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8 posts from April 2011

April 26, 2011

Baseball player wants paternity leave and the country's gone mad


(Colby Lewis, photo by Brandon Wade/AP)

There's a huge hoopla going just because Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis’ decided to be at the birth of his child instead of pitching a game.

Has the country gone mad?

Here's the reaction his decision got from Dallas Observer writer Richie Whitt:

Whitt wrote, “Baseball players are paid millions to play baseball. If that means “scheduling” births so they occur in the off-season, then so be it. Of the 365 days in a year, starting pitchers “work” maybe 40 of them, counting spring training and playoffs. If it was a first child, maybe. But a second child causing a player to miss a game? Ludicrous."

 Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux: "I don't know why we didn't have it before. I've longed for the day we would. We have the bereavement list and to some, this is for something that's even more sacred."

A BlogHer blogger wrote: Wow. Whitt’s column, even if it was just intended to grab attention, makes it easier to understand why women, and mothers in particular, face discrimination at work.

Baseball Nation entered into the debate, too, : "As a human being, I think this is fantastic. As a baseball fan, though? If my team's in the playoff hunt, I'm sorry, but I don't want one of my starting pitchers taking the night off. We're not talking about some guy who works on the assembly line for the Integrated Widget Corporation. We're talking about one of the most talented pitchers on the planet, not easily replaceable. What if your team finishes one game short of the playoffs? Was it really worth it?"

Some background: The paternity leave list is new to baseball this season, allowing a team to replace a player on the active roster for up to three days for the birth of a child. The change was discussed last fall at the general managers’ meetings.

We all know that dads want to be more involved in parenting. This is nothing new. Companies began offering paternity leave at least a decade ago. So, it's a little surprising that Colby has become the topic of debate in the media.

According to Wikipedia, the U.S. is the only Western country that does not mandate paid parental leave, although the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 mandates unpaid parental leave for the majority of American workers.

I know, we're talking about American's sacred BASEBALL. In baseball a few hours — or minutes — can change history. What if the birth occurs during Game 7 of the World Series?

There are no easy answers, but I'm glad the country's having this public debate. Parents have been making tough choices about work and family for at least two decades, if not longer. And, as a country, we've been quick to criticize the choices and sacrifices mothers have made. Now, it's dads' turn and I think that shows we've made progress.

Men should be thankful to Major League Baseball for providing the option and to Colby Lewis for taking advantage of his choices whether or not his decisions are popular. Taking paternity leave, even in Corporate America, can be intimidating. It's all about priorities.

Readers, do you think men should get paternity leave? Do you think it makes a difference what kind of job they hold?







April 25, 2011

Knowing when to delegate

A few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with a young entrepreneur who works with private jet owners. Private jet owners or users typically are wealthy business owners, entertainers or people who have "made it." What they all have in common, this young entreprenuer told me, is that they know how to use their time efficiently. (Which of course is why they aren't wasting time in airports waiting for their flight) 

You hear all this talk about how you have to delegate if you're going to grow your business, land the corner office or achieve work life balance. The truth is when you are the best at what you do, you know how to be efficient and that means you know when to delegate and are willing to give up some control.

We all know the excuses. How can you hand off a task when you're the only one who can do it right? People who figure out how know intuitively when they have to give up something less important to accomplish something of greater value.

DelegateAs a business writer, I've love to ask CEOs about how they approach their day. Do they start with a to-do list? How do they figure out what's a priority? And most importantly, what and when do they delegate? 

Here are a few lessons I've learned:

1. The more you delegate, the better you get at it.

2. Delegate when you think there's someone who can do a task better. 

If you're big picture and you have a task that's detail oriented, turn it over to someone whose skills match the task. For example, a shoe store owner I recently interviewed says was spending hours each week posting new pics of shoes on her store's Facebook page. She turned the task over to young employee who excels at keeping up with technology and has helped bring new customers with her creative display of shoes on the page.  Business owner Susan Payton points out,"It’s a hard thing to admit you’re not perfect in all aspects of your business, but the sooner you realize this, the happier you’ll be."

