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7 posts from November 2013

November 25, 2013

How to restore work life balance 5 minutes at a time

5 minutes
Lately when I am waiting in line at the grocery store or pumping gas, I whip out my iPhone and read email. Then, I pull away from the pump feeling like I was productive. But in reality all my email checking is making my work life balance out of whack.

“The ubiquity of smart phones means we never lack for a way to spend time,” says Fast Company contributor Laura Vanderkam. “Stuck waiting for the elevator for 30 seconds? Next thing you know you’ve got your phone out of your pocket, and you’re deleting newsletters you can’t remember subscribing to.”

What we should be doing is something else, something more fulfilling.

“Cleaning out the inbox feels productive, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not all that fun. Nor is it accomplishing much,” continues Vanderkam, who has 17 suggestions for making better use of your daily lulls. For example: listen to your favorite song, read a page of a book, take some fun photos or make a couple notes in your journal.

I don't want to beat myself up,  but like some of you, I need to embrace the notion that it's okay to be in the moment and enjoy it. If I can lose my addiction to being productive, there's actually is a lot to gain. Last week I put down my phone while in the check out line and made conversation with my the grocery store cashier. I learned she lives right across the street from me and has for a while. It was really nice to meet my neighbor. Laura says nurturing social ties is incredibly productive--and key to human happiness. Of course it's really hard to do when staring at a screen in my palm!

While I love my smartphone, I am realizing I have allowed it to create a sense of obligation to respond to texts and emails whenever, wherever I can -- even if I only have five minutes. Going forward, I am going to reclaim balance and spent my small amounts of time in more fulfilling ways.

I am working on creating a bucket list of 25 things I want to do by the time I am 50. Next time I have five minutes to spare, rather than checking email (again) I am going to work on my list and get excited about the fun times ahead!

How do you use small blocks of time to bring balance to your day? 

November 20, 2013

The rules of business etiquette have changed: How to avoid a blunder

Lately, I've had a few business lunches and I noticed something on a regular basis: people have their cellphones out during lunch. They even pick them up while in the middle of a conversation and answer a text or surf the web. I might have been offended in the past, but it just seems so normal today.

The rules of business etiquette are changing. 

Today, in my Miami Herald column, I was able to take my etiquette questions to Miss Manners, whose real name is Judith Martin. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you consider rude in the modern workplace.

In business, manners still matter


Etiquette and Protocol Consultant Maryline Coirin runs the Miami Protocol Centre. Coirin says it's bad etiquette to have your phone on the table during a business lunch.
Etiquette and Protocol Consultant Maryline Coirin runs the Miami Protocol Centre. Coirin says it's bad etiquette to have your phone on the table during a business lunch. AL DIAZ/MIAMI HERALD STAFF



While recently lunching with lawyers, I noticed that some mobile devices were out on the table. It prompted me to raise an etiquette question to the attorneys: Is it bad manners to keep your cellphone out during lunch or completely acceptable?

Today’s workplace etiquette is tricky, and most of us still are trying to figure out the rules. Between relaxed dress codes, use of technology and blurred boundaries, navigating the crucial distinctions between professional and social courtesies has become complicated.

Once I put the question out there, each of the lawyers chimed in with differing views. Some cited possible family emergencies as a reason to keep the phone in sight; others cited client expectations of quick response. Overall, the consensus was that putting your cell on the table and checking it during the meal is acceptable when lunching with colleagues or friends, not with clients or potential customers.

“Workplace etiquette does change and adjust,” says nationally syndicated etiquette columnist Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners. Martin has partnered with her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, to help us navigate the new workplace etiquette pitfalls in her new book, Miss Manners Minds Your Business. They will appear at the Miami Book Fair International on Sunday.

“Today, some of the etiquette rules are different. Others just are disobeyed more flagrantly,” she explained to me.

Because the rules change over time, many of us don’t intend to offend. Yet, there are high costs with even seemingly inconsequential actions: Our etiquette breaches create bad impressions with clients, ruin job prospects or cause us setbacks in our careers.

