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11 posts from May 2011

May 31, 2011

The end-of-school-year frenzy hits hard


This week I feel like a race horse....I just have to make it to the finish line...Only seven school days left...I can do it! 

I've been thinking about a column I read in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. It said the end of school year can be as chaotic for working parents as the holiday season. We have class parties, awards ceremonies, dance recitals and sports banquets. We have teacher gifts to buy. I don't know about you but the frenzy is hitting me hard this year.

Once I reach that finish line, I can take a deep breath.  I won't have to pack lunches, supervise homework or rush kids to school for a few months. Yay!

I just read a Daytimer blog that had a few good ideas for working parents wrapping up the school year to keep in mind as they head toward the finish line. I added some of my own,. If you have some to add, please share:

* Be merciless. Organize your child's best tests, papers and crafts into one folder. Make those tough decisions. You really don't need to save EVERYTHING.

* Have your child bring a small notebook to school. He can use it collect phone numbers and email addresses. Over the summer, if you kid is bored, he is ready reach out.

* Make a bucket list for summer. What fun things do you want to do this summer, with and without kids? Write them down so you can check them off as go.

* Establish expectations. Will you impose TV limits, summer chores, curfew or other summer rules? Now is a good time to think about this.

* Know what summer reading your kid is assigned. If you find out now, you can help your child figure out when he or she will get the reading done. I've had a kid tell me a week before school started that he had summer reading. I almost killed him. 

* Get back-to-school orientation on your calendar. If your child is moving up to another school, be sure to find out about the orientation and visitation opportunities. Put them on your calendar now so you can plan around them. 


Readers, are you as crazed right now as I am? Do you think the end-of-school year hoopla has gotten out of hand? Do you have any rituals that you use to help you have a more relaxed summer?


  Relaxingonbeach (Me in two weeks!) 


May 26, 2011

Making marriage work

This week I celebrated a 24-year wedding anniversary. But in the scheme of things, that really doesn't mean much. The separation of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver comes after 25 years of marriage.Maria

Marriage is hard work, especially when you work hard. My husband needs a lot more attention from me than I need from him and I have to regularly remind myself of that. I see lots of people who don't make time or effort for their marriage and then wonder why their spouse has gone elsewhere for attention. Heading into summer wedding season, I thought I would weigh in on work life balance when it comes to marriage.

Below are ways to avoid the work obstacles that can sabotage a relationship. For my full Miami Herald column on marriage, click here.

When paths diverge. A 21st century marriage typically comes after both spouses are established in jobs. When one partner reaches a greater level of career success or the opposite, drops out of the workforce, the new dynamic can open the door for resentment. Jodi Furr Colton, an attorney with the marriage and family law group at Fort Lauderdale’s Brinkley Morgan, says by the time couples arrive at her office, “they are living in two different worlds.” She advices, “It’s important to communicate dissatisfaction in a way that’s not judgmental."

Unemployment or setbacks at work: The recession has shown Americans that even high-powered executives are vulnerable to job or financial loss. A bride or groom can no longer go into a marriage with lifelong expectations of lifestyle or job security. “A spouse will come in and say, ‘When I married you, you had money and now you don’t. You promised and can’t deliver,’ ” says Furr Colton.

Candice Division of chores. Just like in the workplace, a spouse can get resentful if one carries more workload. Newlywed Candice Fong, 34, says she’s starting now to prepare her marriage for the years ahead when kids are part of the mix. Fong and new husband Leonardo Cicarelli have lived together since August. They began divvying up the chores immediately. “We were both used to doing things on our own so it’s been a challenge,” she says. “I want to work this out before we have kids.”Helen Fong, Candice’s mother and a successful Miami wedding planner, says it’s the sharing and working as a team that strengthens marriages. “If a bride or groom has a lot of demands and expectations, it doesn’t work out.”

Misguided priorities: Both people in a marriage have to commit to building in time for fun and intimacy -- to encouraging sex and accepting sexual advances. According to a national survey commissioned by Care.com, 64 percent of working parents revealed that they are too stressed from managing their jobs and their families to have sex with their spouses.

Conflict resolution. A conflict at work, if improperly handled, can cost you a promotion or worse, your job. The same goes in marriage. Experts have found a lasting marriage results from a couple’s ability to resolve conflicts. Fighting in the first year of marriage is not predictive of divorce. A University of Michigan study of 373 couples over a span of 16 years found rather, it’s a couple’s fight style that may lead to divorce. Avoid the most dangerous pattern — when one partner tries to analyze a situation or disagreement and the other withdraws.

