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9 posts from January 2012

January 30, 2012

Use Superbowl to your advantage in the workplace


Get ready for a week of Superbowl talk -- and stories about how it affects productivity. Already, I heard co-workers in one workplace talking about who is hosting the party and what they are bringing to snack on. This may be one of the most unproductive weeks of the year, what with millions of employees setting up betting pools, checking sports websites more often than usual and planning Super Bowl parties from work.

Don't overlook this amazing opportunity! 

This is THE perfect way to build relationships with co-workers and the boss. The Superbowl is a conversation starter -- people love to talk sports, make bets, swap recipes, host parties and discuss the commercials. Even if you don't follow sports, this is your chance to initiate banter with someone you've been trying to schmooze -- a supervisor, a potential client, a possible workplace friend.

Conversation around non-work topics makes you appear more personable. And, when people like you, they cut you small breaks -- it's just reality.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey says 111 million Americans watched the game last year and that employees have a real problem getting anything done the day after. In fact, 22% of employees say that the Monday following the Super Bowl is commonly a less productive day than usual.Glassdoor reports 20% of employees say that morale is typically better in the office the day after the Super Bowl. (I see opportunity!) 

So whether or not you like sports, you might want to read up on what commercials will be aired, what the odds are, what drink recipes are hot and what the half time show will be . Make sure you're a part of the excitement in your workplace surrounding the big game. Most importantly, watch the game and look at it as your chance at a workplace win.

What's going on in your workplace? Have you already started using the Superbowl excitement to make yourself more a part of the office team?

January 27, 2012

Does "nagging" go on at work or just in marriages?

One of the hottest stories this week appeared in the Wall Street Journal under the headline, Meet the Marriage Killer: Nagging. The story called nagging as toxic to a relationship as adultery. (See video clip above of writer interviewed on CBS News)

I know about the WSJ article because my husband nagged me to read it.

Of course, the perception is that all wives nag. Indeed, the article started with a story about a wife who went as far as to leave a note in her husband's sandwich to "nag" him to go to Home Depot.

I've seen lots of people weigh in on this story and I want to add my two cents. First of all, men nag too. If we're getting ready to go someone and I'm not moving as quickly as my husband would like, you should hear the nagging that goes on to get me to move faster. I would bet money this same scenario occurs in other marriages, too. Back in 2007, Lisa Belkin wrote about nagging and said we nag people we care about. With the rest of the world, we let them have their consequences. That article concludes you can't nag someone into change.

In the WSJ article, Howard Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Denver, says couples who learn to reduce this type of negative communication will increase their odds of staying together. The first step, he says, is admit you are stuck in a bad pattern. The second is to look at it from the other person's perspective. Explain why the request is important to you and set a time frame. If you are the naggee, give a clear response which may include considering alternative solutions.

I noticed that nagging goes on in the workplace, too. Most of us have witnessed it.

It could be a boss whose getting frustrated with an employee and starts nagging him to do his job. It could be co-worker who thinks he or she is the boss and nags the other person to do their job differently. I believe it usually ends up with the whole office or department miserable. No one likes to witness nagging.

So I'm putting it out there -- nagging is just as toxic in the workplace as it is in a marriage.

But should it be handled the same way? If you witness it, should you offer up the suggestions that Markham has given -- bring attention to it and come up with ways to break the pattern? Have any of you ever tried that?

If you're doing the nagging, is it because the other person is a slacker or is there something else going on? Did you even realize you were nagging? Do you think people who break the nagging pattern at home will bring a better self to work?

January 25, 2012

Disney eases dress code, should your workplace?

On Monday, the Walt Disney Co. announced it would let employees at its two U.S. theme park resorts -- including more than 60,000 workers at Orlando's Walt Disney World -- grow a beard or goatee as long as shorter than a quarter of an inch.

I'm wondering what sparked that change! Aren't you?

For years, the company has banned facial hair, which led to grumbling among some of its male theme park workers. Did they grumble loud enough to be heard? Relaxing "The Disney Look" was a huge move for the company that tries to keep up clean-cut image that Walt demanded when he opened Disneyland in 1955. The rules still forbid visible tattoos, body piercings (other than the ears for women), "extreme" hairstyles or colors. (Shaved heads are OK for men, but a no-go for women.)

There's more....Disney also made another big change to its policy: Casual Fridays. While many businesses have had this policy for years, Disney now will allow it for employees who work in non-costumed jobs and don't interact with theme park visitors to dress down once a week.

