March 11, 2015

How to manage your boss



Have you ever walked in the door of your home grumpy because your boss spoke to you in a condescending manner or didn't think to include you in a meeting or assigned someone else a key project you wanted to be part of? We all bring our work aggravation home, it's just what we do.

Most of us realize our  relationship with our boss can be critical to our sanity, our income, our advancement, and our work life balance. That's why managing up is a workplace skill. It can make us more valued or appreciated by even the most demanding boss.

What exactly is managing up? It's not the same as sucking up.

Managing up is good communication, says Jay Starkman, CEO of Engage PEO, a Fort Lauderdale HR services provider. “It’s making sure that your manager is getting from you what they need in order to do their job and look good to their boss.” By managing up, you deliver information in the style and manner your manager prefers, “not the way you would want it if you were in their position.”

Starkman encourages his staffers to manage up by sending him regular emails. If there are problems, he wants his employees to communicate them but also include solutions. He believes people who manage up are more effective, and happier in their jobs, because they are working as a team with their boss.

Managing up is thinking ahead and responding to the boss's needs before he has to ask for something. It's bringing a problem to his attention with a solution. It's going beyond the tasks your manager has assigned to you so that you can enhance his work.

Even if you have a difficult boss, you still can manage up.

With a difficult manager, learn his pet peeves or preferences: “You need to ask: What are expectations? What do you think I can do to set myself up for more success?” explains Marla Grant, a Miami certified coach, strategic advisor and professional speaker. Employees who make the effort can change the dynamics of a troubled relationship: “It doesn’t happen overnight,” Grant says. “But you can create room for a shift if your boss sees you as valuable to them or someone who makes them look good."

Along with advancement, managing up can lead to better work/life balance. Sandra Fine, vice president at RBB Public Relations in Miami, has reports and a boss. As a manager, she appreciates when her staff manages up by communicating when they will be out for a while and how they have covered their accounts. “I’m an email person, a much better reader than listener. I like knowing the details are taken care of and my employee is not leaving things on my plate to figure out.”

If you’ve built a relationship and good communication, a manager will give you leeway when you need to work from home, or turn down a promotion, or trust you when you take a new approach with a client,” Grant says. “If don’t have that, a boss will be more judgmental. That’s what managing up is about.”

Do you manage up? Do you see managing up as much different than sucking up?




February 23, 2015

Do you really want honest feedback?

Most of us tell ourselves we want feedback at work -- until we actually receive it. It's kind of like when we ask our spouse if a certain pair of pants makes us look fat. We aren't actually okay with the answer being yes.

Now, employers are asking managers to ease up on harsh feedback for their staff. At a time when younger workers want ongoing feedback, they want the managers to accentuate the positive instead of negative. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

While positive feedback definitely helps with motivation, I want to know the honest truth about where I stand. If something I'm doing is holding me back in my job or career, I want to know it, just like I would want to know if I'm walking around in pants that make me look fat.

There are nice ways to deliver the harsh truth. Good managers have mastered the art of giving truthful feedback in a constructive way. Of course, not every manager has skills to find a constructive way to tell someone he or she is not assertive enough or productive enough or focused enough to get ahead.  While criticism may be awful to hear, if something I'm doing is standing in the way of a raise, promotion or plumb assignment, I want to my manager to empower me correct it.  Having a manager give me only the positive is not going to be enough to open my eyes to the need to change my behavior.

As Talent Management Magazine notes: In a perfect world — and with a perfect employee —  focusing only on the positive is likely effective. But sometimes — and in specific industries — being a little tough can be beneficial as well, especially with an employee who perhaps has taken advantage of a "nice" manager and whose work has suffered as a result.

One boss I know always gives negative feedback. No one wants to work for her. That's not a great approach either. I have seen it lead to bad morale.

I want my manager to extol my strengths and heap praise on me for what I'm doing well, but I also want him or her to be honest about real or perceived weaknesses that might be holding me back. If I'm a remote worker and the perception is that I don't work hard, I want to know that so I can do something about it. If I see myself as a leader and no one else does, I want to know that, too, so I don't put in long hours and become frustrated when it doesn't lead to advancement.

