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11 posts from February 2014

February 28, 2014

When your boss works late, should you?

It was dinner time. I was hungry. My new husband already was home and I was still in the office, waiting for my boss to leave. It wasn't the first time or last time I stayed at the office just to look committed. Years ago, early in my career, I was uncomfortable leaving before my boss. I thought it made me seem like I was a slacker. At the time, I had to prove myself and I wanted to seem ambitious. But after weeks of staying late for no reason, my new husband insisted I was being foolish. So, I quietly slipped out around 7 p.m., leaving my computer on to look like I might still be around.

It's tricky when your boss puts in long hours. Most of the time, her or she gets paid big bucks for that committment. I enjoyed reading a Wall Street Journal article this week titled When the Boss Works Long Hours, Must We All? In the article, Sue Shellenbarger asks, "Every night, your workaholic boss is still glued to the computer when you need to leave. How do you go home without looking like a slacker?" The article urges workers to check their assumptions, claiming that sometimes people make guesses about managers' expectations that are just wrong, 

In my former job, while I was worried about leaving earlier than my boss, I realized he could see my commitment in my productivity. I bet my former boss never even realized I was waiting around for him to leave.

On the other hand, if you leave at 5 p.m. every day, hours early than your boss, and you complain of having too much work, your boss will think you are a slacker. I have had bosses tell me they can't believe when employees want more money and more authority, but still want to leave at 5 p.m. on the dot.

Sue gives some great suggestions for how to handle a boss who toils long hours at the office: shift around your work hours, leave at the normal time but call attention to your productivity, offer reassurance that you are meeting deadlines, ask your boss if he or she expects you to stay late. That last suggestion might seem intimidating but it's probably the most effective.

Do you feel like you need to stay as late as your boss? How do you handle leaving the office at a decent time? Have you ever had a boss that wants you to stay late but doesn't set the example himself?

For more on this topic and others like it, visit my new blog at CindyKeepsUp.com.



February 26, 2014

What really keeps employees engaged at work?

Do perks keep you engaged at work? Do good managers? How about the people you work with? Trying to figure out the secret formula is critical for companies because only a mere 30 percent of the US workforce is engaged and putting in extra effort at work. Today in my Miami Herald column I attempted to give employers some guidance at at time when so many of them are clueless. I'd love to hear from you, what motivates you to give your job your all? 

Great place


When it comes to employee engagement, career coaching beats a free lunch

It has become one of the most perplexing workplace questions of the century for businesses worldwide: How do you keep employees engaged and emotionally invested in their jobs?

Some employers have taken the free lunch approach.

At her workplace, Deborah Beetson can count on catered lunch once a month and regular bagel breakfasts. She also can invite clients to the wine bar at her West Palm Beach office. Those are just some of the perks that have landed her employer, DPR Construction, on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work.

But, Beetson says it is not the wine bar, free meals or even the bring-your-dog-to-work days that keep her engaged. “The perks are there to make it a fun place to be, but if you don’t believe leadership cares about you and values your opinion, then perks lose their meaning.”

Offer employees free lunch and you will see a stampede into the lunchroom. But ask those same workers if they feel engaged and you will discover perks are not enough to keep them loyal or inspire them to put in extra effort on the job. “Perks can attract people and make them feel content, but they won’t get employees to a high level of engagement,” says Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and well-being.

Some consider the lack of employee engagement an epidemic. Despite more awareness, the low rate of engagement hasn't budged in more than a decade. According to the Gallup Organization, the number of “actively disengaged workers” continues to be twice the number of engaged employees, defined as emotionally invested in their organizations.

Those engaged employees are the ones that work hardest, stay longest and perform best. Of the country’s roughly 100 million full time employees, an alarming 70 million — 70 percent — are either not engaged at work or actively “checked out”, Gallup found.

Harter believes employers need to shift their focus from pampering, which can create a sense of entitlement, to making employees feel like partners. A good manager drives that connection, he says. “If you’re offering perks and not putting energy toward hiring and developing excellent managers, you’re going about it the wrong way.” If a bad manager creates a disengaging environment, you can’t free lunch your way to engagement. “You can’t cover that up.”

To get the most from a worker, scrap the jeans day, forego the latte machines and think about what workers truly want to feel connected to their work and their company. In studying “Great Places to Work,’’ researchers found employees want to feel the work they are doing is important and to trust their managers care about them as individuals.

“Managers can’t forget that these are people who have a life outside of work they are actively trying to manage,” said Jessica Rohman, program director at Great Place to Work Institute. Even employees at companies considered great places to work report disengagement when bosses don’t understand how accommodating unplanned life needs affects work commitment. “It’s that understanding that fosters a sense of trust,” Rohman says.

Increasingly, employers are realizing that what attracts talent differs from what keeps strong performers engaged.