Why the changes? Disney says it periodically updates its strict appearance policies and wants to stay current. The last time it made a major change was two years ago when it finally allowed female workers to forego wearing panty hose when wearing skirts -- that was met with cheer from uncomfortable Florida workers.

So, I'm wondering what dress code policies you would like to see change at your workplaces? Do you have casual Friday and hate it because people get too sloppy? Would you like to see suits eliminated? Do you think short skirts should be banned?

Also, if your company has made a change, how has it worked out? Any advice for these Disney employees who now get to dress down on Fridays?



This guy can now have a beard, if he wants one!

January 20, 2012

Do you have time to be a rainmaker?



How do you become a rainmaker? I found out the answer.

I spent the last few weeks interviewing women at law firms for a big Miami Herald article I wrote on women in law. I asked lawyers why more women aren't making it to the top at big firms-- a status known as equity partner. Being an equity partner means you have ownership in the firm and a say in how it's managed. That's a prestigious and important role for men and women.

The response to my question of why only 16 percent of partners at the country's big firms are women was that not enough women are rainmakers.

Rainmaking is a skill. It requires making strong relationships with the right people and being bold enough to ask them for business. To be a rainmaker on a scale big enough to convince law firms to make you a firm owner, you must pull in huge dollar volumes of business.

What I repeatedly heard was that rainmaking is a HUGE time commitment. First, it takes time to learn the skills from someone willing to teach you. Then, it could take travel, attending social events, inviting key players on golf outings or to sports events at nights and on weekends. This is all on top of being good at your day job -- in this case, practicing law.

As I probe further, I uncovered numbers from studies that show most male law partners have stay at home wives. Most female law partners have spouses who work. Most female partners who have climbed and reached equity partner status either don't have kids or they have spouses who work VERY flexible jobs and do most of the caregiving at home.

So in the end, reaching the top takes learning rainmaking skills and having time to put them into practice while still mastering your day job. It makes me wonder whether enough women are willing to devote the HUGE amount of time it takes to make significant change in the stats. Plenty of men aren't willing to make the time commitment! But even as more women have gone into the practice of law, the number of those at the top hasn't changed in two decades. 

Are women being excluded or are they choosing not to become rainmakers? Is rainmaking on a grand scale too time consuming for women trying to do it all?


January 18, 2012

Should You Facebook Friend Your Co-Worker?

Some of us consider our co-workers to be our friends. Others do not.But whether a co-worker is a "Facebook Friend" could put them in an entirely different category.

How much of your personal business do you post and do you want your co-worker knowing it?

I think it's interesting that age factors into our Facebook habits when it comes to friending. A new study by Millennial Branding of over 50 million Facebook data points from Identified.com, uncovers that people in Gen-Y (ages 18 to 29) use the social network mostly for personal use, they have an average total friend count  of nearly 700 and they add an average of 16 co-workers each as 'friends'

Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, says that's where the trouble begins. With so many friends, people forget when the post that a co-worker might be reading what they're posting. And, because Gen Y stays in a job for an average of only two-years, putting Facebook friends into groups might not be enough: "strengths of relationships become stronger and weaker."

Gen-Y needs to be aware that what they publish online can come back to haunt them in the workplace," Schawbel cautions."How you present yourself visually and through your status updates can reflect on who you are...it can help you or hurt you."

One of my colleagues posted on Facebook last weekend that she got a tatoo in a VERY private place. I bet she really doesn't want a supervisor to read that status update!

Schawbeloffers these tips when sharing on Facebook:

  • Don’t reveal anything on Facebook that you don’t want to be the topic of office gossip the next morning.
  • Turn on your privacy settings and put your co-workers into a separate group that you can only send certain information to.
  • Have set rules ahead of time as to who you add and who you don’t.
  • Be mindful of your status updates and think twice before you post.
  • Clean up your online image and make it a bit more professional.
  • Never complain about a boss online.

Now, let's say you get a friend request from someone at work, what do you do? Here are Schawbel's tips for that scenario:

  • Analyze if its a true friend or someone that could in the future throw you under the bus. 
  • If you accept, tailor the privacy setting for how much you want that person to see. 
  • If you choose not to "add as friend" send a message letting them know you just use Facebook to connect with family.

You might be interest in reading this article: What does your Facebook profile reveal about you?

Readers, do you have co-workers and business contacts as your Facebook Friends? Do you share details of your personal life with them? 