3. Delegate after you determine priorities. 

Will Fleming, CEO of Motionpoint, told me he does a daily inventory of urgent tasks and important tasks. The key, he says, is not to let the important tasks fall off your radar because they aren't urgent. Those are the tasks you might consider delegating. That means you spend enough time so they know all the relevant details: the project's purpose, customer pressures, deadlines, budgets.

4. Delegate when you can leverage the help and network you already have.

A key part of being great at what you do, is empowering others to hone their problem-solving skills. Look at the people around you. Is there someone capable and trustworthy doing a piece of a task that could take on the whole thing? One CEO I talked with told me he delegated the task of performance reviews to a manager who already supervised a small staff. "Most people try to live up to the trust they're shown," he said.The manager began weekly check ins, initiated a reward system and felt empowered.

5. Delegate when you are willing to share the credit.

I took on a huge writing project with a quick turn around time. Stress set in. I realized I couldn't get it done at the high quality level it needs to be done well unless I delegate some of the work to someone I trust to do it well. I learned that recognizing when you are comfortable sharing the credit for the bigger picture of getting the job done well is half the battle.

6. Delegate to better compete.

When you are in the thick of a task and it hits you that your time is better spent bringing in new business or looking for opportunities for growth, it's time to turn it over to someone who can do it in less time. 

7. Delegate when you are comfortable with people making some decisions different than those you'd make.

 Some decisions or approaches are just different — not wrong.

The one point I want to drive home here is that delegating makes you a leader. It can be risky but the best piece of advice I ever received on delegating came from the president of a museum who learned a lesson the hard way, "Never take back a task you've delegated."

Are you delegating when you should be? 


April 20, 2011

Why Women Don't Want a Boss

Behold the power of being your own boss: You don’t’ have to explain why you want to work certain hours. You don’t have to your motives for choices you make. You get to decide who is on your team.

Does this sound good to you? Do you hate having a boss? 

There’s a new movement by women to own their own business and be their own boss. Margo Wolfe, only 24, caught a glimpse of what it was like to have a boss during a college internship. She decided she it wasn't for her. After graduating, she opened a gift basket business. Earlier this month, she opened a yogurt store and has about a dozen employees working for her.



“I think entrepreneurship is the next professional frontier for women,”  says Julie Weeks, American Express OPEN Research Advisor and author of its State of Women-Owned Busiensses Report. In my Miami Herald column today I write about how men and women have completely different reasons for choosing the riskier path of starting a business over joining the corporate world. Read the full article by clicking here.


Of course, there’s downside in being your own boss. Jaime Bruce, mother of three, thought owning a toy shop would be fun. She is closing her shop and shared some lessons she learned during her 3 ½ years in business:

  • When staff calls in sick, you’re the one who has to run to the shop and cover the shift.
  • When your child is sick, you may need to bring them to work with you.
  • When the economy falters, you may need to cut staff and put in longer days.
  • Owning your own business may provide some flexibility but you will put in many, many hours.
  • You can’t always trust your employees
  • Advertising trends are evolving. It will take time and effort to keep up.
  • Even when you are not at your workplace, you will be thinking about your business.

What are your thoughts about being your own boss? Is it worth the huge responsibility and time demands that come with the title, business owner?



April 18, 2011

Why you need several mentors

Last week, I had a conversation with a young woman starting a retail business. She's hiring employees, managing a budget and paying bills. I'm worried about her.

I asked her who was mentoring her. She didn't really have mentors. Today, I think it's crucial whether you try to climb your way to the top or start your own business to have a few people guiding you, multiple mentors.

I remember years ago, I interviewed a women who headed a major Hispanic media company. She told me she has many mentors and each helped her in different ways. She didn't wait for them to seek her out. She sought out people who impressed her, told them why she was impressed by them, and asked for their guidance. Whenever she asked, they said yes.

Boo Zamak, owner of Just Ask Boo, an entrepreneur and founder of a successful online community newspaper, has said she gets guidance from an advisory board, about a half dozen poeple who have expertise in different specialties.