Providing the right kind of truthful feedback -- which includes strengths and weaknesses -- separates a mediocre manager from a great one. A really great manager might tell me how to use my strengths to improve my weaknesses.

What are your thoughts on feedback from the boss? Do you only want to hear the good stuff? Do you think allowing a manager to give critical feedback is opening the door for bad morale?

February 11, 2015

Choose your Valentine wisely if you want career success

There is no doubt about it. I am CEO of my home. Because I am conscientious and get things done at home, my husband can put in really long hours as CFO of his company and still spend time with the kids when he gets home. However, because he is conscientious too, I can advance in my career, and count on him when I need him to take over dinner or a meeting with the teacher so I can turn an article in on deadline.

New research shows what many CEOs already know. Who you marry is key to career success. If you are a go-getter, it's best to avoid partnering with  someone who is lazy, resentful or lacks confidence.

Male or female, you stand a better chance of career success if your spouse or romantic partner is conscientious, reliable, organized, extroverted and generally happy. Think Michelle Obama, or David Goldberg, SurveyMonkey CEO and husband of Sheryl Sandberg.


“Even if they are not going into your workplace at all, somehow your spouse’s personality is having an influence on your career,” says Joshua Jackson, co-author of new research published in Psychological Science on the link between a spouse’s personality and job success. “People can benefit at work not just because they are married, but in part because of who they married.”



Here are three reasons why you need to choose a conscientious partner if you are ambitious:

* First, a conscientious partner helps with household tasks, taking some pressure off you and freeing you  to concentrate on work.

* Second, a conscientious partner allows you to feel more satisfied in your marriage or relationship — happiness that spills over into greater satisfaction at work.

* Third, a conscientious partner sets an example, leading his or her mate to mimic his or her diligent habits.

You might also want to choose someone who is outgoing. Researchers also found that people with extroverted, outgoing partners are more likely to have higher levels of job satisfaction, “mostly because your spouse is happier and you take that with you into your workplace,” Jackson says. An added benefit: an outgoing spouse who comes with to work events can help you network or strike up a conversation with the boss.

Most C-suite executives, millionaire entrepreneurs and high-powered law firm shareholders will confirm that a romantic partner with the right personality can provide career advice, lift your mood while you work, encourage you to see opportunities and even refer you business or help you make connections.That's definitely something to keep in mind when you're searching for a Valentine!

These new findings linking a partner’s personality traits and career success supplement previous studies that show your happiness level rises when your mate’s does the same. Research has also found that workers put in more time in the office when their intimate relationships at home are going well, and the right romantic partner can become one's closest workplace confident and advisor.
In interviews, many CEOs of both genders often say they could not have succeeded without the support of their partners, wives or husbands, helping with the children and household chores, lending an listening ear when needed and agreeing to attend corporate events or relocate when necessary.
Women who lead the largest private companies in Florida realize they have to be in a relationship that operates as a true partnership, says Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director of The Commonwealth Institute South Florida, founded to help women-led businesses become and stay successful. In fact, Davis says that while she is super-organized, she depends on her spouse, a litigator, to be a reliable partner when her job requires more of her time: “I can’t imagine some being hugely successful in marriage and work if you don’t have someone who helps you be the best you can be.”
What's your take on your significant other's role in your career success? Do you think the personality of your partner has helped you get ahead at work? Has it prevented you from getting ahead?

January 28, 2015

Bouncing Back from Failure

                                                    Failure or success



Did you make an expensive mistake in 2014? Did you experience a setback in business or in a personal relationship? At some point, we all face rejection or failure and that's okay because at least we tried.

Now is a great time to bounce back while you still have most of 2015 ahead of you. I've reached out to people who have been there to get you some great advice for how to turn things around with your business, career or home life. 

* The first step is acknowledging your situation. This is not an easy step. It's really easy to wear blinders and believe everything is okay.

* The next step requires searching for the root cause of what went wrong. “It’s usually not what people think it is,” said David Harkleroad of Chief Outsiders, a consultant to CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses.  Usually, listening carefully to customers, team members and trusted advisors reveals a clue for how to course correct: “It requires listening to understand, not listening to respond.”

