June 13, 2017

Miami Lawyer Talks Work Life Balance and Pursuing Personal Passions

"If only I had time."

Often, people will talk to me about their passion or a hobby they want to pursue. They follow it by saying, "If I only had time." As I get older, I realize that we never FIND time for what we enjoy doing, we MAKE time.

Today, my guest blogger is Michael Reppas, a UM law school grad, practicing trial lawyer with Reppas Law , published author of 10 articles and book, antiquities expert on the theft of the Parthenon Scriptures, and a recording artist musician who just released an album, “Reppas” which can be heard on Spotify here. He is thoroughly involved in his Greek community in South Florida especially his church community. He also has published a book sold on Amazon and formed a music company with its own website, www.reppas.org. He does all of these things while practicing law.  

He clearly is someone who MAKES time for what he enjoys. 

I feel fortunate to have Michael Reppas share his insight for how he balances his job and his passions in life.

 

 

By Michael Reppas

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Passion is not, necessarily, a blind and all consuming fervor that takes you over like a lunatic. It can be a motivating feeling that is slow and controlled and which leads you on a steady path forward. Never letting you forget what drives and compels you. Always there in the back of your mind. Always there while you are working every day from 8 to 6, or cutting grass on Saturday morning, or taking your kids to practice.  For me, I hear music in the written word and I am driven to tell my stories. I tell them through history lectures, through legal arguments, through historical fiction ---  and through lyrics and music. 

The question I invariably hear from my friends, colleagues, legal clients and (occasional) fans who read or listen to one of my works of music is this: “How do you find the time to do it?” My honest reply is the same: I don’t know, I just do it. And that answer is the absolute truth.

I am compelled to tell my stories. That is what fuels me and gives me balance. My chosen career as a trial lawyer is patently stressful. My home life is incredibly busy. There is very little “me” time, but I carve it out somehow. Every day I work on edits to my book or lyrics. I sing in the car (yes, I am the guy next to you playing air drums and singing his heart out).  I schedule a session with my producer at the studio once a month to get another song out.  Slowly and methodically I push forward to tell my stories. I never stop and I approach every day with the belief that, one way or another, I am going to make progress on my project du jour, and I do my very best to reach that goal every day. 

I have come to accept that, for now, I will simply not have a full and uninterrupted day to work on one of my passion projects and probably won’t until I retire. That being said, I am not willing or able to wait for a tomorrow that may never come, so I push myself every day. I let my soul breathe a little every day through writing and music.  It is how I meditate.  How I find balance.  It is how I survive in my busy and stressful life.  Without the creative element of storytelling in my life, I would not be whole. Without it, I would not be me.

June 09, 2017

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

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

 

Meet Ana Benitez....

Ana

What is your Background?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

How does it work?

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

How did the idea to launch Storyrocket come about?

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

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

How Is Storyrocket a game changer?

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

What challenges are ahead?

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

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

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

What tips would you give to other entrepreneurs?

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

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

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

Was it scary to leave a job you loved?

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

 

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

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

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June 06, 2017

Good news employees: Summer Fridays are coming!

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My son completely unpacked his school backpack today and tossed out his notebooks and all the loose papers. That's a sure sign the school year is over and summer is here! But for employees who work hard all year round, summer usually isn't much of a break.  This summer though, things may be different. 

Here's the great news: More companies are planning to offer Summer Fridays!!!!

You're probably wondering exactly what Summer Friday is and whether your company is going to offer the perk. According to CEB, now Gartner , 43% of organizations will offer their employees Summer Fridays this year – a more than 20% increase in the number of organizations that extended similar benefits in 2015. Brian Kropp, HR Practice Leader at CEB, says Summer Fridays are defined as closing the office early (around lunchtime) every Friday or some Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Kropp thinks the reason its new survey shows more companies are offering this perk in 2017 is because work-life balance is one of the top factors employees consider when choosing to take or leave a job. "A significant percentage of employees take the time off anyway ( on Fridays). By telling them it’s okay, employees feel their employer cares and wants to give them flexibility to balance their work and life better. In lot of ways it’s a win win. It sends a positive message and for the employer, it doesn’t’ cost much."

For the remaining 56 percent of employers that aren't planning to offer Summer Fridays, Kropp encourages employees to request it. "Managers are on average are more flexible over the summer than other points of year."

We know that Americans are letting vacation days go unused and that stress levels are higher than ever. So, if more of us have access to Summer Fridays, maybe we will at least take a weekend getaway. While a long weekend is not as relaxing as a full week vacation, a short getaway can be a stress reliever, too, and help rebalance work and life.

Here is something else to consider if you're a manager. You may want to have a career conversation with your employee soon. 

