October 31, 2017

Shelley Zalis Shares Insight on the Power of Female Connections

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Shelley Zalis sits comfortably on the auditorium stage of the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship docked in Miami. The audience of more than 200 women are hanging on her every word in this unique venue for a women’s leadership event.  I am among them, trying to absorb every morsel of business wisdom this go-against-the-grain leader has for us.

Zalis, is the former chief executive of a Hollywood research firm and the leader of an effort to advance corporate women.  After the $71 million sale of her research firm to a bigger entity, Zalis has moved on to her next big thing. She has become the founder of the Girls’ Lounge, which she started four years ago as a gathering spot for women at the International Consumer Electronics Show when she invited women to meet in her room, and bring girlfriends. This year, Zalis, who lives in Los Angeles, will take the Girls’ Lounge to nearly a dozen major business events. In addition, Zalis also heads TheFemaleQuotient.com, a consulting firm that helps companies advance gender equality in their workplaces.

Zalis tells the audience: “There is a place in heaven for those women who help other women. There is power in collaboration. I have seen it in action. Mentorship is not from the top down or the bottom up. It is the wisdom we learn from people all around us.” 

IMG_7522Seated on stage next to Zalis is Katie Kempner, another formidable business woman who asks Zalis the questions on all our minds. In the next hour, the women attending The Commonwealth Institute South Florida 14th Annual Leadership Luncheon hear how to break the rules and profit from it, how to spot a need and launch a business to fill it, and how to create a support team of women to bolster your chances of success.


Here is what I learned from Zalis:

Break the rules

Zalis is not one to abide by the rules of business, particularly those that exclude women. It is how she built a company, started a movement and landed a show on Bloomberg television called Walk the Talk.  “I break the rules to create new ones,” she said. “Doing it for the first time is scary, especially when you have no formula for success.” Initially, Zalis tried to conform to the male business world.  Early in her career, she dressed in conservative clothing like the men, until she met Penelope Queen, a well-known researcher, who greeted her in a purple leather suit. “That’s when I realized you cannot create the new norm if you follow the same patterns.”

 

Think carefully about opting out:

Zalis realizes the tension of work life shows no signs of easing and recognizes companies are losing great leaders to caregiving. She explains that women are opting out to care for children or parents when they reach middle management levels. About the time they become mid-level managers, women are gaining responsibility at home and work. “They have three choices. To opt into leadership, they must conform to rules that make no sense, or they can leave to start their own company, or they can opt out completely,” she said. “If they opt out completely, getting back in is difficult. They never get back to where they were.” As a consultant, Zalis is working with companies to change the dynamics, something she says will happen in small steps.

Take diversity seriously:

Zalis believes it is of critical importance to have women in executive leadership where they provide a healthy counterbalance to the men.  Diversity is good for business, Zalis explains.  Yet, she realizes that male leaders need to believe in advancing women, and follow through with action. “It takes a leader saying I want to be better. I will be better, but I need to be conscious about being better.”  The first step toward a mindset shift is not a drastic change. “It’s a leadership conversation about where we are and what we want to work on first,” she said

  

Be confident:

Women often have an obnoxious roommate in their heads telling them they aren’t qualified to take a risk or make a change, Zalis says. She warns women not to listen to that voice. “Perfection does not exist and if it does, it’s boring. Blemishes make you interesting,” she said. “Believe in yourself. Be yourself. If you’re not perfect have people around you who complement you.”

  

Encourage mandatory parental leave:

Zalis said mandatory parental leave would create a more level playing field in the workplace. Hiring bosses would be less skeptical of hiring young women, and men would be better positioned to help more at home. “The rules were written 100 years ago, by men for men. We need to cut the cord and move forward. With mandatory parental leave, the bias against women kicks out. We must go in that direction if we want a modern workplace for today’s modern workforce.”

  

Take risks:

In her first job, Zalis said she took a risk by doing the sales job her way, thinking she had a perfect performance and insisting she deserved a raise. Her boss did not see her performance the same way.  “It was the worst review I have ever gotten. My boss told me I was spending too much time with clients. I told him, ‘You’re so wrong. Relationships are what business is about.’ “ Now, she does a job the way she thinks it should be done, even if it hasn’t been done that way before. “I love getting uncomfortable. I am comfortable being uncomfortable because I know I am trying something new.”

 

Stay relevant:

At 53, Zalis is gaining momentum, making connections and moving in a new direction. Zalis recommends trying something new as often as possible. “Invite a new person to dinner. Watch a different kind of movie. Try a different type of food. That’s how you evolve and stay interesting. If you do the same thing you don’t evolve and you get boring.”