Working at a nuclear plant is more intense than a 9-to-5 job, but Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point nuclear power plant has lured 700 full time employees through benefits like on-site daycare, a fitness center, softball league, boat ramp and picnic area and a work schedule that provides every other Friday off.

FPL vice president Michael Kiley knows the benefits are just one component. An ongoing interest in employees’ career path and a sense of team work are what inspire discretionary effort from employees, he says. “They don’t want to let down their peers.”

Even financial incentives such as bonuses don’t have a long term affect on engagement, he has discovered. “Engagement is really about what you do every day to make employees feel part of a team. They need to know how they make that team better every day.”

Engaged workers are clear on expectations, feel accountable but also receive the freedom — possibly even flexibility — to get their work done, says Gallup’s Harter.

Beetson, DPR Construction’s regional leader in West Palm Beach, has found that to be true at her national commercial construction company. On each construction site, the manager discusses goals, inquires about expectations at home, and decides on work schedules that accommodate individual needs. “Letting the team work it out definitely helps with engagement,” Beetson says.

Get the formula right and workers at all life stages will stay engaged.

Ten months after giving birth to twin daughters, Jodi Santos says she remains among the 30 percent of U.S. workers who are engaged with their jobs. Santos, a nuclear oversight inspector at FPL’s Turkey Point, credits a combination of influences. She enjoys having her girls at the onsite daycare and uses the flexible work schedule that allows every other Friday off. She likes the camaraderie and team work that is encouraged through picnics and events.

But mostly, she stays engaged because her supervisor has worked with her to create a career path that allows growth while providing her work life balance. She recently changed departments to a quality assurance position that doesn’t require her to deal with middle-of-the-night emergencies: “I still have the feeling of being part of the big picture.”

Boosting engagement, particularly at stagnant organizations, is no easy task. But Gallup research shows attempting to reverse the worldwide trend is well worth the effort. Organizations are more profitable when their employees are more engaged, and employees benefit, too.

Gallup has discovered that engagement has a larger affect on employee well-being than any other benefits, such as wellness programs or vacation time. “Employees who are engaged are more than three times as likely to be thriving in their overall lives,” Harter says. “They are happier, healthier and more interested at work.”



February 25, 2014

Can you go too far with weight loss?

Poor Rachel Frederickson. She has been a topic of discussion after winning NBC’s The Biggest Loser  and revealing a staggering weight loss on national TV. The pop-culture universe is publicly asking: Did she go too far?

After stunning the audience by losing 155 pounds, 60 percent of her body weight, some believe the show sparked an eating disorder in her. Rachel revealed that she's been spending 6 hours a day exercising. My reaction: Holy moly! Who has that kind of time to devote to exercise? Yes she probably did go too far. But while the public is worried that she's too thin now, I doubt she will be able to sustain that kind of effort to stay thin. Think about it, that's 42 hours a week devoted to exercising! I'd rather be sleeping!

As someone who has been thin all my life, I have had people comment  on my size. Sometimes, it's downright mean. They will say, "you're soooo skinny." How do you respond to that? Of course, as I get older I'm battling the belly bulge so I'm finally experiencing the struggle others go through to keep weight off. I've finally learned the challenge of balancing dieting, exercise and work. It ain't easy!
For me, the late afternoons are tough. That's when I start stressing over all I have left to get done and I crave sugar, coffee and snacks. I'm sure there are other workers out there who are stress eaters, too. Sometimes, I start fantasizing about how great life would be if my job was an exercise instructor and I got paid to work out. 
A few weeks ago, I ran into Donna Goldstein at an event. Donna looked great and was smiling from ear to ear. She has slimmed down, sustained her weight loss, and recently got married. Donna is a psychologist and Certified Health Coach with Take Shape for Life. She  has helped over 1,000 people achieve their health and weight loss goals. Most impressive: She has sustained her own 70-pound weight loss for six years, after a lifetime of struggle. 
I asked Donna to write a guest blog post on what's realistic to set as our goals when we're trying to stay fit, lose weight and hold a full time job. Obviously, we want to look good and feel good without spending 6 hours a day working out. Of course, our goal is to look good, NOT to have people wondering if we have gone too far! Below is Donna's photo and her suggestions.