Young workers often step into a minefield on the job after years of parents and teachers encouraging them to “be themselves,” Martin explains. At work, they might interpret that to mean posting their emotions on social networks, neglecting to wash the coffee pot or writing an email in text speak. “When entering the business world, you need to learn to be someone else. It is called having a professional identity,” she says.

For all workers, staying professional even as the workplace becomes more casual requires reading cues. You don’t want to address the boss by his first name if the rest of the staff calls him Mr. Smith. Marc Cenedella, CEO and founder of TheLadders.com, an online marketplace for $100,000-plus jobs, warns that in every office – even those with a collegial culture — there exists an invisible line between professional and unprofessional behavior. A survey by TheLadders.com found managers often draw the line at cussing at work, wearing revealing clothing and having repeated loud personal conversations. A Ladders survey found 36 percent of U.S. bosses have issued a formal warning, and 6 percent have fired an employee for swearing, deeming a foul mouth the most punishable of all workplace faux pas.

Most workers will confirm that the big slips that create most resentment arise from our being more distracted than ever by technology. Leslie Harris says she was aghast when her physician took a call on his cellphone while examining her. “I could hear the conversation and I’m pretty sure he was speaking to a friend,” says Harris, a marketing executive. She since has found another physician.

Of course, the smartphone addict typically doesn’t think he or she is being rude by staring at a screen or zipping off an email during a team meeting or one-on-one interaction, and may actually consider himself being responsive to customers’ needs in real time.

Miss Manners says that’s no excuse: “Not paying attention to human beings who are there to be with you is rude.” Sometimes, prefacing a meeting by announcing you are expecting an urgent call helps buffer the interpretation of bad manners. Regardless, she says, “You are sending the message that the person or people you are with are not worth your attention.”

In a survey conducted earlier this year, 64 percent of 1,718 chief information officers said higher use of mobile gadgets has led to more breaches in workplace etiquette over the last three years. That’s up from 51 percent who said the same thing in a survey conducted three years ago by Robert Half Finance & Accounting staffing firm.

In a business setting, if you can’t give others your full attention, don’t go to the meeting or shut your door, Martin advises. Greenberg Traurig business litigator Michele Stocker recently found a client upset when she didn’t answer repeated calls on her cell in a two-hour span. Stocker explained that it would be bad manners to not give the client she was with her full attention during a legal proceeding. “When I ask, ‘how would you like it if I took a call during a meeting with you?’ they admitted they would be offended and said that I made a fair point.”

Most of us strive to be responsive, but we are entitled to a peaceful private life. That may mean delaying an email response or returning a call. Answering in up to 24 hours is acceptable, etiquette experts say.

Maryline Coirin, a Miami business etiquette consultant, says most of the questions she gets involve dining. Even today, the old business luncheon still is an expected part of a successful professional life — and rife with land mines. “When you sit down at the dining table, everything you do is being judged,” she says.

If you salt your food before you taste it, you could be viewed as impulsive. If you hold your wine glass by the stem, you would be considered well cultured, Coirin explains. In agreement with Miss Manners, Coirin says one of the most important dining etiquette rules is to keep your phone in your pocket or purse, even if you are just peeking at the time. “During a meal, it has no business being out or on the table,” she convincingly asserts.

When confronting a colleague about an etiquette blunder, ask him or her to view the actions from other people’s perspective, suggest experts.

“Were you aware that your loud personal conversations are distracting your co-workers?” You might even suggest other ways of handling a situation.

Experts say most workers don’t intentionally want to be rude to their co-workers and office hierarchies typically reward those who use common courtesy. Martin says she sees a positive in the evolution of etiquette: “Tolerance for bad behavior has disappeared.”


 Click here to find out about Miss Manner's appearance at the Miami Book Fair International


November 18, 2013

Finding clarity during times of work life imbalance: A mommy lawyer's experience

How many of you have taken business phone calls when you're with your kids and had to figure out a way to mute background noise and come off as professional?

I have my hand raised. One day, Attorney Jennifer Westerlund and I were talking about the lengths working mothers go through to balance work and family and the crazy places where we have taken work calls while with our kids.  Jennifer has some pretty funny stories to tell. Recently, I received an email from Jennifer updating me on her career and her efforts to balance work and family.  The "balancing act" isn't easy and we all make compromises but I felt like all of you could relate so I asked Jennifer if I could share her email on my blog.

