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!”

Computer

 

 

 

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."
 
 

 

 

 

 

February 25, 2016

Why we think everyone else has it together

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Have you ever looked at someone in a high powered job with a big family and thought Wow, she really has it together. Then, you paused and wondered, "Why is it so easy for her when I'm exhausted and struggling to keep up?"

If you answered, "I think that just about every day" then we totally think the same way.

But this week, two things have changed my thinking. The first is a column by Fred Grimm in this morning's Mugshot Miami Herald. Fred wrote about that "crazy" guy whose strange jailhouse mug shot was smeared with black grease paint. The media reported that this crazy Virginia man in Florida was arrested for strange and threatening behavior. But Fred dug deeper to learn who this guy really was, the story behind the image. He found out that the guy in the mugshot was an American soldier who did three combat tours in Iraq. When he returned, his mother had died of breast cancer, he hasn't been able to find a job and there hasn't been much support for him making the transition from war life to a normal one. In other words, an image of someone isn't always what it seems.

Coincidentally, I did an interview with a successful restaurateur who spoke about how hard he works to support his two young children. He seemed so positive, so together, despite the long work hours he puts in. He made work life balance seem so effortless. It was later that I learned his newborn is not well and he's been a mess about it. In other words, an image isn't always what it seems.

As we live our lives, we will face constant challenges at work and home and we must resist the urge to think everyone else has an easier time with work life balance than we do. Next time you find yourself struggling with work and life and stress and competing time demands, don't get hung up on an image of what work life balance is supposed to look like. Everyone has challenges, whether or not they are visible to us.

We are struggling more than previous generations. Parenting a generation ago was simpler. It just was. Parents just didn't feel pressured as much to help their children succeed academically, socially, athletically. Being a stand out worker a generation ago was easier. It just was. Workers just didn't feel pressured to be on call at all hours and collaborate across teams and stay relevant. We are living in an increasingly competitive world and we need to stop second guessing ourselves because keeping up is hard work.

Today, Dear Abby wrote a column about how young moms feel pressure to do a good job raising their Dabbychildren in a way their grandmothers may not understand. The truth is all of us  feel pressure to succeed at everything we do, but we have to be okay with knowing that today success comes with exhaustion, sacrifice, regrets and a struggle to make multiple people happy at the same time. 

We need to look past the image of the amazing CEO, or senior leader, or celebrity who seems to have it all and see what we can learn from what we think he or she is doing well. I'm sure if you asked about work life challenges, that amazing person you think has it so together would rattle off a list without a blink of an eye --  and be as willing as the rest of us to invite change. Maybe, just maybe, the saying is true...The secret to having it all, is believing you do!

January 05, 2016

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions This Year

 

                                         Nyresolution

 

Last January, I resolved to lose my belly fat. Although my frame is thin, the fat around my waistline really bothers me. I went to the gym. I power walked. I did sit ups every now and then. But what I didn't do was the research to figure out how to lose belly fat, nor did I have a consistent routine. I just did what was convenient. 

This morning, I read an article in Time Magazine that is going to change the way I approach my resolution this year. In fact, it made me realize I can't blame my struggles to achieve work life balance as the reason I fall short on my making my resolution stick.

Art Markman, a Professor of Psychology and Marketing at The University of Texas, says the reason our resolutions fail is that we  don’t put in enough effort to allow them to succeed. The things we resolve to change in our lives are generally the systematic failures in our lives.

For instance, he says, "people often resolve to get in shape, stop smoking or drinking, or to get more serious about establishing a career. But even if you want to make a change, it is not easy to make systematic changes in your behavior. We have habits that get in the way of achieving our goals."

So according to Markman, what I need to differently in 2016 is focus on positive goals rather than negative ones. A positive goal is an action you want to perform; a negative goal is something you want to stop doing.

I want to take positive action to lose my belly fat. 

Markman says I need to make a realistic plan. For example, he says, "If you want to start going to the gym more often, it is not enough to say that you want to go to the gym three times a week. Where is that going to fit on your calendar? You need to pick specific days and add that to your agenda. Unless you get specific, you will have a hard time identifying all of the obstacles that will get in your way. Put the gym on your calendar Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That is specific enough to give you a fighting chance of succeeding," he says.

This year, I am going to schedule my workouts rather than fitting them in whenever, wherever.

But that's just the first step I need to take.

The next step is to make changes to my environment. Markman says a big key to behavior change is to make desirable behaviors easy and undesirable behaviors hard. Take smoking for example. He points out that during the past 50 years, the successful public health campaign to get people to stop smoking has succeeded in part because it is now virtually impossible to smoke in public buildings. As a result, people in the workplace or in restaurants or bars can’t just pick up a cigarette and light it. They have to walk outside. The undesirable behavior has been made hard to do. 

For me, that means taking all the tempting junk food out of my home office and replace it with healthy snacks. 

Next, Markman says I need to be kind to myself.  Real behavior change is hard. "There are days when you will succeed and others when you will fail. On the days you fail, treat them as an opportunity to learn about what to do in the future rather than as a reason to give up."

Along with Markman, I am listening to advice from blogger Penelope Trunk. She says  Resolutions work best if you pick just one. And the best resolutions are those you can write in a simple way. For example: If you say, “I need to go to the gym more,” just forget it. It'll never happen. You need to break down the steps to defined tasks. You should say, “I need to drive to the gym at 4:30 every day and I cannot drive out of the parking lot until 5:30.”

Penelope also provides this good news: Your New Year's resolution really takes only three weeks to complete. Because if you force yourself to change your behavior for three weeks, your brain will start to develop more dopamine in response to the behavior that you are trying to change

So, I am being really specific about when I go to the gym. What I will do there and what I will add and take out of my diet.

Lastly, I am listening to advice from Austin Frakt, a health economist.

He says, "Contemplating a resolution, I start with two questions: “Why don’t I do this already?” and “Why do I feel the need to do this now?”

The first question is practical; it seeks the barrier. The second is emotional; it seeks the motivation necessary to sustain an effort to remove the barrier.Carrying around belly fat makes me  feeling unhealthy and that makes me unhappy. That is my emotional motivation to change. The barrier is I don't know what exactly will make a difference in eliminating belly fat and I don't have a specific plan of attack.

Here is how I am going to make my resolution happen: I'm doing research, talking to experts and understanding exactly what I need to do to reduce belly fat. Then, I'm making a three week plan and being very specific about how I will follow it. If I fall short, I am going to remind myself why I made the resolution and get right back on schedule. 

What is your resolution and your plan of attack? Have you set yourself up correctly to make your resolution stick?

                               Bellyfat