Many people set unrealistic goals for 2014 involving two-hour  gym work outs or starvation diets. These have likely already failed, as they are not sustainable components of a long-term healthy lifestyle.  What does a busy,  stressed  out person, who can’t get to the gym, do? If  you  are overweight,  like 65% of us in the U.S. are,  or just want to have more energy, here are five simple  tips:

1. Frequent fuelings – I know it sounds counterintuitive,  as “diets” always seem to suggest you  eat less, not more, and  then you feel deprived, hungry and exhausted! Adopting the habit of eating 5 to 6 small protein rich “mini meals” will do more to help you lose weight and maintain a consistent energy level than anything else. Some healthy choices you can eat at work -an oz. of low fat cheese and an apple;  1 Tb. of PB and a few whole grain crackers; a protein bar or meal replacement protein shakes, or a small handful of nuts, seeds and raisins.
2. Take more steps – stand up every 45 to 60 minutes to take a short walk around your office and or to do some stretching, use the stairs, try some chair yoga.  This will  increase your productivity too.  Researchers at Stanford found that just one minute of stretching can increase your brainpower and  energy by 45% for an hour!
3. Get rid of your candy dish at the office. Also, take a pass on bagels, donuts or pastalitos in the break room or at staff meetings. This only causes your energy to spike and then crash, and then you crave more! Carlos Martinez, the Miami-Dade County Public Defender, who lost 100 pounds on my program, and now routinely runs half marathons,  used to bring these type of “sweet treats” to his staff- now he brings fruit.
4. Schedule appointments with yourself. Set aside time for walks, gym time, meditation or exercise classes, and make these a priority. I put my 3 times weekly yoga and Pilates classes immediately on my calendar right after any recurring business meetings-it works!
5. Get accountable. Just as a coach in sports can help athletes accelerate their performance, using the services of a health coach, will make it 3 times as likely that you will achieve your health and fitness goals. Find someone to teach you new strategies and hold you accountable.


While Donna's advice is practical, I'm wondering about your thoughts on Rachel Frederickson. She pocketed $250,000 from winning The Biggest Loser. Do you think she went too far with her diet and exercise routine?



 Rachel Fredrickson


February 21, 2014

How to handle work life conflict

A decade ago, my friends would complain about how work often conflicted with their little ones activities. One close friend cried to me for 20 minutes on the phone when she had to miss her son's first day of kindergarten because of business travel. At the time, all I could say was, "That really stinks!"

Through the years, I've discovered that work life conflict continues, regardless of your stage in life.

Now, as I approach 50, some of my friends are balancing different work life conflicts. Unfortunately, they are juggling their jobs and cancer treatments.  What may make this work life conflict different is that often continuing to work isn't optional. They need to keep working because they need the health insurance and/or income to cover medical expenses.

Earlier this week, I received an email from Jackie Velazquez, a reader and business owner who faces this work life conundrum. 

Hi Cindy, 

As  a reader of you articles & blog, I thought of you this morning. Today I scheduled to have a double mastectomy due to having previous pre-cancerous lumps removed and now testing positive for BRAC1.

Being a business owner the first thing that goes across your mind is how can I accomplish this and not miss work.

Well, the answer is pretty simple...I can't.

I run a direct mail company, which my clients never know if they will need to get a mailing list all of a sudden, so trying to prepare for the workflow is completely impossible. Trying to balance work out, is almost like saying will have a baby when we can afford it. There is never a good time to be gone from work when your a business owner.

Some of the work I do for my clients is so hands on, trying to get someone to do it while your gone is impossible to teach in such a short time.

So here I sit saying ok, I can do this on Friday, will I be able to check emails by Monday?? Its difficult to say you have to put yourself/health ahead of business. That's hard because in our business, if a client calls and can't get what he needs, it puts everything behind and the mailing can be very time sensitive.

 Also, being a business owner you juggle with the fact of do you even tell your clients?

  Looking for any thoughts you may have on this one.


By now, I have a little more experience under my belt and can offer a little more advice to Jackie than just the sympathy I offered my friends years ago. The biggest lesson I've learned is there will ALWAYS be work life conflicts. The solution is rearrange your schedule when you can and let go of the guilt when you can't.

I also learned there is ALWAYS something you can take off your plate to help with the juggling act. If you have limited time and energy, focus on what absolutely can only be handled by you. There is no shame in delegating. Sometimes you just have to think more broadly about who can take over a task. Most business owners feel the need to do everything themselves. But if you physically can't, accept it. Consider hiring a virtual assistant.

Remember, customers, clients and bosses may be sympathetic but they are  more concerned with how their needs will be met. When my friend cried to me on the phone about business travel, I listened. But if she went to her boss, do you think he would care?

What co-workers, clients and bosses respond to is solutions. I think Jackie should be honest with her clients and let them know that she will try her best to handle their concerns despite the fact that she may need some time off. She can let them know that her assistant will take over some tasks and she will handle the high level matters as much as possible.

That's my thoughts. Readers, Jackie and I would love to hear yours. What advice would you give someone who owns her own business and needs to take time off for personal reasons?




February 19, 2014

Social media can help strengthen workplace friendships

The other day, a colleague of mine posted a photo of himself with his young baby on Facebook. I immediately hit "Like". For the first time, I saw this guy in a different light. Now, he  was a dad instead of just an editor. I love bonding over kid stories so this guy's post gave me a talking point to start a conversation with him on a more personal level.