This weekend, I spoke on a panel to female college students at University of Miami. We talked a lot about compromises and opportunities for women. I wonder, especially after reading Jennifer's experience, if bigger firms and corporations realize that they need to help the talented women flooding into their businesses create balance. Will these organizations continue to let their dealmakers walk out the door? Do you feel the future for women is an entrepreneurs rather than leaders in the corporate environment? I'd love to hear your thoughts after reading Jennifer's balancing act.



South Florida attorney Jennifer Westerlund




Hope all is well with you.  It has been a long time since I saw you last.  I just closed a large deal on Monday and I am reflecting on the craziness of the past couple of months and remembered the time I told you about doing deals from my closet floor…  No closet floor on this deal, (I was actually in my office) but mostly in NY, but the juggling act continues.


I am not sure if you know but I left my large, international law firm last February for private practice, to achieve better "balance" in my life (mainly to achieve some personal business goals that have been eluding me that I would not be able to achieve if I were working for a firm).  I continue to serve all of my clients, which is gratifying.  It is also extremely challenging, particularly as a corporate/M&A lawyer which is rare given the need for other disciplines. 

The deal I just closed was for my largest client (a billion dollar public company) which I have been representing for years.  The deal was a $325M acquisition of an industrial business from one of the largest companies in the world.  I did work with a couple of former colleagues from my prior law firm on some special issues not within my competency, but it was amazing that a sole female practitioner with an office outside of a major financial center had a front and center seat at the table next to basically 15 other men from the largest Wall Street firms in NY working day and night to close this deal.

It was like entering and exiting the twilight zone flying out to my former home of New York City and sitting at a table of high power executives from top flight firms and companies and working all night on seriously complex issues in tense negotiations, and then flying back to the chaos that is a suburban family with four kids under the age of 10 handling what I consider to be equally challenging and patience-testing issues like finding soccer cleats, sibling rivalry, homework etc. 

Actually, I am not sure which was more trying, but I do know that flying in and out for several days at a time really gave me perspective in seeing the two worlds independently of each other, as opposed to the norm which most of us professional women live with one foot in each simultaneously, where everything is jumbled.  I'm not sure if you have spoken to other women professionals who have had the same experience of achieving some sense of clarity during times of the ultimate imbalance (where you are either "on" or "off" with work/family due to traveling)?

There won't be another "Dealmaker" award for this transaction without a big firm's PR behind me, but I feel like I defied the odds a bit for women professionals who feel like they may have their feet stuck in the muddy waters of professional ambitions and undying dedication to family, afraid to leave the umbrella of a big organization and take a chance.  We can do it! 



Jennifer Westerlund


November 17, 2013

Is "always on" the new normal? Work life balance takes disconnecting

Check out my column this week in the Miami Herald and let me know your thoughts. Do you think it's getting increasing harder to keep the work day to 8 hours?


Is ‘always on’ the new normal?


Jorge Gonzalez walks through the office with his smartphone and laptop, the two tools that keep him constantly connected. He works as a recruiter at Albion Staffing Solutions and says he's "always on."
Jorge Gonzalez walks through the office with his smartphone and laptop, the two tools that keep him constantly connected. He works as a recruiter at Albion Staffing Solutions and says he's "always on."



I sit in the park, watching my son’s lacrosse practice and typing on my laptop. By the time he is done, I will have put in at least a solid hour of work and I will relish in how much better life has become since I had to stay late at the office behind a desktop computer screen to finish an article.

But with this ability to work where and when I want comes another reality: I’m always on. Sitting leisurely on the sideline at a sports practice is a luxury in which few working parents indulge. Around me are dads shooting off emails from their iPhones and mothers returning client calls.

For those of us with any level of responsibility, a 9 -o-5 work day just isn’t a reality. As Miami publicist John David points out: “Work starts the moment you look at your phone in the morning.” Now, more of us who feel like we are working longer hours than we used to are asking, what is an average work day or work week, anyway?