* Now it's time to evaluate your options. You will need to figure out whether to simply pivot or completely shut down operations. “You have to be decisive but you also have to live with your decisions,” says Vincent Smith, a Miami pharmacist and serial entrepreneur whose latest product is PopScope.  “I learned you don’t want to go on too long if you’re not making money and you don’t want to be too connected to an idea where you no longer become objective. Whether you’re the guy who introduced McPizza to the McDonald’s menu or the one who expanded Pollo Tropical into an underperforming market, recognizing the signs for when to give up and reading the signs can be critical to long-term success.
* Take a team approach to reversing failure. Success often requires a team who can cover each other’s blind spots. “To get that means you sometimes have to give up control,” says Johnson of ActionCoach. “If you get the right people in the positions they are wired for and empower them, that will reverse failure because it is leverage as opposed to you trying to micromanage everything yourself.”

* Hone your network. If your business or strategy fails, your business relationships will become crucial. Your network should include  mentors, future employers or team leaders who will give you a job, point you down the right path or give you the support to build back your confidence.  

Kenneth Rader and his twin brother Josh Rader founded The Cereal Bowl in 2006. The fledgling novelty concept selling dozens of cereals for about $4 a bowl was unable to survive the 2009 recession when credit tightened and disposable income became scarce. But when the business shuttered, the Raders bounced back by using existing connections and applying learned skills in a new way. “Walking away was hard to do, but we made good relationships and gained mentors,” Kenneth says.

* Learn from your mistakes. Kenneth says running a business, particularly one that failed has given him invaluable business knowledge. “Mitigating risk is an important skill that we learned and use even in our current jobs.” Adds Josh: “You get that ability with failure to look back and see what we should have done, learn from it and move forward.”



November 14, 2014

Admitting you don't have work life balance

Today I had a conversation that I found refreshing.

Typically, I speak with women and men and ask them how they achieve work life balance. Usually they give me an answer about something specific they do such as "make alone time" or "work out during lunch" or "make my family a priority."

But today, when I ask Cheryl Scully, chief financial officer of AutoNation, about how she achieves work
life balance, her answer was simple and honest: "I'm not good at it," she admitted to me. 

Finally, someone who openly admits to be okay with working more than playing. 

Cheryl said she regularly works seven days a week. She recently began trying to take off Friday Cheryl-Scully-3405381-220 afternoons. Cheryl did say that she has more flexibility as a company officer than she had on her climb up the corporate ladder. She can leave the office for a few hours during the day when needed. But when she does, she usually stays late at night.

Cheryl is recently engaged and planning a wedding. Because she doesn't have children, she told me she is not the best person to speak about work life balance. Yet, to me, she is ideal. It's refreshing to hear someone openly say they lack work life balance. As she settles into married life, Cheryl may want to reclaim some of her personal time. But for now, she holds a prestigious position at a robust public company and has made pockets of time to tend to her personal needs. She has chosen to put time into a career and I respect her choices.

Balance is not only about work and family. It's about spending time in ways that you find fulfilling. If Cheryl enjoys work and puts a priority on that, more power to her. Rather than pretending she is trying to find balance, I like that she admits her scale is tipped in one direction. 

Often, people believe they need better work/life balance because someone else had told them they need it. Cheryl didn't seem the least bit stressed to me. In fact, she seemed really happy.

What are your thoughts on admitting to not having balance and being okay with it? Have you found yourself struggling too hard to achieve it when you could give in and enjoy how you're spending your time?

October 15, 2014

How to give our girls confidence



Yesterday, a big pink and white bus pulled onto the campus of University of Miami. It is known as the “Confidence Is Beautiful” Bus and it's on a mission to build confidence in women and young girls.

It's a cool concept and the message it is spreading is important. Shelley Zalis, the founder of the bus, known more formally as The Ipsos Girls’ Loungewants women to feel confident in the workplace and build connections with each other that will help them advance. Her  40 ft. pink and white bus is decked out with a ‘confidence signature’ selfie station, hair and makeup stations AND there's an area of the bus where women can go for work/life advice!