The Glass Hammer recently had a piece on sponsors. If you haven't heard, sponsors are the new mentors. They're even better than mentors. Men seem to know how to find them more than women do. But both need them.

Glasshammer says: (Mentors are great) but "to get to the top, you need more – you need someone advocate for you, cash in their chips for you, and, frankly, wear a t- shirt with your name on it in the meetings you are not in: a sponsor."

So, how exactly does one find a sponsor, or better, multiple sponsors?

You have to find someone who sees you in action, impress them, and get them to believe in you enough to stick their neck out for you.

Glasshammer says: it all starts with networking, or rather building your strategic network (not just collecting a bunch of cards or catching up with a friend at an event). For example, as entrepreneur Heidi Roizen, a board member of TiVo and Yellow Media Inc., explained, “The best way to get to know other people is in the context of accomplishing something, like a volunteer project.”

If you work for a company, it's not enough to just do your job well. You need to get some connectivity to the right people, show them you are great at what you do, and encourage them to sponsor you. Indeed, 82% of men believe that relationships, along with delivering great work, drives promotions.

During a panel discussion  Marie Quintero Johnson, VP, M&A Insights at Coca Cola said "the sponsor must feel secure that the person they take under their wing will understand the risks the sponsor takes for them. “You can never break that trust,” she said.“Look for people who want to pay it back and look for companies that have a scorecard for their managers around developing talent.”

Readers, what have been your experiences with mentors? Do you think it's too bold to flat-out ask someone to sponsor or mentor you? Do you think you need more than one to be highly successful? Have you found people willing to make the time and take the risk to be mentor or sponsor? 

April 13, 2011

How to help your child with electronic overload

Kid with cell 
Does your child face the screen of an electronic device more often than the face of another human being?

Yesterday, I went to lunch program where a bunch of mothers answered "yes!"

One mother mentioned that every time she tries to have a discussion with her child, he's looking at his cell, texting a friend instead of listening to her. Most of us experience electronics over-load in our family, including the pressure to buy the next, best , new device for our kids.

Parenting instructor/coach Maggie Macaulay, who hosted the lunch and learn, encourages parents to help our kids find balance. She pointed out the upside of electronics "Our kids are learning things they won't be taught in school but will help them in the job market." She also pointed out that the use of electronics triggers the same pleasure centers in our brains that are linked with addiction.

She suggested a few tips that I thought were helpful.

* The balance is different for each child. You as a parent, make that call when you feel electronic use is affecting your child's social life or physical fitness.

* Make agreements over electronics use. "Agreements are not dictates. Let your child have a say in the agreement," she advises.

* Make a list of priorities with your child -- homework first, cleaning room second, plugging in third.

*Poll your family on what each person likes to do and do it during a media free day or night.

* Kids are losing a connection with nature. Consider a nature tour at your local park or gardening as a hobby with your child.

*Pick your battles over electronics. Avoid unnecessary power struggles. Remember teens are hypersensitive to anything that sounds like a demand.

* Be a role model. (Sometimes, I'm so plugged in that I don't give my kids the attention they want from me. I decided I'm going to be a better role model. I'm going to say out loud, I'm powering down now to go for a walk with you.)

Maggie also recommended three books:

Last Child in the Woods; Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun; Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect With Your Kids

Readers, do you feel your children are too attached to electronics? Do you find it challenging to get them to unplug? Do you have a hard time unplugging, too?


April 07, 2011

Geena Davis asks where are the girls in G movies?


I have always been aggravated by Disney's portrayl of mothers in their G movies. They are usually dead or cruel. When Geena Davis sat down to watch G movies or TV shows with her daughter, she was outraged to see few females at all in them and those females that were in them had the same occupation: royalty. Of course, Geena has clout as an actor so she raised money and commissioned an official study. Last week at the Wall Street Journal Conference on Women and the Economy she talked about the study results. They are fascinating....Now the next step, doing something to change what she found.