Sometimes, getting a friend request from a co-worker can be a little scary. I have asked myself, "Do I really want this person to know my personal business?" But so far, I haven't regretted accepting any of my colleagues as Facebook friends. For the most part, letting co-workers see the real me -- a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a reader, a movie goer -- helps to create a bond I otherwise wouldn't have had.

Whether we like it or not, the lines are blurring between our work and personal lives. If you're on social media networks, its a great opportunity to build workplace friendships -- if you're smart about it. See my Miami Herald article below:

Social media helps coworkers bond

Facebook lives are spilling into the workplace. And that, say experts, is mostly a good thing.

Account Director Maria Andreina Garcia, left, and CEO Carlos Garcia, right, of Nobox, inside Nobox’s Midtown office on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. Nobox encourages employees to be friends through the use of social media sites such as Twitter.
Account Director Maria Andreina Garcia, left, and CEO Carlos Garcia, right, of Nobox, inside Nobox’s Midtown office on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. Nobox encourages employees to be friends through the use of social media sites such as Twitter

When Brian Goldberg learned on Facebook that he and a coworker had a mutual love of craft beer, he invited him to lunch at a sports bar where his own favorite brand was on tap. While gobbling burgers and throwing back cold brew, Goldberg snapped a picture with his new buddy, posted it on Instagram and tagged it #bestlunchever. “It’s great when you find coworkers who have interests aligned with yours.”

Social networking has made it easier to form personal relationships with coworkers. On sites such as Facebook and Instagram, where people share their likes and dislikes, family photos and new hobbies, people gain insight into colleagues that could provide the basis for forging stronger workplace bonds.

“In some ways, [social media] has replaced team-building events that used to take place off-site,” says Carlos Garcia, founder of Nobox, a social media marketing firm in midtown Miami. “You get to know the people you work with on a deeper level.”

An online poll released in January found workers reported that social technologies in the office simplified communication, fostered stronger relationships and increased collaboration. Jim Greenway, executive vice president of Lee Hecht Harrison, the global talent mobility consulting firm that conducted the poll, believes those benefits to office relationships positively affect how much we like our jobs and how loyal we feel to our workplaces.

“Most of us want to be friends with coworkers,” Greenway says. “When you look at hours you spend in the workplace, it’s often more than at home. The more relationships are built and fostered, the more productive the environment.”

Indeed, research by Gallup found that strong social connections at the office can make employees more passionate about their work and less likely to quit their jobs. Social media connection that opens the door to face-to-face conversation can play a role in deepening those friendships.

As the number of adult users on social networks increases, so does “friending” co-workers. The typical Gen Y Facebook user has an average of about 16 friends who are co-workers, according to a study by Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. In addition, a 2012 HRinfodesk poll of readers found 40 percent connect with co-workers on social networks through personal or professional accounts.

How much social networking contributes to building friendships may depend on organizational support. Some businesses ban all social media use in the workplace and block access to social networks through the corporate information technology system. Others have launched their own internal social media platforms, formed groups on Facebook or posted company updates on LinkedIn or Twitter.

At Nobox, Garcia not only welcomes social media, he has woven it into the office culture. Garcia allows his 40 employees to bring pets to his office and encourages them share photos on Twitter and Instagram, and to tag them #noboxpets. “It has helped bring people closer within the company,” he explains. “It also benefits our brand because people see us as a place where co workers are friends.”

For his mostly millennial staff, combining work and personal life via online social networking creates deeper engagement, Garcia says. He notices his workers follow each other’s status updates and comment on pictures and videos about their travels, favorite restaurants or family events. “It breeds opportunity for in-person conversations.”

Some find connecting on social media opens the door for bonding with colleagues outside the office. Maria Andreina Garcia, digital account director at Nobox (and no relation to Carlos) said she noticed a co-worker was a fellow foodie and regularly posted photos of scrumptious-looking meals at interesting local restaurants. Now, Maria Andreina asks to join her on occasion. She also shares recipes with her on Pinterest.

In January, Maria Andreina went cold turkey off social media for a month as a personal social experiment. She noticed it affected her work life. Co-workers would talk about posts or information they had shared online that she hadn’t seen. She has now returned to the cyber scene. “Social media definitely adds value to office relationships.”

Sharing with co-workers on Facebook or other social networks can have other benefits. A Fort Lauderdale law office manager who is single found that by sharing pictures online of herself with her elderly mother, her coworkers learned she had family responsibilities, too. “They had no idea how much I was balancing,” said the manager, who asked not to be named. “When they see you as a whole person, they can give you more emotional support.”

Creating ties on social media platforms can also bridge generational gaps. At a time when two out of five people work with colleagues spanning all four generations, social networks offer a way to break down barriers and make others seem more approachable.