Kropp, who has a wealth of knowledge regarding workforce trends, said his organization has learned that when people go on summer vacation, they use that time to contemplate how their career is progressing.They may even compare it to a friend with whom they are traveling.  Having a career progression conversation with an employee before he goes on vacation could encourage him or her to stay -- rather than leave -- your organization. "As a manager, you want to participate at moments when decision making is occurring," Kropp said. "Summer is when it often is occurring." 

If you are a reluctant manager, consider this: Flexibility is more doable these days with video capability. As Kropp points out, video check-ins can give managers the comfort they need to allow more remote or work at home arrangements over the summer. Flexibility means you can require people to come into the office and collaborate, but let them work remotely on occasion. It means you can ask employees to work late during the year as needed, but give them Summer Fridays as desired, or even let them work one day from home.

Employers should be aware of how they can help their workers with work life balance this summer and what the payoff could be. 

 "We believe companies that create flex employee desire will have employees that will stay and be higher performing," Kropp said. That's a worthy goal for most businesses.Here's to Summer Fridays!

 

June 05, 2017

A Working Parent's End-of-School-Year Survival Guide

We're in the final stretch of the school year and by now, many working parents are exhausted. We've been to recitals, class parties, banquets, awards nights and we're squeezing it all in with our work schedules. In our heads, we hear the Gloria Gaynor song "I will survive" and we want to scream it LOUD.  We want to celebrate the end of homework, the end of stressful school day routines and the end of school stress, at least for a few months, but we're just SO tired. If you're almost at the finish line, here is my guide for making it all the way through the end of the school year with your sanity.

1.Don't beat yourself up. If you made it to your kid's end of year class party, great. If not, he or she will forgive you because of all the other ways you show love.

2.  Have your child bring a small notebook to school. He can use it collect phone numbers. Over the summer, if you kid is bored, he is ready reach out.

 3. Express appreciation. If there is a key person at the school who makes your life easier, send in a gift card. It will make all the difference for you in the future.

 4. Find out about summer reading. Most kids wait until a few days before school starts to do their summer reading assignments. Nudge your child to find out about the assignments before school ends. That way, you can at least plan ahead and avoid panic.

5. Throw stuff out.  Have your kid clean out his or her backpack and organize your child's best tests, papers and projects into one folder. Make those tough decisions. You really don't need to save EVERYTHING. Do it now before you decide to keep it all to avoid having to go through it.

6. Talk to other parents. If you're stuck for hours at a banquet or awards night, use your time wisely. Talk to other parents about what their children are doing this summer and look for opportunities to carpool, share child care or land your teen a summer job. No harm in using the parents' network!

7. Refuse to panic. If you haven't made your child's summer plans, stay calm. There are plenty of camps that have openings, babysitters that need jobs, stores that are hiring teens and schools that are offering summer programs. If possible, have your child help with the research.

It's going to be a great summer. We all just need a little prep to make it even better!

 

June 01, 2017

High School Graduation Hits Parents Hard

It's been two years since I attended a high school graduation. Yet, as I listen to my friends talk about their emotional experiences and I see the graduation photos on Facebook, it's as if it was yesterday I was sitting in the bleachers watching my son get his diploma. Now, my son is half way through college and my work life balance continues to shift because I have become a graduate student. Life is an emotional journey and high school graduation is tough on parents because of all it represents.

With graduation season upon us, I wanted to revisit a timely piece that I am sure others parents can relate to this time of year.

 

Originally posted on 6/4/2015

 

Hats

The day you become a parent your life changes. Everyone warns you this will happen and it's true. This experience is emotional in a way that feels odd and exciting at the same time.

Eighteen years later, a parent feel as emotional on high school graduation day as we do the day our first child came into our life -- maybe even more emotional. Regardless of how much we know it is coming, graduation day catches us off guard. Tonight, my oldest son, Jake, will walk across the stage and get his high school diploma and while he prepares for the pomp and circumstance with excitement, I face it with a strange, difficult to explain feeling.

I wonder if other parents feel as I do. I think part of it is bewilderment, the feeling that 18 years went by and I can't account for every day of those years. Part of it is fear, the feeling that I am getting older and entering a new phase in my life as my son is entering one in his and I don't know how it will play out. Part of it is excitement, the feeling that there is so much opportunity ahead for him, which I have learned from benefit of hindsight. Of course, part of it is pride, the feeling that I have shaped another human being and guided him to this day of accomplishment.

From having an older daughter, I know this life event is pivotal. Regardless of whether your son or daughter goes to college, high school graduation marks a change in the parent/child relationship. From this day on, you treat your teen differently,  You give him or her a little more independence and engage in conversations on a different level.

As a parent, there are so many adjustments as your children mature into adults and leaves home. It's not easy but you come to accept that you may not know where or how they are much of the time. They are out there living their own lives, and as a parent you can only hope for the best.