 

During our short time with Zalis, she has helped the audience of businesswomen see her as the girlfriend who has our back, our inspiration for banning with other women, and a mentor for those who want to take risks and embrace change. Most of us will walk away acknowledging her guiding principle: “A woman alone has power, together we have impact.” Now, it will be up to us to act on it.

 

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October 20, 2017

Awesome insight from a woman at the top of her field

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Can you be a big corporate big wig and have a personal life? Can you stay at the top of your field as a woman, in a male-heavy industry?

Yes you can!

When Lonnie Maier spoke at Nova Southeastern University’s Women’s Success Series recently, the college students arrived eager hear what she had to say on those topics, and a good number of adults came to hear her, too.

Lonnie, vice president of Enterprise Sales and Marketing for Fibernet Direct, told the audience about her personal journey to become an executive at a leading national telecommunications company. Lonnie Maier is vice president of enterprise sales and marketing for Fibernet Direct, a company with operations throughout Florida and the Southeastern United States.

As a successful corporate executive, she had plenty of advice to share on work life balance and Bay O’Leary, a NSU associate professor, chair of the marketing department and one of the creators of the series asked her the right questions to draw out those pearls of wisdom:

On her biggest work life challenge….

Early in my career, I commuted to Miami from Fort Lauderdale. I was never late to work, but I was always late coming home. I would make a commitment to my family to be home by a certain time and then I would be late. At work, I never wanted to say no so I would take on more than I could chew and then I would be late. Eventually, I had to learn to prioritize my family so I didn’t continuously let them down. They would joke about “Lonnie’s time” referring to my being late all the time.

 

On giving herself a work life balance report card….

Giving myself a report card is tough. My daughters are 27 and 22 and when I look at them I would say I earn an A+ all the way. I am celebrating 35 years of being married so I get high grades there, too. When comes to work though, I am always trying to do more, and with me it’s never good enough. There is always another project, another result I want to achieve. I have high expectations of myself.

 

On advice to young women new in their careers….

Prioritize and don’t personalize. As young people new to business, we tend to say yes to everything. There comes a point where the only way you can become good at certain things is to say no to other things, in a nice way. Early in my career, if I wasn’t included in a meeting, I might personalize something. Eventually, I realized you can’t do everything and be included in everything. If want to be involved, I reach out. I wanted to get involved in economic development. I got involved. After a while, people would say, “Lonnie can you head up this committee?” I would have to say, “I have a full-time job and I need to focus on my job.”

 

On what she looks for in her team…..

People who can articulate why they are a good fit for the job. I look for candidates who are proud of their accomplishments.

 

On how she handles an employee who is struggling with work life balance…

I try to be flexible with schedules and offer ideas or solutions for problems. But if it becomes an ongoing issue, then I need to sit down and talk to that person.

 

On changes or cracks in the glass ceiling in Corporate America….

I have seen a willingness from men to listen more over the years. Still, I see lot of men at top and not as many women. My company was sold and when I met with prospective buyers, there were few that had women in decision-making seats. It was frustrating to see the glass ceiling was still there. We had a lot of women on our management team at FiberNet and we were getting things done. Overall, there are not many women at the top in telecommunications. It’s an opportunity. Young women should feel there are no limitations for them, just opportunities everywhere. It’s our job as leaders to help them see that.

 

On finding mentors…..

If you have problem, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. A lot of informal mentoring can take place just by asking. If you see someone with a similar path to the one you want to take, ask them questions. Often, women see asking questions as a weakness. The best way to show it is not a weakness is by being there for them when they need it.

 

On self-care….

 

I go on long walks and before I go bed, I take time to reflect and do my praying.

 

On personal work life choices….

 

I look at my friends in the C -suite and they don’t have kids. That was personal choice they made. At one point, when my boss retired I was told “you can become president” but I said “no thank you I like what I do.” You must know what you are good at and where you need to be to get the results. You don’t need to feel you must be at the top to lead a fulfilling career. 

 

On supporting other women…

 Whatever level you are at, you need to be supportive of other women. The people who propelled me, who pushed me the most were other women. You need a gang of girls around you to need to leverage their strengths. Don’t ever look at other females as competition.

 

Thanks Lonnie for awesome advice!