Greenway at Lee Hecht Harrison says that when he was assigned to mentor a younger manager, he went right to Facebook, friended him, and learned he was a drummer in a band. “It opened the door for good conversation, and I was able to develop a relationship on a different, more personal level.”

Of course, letting coworkers into your personal life carries risk.

Read more.


February 18, 2014

How to take control of email

Email overload

Today, I came back from a holiday weekend to find myself facing email overload. It kind of made me feel overwhelmed before I even began my day. Can you relate?  It seems regardless of how hard I try to keep up, I just can't get email under control and taking off a few days made it worse. So, I'm the first one to welcome any advice on this topic. 

My guest blogger Dmitri Leonov, vp of growth for Sanebox, has some thoughts on gaining better control of your Inbox. Sanebox is email management software that filters messages, organizes them, and initiates reminders.

Here are Dmitri's 5 Shocking Facts About Email: 

Do you remember when you first got email? If you’re 35 or older, you might have imagined yourself as Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail,” about to get a message from your sexy soulmate thousands of miles away. If you're a Millennial, it was probably one of the first exciting “grown-up” things you got to do—and far less disturbing than those AOL chatrooms filled with creepy guys named Bob.

Sadly, the days of pure email joy have come to an end. Email has changed a lot in the last decade. Today, email often feels less like an exciting new friend and more like a bipolar stalker who screams at you all day. And if you’ve ever had a stalker, you know that they make it IMPOSSIBLE to get anything done.

Consider the following:

The average person spends 28% of work time reading and responding to email. 

“Emailing skills” probably wasn’t in your job listing, but emailing is likely the thing you do most at work. The McKinsey Global Institute found that the average employee spends 13 hours a week reading and responding to email—28% of a typical 40-hour workweek.

That means that the average employee is spending 650 hours a year reacting to largely non-urgent and irrelevant messages, distracted from the kind of work that actually moves a company forward. For employers, not having a smart email system is akin to burning money, which is totally illegal, by the way.

Less than half of emails deserve your attention.

You may feel like you need all of your emails right away, but that’s simply not the case. According to billions of internal SaneBox data points, only 42% of emails in the average inbox are important or relevant. The majority of your email can be processed in bulk at a later date or time. Imagine a world where your inbox is less than half as full. It’s pretty beautiful.

It takes 64 seconds to recover from an email.

That employees spend 28% of their time reading and responding to email is bad enough. What’s even worse is how long it takes to recover from an email. A case study conducted by the Danwood Group found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover from an email interruption and return to work (regardless of the email’s importance).

Imagine that you receive 10 emails an hour during the average workday. About six of those emails don’t need your attention, which means that if you check every one, you’re spending an additional 10% of your time (roughly) recovering and getting back to work.

Email overload increases stress levels.

If you feel like the last time you felt happy was during the Clinton administration, it doesn’t just mean that you’re probably a Democrat. It could also mean that your email habit is making life more stressful. A team of researchers at UC Irvine and the U.S. Army found that participants in a suburban office environment switched computer windows 18 times per hour if they did not have email access, versus 37 times per hour if they did. Those switching windows 37 times an hour were constantly in a “high alert” state, which resulted in a constant, “high-stress” heart rate. Considering the psychological and physiological damage that stress wages, getting your email under control may be the smartest health move you’ve made in a long time.

Banning email doesn’t work.

A 2012 study by the Grossman Group found that banning internal email or forbidding employees from using email outside of work hours simply doesn’t work. It stifles internal communication, and employees overwhelmingly hate such a policy. But that doesn’t mean employees are happy with the status quo. They want their email, but they also want the experience of using their email to be less insane. And that’s where SaneBox comes in. (See what I did there?)



Thanks Dmitri! And here's a review of Sanebox by PC Magazine.









February 12, 2014

Too busy for love? Romance boosters to last long after Valentine's Day


  Maya Ezratti, Rewarding Relationships IMG 6898

(Below is an edited version of my column from today's Miami Herald)

Jeremy Wilson spends long days courting customers and building his South Florida software business. He arrives home with Bluetooth in ear, smartphone in hand, and engaged in conversation about cost structure or competitive advantages. Married for 19 years, Wilson said he typically eats a quick dinner with his wife and logs on to tackle email: “I just need to focus on my business right now.”

With more dual earning couples and today intense work demands, sustaining romantic relationships takes awareness and intention.  Most couples remember to express their love on Valentine’s Day, but experts say there are plenty of ways to keep the passion alive all year.

• Ditch the excuses: To rekindle romantic love in a relationship, start by taking responsibility. “Working hard, being tired, that’s not an excuse,” says Maya Ezratti, a Miami relationship expert (pictured above) and founder of Rewarding Relationships, a dating and relationship counseling firm. “If you don’t’ have five minutes for your partner, your husband or wife, then who are you giving all your love in life to?” Ezratti finds an increasing number of people are complaining about a love partner, male or female, present at home but still connected to work. Some will argue that it’s the new norm. That, too, is not an excuse.