Shelley says the idea behind the bus is to provide a place for women to get pampered and talk in a fun setting about issues such as equal pay, flexibility, and workplace respect. The UM stop was the pink bus' first visit to a college campus. It is on a National Tour and usually goes to conferences as a hangout to connect and inspire women in various career stages. More than 3,000 women have visited the bus.

I spoke to Shelley and she described the bus with lots of enthusiasm: One side of it is covered with writing from women who have expressed what they think good life at work should look like. The other side is covered with confidence selfies. Shelley's Lounge also is sponsoring the Equal Payback Project, a new national awareness campaign aimed at eliminating the wage gap between men and women—which just came out with a great (and a bit risqué!) video featuring comedian Sarah Silverman (watch here!)

As UM students wandered inside the bus yesterday and listened to soundbites from women's real life experiences in the corporate world. "We want these young women to go into the working world with confidence," Shelley explained to me. "We want to inspire them to activate the changes we want to see."

I love the idea of building confidence in young women and keeping that confidence high throuhout the career cycle. For many of us, that confidence wanes the first time we negotiate salary. Today, I wrote a column in The Miami Herald about salary negotiation. While writing it, I learned how intimidated women are to negotiate for more money. 

Money is a key area where girls and women lack confidence and that has to change.

I was shocked when I read this:

Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts USA  stated that while Girl Scouts earn $800 million a year selling cookies, only 12% feel confident about making simple money decisions.

Financial blogger Beth Kobliner notes that in a recent survey from T. Rowe Price, of the nearly 2,000 parents and kids surveyed, 58% of boys say that their parents discuss financial goals with them, whereas for girls that figure is just 50%.

This will make you cringe: Parents admit that they believe their boys are simply smarter than their girls when it comes to finance. A full 80% of parents who have a son think he understands the value of a dollar, compared with only 69% of parents who have a daughter.

Kobliner offers five critical lessons to impart to your daughters.

I think we all need to look carefully at the messages we're sending young girls and inspire them to be confident at work, with money management, and in relationships. While my generation of working women debate having it all, the next generation will be out there trying -- and hopefully succeeding!

September 29, 2014

Must you work overtime?

Last week, I was talking to a CEO who said to me, "I am not going to hire anyone anymore who can't work overtime."

He explained that at certain times of the year, he needs to ramp up, usually for only a few weeks at a time. But when an employee can't put in longer hours ( even if paid extra) it creates a problem for all.

I responded by telling him that many people have outside responsibilities that could prevent them from coming in earlier or staying later. That's understandable," he said. "But I have a company to run so a job at my company would not be for them."

There in lies the clash of business needs with real life responsibilities of many of today's workers. This is a complicated issue: Even if someone signs on for occasional overtime, what it his life demands change? Should a worker be allowed to say, ' I don’t want to work overtime and would rather go home?' And,  when does occasional overtime become more than “occasional”?

Allison Green at Ask A Manager says this:

* Generally, you should try to be flexible and accommodating when you’re asked to take on something at work outside of your normal work schedule, particularly when it’s temporary, but there’s a point beyond which it’s reasonable to push back. Certainly sleeping at work and working 18 hours days falls well over the line of reasonable (unless you knew you were signing up for that, such as if you were working on a political campaign).

* Your employer can require you to work whatever hours they want, and can change it at any time, unless you have a contract that states otherwise.

* A reasonable manager will work with someone who isn’t able to take on additional work hours, particularly when it’s many extra work hours, and particularly if the employee is willing to be flexible to the extent they can be.

* Not every manager is reasonable. But plenty are.

The CEO I spoke with said he  is upfront about expectations. His position on it made me wonder:  If overtime is mentioned during the interview process, could it eliminate your ability to get any flexibility on this issue in the future? 

Here's what you should know: There’s no federal law on the number of hours someone can be required to work or the length of a break (or even requiring any break at all); that’s all up to individual states.

CEOs have their eye on the bottom line and the health of the business, and they may forget that employees are persons with real needs and real responsibilities. I find it unrealistic for this CEO to think he can hire loyal employees who will be willing to work overtime at any given point in time. In life, complications arise with kids, parents, friends, community commitments -- even our own health. There will be some who will jump at the job because they want the opportunity to earn overtime pay. But will they stay long term?