 

 

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Bay O'Leary asking Lonnie Maier about her experience in Corporate America

 

June 09, 2017

The Latina Mother and Risk Taker Who is Disrupting the Entertainment Industry

I love to read about women who took risks in business. Bold risks. Risks that involved a work life sacrifice but eventually paid off. I figure you like to read those stories, too. Today, I am featuring Ana Benitez, President & Co-Founder of Storyrocket, a Miami company with a genius concept. Ana is a Cuban American mother of two who believes in dreaming big. She is disrupting the entertainment industry with her startup, an online marketplace that it allows writers to showcase their work to an audience of content-hungry producers. 

 

Meet Ana Benitez....

Ana

What is your Background?

I was born in Cuba and came to Miami as a two-year-old toddler.  We were not your typical Cuban family, I don’t remember much politics being discussed. At home it was all about education, it was ingrained that we would go to college and pursue a higher education. I don’t think we were ever given a choice. My father always said, “They can take away all you have (which Castro did, when he left Cuba) or lose a job, but no one will ever be able to take away your education.” My parents always reminded us that we could achieve anything we wanted with our hard work and determination. We were always encouraged to dream big and then road map it… in other words take steps every day to get there.

 

What is it like to be a Latina in the entertainment business?

It takes courage. But growing up in a family of immigrants you saw courage in action every day and it became part of my DNA. I think courage is vital to being an entrepreneur, whether or not you are a Latina. There are a million great ideas, but you have to have the courage to take action. I was taught that nothing is given to you for free. It is your responsibility to make it happen and live with no regrets. 

 

Your new company is Storyrocket...what is it?

Storyrocket is an online marketplace that connects great written works with the global production community that has a goal of producing for film, TV, theater or web. In the entertainment industry everything starts with a book or script.  So content is king, but content is all over the place. There is no one place that amalgamates and organizes content easily so that great written work is discovered, opted and produced.

How does it work?

Storyrocket is an open online marketplace with a free membership model where both writers and producers can enter their first project free of charge. Subsequent projects are fee-based ,with very accessible plans starting at $9.99 a month for up to 10 projects. Our site also has a social media component to it that allows you to promote your script outside of Storyrocket to as many people as possible. Storyrocket has the ability to create groups, that allow people to form collaboratives, which can add momentum to a project and also help to crowd source since some ideas will become indie projects that will need funding. It’s really the go-to place for both writers and producers.

How did the idea to launch Storyrocket come about?

It began three years ago with the realization by my partner, Ron Karasz that although he’s a great writer he has never been able to get his writing optioned because of the way “show business” works. It’s all about who you know and if you can attach a big name to your project. Getting representation by a reputable agent is like playing the chicken and the egg. Agents won’t represent you unless you have something already produced and the industry won’t look at your screenwriting without representation. Like Ron, we estimate there are hundreds of thousands of writers globally that are desperate to get their writings into the rights hands, but have nowhere to go.

On the flip side, I’m a two time Emmy-winning producer. In my field, we always say that there are not enough great written works out there. Big production companies spend thousands of hours vetting scripts sent to them by agents and many other sources. Nowadays, not only the traditional networks and studios are in competition for great content, but also companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon etc. who are producing great original movies, shows and series. This trend will continue to grow, again creating the need for more and more content.

How Is Storyrocket a game changer?

Storyrocket's robust search engine is a game changer. As a writer, you can get your work into the hands of content hungry producers. As a producer whether you're searching for a book, script or treatment, you can easily filter by genre, gender, location, era, etc. and can communicate directly with the content owner, or agent.  Production companies who used to spend a considerable amount of time and money vetting scripts from a multitude of sources, now have a one stop solution with Storyrocket.

What challenges are ahead?

Our goal is to have the largest collection of content in the world for the entertainment industry that is easily searchable from anywhere, 24/7.  We understand that great content transcends borders and is adaptable to multiple markets. This has prodded Storyrocket to begin the expansion of the site to multiple languages.  Having launched in English, it plans to be available in Spanish by the fall of 2017.  This will open the possibilities to huge production markets in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain, among many others.  The long-term goal is to have the site available "in-language" for the top 15 film and TV producing countries of the world.

Will you self-finance your expansion in Phase II, or be looking for funding?

We will definitely be looking for investment funding  our next phase.  Recently eMerge Americas, the technology conference of the Americas where many tech trends are launched, invited Storyrocket to be one of its select Startup Showcase companies on June 12 & 13 in Miami

What tips would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Having self-financed this startup, I can tell you it hasn’t been easy, but it sure has been an exciting ride. No two days are the same. Each comes with its own priorities and there is no road map. It’s up to you to steer the company in the right direction. Start-ups are not for the faint of heart. It takes guts and determination to see it through from idea to reality. On the personal side, lots of meditation, envisioning the end-result, keeping a never-give-up attitude and a positive outlook no matter what.