•  Show more affection: Work demands make it easy to overlook being affectionate at home. But maintaining passion can be as easy as holding your partner’s hand. “A touch goes a long way,” Ezratti says. She suggests making an effort to kiss your spouse when you walk in the door after work. Or, if you’re the one home first, acknowledge the other person’s entrance in a loving way. “You both should look forward to coming home after work.” Making an effort to show emotional affection helps, too. Ezratti says your partner should feel you have his or her back at home and work: “The reality is one person’s career is not more important. I don’t care if he is the CEO and she’s a nurse or the other way around. Part of being romantic is to help facilitate each other in being successful.”

• Communicate differently: When infatuation wears off, avoiding couple burnout requires letting your life partner know when you need more attention or excitement. “Sometimes, when one person is working too much, it doesn’t occur to them that it’s impacting the relationship. You have to sit and have a chat, and tell them what you feel can be done to fix the relationship,” says Ernest Quansah, president of Relationship Advice for Success, a relationship counseling firm in British Columbia. “But that doesn’t make it OK to neglect a relationship.”

• Mix it up: Bringing back freshness in a relationship takes creativity. Even date night can get old if you’re always renting a movie or going to the same restaurant. Jennifer Sneeden, founder of Boca Marriage Counseling, recommends breaking out of the routine and trying new ways to spend time together — going dancing, taking an exercise class or eating pizza in the back yard. Watching romantic movies might be another option. A study by researchers at University of Rochester found that viewing five films a month, with relationships as their main focus, and discussing them afterward, can get couples through rocky patches and could even cut the divorce rate in half. They concluded many couples have relationship skills, but they needed reminders like those in romantic films like Love Story or The Way We Were, to put skills into practice. Quansah says men need to realize that women want their husbands to be their best friends. “When she goes out with you, she wants to laugh and have fun. If that happens, she’s yours forever.”

Increase Intimacy. Given most people’s hectic schedules, the intimacy once enjoyed may now be just tired sex, if it’s happening at all. One in every four married or cohabitating Americans claim they're so sleep-deprived that they're often too tired to have sex, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation. Larisa Wainer, relationship specialist with the Morris Psychological Group in New Jersey, says it may sound boring but she recommends couples schedule sex on the calendar. “The fact that sex is spontaneous is a myth,” Wainer says. She urges couple to agree on how many times a week they will have sex and try to stick to the plan. “If it hasn’t happened yet, let the other person know you’re looking forward to it happening.” To build desire, dole out more compliments. “Aim for five compliments each day,” Sneeden says. “The first few times it may feel phony or forced but it will turn the tide of the relationship.”

• Find new ways to flirt. If the sparks are fading, heat them up by making your partner feel desirable. Try flirty text messages to build excitement for a later sexual encounter or romantic evening together. Emails work, too. Miami atttorney Patricia Redmond says she and her husband swap about 25 emails a day to stay connected. The content may be about new case law or upcoming adventure travel, “but they always include XOXO,” she says. Redmond and her husband, attorney Jerry Markowitz, are married 28 years and both practice corporate bankruptcy law at different firms. They are planning an upcoming trip to Hawaii in May for a legal conference and fun. Their recent emails start with “aloha.” “It’s easy to get into a routine so we build excitement for our time away together,” Redmond says.

(Patricia and Jerry)

• Use apps. Of course, in today’s high tech world, there are Apps to help. The Tell My Wife I Love Her habit has become one of the most popular on Lift.do, an app that helps people track personal goals. Quanash says old fashioned romancing works too. He charms his woman by cooking a signature dish and naming it for her.

The bottom line is to keep romance alive, “Your partner must know that he or she is a priority in your life, not just an item on a to-do list,” says Wainer.

So, do you find it a challenge to keep romance alive? Do you find yourself making your career a priority at times?


February 11, 2014

When celebrating Valentine's Day at work gets awkward

Flowers at work

A few years ago, I interviewed the owner of a flower shop. He told me how disappointed he was that year because Valentine's Day was on a Sunday. He explained that people send more flowers when Valentine's Day falls during the week because they can send them to workplaces where the receiver gets oohs and ahhs from co-workers. Makes sense to me!

This year, with Valentine's on Friday, I bet the delivery guys will be busy.

I wonder, though, if receiving flowers at work can get awkward for singles. When the flowers arrive, all of a sudden, you have co-workers up in your business, wondering who the flowers are from. Or when they don't arrive, you feel left out. Or if you have an office crush, you're left wondering whether to confess it. 

I just read a newspaper article about singles who are sending themselves flowers at work.