January 09, 2012

The mistake that can ruin your work life balance

Today, my friend asked for advice. He caught an employee in a lie. When he asked the employee to work on Saturday, he said he was going out of town. And of course, the inevitable happened: my friend heard a secretary talking about how she ran into the guy with his kids at the movies over the weekend. 

That wasn't even the big mistake the employee made. The big mistake that can ruin your career opportunities or your personal happiness is failing to remedy your mistake IMMEDIATELY. Owning your mistake and making a  quick apology can help you recoup your stature and even make you look like a problem solver in some situations. 

In my friend's scenario, the employee knew there was a REALLY good chance the secretary would tell her boss. Instead of marching into his office and addressing the situation head on, explaining that his plans had changed or that he values his family time, the guy hid from his boss all week, trying to avoid conversation. Now, my friend had lost respect and trust for the employee.

We all mess up and make mistakes and when they're work related, they can be tricky and costly.

The scenario reminded me of some great tips I read in USA Weekend. They address those mistakes you make from saying the wrong thing. Here's how to get out of trouble when that happens:

1. Making an inappropriate joke. When you get into a hole, don't keep digging. Don't try another joke to offset the first. Acknowledge you offended and apologize.

2. Caught talking about someone behind his or her back. Don't pretend nothing happened. Own your gaffe. Your apology depends on the offended party -- you might want to go short and sweet, "That was out of line, I'm sorry. Next time I'll talk to you directly." If your boss or a manager is the offended party, try this: "I'm so sorry about what I said. I was frustrated and let it get the best of me. I hope you'll be able to forgive me because I truly enjoy working here. I won't talk behind your back in the future."

3. Insulting someone without realizing it. Own your misstep and try to deflect. Let's say you make fun of people who ballroom dance and your manager then tells you he loves to ballroom dance,  "You do? We'll I've been wrong about other things, that's for sure!"

I've heard many CEOs say a key part of career climbing is knowing when you made a mistake and fixing it FAST. Letting small mistakes turn into bigger problems will cause you to suffer personally and professionally. 

How about making the resolution for 2012 that Outback Steakhouse(OSI) CEO Elizabeth Smith abides by: acknowledge a mistake (not always easy to admit), fix the problem and move on. She calls it, "failing faster."



January 05, 2012

Mommy doctor gives work life balance tips

This morning, I took a pilates class. I should have been working. I felt guilty my entire workout. Now, I will have to toil in front of my computer tonight to make up for the hour I spent at the gym this morning.  Ugh!

This work life balance thing is tough. Yet, I'm fortunate to have flexibility in my job. I'm amazed by parents who work two or three jobs and raise families. I'm just as amazed by women who work in highly demanding professions and keep their families plugging along in the right direction.

Today, one of those women will tell us just how she does it. My guest blogger isFarzanna Haffizulla, owner of an Internal Medicine private practice in Davie, Florida.


 She has numerous professional credentials as a doctor but now along with being a mom, she's also a book author. Haffizulla's book, Harmony of the Spheres: A Working Mom's Lesson of Love, Strength and Balance is filled with advice for anyone trying to juggle a demanding job and family.


Family picture JFZANA

Above is a photo of Farzanna and family. Here's her story:

Over the past 15 years, I have married, had four children— all while getting through medical school, doing my residency, and launching my own private practice. Today, I realize that as a working mom, you’re never quite sure that you’re doing the right things, using the right tactics and tricks to get through the day in the most efficient way possible.

Achieving balanced, harmonious living with respect to our family life, career and community involvement can certainly be achieved with the correct addition of key ingredients. With humility, drive and a clear path to our goals, we can have our proverbial cake and eat it too!

A key ingredient to achieving this is the right mindset and attitude: unwavering optimism coupled with yoking your intrinsic motivation and inner strength is the foundation upon which all other elements of successful balanced living is built.

1. Start with a plan: It’s not about doing more for your family or your career, but about doing things better. That’s why having a plan is important.In creating your plan, personal feelings and your own sense of responsibility should take precedence over cultural norms and learned gender roles. Where are you willing to compromise? What are you not willing to give up? Planning helps you be able to re-evaluate and stay up-to-date on the right choices at the time, and to keep your dreams and your vision in sync with your life as it changes and as you change with it.
2. Figure out what drives you at work. Is it money, recognition, contribution? This will put your professional life in focus. 