Apparently, Davis went on to say: Why do girls need role models on the big and small screens? Because "if you can see it, you can be it"


April 06, 2011

Making flexibility in business a win-win

Just utter the word flexibility and some managers will roll their eyes. Who really wants to supervise an employee who works a reduced or flexible schedule?

But flexibility has been a way for some companies to solve a problem. One call center, 1800-Contacts, was experiencing a whopping 140 percent turnover. It asked its employees for their suggestions for a solution. Their answer: flexibility. The company developed a software that let its employees work from home. They get rewarded on attendance. Turnover is down to only 30 percent.

Today, I wrote about some interesting forays into flexibility by other companies who used it to solve a business need.


The Miami Herald

Flexibility is key for keeping good employees

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Jim Kaufman, left, managing principal/founder of Kaufman Rossin, an accounting firm, works sometimes from his home. Kaufman holds a meeting with Wolfgang H. Pinther, market supervisor, and Janet Kyle Altman, principal director of marketing at his Coconut Grove home.
Jim Kaufman, left, managing principal/founder of Kaufman Rossin, an accounting firm, works sometimes from his home. Kaufman holds a meeting with Wolfgang H. Pinther, market supervisor, and Janet Kyle Altman, principal director of marketing at his Coconut Grove home.
When I had my first two kids a year apart, it became challenging to keep up with the deadlines and long hours that the news business required. After a few days of not seeing my little ones before they went to bed, I considered quitting. Instead, I asked my manager for a reduced schedule.

That was the original definition of flexibility, an accommodation for a working mom. Fifteen years later, the conversation has changed. Today, flexibility is about the bottom line, a solution to a business challenge.

“Today, companies are using flexibility to help drive business results,” says Ellen Galinsky, president of Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit that conducts research on the changing workforce. “There is no one kind of flexibility that’s right for all. The solution has to fit the problem.”

Of course, some businesses brush aside workplace concerns in the midst of an economic recession and are focused only on making the next sales target. But the changing workforce makes ignoring flexibility as a solution difficult for others to ignore: Employees are struggling with elder care issues, unsustainable long work hours, a desire to phase into retirement or conflicts that arise when both parents work.

When Bon Secours, with 20,000 employees, realized its workforce of experienced nurses was aging, it introduced scheduling options for those transitioning into retirement.


Read more.

April 05, 2011

Avoiding the pink ghetto at work


I love Penelope Trunk, a blogger known as the Brazen Careerist. She provokes me. A few days ago, she made me think differently about what I do for a living. She made me ask myself: Would a man want to do it?

Penelope has noticed that it is women who write about work life balance, life at work and workplace issues. And that’s not good because where there are women there are lower salaries.

Penelope believes pay inequity is not because men get paid more for the same work. It’s that women choose to do different work -- we gravitate toward the pink ghetto. She writes on her BNET blog: "I interviewed Al Lee, the quantitative analysis genius who combs through salaries at PayScale, and among the fascinating things he told me was that women and men get paid similar amounts for similar work but that women pick lower-paying fields, and lower paying paths. Al says that the best thing women can do to increase their earning power is “to choose fields dominated by men right out of college.”

Just last week I had a conversation with a communications officer at UCF's graduate school of video gaming. He mentioned his grads are in demand, snapped up right away by companies offering big bucks. Sure enough, few women are going into the field.

A few weeks ago, Parade Magazine came out with its annual What People Earn edition. I noticed the high paying jobs, those that made in excess of $150,000 where held by men: a Fedex Pilot, an entertainment producer, a real estate agent to the stars.

Do we need to do a better job of steering young females into different professions?

I'm not a believer if forcing a young woman into a profession she has no interest, just for the pay. But college grad who is looking to earn a top salary or woman who wants to switch careers or departments within her company really needs to look where the men are clustered.

Now, let's look at the female dominated fields. Teaching has been disasterous. Teacher pay and benefits have been under attack for the last few years. It might be a great profession for working mothers but it's horrible for supporting a family. I think that might be where the problem lies, we're choosing balance over earning potential.

What do you think about the pink ghetto at work? Are women's choices -- the careers, departments, mentors and even the businesses we open  -- affecting our earning potential?