Balance: In a 24/7 work world, boundaries keep work from spilling over at home. “It’s heartbreakingCover  when spouses get together and one has the feeling that their partner is here physically but his or her heart and mind is at office,” says Beverly Hyman, a management consultant and the other co-author of How to Know If It’s Time to Go: A 10-Step Reality Test for Your Marriage. A huge pitfall is one partner becomes so immersed in work that he or she unconsciously sees a spouse as a source of stress, or worse, turns to work to avoid a spouse. Bringing work stress home, venting non-stop, can also be a problem. Hyman advises compartmentalizing. “When you are at work, work owns you. When you walk out, leave it behind.”



Readers, do you find couples are giving up too easy on marriage? Did you know 2/3 of divorces are initiated by women? Are women setting expectations too high?


May 24, 2011

Landing a spot on a non profit board -- glamorous? time consuming?

I meet so many people who think it's glamorous and lucrative to serve on the board of a company like Toys R Us or Target or Best Buy. And, I'm sure it is. But to get there usually requires the first step of serving on a non profit board or boards.

Do you have what it takes?

If you think you don't have time or the ability to land on such a board, you're wrong. There are more than 1.4 million non profit boards in the United States. They are looking for expertise in certain areas, passion, political connections, time commitment and fund raising abilities. Last summer, I became a board member of Women Executive Leadership (WEL), an organization that works to advocate to get women on corporate boards. I've met some amazing women and learned tons about governance.

Some boards have six people on them. Some have 40. They might be charities, religious organizations and government agencies.

Bonnie Crabtree, Managing Director at Korn Ferry International, put on a WEL workshop this morning on Non Profit Boards. She said high performing boards typically recruit continuously. They are great places to network and learn new skills. But if you commit, expect to put in some time.  More boards are initiating requirements that limit missed meetings. Some, like charities such as Big Brother/Big Sister also are requiring a financial commitment.

Bonnie shared this great piece of advice: "Avoid being over or under involved."

IMG_2727 (Bonnie Crabtree at WEL meeting) 














IMG_2716(WEL Executive Director Laura Marks displays book club reading material, Tough Calls from the Corner Office)

May 20, 2011

New Ways to Elevate Yourself in Business

Is it possible to rise even higher in business, to climb new heights to reach success and still maintain work life balance?

Yesterday, I felt like the answer was YES, YES, YES!

I went to one of the most inspiring conferences I have ever attended. Michelle Villalobos, a motivation expert with Mivista , put on her third Empowered Women's Success Summit. We started the day by pinkie promising with our neighbor to do everything it takes to reach new levels of success by November 18 (six months from now).

I'm going to share some of the highlights of the day so you can also elevate yourself.

Keynoter Jessica Kizorek, founder of BadassBusinessWomen.org, offered up this advice:

* "Elevation is about doing what's scary." If taking the next step is scary, you're on the right track. Pursue on.

* It's important to have people around you who want you to succeed. "Your success will be measured by the people who are pulling for you."

* When you arrive at work, you will not automatically be elevated. You will have to work at it.

From the Public Speaking panel  with AmondaRose Igoe, Yolanda Harris, Dawn Siebold and Dawnna St. Louis:

* Develop a niche, become an expert in something, provide a solution, provide a strong point of view.  Give people a reason to ask you to speak.

* It used to be content is king. Now value is king.

*Even if you think you are a good public speaker, pick someone, present to them and ask them to critique you.

* Don't try to do too many things in business. Pick one and excel at it.

Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, shared these insights:

* Brand yourself by picking a niche that's narrow and deep. Example, a consultant to women who have gift basket making businesses.

* Look at the About section on your website or Linked In and make sure what you are saying about yourself is up to date and what you want to be conveying.

* Be visible. Volunteer, attend events, work up to being a speaker.

* Delegate and offload where possible to focus on growing your small business 

From Lisa Sparks, Regional Development Director, Constant Contact:

* Use your email marketing to generate leads. It helps if you take a stand and show who you are. Be patient.It takes 7 touches to make a sale.

* If you mess up on social media, don't react immediately. Wait and see what your tribe (followers) do. They can be your best crisis management.

* It's not important how much you post on social media sites. It's more important whether you move people to react.

* Return on Investment (ROI) in social media is hard to measure. It's like measuring the ROI of conversations with friends.

From the Online Marketing Panel with Lynn Ponder, Aliza Sherman, Denise Jacobs, Mande White and Sandi Abbott:

* Keep it simple. Find one platform you can be great at such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked In.

* Put a price on what you do and get to the ask. If you don't put a price on it people will see it as cheap goods.

* Frequency in online marketing is not as important as being interesting.