September 03, 2014

Who to go to for advice

A few nights a week, my husband and I walk around the neighborhood for exercise and talk about our days. We often discuss work related problems that come up in a typical day. While neither of us asks for advice, it's natural to give it.  Often, we view the same scenario differently and give suggestions the other person never considered. 

Knowing how I interact with my husband, I often have felt that my boss' spouse had more influence on my future at a company than any other high level manager.  A new survey proves me right.  Most CEOs admit they consider their spouses the person they turn to first for advice on tough business decisions, more than senior members of their staff. 

According to a survey from the staffing firm Adecco, 37 percent of CEOs and business owners say the opinion of their spouse is what matters most to them. This is followed by their head of business development department (16 percent) and operations department (13 percent).  

“A spouse can be someone to discuss ideas or decisions off of without judgment or agenda. If you’re in a partnership with someone, you hold their thoughts and opinions very highly,” Joyce Russell, president of Adecco Staffing in the US told Business News Daily. 

For most of us, seeking advice is tricky -- particularly from a significant other. While I appreciate the business advice my husband gives me, at times, resisting it has created marital tension. Sometimes, when I just want to vent, he chimes in with a solution that I don't want to hear. 

My friend Jill, who owns her own business, says it has taken her a long time to ask for her husband's advice without feeling guilty if she doesn't take it or getting upset by his more practical appraoch to problem solving. She's convinced listening to her inner gut or her female mentor, rather than her spouse, has led to better business decisions.

Have you ever taken — or totally resisted — business advice from your spouse/significant other? Do you feel like your spouse knows you best and guides you well or doesn't asking for advice open the door to resentment or problems down the road?


August 19, 2014

Working parents biggest fears

I shouldn't say I'm shocked but I am. How is it that in 2014, at a time when most mothers and fathers work, we still fear that we will be fired when our family needs interfere with work demands?

It's interesting that men almost fear bringing up child care issues with their boss more than women do. A dad I know once told me I was lucky that I had a flexible work arrangement and said his boss would get angry if he asked for one. I urged him to ask but I don't think he ever did. 

A new Bright Horizons Modern Family Index survey of 1,000 working moms and dads with at least one child under 18 still in the home shows:

  • working parents fear family responsibilities could get them fired
  • fathers are just as stressed and insecure about work and family conflicts as mothers
  • 39 percent of parents fear being denied a raise because of family responsibilities
  • 37 percent of parents fear they will never get promoted while 26 percent worry about a demotion because of family responsibilities
  • 22 percent worry that family commitments will cost them key projects at work
  • 19 percent believe they won’t be invited to important meetings because of family obligations
  • Working parents are nervous to bring up key family-related issues with their employers

That's a lot of fear, isn't it? We all know that business is about making profit or showing performance but workers are the ones who make that happen. When we have to choose between leaving a sick kid home alone or going to work, that's a tough choice we shouldn't have to make.

Here's something all employers should note: . Those working parents who do feel supported by their employer report strong loyalty.

David Liss, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, said it well:  "it is clear that working parents throughout the U.S. are still struggling to manage all of their responsibilities, and many still feel that they cannot be honest with their supervisors about needing to be available and active in their family lives."

As a working parent, showing vulnerability to the wrong boss can be career suicide. And so, out of fear, we lie. In the survey working parents -- moms and dads --  admitted to lying or bending the truth to their boss about family responsibilities that get in the way of work. Some revealed they have faked sick to meet family obligations. Others said they lied about missing a work event because of a family commitment or the reason why they didn't respond to emails.

Again, all very pathetic but shockingly understandable.

Over my years as a working parent, I found a supportive boss makes all the difference in being a successful working parent and achieviing work life balance. If I hadn't had a supportive boss when my kids were really little, I couldn't have kept my job. The survey shows 41 percent of working parents agree with me.

Have you ever been fearful that family needs will get you fired? Do you think fathers get less of a break at work and have more reason to be fearful than mothers?

July 31, 2014

Women can become law firm partners - and have a life

As a young lawyer, Tiffani Lee found a partner who believed in her ability and helped push her up to the top ranks of Miami’s Holland & Knight. Most often, the opposite is true: Organizational mechanisms at firms push out women and people of color.

