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?

November 05, 2014

The Way Men Use Flex is Different

Flexibiilty at work. 

For many years, those three words have been associate with working mothers.

But quietly, working fathers are tapping flex, too.

Rather than making the formal flex arrangements that moms make, dads are using flex under the radar. 

Take Phil Ward, for example. Twice a week, Phil arrives at his Fort Lauderdale law office earlier than usual and plans his day knowing he wants to watch his son’s lacrosse practice at 6:30 p.m. If his wife can’t drop his son off at practice, Ward does some extra maneuvering of his schedule to leave his office earlier. He might work through lunch or log on later in the evening. 

How Men Flex, a newly released report commissioned by Working Mother, shows that seven in 10 men enjoy the ability to influence their schedule and do so without fear of negative consequences. But only 29 percent report that their flexible work schedule is a formal arrangement that repeats week to week. Men “flex” mostly as needed.

To better understand how men are navigating the flexible work and home terrain, the Working Mother Research Institute (WMRI), with support from Ernst & Young, surveyed 2,000 men and women about the impact of “flexing” on their lives. Researchers discovered that working dads, whose spouses now work too, increasingly want and need flexibility in their schedules as they partake in the juggling act once considered the exclusive domain of women.

Jose Hernandez-Solaun, president of a Miami real estate firm, notices that most men who need informal flexibility — in jobs where it is possible — negotiate it on the fly, and get it. Yet, “flex” comes paired with expectations, he says. “If I need you to produce spreadsheets and a presentation by Friday and you ask to leave early because you need to be with your kids, you better produce that information. It’s really about accountability.”

Hernandez-Solaun, a father of young children, says the expectations are two-sided: men expect leeway in their schedule and, in return, bosses expect a certain level of availability — even at home or on vacation. “Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case.”

Going beyond informal flexibility gets trickier for men. Most men fear that formal arrangements — such as a scaled back work schedule, telecommuting from home or leeway in starting times —  create the impression that they aren’t fully committed. 

For men in particular, there is a real fear of the stigma, too. “The No.1 concern … is that men feel the moment they step out or step back, they become dispensable. That’s the greatest insecurity of every man I know,” says Mike Tomas, a South Florida entrepreneur.

Like women, men with access to flexibility are more likely to say they are happy at work, productive, loyal and have good relationships with co-workers. And, those men who do flex — even informally — report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships with their children.
 
The men surveyed say the ideal mix is working in office but from home occasionally as needed. To do that regularly, requires a workplace that allows that type of schedule. It looks like slowly, with more managers doing the balancing act, we're moving in that direction. Working moms may have paved the way, but men are quickly learning that flexibility has benefits.
 

October 31, 2014

Should we care that Apple CEO Tim Cook is gay?

Tom cook

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has announced he is gay. 

We should be saying who cares about someone's sexual preference. But we're not. We've turned his public outing into big news because unfortunately, it's still news. Cook is the most high profile CEO to openly say he's gay.

Some will say this is a turning point in the evolution of business, that this announcement expands economic opportunities for LGBT poeple. 

To me, it's a signal that the lines between personal and professional are gone. We bring our whole selves to work -- we're moms, we're dads, we're grandkids, we're domestic partners -- and no one should care. Today, we trouble shoot our home life from the office and our office life from home and it's all good. Cook says he's been open in the workplace about his sexual orientation and that it doesn't make a difference in how his co-workers treat him. It shouldn't. I don't care if my boss is gay. I just care if he or she is a good boss.

I asked my teenage son what he thought of Cook's public announcement about being gay. My son quickly replied "what's the big deal if he's gay?" That's the outlook of the next generation: a big "who cares" about someone's sexual preference.

The highest level corporate executive to come out of the closet has signaled that there is a place for all in the business world. He's shown that we don't need to hide who we are outside the office.

We're still going to buy Apple products. We're still going to apply for jobs at Apple. We're still going to want to work for Tim Cook because we like his management style.