As a mother of two, how have you been able to balance family and launching a company?

It took a lot of hard work and many years of willing to do more than was expected of me to get ahead. It was when I was at the top of my career creating the highest rating specials as senior producer of special events for Univision Network that I had to take a hard look at my life. During this time, I gave birth to my two sons. The intense work schedule and travelling commitments left little time for family, and even less time for me. I had a serious lack of balance in my life and for the first time I felt I was losing the joy. This is when I knew, I had to reinvent myself in order to have more flexibility and be able to be happy in all areas of my life. This took deep thinking and great courage.

Was it scary to leave a job you loved?

I left the network at the top of my career…with multiple nominations and 2 Emmy Awards, an executive position with high visibility, great pay and benefits and opened a marketing and entertainment agency Benitez Karasz, with my husband and partner, Ron Karasz. I re-invented myself and I have zero regrets. Benitez Karasz not only has provided me the with the flexibility I was looking for but it also expanded my expertise in the areas of talent management, marketing and events. We worked with Fortune 500 companies leveraging talent for marketing campaigns. After many years of success at Benitez Karasz it was time to start our new challenge. Today the same partnership has decided to disrupt the entertainment Industry with a win-win formula that helps both writers and producers, Storyrocket.

 

How are you different now that you've run your own business? Did it influence your willingness to take risk?

I’m much wiser, stronger and my tool box is much bigger. I’ve learned I can do it all with the right attitude, being organized, prioritizing, planning ahead, and focusing on the things that I do want.  I’m able to spend quality time with my family, travel, volunteer at my church, take care of my health, support emerging filmmakers and launch a startup. And, yes I’m very happy!”

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May 23, 2017

Career Advice from Women Leaders

A few days ago, I sat in a room with 500 other women, and some men, waiting to hear the wisdom that women at the top of their professions would share. Nothing compares to the energy in the room when women are eager to learn career secrets from other women.

This year, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida, not only announced its Top Women-Led Companies in Florida at its annual event, it also revealed some interesting trends in its new report

These are some of the trends:

*At least 20 percent started companies because they had a passion for something that no one else was doing.

*The majority of women who lead companies have only 1-5 employees

* The number one issue women leaders are focused on this year is winning new business

However, it was the advice from the women panelist that I found most fascinating. 

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Moderator Janet Altman, marketing principal for Kaufman Rossin, with enthusiasm and elegance posed the questions in bold below. This is an edited version of the panel presentation:

What was your first leadership experience and what did it teach you?

Kirsten Dolan, president and COO of One Parking-- My first leadership experience was as a Resident Assistant (RA) in college. I was in charge of overseeing 150 coed college students. That experience taught me how to lead as a peer. 

Carmen Perez-Carlton, former president of FPL Fibernet -- My first leadership experience was when I worked for an accounting firm. It taught me regardless of what level you are in an organization, everyone has a valuable role to play.

How did you prove yourself early on in your career?

Tina Brown, Executive director of Overtown Youth Center - My early career was as an accountant. I had to prove to myself and to others that my work could be trusted. I had to show them that I could be accurate and meticulous.  As an African American women I have always felt I had to prove myself. From the beginning I took it as a challenge, gracefully and with a positive attitude. I did it and excelled and gained friends and mentors.

Kirsten - As a woman in a male dominated business, the men didn't know what to do with me. I wasn't want they envisioned. But I worked hard and learned from the good skill sets men have. 

The TCI survey asked women leaders if they feel there is a difference between men and women leaders and if women leaders are better or just different? Most women said female leaders are not better, just different. Do you agree?

Hilarie Bass, Co-president Greenberg Traurig - Women are consensus builders. Men want to come in and be the smartest in the room. Women want to be liked, to convince others it's in their best interest to do what they want them to do. That approach creates more loyalty among employees. It's a different approach to run a company on consensus rather than directive. 

Carmen - Women more intuitive. They take notice of things that might impact strategy. Men are more prone to take risk but women are more thoughtful.  Sometimes that's looked at as not enough of risk taking. When there is a position open and men have five of the necessary qualifications, they will apply for the job. If a woman has eight, she will wait to apply. The men believe they can learn as they go. I have noticed that women are less likely to wing it. They want to feel competent going in.

Kirsten - I noticed that men exaggerate their successes. Women are reluctant to boast but playing up your successes is a good skill to hone.