3. Make peace with your choices. The goal is not to win accolades for being the ‘best parent in the world’, but to make sure you enjoy the journey along the way and keep learning. Being a good parent boils down to you being happy at the end of the day. It’s this satisfaction that trickles down to your kids and family.

4. Maintain a ‘master’ home calendar. Our home calendar is organized on a large dry erase board and is located prominently in the kitchen like a billboard over the freeway. Jason and the children see it everyday and the daily exposures reinforces all the deadlines that need to be met and tasks that need to be done. Everyone pitches in their input for what goes on the calendar, which includes everything from chores to activities for the weekend. I also color code tasks and activities to highlight their importance and priority. Have all your school-age children keep a planner and/or calendar, too.

5. Become familiar with your partner’s schedule and use it to your advantage. Not only is it a good idea to distinguish which days are the most flexible for you, but also to familiarize yourself with when your partner has free time or a lighter workload. For example, Jason works half-days on Wednesdays. This means he can leave the office and take Zarina, Anisa and Nadia to their karate lessons, which gives me the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with my son Adam.

6. Keep an eye on finances. Spend wisely, buy discounted items, and use coupons and deals. Wait for items to go on sale at the store; a little patience provides big savings. Become a member of discount shopping stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club. Try crowdsavings coupon services, like Groupon and LivingSocial, which offer discounts as deep as 50 percent off for dinners, spa and salon visits, and even vacations. Department stores often offer reward coupons in the mail. Watch out for mailers that highlight special grocery items that are on sale that day and take advantage. Teach your kids financial literacy from a very young age.

7. Get the family involved in organizing. As a family, we’re very much a big believer in D-I-Y when it comes to organizing and hosting parties. We rarely hire caterers and outside help when holding an event, not only because you save money, but we also think it’s just more fun that way. For example, last year, we held a Thanksgiving celebration at our home. Not only were we celebrating Thanksgiving but also the arrival of a new baby cousin. We asked the girls to act as the liaisons for their cousins, planning the activities and making sure all the young guests were entertained.

As modern women, at different ages and stages of life we each have various permutations of what’s important to us in life. Creating a visualized plan and goals for yourself is one of the most important steps in the process of not only achieving but maintaining harmony in your life.

January 03, 2012

How to land a job or promotion AND find work life balance in 2012


This is YOUR year! You heard it here. This is the year you are going to land a job, get ahead at work AND manage to reclaim some control over your work life balance.

So where to start?

 Let's start with you job seekers. job search organizer StartWire is offering New Year’s tips for job seekers:

  1. Apply earlyas nearly 50% of company hires applied within the first week and approximately 75% of all hired candidates applied within three weeks of the job posting, according to StartWire research.
  2. Look beyond the Help Wanted ads and job boards to identify companies landing funding, new clients or making other positive news. Positive corporate announcements, such as receiving funding or landing new clients, often mean new jobs. Get ahead of the game and contact recruiters before jobs are posted.
  3. Understand a company’s hiring approach (referrals, events, etc.) Depending on the recruiting department’s philosophy, the company may hire exclusively through employee referrals or via corporate events. tailor your efforts to be noticed so that your resume will have a greater chance of making it to the top of the pile
  4. Find local connections to industry jobs through local professional organizations. Almost every industry has a professional association with local chapters. Send an introductory email to the local chapter leaders and attend some of the relevant events. It can open doors to future job positions. 
  5. Use Social Media to yield inside networking opportunities. Actively following and engaging with potential employers’ social media networks may help increase your chances for an interview or a second look by hiring managers. This shows you are interested in the company and are actively following its efforts. Plus, social media circles often yield inside networking opportunities. Research shows that 1 in 10 candidates whose resumes come through a referral are hired, compared to 1 in 100 general applicants.


Now, for those who have a job, let's look at how to get ahead in 2012

"If you have a job, your workplace resolutions should be focused on keeping it, as well as putting yourself in a position for a possible salary increase or promotion,” advised John Challenger,chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Here are some suggestions from John Izzo, a corporate consultant and author of STEPPING UP: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything.

-- Find one thing: Think of something at work that you want to do something about. Instead of trying to hatch a master plan, identify one thing you can do starting immediately to move in the direction of the change you seek.

-- Punch above your weight or formal position: Come up with ideas for new products and innovations even if it's not in your job description. Win customers for life even if it's not your department, and generally go bigger than whatever your role says you MUST do.

-- Don't let your lack of position get in the way of your influence: How could you lead right now even though you have no position? What steps can you take to make change?

