate about her business, Kathy Ireland Worldwide. She's also passionate about charity. What makes Ireland a bit different than the rest of us is that she has name recognition that allows her to build her business on a bigger platform and to do a little more to help others.

The super mogul says she struggles every day with balancing her responsibilities of leading a $1.4 billion brand, while wearing many hats as a wife, mom and philanthropist. Her business sells more than 45,000 products including bedding, jewelry and socks. Kathy shared some of her daily work life challenges and solutions with me.

Cindy: How hands on are you with your business?

Kathy: Very. There's nothing wrong with celebrity endorsements but our customer is way too savvy. She doesn't want an autograph, she wants solutions and she wants them now. I'm involved in everything from design to marketing to shipping and distribution to meeting and talking with people and listening to our customer.

Cindy: You have a huge Twitter following. How do you have time for social media?

Kathy: I actually was late to Twitter. My CEO was on me to get on board. I felt like I was over communicating already and I didn't want another thing to do. But he was right. It's been powerful. I have made some true friendships. I can get feedback on what people are thinking.

Cindy: Most of us are trying to build our personal brand. What has been key for you?

Kathy: Having a passion for what you do. When I was a child, I changed my mind constantly but I knew I wanted to be a mom and to provide a service to moms. My company mission is finding solutions for families, especially busy moms. When I'm partnering with a manufacturer or retailer, I take time for us to get to know one another. We will have differences but when comes to core values I make sure we are on the same page.

Cindy: Do you struggle with delegating?

Kathy: I try to do it all. Most women are sacred to ask for help. My husband delegates really well. I was 40 before I learned that no is a complete sentence. No thank you is even better. Now, I love the idea of working with a team and respecting one another's area of expertise. That’s helped me to focus on what I need to do. Without my team, it would be impossible to be the mom I want to be.

Cindy: How do you find time for volunteer work and giving back?

Kathy:  Right now, I'm supporting a branded campaign,  LATISSE® Wishes Challenge! Campaign that benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation. When I saw Corporate America stepping up, that inspired me. Getting involved and giving back doesn’t have to take a lot of time. There is always something you can do. It can be giving of time, resources or just prayers.

Cindy: As a mom and businesswoman, what mistakes have you learned from?

Kathy: There  are so many. Learning is a lifelong journey. I leanred you have to be passionate about your work, otherwise it becomes a chore. I learned that the hard way. I also learned to turn down the noise of rejection so you can move forward with a plan or dream.

Cindy: Do you feel like you have achieved balance with work and family?

Kathy:  Some days. My goal is to keep my priorities in order. The minute my priorities are out of order, it becomes an  obvious disaster. The stress is unmanageable. Boundaries need to be in place. My priorities are family and community service through work and business opportunities. Sometimes, I say no to friends birthday parties. Sometimes I have to say no to good things to say yes to great things.

Cindy: What's your best organization trick?

Kathy: Before having kids, I never wrote anything down. After kids, ugh, now I'm responsible for another life now so I write things down. I'm grateful for technology because I put things in my phone and my iPad. I write things on Post Its. I have them all over the place in my car. It helps.

Cindy: How do you keep technology from intruding on your personal life?

Kathy: Sometimes, in the car, my kids will start texting or talking on the phone and I say "No. Everything off. This is my time with you." They hold me accountable, too. If my phone rings, I can't answer it.