We all need networks to thrive. Who is part of your support system, your network?

Tina - My TCI (The Commonwealth Institute South Florida) network has become my family. They are people I can lean on for advice. I have learned that networks are extremely valuable. 

What are your strengths as a leader?

Carmen - Transparency and openness. I was always open and specific about goals. I would say this year is about 'x' and they could trust that it would be about that.

Tina - My ability to weigh and measure and think analytically about decisions and how decision affect everyone. You have to foresee implications when you make decisions.

Hilarie: My strength is as a consensus builder If you get consensus about goals, you can ask people to make decisions that may not be what they want to do. For example, if you are able to say "we're trying to get our firm to look like this in five years" and you get buy in, it's easier to get people to make the tough decision along the way to get where you need to go.

What are obstacles or challenges you faced on your way to the top?

Kirsten-  Perception. Prior to starting One Parking more than 12 years ago, I worked for another company and was responsible for the profitability and operations of more than 200 locations on the West Coast. I commuted from the East Coast to the West Coast for eight years and worked really hard. One day they told me I wasn't committed because I didn't live in L.A. I knew I proved myself extremely committed but I was battling perception. I left after that to start my own company.

Tina - For me a challenge has been developing my staff as leaders who can work for profit or non-profit and be successful. I feel like I have done that.

Carmen - A big challenge for me was when my company realized it was time to sell the company I was running. It was like selling my baby. It was an extremely exhausting year in 2016, going through deal making process. Now after 35 years working for companies, I am going to take time off to dedicate time to my personal life, I am going to pick up a hobby, spend time with my family and figure it out  

What advice do you give to ambitious young woman?

Kirsten-  A lot of young women worry about whether they are where they are supposed to be in their career path. I tell them no matter where you are, you are where you are supposed to be. Now, go forward from here.

Tina -  Allow integrity and passion to drive your success. Do what you want to do, take risks, work hard and be a life long learner. Take something from everyone you come in contact with good and bad. 

Carmen - Never underestimate your potential. Dream big.

Hilarie - Think about what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. If you don't know you can't make decision about how you spend your day. Oh, and also, don't personalize rejection. Don't make it about you...simply set a new goal and move forward.



 

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Laurie Kaye Davis, Executive Director of TCI South Florida
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Carmen Perez-Carlton, Panelist
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The Miami Herald Table
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Bonnie Ross, marketing director for Fiske & Co and me


 

May 11, 2017

Do you believe "boys club" environments still exist?

Good old

 

 

Women are making their way onto corporate boards. They are working in top jobs in Silicon Valley. They are heading up major departments in hospitals and becoming deans of universities. They are networking in ways they have never done so in the past, giving each other business, making introductions and investing in each other's companies.

So with all women are accomplishing, are we to believe "boys club" business environments still exist?

I would like to be in denial. I think most women, and many men, would like to be in denial as well. But the headlines force us to think otherwise.

Today's headline is the latest example. South Florida tech firm, Magic Leap, has settled a lawsuit with Tannen Campbell, who says she was brought in by the CEO to make the  company less of a "boys club." Yet, her mission didn't go well. In a lawsuit, she claimed that Magic Leap's top management did not include females and the company ignored efforts to hire more women were met with resistance. Even worse, she claimed that the corporate culture is one of "macho bullying" where women's work and ideas are ridiculed openly and their opinions ignored in favor of those of their male counterparts.

Campbell reached a confidential settlement in her gender bias lawsuit this week. Still, the details of the suit gave the public a glimpse into the inner workings of a cutting-edge technology company and a corporate culture that frankly, turns my stomach, and frankly prohibits this company from reaching greatness.

I'm not just tossing out some "I am woman, hear me roar" rhetoric.  The facts speak louder than I do. 

The study on gender diversity by Marcus Noland, Tyler Moran, and Barbara Kotschwar for the Peterson Institute for International Economics released in 2016 says there is a positive correlation between the presence of women in corporate leadership and performance "in a magnitude that is not small."  The study found that having a woman in an executive position leads to better performance, with the more women the better.

Yet, even as research shows companies perform better when they include women in leadership, we continually learn of workplaces where men don't want to include them -- at least not at the higher levels.