But in a room full of women and minority lawyers, I heard some great advice on how to change that pattern. Here’s an employer and employee guide for how to navigate the challenges that lead people to leave.

Inclusion: Don’t leave women and minorities on the fringes. Amy Furness, a shareholder with the lawfirm of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt in Miami, says having someone in a leadership role who recognizes and shows a commitment to diversity by his actions can help the message of inclusion permeate throughout the firm, which can be particularly important for those partners who may not be thinking about diversity when they choose staff to work on their cases. “Getting leadership involved in ensuring inclusion prevents [diversity] from becoming marginalized,” Furness said.

Accountability: It is easy to create company policies that promote diversity, flexibility and volunteerism and work/life control. But there are some partners who will tell young associates that if they want to be successful, they should not take advantage of those policies. That is where accountability becomes crucial.

Tiffani Lee at Holland & Knight, said partners at her firm are evaluated — and even compensated — based partly on how many opportunities they provide to women and minority associates and what they’ve done to support diversity and inclusion. “The only way to drive change is to factor it into compensation,” Lee says. At her firm, partners “are asked about who is on their team and how they are working with the client to ensure the team is diverse and and how they are supporting the firm’s broader diversity efforts.”

She says ties between a commitment to values and compensation happen at all levels. Associates perform a self evaluation, too. They are eligible for a diversity kudos bonus if they have done something extraordinary.

Flexibility: At some point, the success of the firm – and the diverse talent pool — will depend on whether it offers flexibility, Most associates want a reputation for getting things done; however, they want control over how and when.

“We need to change the mindset around flexibility,” Says Manor Morales, president and CEO of the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance. “When managers hear flexibility, they think people don’t want to work as hard. Flexibility is not just reduced hours but also control over hours. It’s a different way to approach work and people actually achieve increased efficiency."

At most firms, men are taking advantage of flexibility – although informally and quietly. Morales found at one firm, a senior male partner works from home every Monday, but few realize it. "Flexibility will be embraced when firms encourage people who have power to be open about how and when they use flexibility."

Succession: While most law firms have eliminated a mandatory retirement age, many of the boomers at the top will begin paring back in the next decade. As leaders retire, it creates opportunity for the next generation – and for more inclusion. Some firms already are planning ahead.

Nikki Lewis Simon, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami, says her firm has worked consciously to bring women and minority lawyers into leadership, onto the executive committee and onto committees that interact with senior management. This allows the firm to address issues of the next generation not just years from now, but today.

“I think the next generation of leaders will have a sense of mutual respect: With them, it isn’t us and them, it’s we. There’s an understanding that we all have stuff we want to accomplish outside the office.”

Transparency: Women who have made it to the top have this advice for others: Don’t over-explain.

Women tend to give a detailed explanation for why they need to leave early or work from home. “They give much more information than necessary,” says Yuliya Laroe, a lawyer and business coach. Laroe say that often hurts them when partners assume if they don’t see them in the office, they are with their kids. “We need to empower ourselves to believe it’s no one’s business as long as we have met our deliverables.”

Simon, a mother of five, says she advanced to partner while on maternity leave, and has been quite clear about her whereabouts to derail assumptions: “I let them know when don’t see me, it doesn’t mean I’m not working. It just means I’m not working here. I’m doing something to advance cause of the firm.”

Time management/work-life control: Getting to the top to become an equity partner and staying there is giant responsibility that requires the ability to bring in business and make a contribution to the firm’s bottom line while balancing home life and community involvement.

Morales tells lawyers to be strategic. “You could have activities that fill your plate but not all give you the same benefit,” she explains, adding that women tend to be on committees that don’t advance their careers. “When you’re asked, think, ‘Will this committee connect me with the right people? Is it valued in the firm? Or, is it just busy work?’”

Clearly, support for talented women and minorities needs to be evident at all levels. Says Laroe: “People don’t leave firms, they leave individual partners who make staying difficult.”

Photo by The Miami Herald: Tiffani Lee with her mentees and her mentor pictured behind her.