According to the recent American Time Use Survey, Americans ages 25-54 spent almost nine hours a day working or in work-related activities. That compares to about 7.5 to eight hours they spent on job responsibilities just five years ago.

For benefit purposes, many companies consider a minimum of 30 hours a week to be full time, which also is the case with Obamacare’s mandate. While that may be the minimum, most salaried employees now say they regularly work more than 40 hours and recruiters report that employers expect longer hours from professionals.

“They [job candidates] are going to agree to work whatever hours they have to because they know that there are 10 people behind them, and someone else will fill the spot,” explains Jorge Gonzalez, a partner in Albion Staffing Solutions in Doral.

Gonzalez said companies are strategic in issuing smartphones and tablets to staff to encourage “always on.” “It gives them accessibility to their workers anytime, so the work day could extend as long as the company and the customer dictate. Some people hear the beep at 1 a.m., and they will respond.”

Staffing professionals say they see more employers who advertise salaried jobs as 40-plus hours and more employees willing to take them — but not everyone. “I think it’s important for employers to be truthful when they are hiring,” said Debra Bathurst, vice president of human resources at Oasis Outsourcing in South Florida. “Some people can’t work over 40 hours. If there is an additional five or six hours of overtime or Saturdays expected, we recommend our clients discuss that up front.”

It’s hard to pin down exactly how much Americans are working, particularly because the number of part-time jobs has risen. Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a gradual rising trend in work hours through the 1990s that just recently tapered off, hovering at slightly more than 40 hours weekly.

Even for people who aren’t spending quite as many more hours working as they think they are, there is an explanation for why some might feel over-burdened, anyway. When you pair our connectivity with the fact that more women are in the workforce and there are fewer hours when anyone is taking care of household chores, that leaves less pure leisure time once we’re off work.

For the most part, Americans who are working longer hours are white-collar workers who do not punch a clock, don’t necessarily track their hours and have clients or customers to satisfy regardless of the time of day.

As the culture of workplaces evolves, the debate now is whether longer hours and constant connectivity lead to additional productivity and profitability. Some researchers assert just the opposite is true. In a 2012 article in Salon, “Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week,” social futurist Sara Robinson writes that business owners across many sectors discovered that when they cut workers hours, their businesses became significantly more productive and profitable. She also asserts that excessive overtime and lack of sleep are bad for productivity, adding that most workers have six good hours in them a day.

As the workweek debate rages on, CEOs, researchers, economists and life coaches have their ideas of exactly how much time workers should be logging in. But if you think a shorter work will make you happier, you might want to take note: South Korea changed its labor regulations in 2004, reducing the work week to five days a week from six and 40 hours from 44. Researchers then found that those who worked fewer hours were not any happier than those who worked longer hours.

Meanwhile, wellness experts say they see the “always on” mentality and longer hours creating more anxiety and a search for boundaries. Gonzalez at Albion Staffing said his wife helps him push back against a work day that easily extends into the night. “If I didn’t have a grounded spouse, I would work all the time.”

Bathurst, on the other hand, believes some people feel good about the evolving definition of a work day. “No one is forcing us to check our phones when we are watching TV and hear the ping. Many of us enjoy what we do and if we can get things done at nights or on the weekend, we’re that much further ahead on Monday.”

As I smugly pack up my laptop and shuttle my son into the car, I see other parents putting away their devices and winding down their workday, too. We head home feeling productive, ready to refocus on family life — if we can manage to resist another peek at our email.



November 15, 2013

What "Show Me the Money" looks like

This week I had one of those weeks that completely wore me out. I spent a lot of time out of the office and now, I'm playing catch up. One of the most interesting places I went this week was the Women's Success Summit. It made me think about how I spend my time and energy and whether I'm spending it in a way that pays off. At the conference, dozens of experts shared their thoughts on how to make more money and still have work life balance.


Michelle VIllalobos, founder of the Women's Success Summit, explained to the hundreds of women business owners in attendance that we must get into the money mindset. It's not that difficult to inject money moneymaking mojo into our business or career, she convincingly argues. We just need to dream big and be ambitious! We also need to figure out whether what's holding us back from making more money is a mindset, strategy or execution challenge.