The Magic Leap lawsuit is merely the latest. A year ago (May 2016), a senior female fixed-income banker at Bank of America Corp. filed a lawsuit accusing the bank of underpaying her and other women, and retaliating when she complained about illegal or unethical practices by her colleagues. She also accused the bank of condoning bias by her boss that made her feel unwelcome in his “subordinate ‘bro’s club’ of all-male sycophants.” Then in November, a former employee of Citigroup accused that bank of being a “boys’ club” that paid women like her less, denied her equal opportunities for promotion, and then penalized her for speaking up about potential gender discrimination.

I don't know the validity of these lawsuits, I just know they exist. I also know that Glassdoor.com, a website that encourages employee reviews, is littered with employee claims that all types of businesses have leadership teams and corporate cultures that reflect "boys clubs."

So even while I want to be in denial, I can't. The boys club thinking that existed decades ago remains intact in some workplaces. But it doesn't have to continue.

We change it by challenging it in court, by taking our business elsewhere, by telling the men in our lives that it wrong to be a part of it, by encouraging women to speak up when they see it happening, by making the business case for promoting women into leadership and by pointing out the consequences and the effect on morale when women are excluded. 

It's unlikely we will eliminate these "boys clubs" completely. But by acknowledging they exist and vowing to work toward change, we are on our way to making a difference.

April 19, 2017

Whose Career Suffers More From Childcare Responsibilities?

Hub wife


Last week, I sat in an office waiting to be called in for an annual parent teacher conference and checking my watch. My son is doing well in school so the conference was purely for administrators to check off boxes. The longer I sat, the more anxious I felt about the work I should be finishing and the deadlines approaching.

I pictured my husband in his office, being productive, and I stewed.

Over our years of raising children, as child care needs have cropped up, my husband and I have negotiated who would handle them. The negotiations often turn into arguments over who has more on their plate, more flexibility at work, and inevitably, whose salary is more critical to our household income.

More often, the negotiations (arguments) end when I agree to "take one for the team." Some days, I resent it.

My friends in households with two working parents tell me they, too, struggle with sharing family responsibilities 50-50. A teacher friend told me she has used up her allotted days off staying home with her sick son who has been battling bronchitis off and on almost the entire school year. Her husband claims his boss will dock him pay if he misses a day of work. She's worried she is about to lose her position as grade leader. Being there for a child and living up to the demands of bosses and clients is no easy feat for a mom or dad. Although men are taking on more childcare responsibility, women still "take one for the team" more often. 

Lately, I've been surprised at how much this inequality bothers men in supervisory roles.  A male friend who manages a radio station recently complained about a mother on his staff who has had to leave early several times in the last few weeks to handle childcare emergencies. "Why doesn't her husband take a turn?" he asked me. "Yeah, why doesn't he?" I responded, wondering if this situation would make my friend any more likely to pitch in with childcare emergencies in his household.

Unfortunately, when mothers take time off to handle childcare needs too frequently, they are viewed as uncommitted to their jobs or not serious about their careers. It is the reason more of us are looking carefully at flexibility in our workplaces and resources our employers provide such as paid sick leave.

So, I'm wonder what your thoughts are on taking one for the team. Is this something you argue about with your significant other? How do you think who takes one for the team should be decided? Do you take one for the team more often than your spouse and end up resenting it?

April 06, 2017

How to Change Your Perception of Career Opportunities

                                                  Job Stress


Recently, I was talking to a friend when she blurted out that she wants a new job. "I am mis-er-able!" she announced to me.

She said she has been working long hours and feels like she has hit a dead end at work. Again, she repeated. "I am mis-er-able."

"Don't you have any other options than quitting?" I asked. Her response was a shrug.

A lot of people feel the way my friend does, particularly women, according to CEB’s newly released Global Talent Monitor report.

Are lots of people really in dead end jobs, worried about our future and convinced things are only going to get worse?

The report found that women, slightly more than men, believe that their career opportunities are limited and they believe Trump's policies will worsen their career prospects. ( Particularly policies regarding paid leave, minimum wage and health care) The report shows 27% of women believe that Trump policies will worsen compensation, benefits and career opportunities for them compared to 21% of men.

I wanted to know more, not just about the report findings, but about why there is a gender disparity between the perception of career opportunities. I also wanted to know how to find opportunities when they do exist, and how to change the perception that it's difficult to advance at work. 

For those answers, I turned to Brian Kropp, HR Practice Leader at CEB, a best practice insight and technology company.

Brian Kropp HeadshotBrian explained: "It used to be that the reason people quit was because they didn't like their manager. Now it's the lack of perceived career opportunity."