From the Media Panel where I was a speaker:

* Become familiar with the media you want to target for coverage

* Reach out to media with a pitch that positions you as an expert of part of a new trend.

* Go to sites like HARO and respond to queries from reporters looking for experts.

Readers, let me know if some of these tips help. Do you feel like you can elevate yourself in busness in the next six months? Pinkie promise that you will try?


 (Dawwna St. Louis,Michelle Villalobos, Lisa Sparks)


(Me and Jessica Kizorek at the summit)

May 18, 2011

Plan now for better work life balance this summer

The end-of-school year frenzy is in full gear but now is the time to plan for summer. It's the season that can either wreak havoc on your work life balance or turn out to be the best time of the year. I'm not sure yet which it will be for me.

This week in my Miami Herald column, I laid out a few ways to plan now for better work life balance this summer. Here are my suggestions:


* The first challenge is to find dates that work. For a less stressful vacation, choose dates that correspond with down time in your business. For working parents, jetting out of town the week before school starts probably isn't the best idea but it is a great week to take off to buy supplies.

*Get it on the calendar early. Once you figure out the best vacation time, give notice to your boss, customers and co-workers. There are some weeks higher in demand so get first dibs now.

* Start your homework, organizing what needs to be done in the weeks leading up to your vacation and who you can train to fill in. You might do some of your tasks together for a few weeks. “You have to align your support team,” says Doug Arms, senior vice president at Ajilon Professional Staffing.


* Consider blocks of time off. Jetting off to Europe isn’t your only option to summer downtime. Flexibility in your work schedule may be just what you need to rejuvenate. Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours (now in paperback) and blogger at My168hours.com, suggests starting with a simple question: “What does enjoying summer mean for you?” Make a list of what would make this the best summer of your life and have your children and spouse do the same. Next, figure out how much time those activities take, including drive or travel time, and put them on the calendar. Even if you can just take the morning off or leave early on Friday, look for something that takes three hours. “Time is easy to let slip away. You want to avoid that,” says Vanderkam


* Look for alternatives that work with your schedule. Janice Lusky Greenspan, a Miami public relations executive, makes her summer easy and her workday the most productive by putting her two children, 4 and 7, in the same camp. “During the school year, they are in two different schools. For summer, I want one drop-off and one pick-up.”

* Sign up now. Enrollment at low-cost summer camps usually is limited and requests have doubled in recent years, according to a work/life report released by ComPsych, a national provider of employee assistance and work life programs. Jen Rinehart of the Afterschool Alliancesuggests parents start with their after school care providers. “Most kids who participate in after school programs are more likely to be in summer programs. They usually don’t end up on waiting lists.”


* Don't let up. This summer there may be more temp jobs that turn into permanent hiring. Ryan Skubis of Robert Half International says more employers plan to bring in temporary help this year. “They recognize it helps with morale. Vacationing employees don’t have to come back to a massive pileup.”

Click here for the full Miami Herald article.

May 16, 2011

25 Best Companies for Work Life Balance

Are you looking for flexbility? Do you want to bring your Wheeton Terrior to work with you? Or, is an onsite gym what attracts you to a company?

Even during tough ecnomic times, employers act like they want to offer work life balance but in some instances, it's all talk.

Now, Glassdoor.com has released a new list of the top 25 employers for work-life balance. Glassdoor is a website that offers insight into careers and companies, as well as job listings. This is the first year it has produced such a list, which is based on survey results from more than 150,000 employees who work or have worked at 36,000 companies. Many of the companies on the list are hiring.

"A lot of companies talk about a good work-life balance," says Robert Hohman, CEO and co-founder of Glassdoor. "But not that many deliver. The [companies] on this list actually deliver."

Here's Glassdoor's full list of companies with the best work-life balance:

1. Nestlé Purina Petcare Company


3. SAS Institute

4. FactSet

5. United Space Alliance

6. Slalom Consulting

7. Facebook

8. Morningstar

9. Susquehanna International Group

10. Colgate-Palmolive

11. Mentor Graphics

12. Autodesk

13. Sheetz

14. Agilent Technologies

15. Turner Broadcasting

16. Dupont

17. Southwest Airlines

18. General Mills

19. Biogen Idec

20. Scottrade

21. Chevron

22. Synopsys

23. MTV Networks

24. Intuit

25. National Instruments


Here’s what some employees are saying at the top rated companies for work-life balance:

Purina trusts its employees to take business risks within reason, is flexible when people need time off for personal activities, such as kids’ schedules or events and the CEO is a down-to-earth guy who makes you feel like he’s one of your fellow team members.” – Nestle Purina Petcare Employee (Saint Louis, MO)

“The company provides a good balance of work and family, freedom to telecommute, good retirement plan, and good work place ethics.” – MITRE Lead Multi-Discipline Systems Engineer (location n/a)

“The commitment to work/life balance comes from the top down and they believe in it. As a result, employees treat each other fairly and well.“ – SAS Institute Employee (Cary, NC)


Readers, how important do you think this list is to new hires? Would someone turn down a job at a company that doesn't value work life balance?