If we're going to spend our time in ways that pay off, we need to know our strengths, our weaknesses and our million dollar value. (how can we create a business or restructure it to make us a million dollars?) To find your million dollar value, you need to dig deep and get away from being constrained by the hours in the day. If you're in a business where you make money by selling time, you need to think bigger and maybe even raise your prices. "Ninety percent of the time when I work with women, their pricing is too low."

Michelle was followed by Mina Shah, a speaker, author and coach with Smart Women Making Money, who told us where we are going wrong in our myths about making money.

1. Being smart doesn't guarantee success

2. Working hard is only one ingredient to achieving financial success.

3. Making a lot of money doesn't guarantee financial success.

DSC_1590Shah, who previously worked for Tony Robbins, said many of us are afraid of making money or managing it. She said some of us are too quick to spend the money their business earns and then we feel guilty. She urged us to replace our previous emotion about making money with a new, more positive one and to tell ourselves we deserve to make more money and take our business to the next level.

Karen Talavera, president of Synchronicity Marketing told us, if we want to make more money, we need to know who are customers are: "Fish where your fish are swimming," she said. She also wants us to know the progression path for getting customers and how to move them toward buying more and spending more. "You need to know after the initial purchase, what comes next." 

Business coach extraordinaire, Jody Johnson, founder and owner of ActionCOACH in Coral Gables, told us to examine whether there is a disconnect between our strengths and our business model. If there is and we're not making money because of it, we need to refocus our business model or figure out our weak spots and plug them. That could mean hiring someone, creating a system for handling a process, or taking a course.  

DSC_1600 (Jody Johnson)  

And, if we're going to partner in business, Jody advises we chose someone who has complementary strengths, not the same ones, a mistake many make. When you have someone with different stregths, it helps with growing the business.

There's plenty of opportunity to shout "Show Me the Money" and seek it by refocusing marketing efforts, and determining new strategies. But, you might be suprised that you can gain from giving away money. Jessica Kizorek, founder of Two Parrot Productions, produces mini documentaries to help non profits market themselves and raise make money and gave her insight:

"If you're in the business of making money, authentically aligning yourself with a charitable cause can make you even more profitable," she said. "You can't just give in secret though...you have to effectively tell that story (hopefully through photos and videos) to your customer in a way that tugs on their heart strings and makes them fall in love with you."

I wasn't able to make it to the second day of the Summit, but I heard that Simone Kelly, founder of the Give N Take Network, made an awesome presentation on the art of bartering. Stay tuned because I'm going to try to track her down and interview her for a future blog post.


(Jessica Kizorek and I networking at the Summit!)


November 12, 2013

Inside a Lean In Circle

My guest blogger today is Erin Knight, Market President Miami-Dade, Stonegate Bank. Erin is a true go-getter, a working mom in a high powered job. She says she saw a need for women like her to talk through their daily work life issues and get reinforcement. So, Erin launched a Lean In Circle. I hope many of you will follow her lead.

By Erin Knight

Erin KnightEvery once in a while I read a book or magazine article that compels me to take the words beyond the context and implement them in my own life. With this notion, I recently launched a Lean In Circle in Miami with my friend, Eris Thomas, CEO and President of Coral Gables Executive Physicians, based on Sheryl Sandberg’s best seller, Lean In.

Eris and I both read the book, and immediately desired to find a way to help support each other and other women. Our first Lean In Circle was held in September at Books & Books in Coral Gables, where we hosted 30 female friends and colleagues. Understanding that each woman faces their own obstacles, we strived for the Lean In Circle to take shape based on our members’ interests and needs.

It was an honor that Dr. Andrew Wenger, a private practice psychologist and University of Miami professor, joined us to lead the discussion on raising children, particularly when juggling a thriving career. Members engaged in an open exchange of questions and comments, and many were intrigued by Dr. Wenger’s approach, technique and suggestions. He even provided us with scientific research that proves the positive attributes of raising children as a working mother and how it often instills confidence and drive for success in our children’s upbringing.

We were eager to share our experiences through an open conversation about the challenges of careers, family and all other aspects of life. Many members also discussed personal stories about the obstacles they face in work-life balance. It was truly humbling.