He said many companies are spending money to attract talent and develop their people. They may have no idea their workers can't see a future at their company. He suggests business leaders consider a few actions:

o   Provide opportunities for career progression

o   Communicate openly about compensation, rewards and opportunities

o   Find ways to keep female employees engaged to build a more gender diverse leadership population

 "Businesses need to step up their efforts to show all employees a path," he said.  Of course, then employer needs to help the worker follow that path.  "What we are seeing is that it's hard to make promises when the future is more uncertain than ever."

Brian also he believes each of us can seek career opportunities in our current jobs by taking a proactive approach:

o  Have a thoughtful conversation with your manager about your career path and the opportunities that exist.

o  Create opportunities for yourself by taking risks. A big problem is that men are more willing to apply for a better position when they meet some of the qualifications,while women apply only when they meet most qualifications, Brian said. "Men tend to be  more aggressive in seeking opportunities." In the current political environment, women perceive that opportunities are more limited and are even less likely to apply for reach jobs. They need to get past that way of thinking.

o  Pursue advancement. "Don't let perception be a reason not to pursue something," he said.

Millennials have an even greater desire for a clear path toward advancement, he said. "Often they quit because they want new experiences and they think the only way to get them is at a new company." But before jumping ship, he urges millennials to seek out ways to get different experiences at the company where they now work. He urges employers to make those experiences more apparent.

The CEB report shows employee engagement and intent to stay levels are falling. But Brian believes a few small changes can prevent people from leaving their jobs by helping them see a future at the company and their part in its growth.

What would it take to change your perception and frustration with lack of career opportunities at your current job? 

 

October 11, 2016

Career Advice from The Girl on the Train's Justin Theroux

I saw Girl On The Train this weekend and thought the acting was fabulous -- particularly Emily Blunt and Justin Theroux. However, what turned me into a big Justin Theroux fan was the career advice he inadvertently gave on The Today Show. 

If you wait patiently through the interview, the advice comes in the last minute before the cut to a commercial. Matt Lauer told Justin that he has heard from directors that Justin could be an even bigger star but the reason he isn't comes by design. 

Justin replys: "I make my decisions (for what roles I choose) based on what's going to make me happy, not on what's going to advance me to the next level. I just always do what I really want to do." 

It's an important message for people who think they want to advance in their careers, only to find when they get to the top of the ladder, they really aren't fulfilled. 

Take on the roles that will make you happy, not the ones you think are going to turn you into a star...great advice Justin, thanks!

 

March 29, 2016

5 Ways to Overcome Work Life Balance Obstacles

Some professions are more demanding than others. Law is one of those demanding professions. It can be particularly challenging for young attorneys who want to prove themselves, but also want a life outside the practice of law.

In a new Florida Bar survey of young women lawyers, one female attorney complained her partners had no understanding of work life balance or her need to pick up a sick child from school. "Too many male partners  have stay at home wives who don't understand that I have to do the same things their wives do while also working."

Another female attorney suggested firms entirely reinvent their culture to respect singles who want a personal life. Both are valid reasons why work life balance concerns need addressing.

Today, my guest bloggers are  Leslie R. Pollack and Christina M. Himmel, associates at Kluger Kaplan in Miami. The two women have some great suggestions for lawyers or anyone struggling to overcome work life balance challenges:

 

 

Leslie Pollack
(Leslie Pollack)          

This is 2016. It is a year where we could witness Hillary Clinton become the first female President of the United States. It is a time where women have ostensibly shattered whatever glass ceiling may have existed in the past. Yet, despite the perceived progress for women, there are still obstacles to overcome, including work-life balance.

For young women lawyers, navigating through the ever-changing legal world can be challenging for a multitude of reasons. Inequality in pay, respect, and advancement are among the issues confronting young women lawyers. According to a recent survey conducted by the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar, 43% of young women attorneys have experienced gender bias.

One of the survey participants said that she left a job because she “was told by the managing partner that [she] did not have to worry about making money and moving ahead because [she] would get married one day and will not have to worry about living expenses."

 

Christina Himmel-1
(Christina Himmel)

 

More than a quarter of the female lawyers surveyed reported that they resigned from a position due to lack of advancement, employer insensitivity, and lack of work-life balance.

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles for a young woman lawyer—and young lawyers generally—is the expectation of being accessible and “on call” 24/7. When the partners were our age and they left for the day, they left. Because of the ease of technology, we're never really away from office as long as we have our phones. 