May 12, 2011

Inside a Women-led company

Step inside a women-led company and you will see a very different corporate culture than a male-led firm. One of the big differences is that women emphasize mentoring. Sandi Finn, CEO of Cross Country Home Services , one of the highest revenue women-led businesses in the state, told me she just hired someone to head up Ecommerce and plans to take her new manager to lunch regularly to mentor her.

A new survey by The Commonwealth Insitute South Florida and UM School of Business reports 62% of women mentor or have been mentored…“This is a significant finding," says Jodi Cross, executive director for TCI South Florida.  She says TCI’s members believe that mentoring is key to developing greater potential in all women.

Here's a look at my article that gives a glimpse into just how women are leading their companies to success:


Women's leadership stands out

By Cindy Krischer Goodman


 (Pictured above: Sandi Finn of Cross Country Home Services shares a laugh with Keisha Davis a mentor in the appropriations department.)

Each week, President Sandi Finn convenes the top managers at her home services company for a lunch meeting. The agenda: small talk. The rules: No business discussions allowed.

Finn steers the personal banter to a great new movie or asks about the outcome of a little league playoff game. “I think it’s important the executive team work well together and to do that they need to trust each other,” she says. “That means knowing each other.”

Step inside Florida’s big high-revenue businesses-led women and you will find optimism. You also will find companies that operate much differently from traditional male-led business. Female leaders, like Finn, have keyed in on the crucial value of communication. They know how to probe customers to unlock sales opportunities, how to communicate with employees to build buy-in, and how to promote the right amount of risk-taking.

They have weathered the recession and plan to grow by adding new customers, staff and products. Their sales forecasts are 10 percent or more, compared with single-digit projections by male-led businesses, according to a new survey by The Commonwealth Institute South Florida and the University of Miami School of Business Administration.

“Looking back, there was not much difference in their level of optimism. Looking forward there’s a big difference,” says Arun Sharma, professor of marketing at the UM School of Business and executive director of the Johnson A. Edosomwan Leadership Institute.

At Finn’s Cross Country Home Services in Sunrise, sales are on target to rise again by double-digits this year and she is hiring too. Finn has been at the helm of the national provider of home warranty, service contracts and assistance programs for 12 years. Her staff of 600 absolutely loves her message: Talk to the customer and give them the products they want.

Throughout the corporate office in Sunrise, small groups gather in impromptu meetings to brainstorm. Finn has tasked her senior managers with coming up with a plan for where the company should be in three years. “We have a tremendous number of projects going on,” Finn says. “My role is about coordination and communication, empowering the right people to do the right things.”

 To read more on how women lead their companies to success, click here.

May 10, 2011

Lessons from the Schwarzenegger/ Shriver Separation

(photo by Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images)

If there's one thing most of us know, or should know, is that marriage is hard work. 

Add grueling work hours into the mix and the ingredients are there for disaster.

I was saddened to hear the Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger are separating. But I wasn't surprised. While I don't know exactly what went on in their home, I can tell you that the stress of a high demand work schedule during Schwarzenegger's seven years as Governor of California must have been difficult  on their marriage.

AOL says, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, finished his seven-year run as governor in January and has been traveling to deliver speeches and pursuing entertainment projects. He tweeted frequently during his travels to such faraway places as Brazil, Nigeria and France. Shriver was not mentioned in his Twitter updates from the road.

Did they grow apart? If the work life balance juggle, spending time with your spouse often gets put on the back burner -- someone usually gets resentful. I want to share some advice given to me by Joel Block, author of Making it Work When You Work a lot: Spend at least five to ten minutes of quality time a day having a conversation with your spouse. That's not a lot of time and it can make a HUGE difference.

If there's one thing we're learning from couples like Maria/Arnold and Tipper/Al Gore, longevity in marriage doesn't ensure a future.

What do you think is the key to a good marriage when one or both spouses has high profile, high stress jobs?

May 06, 2011

My Favorite Mother's Day Column

Every Mother's Day, I go back to my favorite Mother's Day column, re-read it and ask for the same gift. I decided to share it with all of you. It was written by Ana Veciana-Suarez and published in The Miami Herald in May 2007.