Should we care that Tim is gay? We're getting much closer to the day when society's answer will be no. 

October 29, 2014

The High Cost of Caregiving

My friend called me this morning to vent. She just learned her mother has an illness that needs ongoing treatment. She's worried she can't balance her demanding job, her kids and now her sick mom.

I've been there and it isn't easy. 

My friend is considering asking for a leave from her job as an inhouse recruiter at a big company. It's a job that requires face time and has little flexibility.  "What do you think I should do?" she asked me.

"That's a difficult and very personal decision," I replied.

I told her that experts say proceed with caution when pursuing this work life balance path. A few months off can turn into much longer and have serious impact on your finances.

Met Life found that for someone over 50 who leaves work temporarily to care for a loved one, the average lifetime setback is $303,880, including lost wages and retirement benefits.The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these caregivers of parents is nearly $3 trillion.That's a huge number!

Should you need to lean out for a while, it's possible to keep damage to a minimum with these smart moves published in Money Magazine

1. Plan ahead when possible and re-do your budget by setting aside funds for essential expenses first.

2. Check federal and state leave laws regarding paid and unpaid leave.

3. If you need to quit—but wish to return—make the case ahead of time for a comeback. 

Chances are that almost all of us will face what my friend is experiencing. The number of people who provide personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has tripled over the past 15 years. MetLife's study found daughters are more likely to provide basic care and sons are more likely to provide financial assistance. (No surprise there!) Both scenarios, though, come with their own costs.

If you've confronted this scenario, what would you advise my friend? What are steps you've taken to minimize the financial and emotional toll of caregiving?

October 27, 2014

How to be less forgetful

I-lost-my-keys-joke-of-the-day

 

 

You regularly rack your brain to remember a book a friend recommended. You were on you way home from work and you can't remember the errand you were supposed run.  You suddenly can’t recall the name of your kid’s teacher. Sound familiar?

It does to me.

I feel like I have too much on my brain in my struggle for work life balance. Increasingly, I find I have to write even simple things to remember down them. And still....

Fear not: most forgetfulness isn’t anything serious, says Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand Brain Center in Luterville, MD and co-author of The Memory Cure.

Here are surprising things that impact your memory in not-so-good ways, according to an article in Time Magazine.

1. Thyroid. “People with high or low thyroid levels—which are very common in women—may have difficulty with memory and concentration,” he says. Ask your doctor for a simple thyroid test to determine if it’s the culprit behind your memory problems.

2. Hot flashes. “The more hot flashes a woman experiences during menopause, the worse her ability to remember names and stories,” says Dr. Fotuhi. “Fortunately, hot flashes don’t damage the brain in any way. Memory improves once the hot flashes subside.” 

3. Lack of Sleep. “Individuals with sleep deprivation a. Don’t stop taking your (potentially life-saving) medications, but talk to your doc if you believe any drug you’re on may be messing with your memory.nd sleep disorders not only suffer from impaired memory but also daytime fatigue, impaired attention, and reduced reaction time.” The standard recommendation of eight hours of sleep a night doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

4. Stress. Do you worry  -- a lot? Worrying can affect your memory, several studies show. Prolonged periods of everyday stress increase cortisol levels in the brain, which causes our brain cells to lose synapses (the bridges that connect our brain cells to one another), and make it more difficult to create and retrieve memories. Researchers found that repeated stress reduced receptors in the part of the brain that’s connected to thought processes.  Finding ways to relieve stress may help. 

5. Pharmaceuticals. Check your medicine cabinet: many common prescription drugs can make you feel forgetful. Don’t stop taking your (potentially life-saving) medications, but talk to your doctor if you believe any drug you’re on may be messing with your memory.

Here are things that can help with memory:

1. Green Tea. How much green tea has not yet been determined, Dr. Fotuhi says in Time Magazine. He recommends combining green tea with other healthy habits such as exercise for greatest memory improvement benefits.