Our Lean In Circle plans to meet with its members 10 times each year. It will not be a networking event, but purely a way to encourage each other to “lean in” to our ambitions. We plan to accomplish this by hosting speakers with expertise in areas such as the art of negotiating, navigating politics at work, excelling with a flexible work schedule, work life balance and more. Eris and I were inspired by numerous other women throughout the country who have formed their own Lean In Circles in hopes of providing a platform for women to join together and share the message of Lean In. 

If you haven’t read the book, I recommend that you take the first step to understanding the concept of “leaning in.” All monies raised from the sale of the book go directly to supporting the cause through the non-profit organization founded by Sandberg, Lean In.org. You can learn more about the Lean In movement and how to launch or join a Circle in your community by visiting www.LeanIn.org.




November 11, 2013

Female veterans struggle for work life balance

Female veterans face a different journey than men when it comes to healing the wounds of war. For those who are mothers, it takes a lot of readjustment back to home life. Imagine, for months or years you just worry about work and staying alive and then you return to home life where kids aren't used to your presence and you're not used to having to balance competing demands. 

I found this Parade Magazine story fascinating and wanted to share it with all of you. Happy Veteren's Day!


Stacy Keyte, with son Caleb, now 9, returned home from Iraq in 2006.(Richard Foulser for Parade)


Women Vets: A Battle All Their Own

 (Parade Magazine)


While female service members confront the same problems as male veterans, they also face distinct struggles as women. Meet two brave women on their emotional journey from the front lines back home.


When Stacy Keyte was deployed to Iraq in 2005, her life as a young wife and mother had just begun to take shape. She had a 15-month-old son, Caleb, a happy boy who loved dancing around the living room with his mom; and Keyte and her husband, Charles, both members of the Texas Army National Guard, had started looking for a new home. But the day after closing on a house in Waxahachie, Tex., Charles was called up, too, to train other guardsmen to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. Putting their family life on hold, the young parents entrusted Caleb to his father's best friend's mother as they went off separately to serve their country.


Keyte belonged to a military that was in the process of dismantling the barriers faced by women. Today 357,000 serve in the nation's armed forces, making up 16 percent of its strength. Over the past decade, more than 280,000 women have been deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We simply could not have accomplished the mission without them," says Pentagon spokesman Nathan Christensen.  


Stationed near Tikrit, Keyte handed out mail, organized awards ceremonies, and prepared hometown news releases. It wasn't technically combat, but that didn't keep her safe. Within a few hours of her arrival, Keyte was walking from the bathroom to her living quarters when incoming artillery shook the ground around her. The attack was followed by two weeks of sustained rocket assaults on the base, with few places to take shelter. "I always felt like a sitting duck," she says. "You just didn't know where it would land if it came in."


For any young soldier, these attacks would have been stressful. What complicated Keyte's experience was that she didn't always feel respected by the men around her. "We were definitely considered the weaker gender and they had no problems with saying that," says Keyte, now 32. "There was one noncommissioned officer who would not hesitate to tell me, 'You should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.'


When she returned from Iraq, Keyte realized how much had changed in 16 months. "I came home to boxes and an almost-3-year-old I didn't know anymore," she says. Caleb didn't understand his mother's disappearance and developed self-destructive tantrums and other behavioral problems. One night they went out for dinner and the host asked if Caleb needed a high chair or a booster seat. Keyte, who had missed many of his early milestones, didn't know. "I felt so guilty," she says. "You have so many expectations as a first-time mom, and sometimes life gets in the way."


Keyte also suffered from the inevitable psychic wounds of battle. "I didn't want to answer the phone," she says. "I didn't want to talk, because that took a lot of emotions." When a friend tried to hug her, she had such a strong startle response that she slapped away the woman's arm. "I was trying to make myself a hermit and stay inside my little shell," she says.


There's no foolproof formula for a successful homecoming from the battlefield. For Keyte, healing came from assisting other vets. In 2011 she became an outreach coordinator for Grace After Fire, a Texas-based nonprofit that runs peer support groups for women veterans and helps them find the resources they need. "There's nothing more rewarding than to watch these women come out of their shells," she says.


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