  Ana Veciana-Suarez, aveciana@MiamiHerald.com
Day:  Saturday
Day:  Saturday
Date:  5/5/2007
Text:  The annual inquisition begins weeks before The Big Day.

What do you want for Mother's Day?

The question floats over the telephone wire, through e-mail and across the dinner table. Regardless of its medium, the underlying message is always the same: Please, please, Mom. Make it a gift we can buy.

I'm not sure when Mother's Day turned into a bonanza for store owners, restaurants and greeting-card publishers. Probably, I suspect, around the time Christmas became the prime holiday to genuflect before the altar of consumption. But it doesn't really matter how others celebrate, because the longer I mother, the less I covet.

I don't want one more blouse in my closet, one more perfume on my dresser or one more piece of jewelry to display. I own all the possessions I desire, an enviable position that has little to do with affluence and plenty with maturity and acceptance.

What I want -- oh, what I want! -- is rarely something you can buy. In this age of conspicuous consumerism, that may be difficult to imagine.

For the past few years, I've asked my children -- and, by default, my late sister's children -- for the pleasure of their time and collective muscle. Two Mother's Days ago, they planted a row of hibiscus along the east side of my back fence. They chose the bushes at a nursery, dug the holes and nestled the red and yellow blooms into the dirt.


That day smelled like spring and soil and sweat, the kind of messy family time not even Kodak can capture. Sure, there were fights and accusations. Some worked harder than others. One claimed an injury and appointed herself water carrier. But in the end the job was done, and now from my kitchen window I can relive those hours, squabbles and all.

Last year I rounded up the troops again and had them work the front yard. They gave dozens of Jacob's coat shrubs a new home next to the birds-of-paradise. Few things give me more pleasure these days than to spot the fiery crimson of those leaves when I putt-putt into my driveway after a hard day's work.

Talk about a gift that keeps on giving.

This month the kids, some grown and others still under my roof, fear a repetition. As one son pleaded, "Try to think of something that doesn't involve hard labor, something we can get in a store with a credit card." In other words, something simple, something easy.

I've tried, but I've drawn a blank. Instead, I've come up with wishes that hold their value beyond Sunday brunch.


I'd like the house kept clean, the laundry put away, the mess in the kitchen wiped down before the ants come marching.

I'd like for my family, young and old, to do what they're told the first time around. I spend way too much time nagging.

Most of all, though, I'd like to see my children settled in, honoring what I taught them with good jobs and happy families. I want to see the payoff for the sacrifice. Because in the end, long after the greeting cards have been read and wrapping paper thrown away, what they do with what I've taught them will prove to be the priceless gift only they can give me.



May 04, 2011

Successful business women share pearls of wisdom from mom



(Chef Michelle Bernstein and her mother Martha enjoy a moment at Michelle's restaurant Michy's on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.)

With Mother’s Day nearing, it is a good time to reflect on motherly pearls of wisdom. My mother had a habit of saying, “Find a job you love and always have your own money.” It was a lesson my mother, Iris, learned the hard way when she divorced. As my life grew hectic with deadlines and diapers, I was mindful of her words and continued to hold onto the job I love and some of the money I earned doing it.

Today, there are more than 85 million mothers in the United States with 72 percent of them with children under 18 earning income, according to labor statistics and the U.S. Census. As women become business owners, corporate managers, doctors and law partners, we are guided by the wise words our own mothers used to influence us.

I reached out to some of the successful women I know to learn what insights their mothers passed on:

Donna Shalala: It’s hard to argue that Donna Shalala is one of the most influential academics in the country. She has led the University of Miami as its president for 10 years and solidified its position among top U.S. universities.

Shalala says her mother, Edna, who is 99 and still comes to school events with her, has played a profound role in her life. “An avid tennis player, she would tell me to always keep my eye on the ball. She repeated it often and not always on the tennis court.” Shalala said she never could have taken the university as far as she has without staying focused. It’s sage advice she tries to pass on to college students.

(Shannon, her kids and her mom)

Shannon Hori: Turn on the CBS4 news and you will see anchor Shannon Hori, super-composed, despite being a new mother to 2½-year-old twin boys (one underwent immediate open-heart surgery as a newborn). Hori credits her mother, Joanne, with her can-do spirit. Her mother went to college when Hori was 8, bringing her to class. She told her daughter “woman can do and be anything.” Those wise words have guided Hori as she worked her way up from smaller to larger markets in the competitive television industry.

Hori says her mother also is always on the go. She even eats breakfast and lunch standing up. Hori, too, is always on the go. And, if Hori speaks clearly for television, credit her mother for that, too. “When my mother was growing up she would read out loud from the newspaper with an English accent to try to get rid of her New York accent. It worked.”

Click here to read more.