2. Exercise.  Dr. Fotuhi recommends 45 minutes of aerobic exercise four days a week for the best memory boost.

3. Vitamin B12.  In addition to fatigue, loss of appetite, constipation, and weight loss, a B12 deficiency can also lead to memory problems. Your doctor can give you a blood test that determines whether you should be taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

4. Keep lists. Getting things off your brain and on to paper makes a huge difference in what I'm able to remember. Paula Rizzo is a master in helping people create lists that help them remember things. Her new book,  “Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed” is will be coming out in January and it's on my to do list to buy it.

5. Visualization. Need to memorize a list of terms or names? You'll have a better chance of being able to recall them if the words are associated with an image, according to The Huffington Post. For example, if you have to remember a meeting at 4:30 p.m., try remembering your favorite quartet (The Beatles?) and a 30th birthday cake. It may sound silly, but you'll be grateful when you're right on time.

6. Label. Franklin Roosevelt was known to have a memory that would put most of us to shame -- he could remember the name of someone he met just once, months ago, seemingly without difficulty. His secret? Roosevelt was able to remember the names of everyone on his staff (and everyone he met) by visualizing their names written across their foreheads after being introduced to them. This technique is even more effective when the name is imagined being written in your favorite color marker, CNN claims.

7. Pay attention. Perhaps the best (and arguably most difficult) memory boost of all is simply paying attention to the task, conversation or experience at hand. Distraction makes our memories weaker, and consequently we are more prone to forget things.

I'm confessing that over the weekend, I said "nice to meet you" to the mother of my son's friend. She sounded annoyed and told me we've met before. Being forgetful is so embarrassing!

Do you think we're getting more forgetful as a society? Do you think it has something to do with all the information coming at us? What's something you've forgotten recently and do you have any tricks for ensuring you don't forget the small stuff?

 

October 24, 2014

When wearing a halloween costume to work gets ugly

The costume shops will be crowded this weekend with last minute shoppers. If you're one of those shoppers trying to figure out whether to dress up at work for Halloween and what to wear, be smart about it.

Wearing a costume to work could help you shed your stuffy image --  or it could make you come across as unprofessional.

A lot depends on where you work, what you do for a living, and what costume you wear. A beefy guy in a ballerina costume in a conservative workplace? That might be frowned on. Dressing up as a hooker or sexy cat? That just gives grist to the office gossip mill. Years ago, one of my co-workers dressed as a penis. What was he thinking? It became the reason he was called Dick the rest of the year.

I once had a boss who wore a cat suit to work. He thought he looked cute but the costume revealed way too many bulges and he looked bizarre. That was a tough image for me to shake -- even when he wore his business suit the next day.

On the other hand, dressing up (tastefully) shows you have a fun side and you're more than just business. People like that in their co-workers and bosses.

If your workplace encourages dress up, then you probably should participate. One guy quoted in the Chicago Tribune said  "It really wouldn't look right to see some people doing it and others being completely uncooperative." 

If your workplace doesn't encourage dressing up for Halloween, I think it's okay to wear something fun without it being an entire costume...maybe a fun hat, wig or glasses.

 A new Harris poll shows half of U.S. adults (51%) feel Halloween is an over hyped holiday and one-third (32%) believe only children should dress up for Halloween. That's two-thirds of adults who don't think they should dress up! Because Halloween falls on a Friday this year, I think you will see more people dressing up at work -- Fridays tend to be casual days anyway.

Fess up...are you planning to  wear a costume to work? Would you think any less of a co-worker for wearing a costume or not wearing a costume to work on Halloween?

Smurf_Costume_Party 

 

 

October 23, 2014

Friends at work, but how about outside the office?

My daughter is having a great time in college. She has made a ton of new friends. Listening to her talk about her social life reminded me how hard the transition is from college to the workplace. Suddenly, a few months after being around people your own age, having a social life takes much more effort. It helps though, when you make friends at work.

Workplace friendships might seem like our personal business, but our social connections have become our employer’s concern too. Research shows employees who have close friends at work are more engaged, more likely to stay, and more likely to say they love their companies. 