While 24/7 access may seem overwhelming, here are a few tips to keep everything in perspective and help maintain that sought after work-life balance:

1.     Establish boundaries. For example, when you get home from work you may decide not to check your emails for the first hour so you can spend uninterrupted quality time with your family. On the weekends, you might look at your phone and address an issue with a quick email saying you will handle the matter first thing Monday. That way, you are appeasing your employer but still maintaining a level of balance

2.     Stick to your plan. Don’t get discouraged if you have a week where work completely infringes on your personal life.  Work-life balance is a process and work demands often are cyclical. Ride the cycle and keep your eye on the big picture rather than becoming frustrated by the work life balance challenge going on in the moment.

3.     Take time for yourself. Whether you like exercising or traveling, be sure you make time to pursue your interests outside the practice of law. It's always easy when work for a partner who is understanding and takes family life seriously. Make an effort to convey that personal time is important to you and that if if one suffers, the other will too. 

4.     Create your own definition of success. Success looks different to everyone so it is important to establish your own personal career goals and pursue them. For one person, success might be billing 2,500 hours and taking the quickest track to partner. For another person, success might mean doing well at their job and being someone who the client comes to for advice, but not necessarily being the first one in and last one out.

5. Have a work life conversation. Don't be afraid to discuss flexible work options with a law partner or manager. One of the great advantages of technology is the ability to leave the office at a reasonable time, go meet friends or family for dinner, and then finish a pending assignment later in the evening from the comfort of your own home.

While modern technology has certainly changed the way we work, it has also opened the door to benefits like flexible schedules and the ability to work from any location. For young  lawyers, navigating through the ever-changing legal world can be challenging, but also quite doable.

March 02, 2016

How to pivot for better work life balance

So, you know you're in a rut. You are working hard, catching up on email even when you should be enjoying your time off. Lately you are asking yourself..."Is there all there is?"

You need a change. You want more fulfillment. More work life balance. But where do you start?

Last Friday, I sat in the audience of Office Depot Foundation Women's Symposium and I listened to speakers motivate the audience with stories of their path to success. As I listened, I noticed that all of them had pivoted to find better work life balance, or more fulfillment from how they live their lives.

Personal branding consultant Michelle Villalobos had just returned from a year long road trip that she said re-energized her. While that's not realistic for most of us, Michelle  suggested we stop living in the day to day and start thinking about what we want our work and home lives to look like. “You need to think about how you want your life to look in a year and what’s standing in your way,” Michelle told us. “Sometimes, that’s hard to see by yourself. You may need to get the right people to help you."

For some people, pivoting to achieve better work life balance may require a slight shift, while others might need a complete change in direction.

GilaIf you own your business and you're working much more than you should be, think about how you can change that. Do you need to bring in a partner, hire more employees or rely more on the ones you have? Gila Kurtz has spent the last year figuring that out. “I had lost who I was in the volume of work,” she said. Kurtz, who is founder, co-owner and vice president of sales for Dog is Good, a California company that creates and markets gifts and apparel for dog lovers, made a plan.

She transitioned from a hands-on role as vice president of sales to a leadership position as brand ambassador. Over the past year, she hired a sales team, wrote a book called Fur Covered Wisdom, and began speaking at events, including the women’s symposium, to promote her brand. Kurtz also got a puppy that she takes to the beach, and body-surfs with, on weekends. “I have put play back into my life,” she says.

 

Let's say you're traveling too much or you want flexibility. A slight pivot may be all that’s needed. Christine Lam at Citigroup describes how she reached her pivot point when her son washed his hands without a step stool and she realized she had missed most of his growing up because of her constant business travel. Instead of a drastic career change, a conversation with her manager at Citi led to a new position with Citi’s Global Consumer Bank that halved her travel and improved her work life balance.

Randy McDermott at Robert Half, a staffing firm, finds people often underestimate the support from managers for the right work/life balance. “The first step should be to talk to your direct supervisor about changing your circumstances in your current role,” he says.

Still, a growing number of frustrated workers find an extreme pivot is their best path to a more fulfilling and balanced life. They change jobs and even careers, give up responsibility, or find new interests outside the office.

Making an extreme pivot takes courage. But it could turn out to be the key to a much happier life.  Jen JenLancaster says she did an extreme pivot when she got laid off and couldn't get a job in marketing. She launched a website to air her frustrations about unemployment and shortly after became a humor columnist. She now has 12 books. 
 
"I learned to embrace the pivot," Jen told the audience at the Office Depot symposium. "It takes being introspective and reframing your thinking."
 
So, if you're sinking under the weight of work, or just plain fed up with having no time for fun, reframe your thinking and come up with a plan, Jen says. "Consider it the first brick as you pave your path to success."