It's an option being offered by a website: myfakevalentine.com.

In the article, the founder says the idea was inspired by her own life:"I have a lot of single friends who dread Valentine's Day every year when everyone at the office is getting flowers," says founder and CEO, Shavanna Miller.

So she came up with a way you can take matters into your own hands. First, choose your type: The Romantic, The Secret Admirer, or The Creep. And the company will even write you a personalized note!  The article said some people thought the idea was a little bit pathetic and asserted that they would never consider doing such a thing.

However, florists say that every year, they have customers send themselves flowers. So why not just embrace it? "Nothing to be ashamed of," says Nosegay Flower Shop designer Alisa Rabinovich. "Flowers make people smile no matter who they're going to or who they're coming from."

I know Valentine's Day is weird for singles, but I wonder if there's anything workplaces can do to make it less awkward. Even as the flowers arrive, maybe bosses should make the day an opportunity for all workers to feel celebrated -- bring in doughnuts or lunch for the staff or give all workers a rose or chair massage.

Do you think Valentine's Day gets awkward in your workplace? Any good ideas for making it less awkward?


February 07, 2014

Companies where women have clout


Ex woman


My friend has been complaining that women at her company just don't seem to advance. When promotions are announced, the CEO has all kinds of praise for her male co-worker, who often is less qualified than she is for the promotion. She wants to work for a company where women have clout.

You would think that by 2014, the description would be just about any workplace. Of course, that's not the case, which is why the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) has gone to the trouble of researching which companies give women the best shot at climbing the corporate ladder. It has released its list of Top 50 Companies for Executive Women.

The 50 companies on NAFE’s list are all places where women are progressing more quickly than in the rest of corporate America.

Looking over the list, I like what Accenture is doing. At Accenture, female managing directors and senior managers regularly connect with top execs and devise long-range career plans. They also participate in multi-day sessions on “Maximizing Your Career” to sharpen their skills and prepare them for advancement. 

We all know it takes more than just conversation for women to advance. Reason for cheer: women are helping other women, or at least setting good enough examples that the doors are open for others.

“NAFE sees some good news from our analysis of companies where women succeed,” says Dr. Betty Spence, NAFE President. “Women at these companies are reaching a critical mass where they can support, sponsor, and advance their female colleagues, and as a result, we see a measurable increase in the number of women running operations. We expect this trend to continue.”


Compared with last year’s data:


  • Top earners at the winning companies grew to 35% in 2014 from 32% in 2013.
  • At the NAFE Top Companies female representation among executives responsible for at least a billion dollars in revenue a year increased to 25% from 23% two years ago.
  • Sixty percent of the companies now offer sponsorship programs compared with 42% last year, while 96% offer job rotations, up from 80% in 2013.


Those numbers indicate women are making progress in Corporate America! Yay!

Take a look inside First Horizon National which landed on the list.  The financial services company has a significant number of women who are long term employees and in key positions. During talent reviews, management specifically identifies female successors to important positions, preparing them with its Emerging Leaders development program. “It provided an opportunity to broaden my network, build my skill set and gain insight from best-in-class coaches,” says Nancy Brown, SVP and consumer loan manager, who’s been at First Horizon National for 25 years.

What's interesting to me is that even tech companies and car manufacturers are on the list -- industries that haven't been so great about promoting women in the past. 

It may take awhile, but change is in the air.

Working Mother Magazine notes: "As women continue to fight corporate gender bias nationwide, these winning companies fight to help their female staffers reach the upper ranks."

So, what's going inside your workplace? Would it, should it, land on this list? Are women being groomed to become leaders and if so, are they bringing other women up with them? 


February 05, 2014

Adult camps, a great way to restore work life balance!

As a kid, I never went to sleep away camp. But, I have learned, it's never too late. 

Camps for adults are the hot new trend and I can see why. Most of us struggle with work life balance and so many demands on our time.  Who wouldn't want to escape from daily demands and have some fun?

Today, in my Miami Herald column, I profile a few of the camps.


Camps for adults help workers recharge


 Tammi Leader Fulller sets a pie eating contest in motion at Campowerment



A year ago, Joseph Dawnson, a communications manager at a South Florida biotech company, sat at his work computer dreaming about connecting with musicians who shared his passion for rock music. So, Dawson jetted to Las Vegas, wehre he spent a week playing drums at Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp with other working professionals also looking to escape their routine.

“It was kind of like self-help group therapy,” Dawson says. “It changed me on a level I didn’t expect.”

With time demands and stress levels rising, U.S. workers are desperate to connect with others who feel trapped in the same dynamics. Camps for adults have become increasingly popular as an antidote to workplace stress, offering workers a weekend or weeklong opportunity to unplug their devices, recharge their personal batteries, re-evaluate priorities and experience much needed camaraderie.