But there seems to be a gap what expectations are around workplace friendships.

Younger workers view the workplace as an ideal venue to look for people to have dinner with, to catch a movie with and hang out. At the same time, many Generation X workers, the mid-level leaders who are in their late 30s, 40s and 50s, want friends in the workplace but aren’t as interested in socializing with them outside the office. 

The challenge for managers becomes how to encourage those bonds and balance a workplace that young workers see as a venue to expand their social network and older generations see as a separate from their personal lives.

Some companies organize social activities that will get their entire staff engaged. Some do nothing and the office morale reflects it. Some employers try another approach -- empowering their younger staff to come up with ideas. 
 
Marston, president of Generational Insights, which consults businesses on generational trends in the workplace, says the more successful companies encourage young workers to take charge of creating the camaraderie they want at work. “Young people are saying we want a happy hour or we want a cooking class and we would like to organize it.” Marston says. “Employers are then facilitating those activities by giving millennials space on the bulletin board or Intranet to promote those offerings and not frowning when requests are made.”
 
Luis Vega, 25, a new hire at Grant Thornton in Fort Lauderdale says he is excited about the possibility of a company kickball team, but Vega says he would be as happy going to dinner with his team after a long day of work: “It doesn’t have to be a firm-scheduled event. It would be great just to socialize with people on my work team who have the same hours.” 

Marston says older generations are going to need readjust their attitude and  make more effort to connect with their team on a personal level if they want to keep their workers happy: “Millennials are saying I don’t feel connected to my workplace or my boss.” 

To be fair, Marston says that most people, regardless of generation, want friends at work: “It’s just a matter of how far that friendship goes.”

What are your thoughts on workplace friends?  Do you think it makes a difference in the workplace when people are friends outside the office, too? Has having a good friend at work ever affected your decision to stay or leave?
 

October 17, 2014

Lose the nerves and ask for a raise

Does asking for a pay raise make you nervous?

It does for most people, but it shouldn’t. The odds are in your favor.

Three out of four times women ask for a raise, they get it, according to a Glamour survey of 2,000 men and women. But that hasn’t stopped debate over whether there remains a need to ask.

Last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella ignited controversy when he was asked at a computing conference about advice he would give women who don’t feel comfortable asking for a raise.

“It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,” he answered. Not asking for a raise, he added, was “good karma” that would help a boss realize the employee could be trusted and should have more responsibility.

His comments set off a firestorm of outrage from women, and Nadella quickly back-pedaled and apologized.

Still, his comments brought pay inequity and women’s general reluctance to ask for raises to the forefront.

I asked a few CEOs for their thoughts on how to ask for more money. Here's what they said:
 
Watch your language. Neena Newberry, a leadership expert with Newberry Solutions, says in today’s workplace, few people   are offered sizable raises unless they negotiate it. When asking, she says to consider tone and language. You don't want it to sound like you're giving an ultimatum. You do want to tie the conversation to the value you bring the company and they value they get in giving you a raise.
 
* Come prepared. Sandra Finn, president of Cross Country Home Services in Sunrise, says compensation adjustments are driven by the value you bring to the organization. “Have you demonstrated the drive and passion to stand out from the crowd and have you delivered more than what is expected?” If so, come prepared with the data, she says.

* Know that market. Maria Fregosi, Chief Capital Markets Officer at Hamilton Group Funding, says take calls from recruiters, not necessarily to leave your current position, but to know what is going on salary-wise outside your company. Know the prevailing salaries in your geographic area.

* Rehearse.  “It pays to practice the discussion with a trusted mentor who can help you think through potential objections,” Fregosi says. “I have found sticking to facts and working to take the emotion out of it to be most effective.”

* Don't make it personal. A boss doesn’t care that you need more money to pay for your divorce attorney or to make higher car payments. “I have had people ask for a raise because their personal expenses have gone up,” Fregosi says. “That is not a legitimate reason to ask for or to be given a raise.”