Now, let's move on to work life balance. You can achieve it this year!

Here is some advice from The Grindstone. I've tweaked it a bit to add my spin.

--Workout before work: You already wake up early for work and though sleep is precious tacking on that extra hour will make you feel so much better for the whole day. Designer Tory Burchdoes her workout at 6 a.m. before her kids get up. University of Bristol researchers found that employees who enjoyed a workout before going to work – or exercised during lunch breaks – were better equipped to handle whatever the day threw at them. It also found that people’s general mood improved on days of exercise but they became less calm on non-exercise days.If you are able to you can exercise during your work commute if you can bike or walk.

-- Don't go crazy over working on vacation.  If you are going to worry about checking your email all day while on vacation then it is not going to be a very fun vacation. So check it and then move on.

--Do more charity work, but do it your way. It is wonderful to help others and it does make you feel good but don't feel bad if instead of going down to a soup kitchen you instead give a generous donation to a shelter or non-profit that helps promote entrepreneurship in Africa. Or what about talking to a group that helps young girls develop their career paths like The Canadian Women's Foundation Girls' Fund? It would be great to go to Africa with Angelina Jolie, but there are other things to do that fit into your work life schedule.

-- Do fret over being a better housekeeper. We'd all love to be Martha Stewart at home but we don't have that kind of time. So don't kill yourself if you can't throw a dinner party, clean your whole house, make the kids' costumes and still be great at your job all the time. Just one of those is enough.

-- Consider outsourcing. The service TaskRabbit, which is also an iPhone app, allows you to easily hire people for several types of tasks including shopping and cleaning. Concierge services as well as sites like Get Friday which provides virtual assistance services to clients all over the world. Get Friday is available 24 hours a day and now caters to busy individuals and small businesses in 30 odd countries across different time zones. You can even hire a personal or virtual assistant on a temporary basis if you need it from TasksEveryday.com.

--Ask for what you want. Don't sit around moping about how much time you spend at work and away from your family. Make a change. Figure out exactly what you want, how to make it happen, and ask for it. That may mean shifting your work hours, skipping lunch and leaving earlier or setting an alarm that signals you to leave the office at 6 p.m.




I wish you all success in 2012!



January 02, 2012

Moms who start businesses

As you blew your New Year's horn, were you thinking about money? Were you wishing you could make more or save more?

I'm constantly coming up with business ideas that I'm convinced will make me millions. If only I was brave enough to launch full force into one and make it happen. Instead, I've written lots of articles about moms and dads who see a need for a product or service and turn that need into a money-making venture. All of them tell me coming up with the idea is the easy part.

Today's Miami Heraldtook a look at six local Mompreneurs and how they got their start. One of those moms watched people drinking water from plastic bottles and came up with the idea of putting water in cardboard juice boxes (a big plus for the environment!)

 I enjoyed reading how these moms came up with an idea, developed the product, shored up with the capital, figured out a marketing plan and devised a distribution channel. Their products include everything from water in box to personalized kids’ books that teach children about their heritage. I'm sure you will find their stories helpful if you're thinking of launching a business this year.


About a month ago, I interviewed Aliza Sherman, a successful serial entrepreneur, and Danielle Elliott Smith, founder of ExtraordinaryMommy, about their new book, Moms Incorporated. It's a guide to running a business  while negotiating the landscape of motherhood. It think it's a must-read. The book is loaded with the nitty-gritty details for how to make a home-based business work -- from incorporating to building your brand to paying taxes. Aliza and Danielle told me their goal was to help other moms avoid the missteps they encountered when launching their home-based businesses.


Momincbookcover150The first step, they say, is deciding which type of business is right for you -- a lifestyle business, an income business, a growing business, a go big business? Service or product-oriented? Your answer may depend on your schedule.

"You've got to be realistic. It's not going to be easy," Aliza says. "You're going to need to find the rhythm and the business that's right for you."



Some big lessons these women shared:

  • Decide whether you want a business that will earn major dollars or a job/hobby (jobbie) that earns you some money on the side.
  • Look for a business that has a low cost to entry. (They give some examples)
  • Include your family members in the planning process
  • Don't EVER hesitate to ask for help. Consider bartering.
  • Carve out times when you can work without interruption
  • Be prepared to give up your free time.


Readers, have you tried to launch a business from home? Did you encounter a misstep you would advise others to avoid?

Good luck to future Momtpreneurs and Happy New Year to all!