Stress experts say building bonds with others in a completely new environment encourages positive thinking and resilience. “The brain is hardwired that we must have a tribe or community in order to survive in this very challenging world,” says Heidi Hanna, CEO of SYNERGY Solutions and author of Stressaholic. “Social support not only boosts optimism, it makes challenges appear less difficult.”

For Dawson, 32, rocking out with rock legends like KISS’ Ace Frehley and Alice Cooper was decidedly cool. But the deeper experience came from bonding with fellow band mates who were strangers just the week before. Dawson has stayed in touch with all of them — insurance agents, doctors, IT experts, all tethered by a common love of music. He says they support each other’s lives outside work, even traveling to attend performances. “It’s over a year out, and the experience still changes me, “It’s given me confidence to play more, and I now work with co-workers better.”

According to grownupcamps.com, there are more than 800 adult camps in the U.S., most of them operating throughout the year. They tout the draw of the adult camp experience as an opportunity to break free of routine, learn something new, make new friends and have fun. The American Camp Association (ACA) says it expects interest in adult camps to continue to grow. Camp organizers say typically about 50 percent of adult campers return.

David Fishof launched Rock ’n’ Roll fantasy camp in Doral more than a decade ago to appeal to the booming population of rock star wannabes. He since has secured a permanent location for his fantasy camp in Las Vegas and just entered talks to open a second location in South Florida. The camps pair attendees with professional musicians and band mates and range in price from $299 for a one-day rock star experience, $1,699 for two days of Rock Camp 101 and up to $5,495 for a four-day headliner package. Campers write and record their own songs in a professional recording studio and finish with a live performance. Fishof says campers leave with better work and life skills. “They learn to listen. What makes them successful in a band is to listen to what the other person is playing. So many people forget success is in teams.”

Like Fishof, Tammi Leader Fuller, 54, became aware of the dynamics behind the adult camp trend and now runs Campowerment, a combination of fun and games and empowerment workshops. Fuller calls it a place where women who are struggling to juggle all that life throws at them can unwind in a group setting.

“A lot of women have hit a wall,” explains Fuller. “They want to know others are experiencing what they are feeling.” Fuller says camp rules are that campers can’t talk about what they do for a living for the first 24 hours. “Sweatpants, we have learned, are the great equalizer.”

In between bonfires and singalongs, the women learn journaling, vision board making and stress management skills. Fuller runs the camps at kids’ sleep-away properties around the country. Her next one will be in Orange Springs, Fla., from Feb. 21-24. She expects about 70 women to attend.

Patrice “Treecy” Eichen, a 55-year-old Broward County assistant attorney and mother of a teen daughter, flew to Malibu last April to participate in a four-day Campowerment. “I wanted to experience bonding and friendship away from electronics and cell service. It was four days just to do what I want and not have demands on me.”

Eichen, who signed up for Campowerment again this March, said she found the “sharing circles” and waking up to women giggling in her bunk more restorative than a day at the spa. “I think it has more long-term benefits.”

Camp organizers are discovering that even the young generation of workers sees the benefit of breaking away from the modern world for a camp experience. Levi Felix, 29, co-founded Digital Detox in 2012 to lead device free retreats and programs. He has hosted more than 15 three-day retreats for people who feel addicted to their gadgets. For 72 hours, the participants eat vegan food, practice yoga, swim in a nearby creek, take long walks in the woods, and keep a journal about being offline.

From those retreats, Felix got the idea for Camp Grounded, a full-scale, adults-only camp held in June on former Boy Scouts quarters about 2 ½ hours north of San Francisco. Last summer, about 300 people from all over the country attended and participated in activities such as truffle-making workshops, yoga and archery. Campers, mostly in their 30s, were prohibited from electronics, watches and work talk. “People are looking for a place to unplug, re-energize and build community, ” Felix says. “The idea is to leave with new perspective.” Initial Camp Grounded success, he says, led him to offer three camp sessions of 300 people each this summer.

Taking a different approach, Vicky Townsend, 53, launched Inspiration University to encourage women to talk business — but also build friendships — in a relaxed environment. She has partnered with high-end spas throughout South Florida and invited executive women to come to electronics-free retreats that include inspirational workshops, wine and cheese and spa treatments. “We encourage the women to talk about what they do and what they need,” Townsend says. “You get to know someone on a different level when you’re getting reflexology or scalp massages together.”

Stress expert Hanna says more adults need to seek an outlet for pent-up tension and anxiety: “Unfortunately, people think that if they seek help for stress, they will be perceived as weak, when the reality is everyone is stressed.” While the goal is to re-energize, the real advantage, camp organizers say, are the coping abilities that help upon return to former routines. Says Fuller: “Everyone leaves with the tools to live the lives they want and a new sense of purpose.”