* Don't compare. Even if you find out your co-worker earns more than you, "make it about you, not Joe. Sell your boss on why you should earn more,” says Victoria Usherenko, a recruiter and founder of ITWomen. She also suggests identifying an internal mentor who will advocate a raise on your behalf, too.

* Start the conversation in advance. In most workplaces, salaries are reviewed annually. Start talking to your boss about getting a raise three to four months in advance of your review. Usherenko believes performance reviews are not the only time to negotiate salary. “If six months pass and you’ve done something outstanding, there’s no reason not to ask for a raise if you feel your contribution warrants it." 

* Be strategic. Peggy Nordeen, co-founder and CEO of Starmark International in Fort Lauderdale, suggests asking your employer how you can increase your value to the company in order to earn more money. 

Experts say the research shows most people who ask and make their case, get the raise. Of course, receiving a raise may have a caveat. You may have to take on more responsibilities. Think ahead about whether you are willing to do that and how it will affect your work life balance.

 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/cindy-krischer-goodman/article2768366.html#storylink=cpy

 


 

October 15, 2014

How to give our girls confidence

Bus6

 

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!

October 13, 2014

Workplace support important when breast cancer is a personal cause

This month, pink is everywhere. And that's a good thing. 

Look around your neighborhood and you will find all kinds of businesses supporting breast cancer awareness or sponsoring events to raise money for the cause. When there's a personal connection to the disease, those efforts take on new meaning. 

Throughout October, Scott Collins’ employees are wearing pink shirts in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as they disperse across South Florida. Scott's wife, Lori, is battling breast cancer. At the end of the month, Affordable Window Cleaning Co. in Davie will donate a percentage of its profits to For The Gift of Hope, a South Florida foundation that helps local breast cancer patients with financial needs.

“I want to support my wife in every way I can,” Scott says. “My crew understands that.”

Some owners, like Scott, start small, asking employees to wear pink clothing or ribbons and to get involved in fund-raisers. Others, like Rocco Mangel of the popular Rocco’s Tacos, rally customers in a bigger way. Mangel raised $32,000 last year from an October promotion in which a portion of Tuesday night proceeds at all five restaurants went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. (Rocco’s girlfriend’s mother, whom he is close to, is now fighting her second battle with the disease.)

The efforts of both represent more than just fund-raisers or awareness events. For spouses and family members of breast cancer patients, these are a way to ease heartache or show solidarity. Some small-business owners gain emotional support from signing up employees for local Race for the Cure teams.

Some take other approaches. Oscar Padilla says the annual cut-a-thon his Kendall salon helps him feel like a doer. A decade ago, Padilla said, he was “devastated” when his mother died of breast cancer. The memories of her rapid decline still sting, he says. “Anything I can do to spread awareness is gratifying.”

Every October, Padilla turns his Kairos Hair Salon pink for the month and donates 10 percent of sales from services and products to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. On Oct. 19, his 10 stylists will participate in a cut-a-thon with raffle prizes donated by neighboring vendors; “They see how important it is to me to give others the potential to survive.” The last three cut-a-thons raised about $3,000 each.

Breast cancer remains the leading cancer killer among women ages 20 to 59; more than 1.4 million cases are diagnosed annually worldwide. It is a life-changing event with repercussions that extend beyond the disease and treatment, and affect those who act as a support system.

If you see a business in your area supporting breast cancer, chances are high there's a personal connection. If you're an employee or customer who is asked to donate time or money, think about how much that support means.
 
Sherri Martens-Curtis, whose mother/business partner died of breast cancer, says she gets purpose from passionate colleagues and friends who participate in her fund-raisers and the knowledge that the money helps promote early detection: “For those of us with a personal connection, it’s that true collaboration that makes a difference.”
 

Scott collins

THINKING PINK: The wife of Scott Collins, above right, is being treated for breast cancer. Collins, owner of Affordable Window Cleaning, and employees wear pink in October, and some profits will aid The Gift of Hope.WALTER MICHOT/MIAMI HERALD STAFF