As I head into the auditorium tonight, I will look around the room and see the faces of little boys who played dodgeball in my backyard, now young men who shave, and drive, and like my son are leaving home to go make their way in the world.

Somehow, I feel as if watching them graduate will be happening in slow motion. I  honestly can't see the road ahead for any of us. But as strange as that is, it is also freeing. The responsibility for making sure my son's homework is done, he gets to his activities on time and he gets to bed at a decent hour is behind me. Tonight my son graduates, and in many ways, so do I. There's an interesting path ahead for both of us, and tonight we are one step closer to taking it.

 

May 24, 2017

Will Billy Bush teach us how to recover from a career setback?

 

This morning, I watched Good Morning America as former Today Show co-host Billy Bush spoke with Robin Roberts about his vulgar exchange with Donald Trump from years ago that was caught on video and released during the Presidential election. While Trump went on to become President, the viral video of the incident cost Bush his job.

Bush is the latest public personality to be embarrassed by previous behavior and an illustration how easily one incident can harm a career. While most of us strive to live our work and home lives ethically, we can appreciate Bush’s attempt to bounce back from a huge career setback.

Clearly, in my career I have made mistakes. I have found the more that lands on my plate, the easier it becomes to make mistakes – big and small. 

So, what happens when your mistake is big, maybe even a career setback like Bush experienced in this visual and digital age...How do you recover? The steps are clearer than you might think. Here’s what we can all learn from Billy Bush.

  • Admit your mistake and apologize. In my workplace, and I’m sure in yours, you have had people who make mistakes and try to cover them up. Almost always that makes the situation worse. Bush will continue to have critics but coming out on camera and explaining his actions and stating there is no excuse for his actions was a start.
  • Lean on experts. Billy Bush admitted to Robin Roberts that he has spent the last seven months doing a lot of soul searching. He now meditates, practices mindfulness and yoga. "He knows it's a process which led him to be ready and able to do the interview, Robin Roberts told the audience after the interview.  DUring the seven months, Bush went to Tony Robbins workshops to better himself. He said Tony pointed at him and said: "One bad moment does not define who you are."
  • Redefine yourself. How will the mistake make you better at your job going forward? Bush said at the time of the video, he was "insecure and a pleaser." He says he is ready to get back to work because there is purpose, clarity and acceptance of his mistake. "I feel like a better man." Bush says he has redefined himself and wants to do purposeful reporting going forward.
  • Share your lessons. Everybody has made a mistake, but what have you learned from yours? Sharing what you have learned is a path toward moving forward. Bush said his advice for young men entering his profession is "believe in yourself. Be confident. Stay true to who you are. I think I sacrificed my own dignity in that moment," he said of the Trump incident.

Whether or not you are a Billy Bush fan, or believe in the sincerity of his apology, recovering from a career setback isn't easy and watching how Bush fares offers lessons for all.

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 12, 2017

The perfect Mother's Day gift for working mothers

 

 

 

Flex
One night I walked into my home after work and my two young children were asleep for the night. I had left when they were sleeping and returned when they were sleeping. Although I loved my job, I considered quitting. Instead, I asked my manager for a reduced schedule. I got what I wanted but from that point on, I was shoved into a different category at work, someone who had received an accommodation.

Twenty years ago, that was the definition of flexibility, an accommodation for a working mom. Today, flexibility is much more than an accommodation. It is THE one thing that can make the difference in a working mother’s life and smart employers make it a critical component of their corporate culture.

Mothers who don’t have flexibility struggle every day with holding jobs and raising their children, and often quit when they are unable to sort out the conflicts. There is no substitute for being able to come in later or leave earlier to handle a childcare responsibility.

Recently, I asked the CEO of a real estate company how she balances her job, her community involvement on two non-profit boards, and her two children. She scoffed and told me not to ask her that question. “I have flexibility. I have help at home. It’s people who don’t have flexibility like my assistant who really deserves to be asked that question.”

These days, flexibility could be coming into work a little earlier and leaving a little earlier to make it to the daycare on time. It could be working from home in the morning to avoid rush hour, or working from home once a week. It could be taking a longer lunch to go to a parent/teacher conference. Or leaving the office on time to have dinner with the family and finishing up work later in the evening.

One Mother’s Day, I wrote a front page article about single mothers in Miami Dade who were living on the poverty line. One of the mothers I featured barely spoke English, had no car, and worked two jobs. She would wake up at 5 a.m. walk her son to school, work in a restaurant, walk a mile to pick her son up from school, walk home and then walk to a second job in a laundromat where she would work until midnight.  One day, her son was receiving an award at school. She felt such pride and desperately wanted to be there to see him get it, but she couldn’t afford to have her pay docked if she took time off.  Her plight tugged at my heartstrings when I realized how fortunate I was as a working mother to be able to take an hour off work to see my son receive an award at school.

Through that Mother’s Day story and dozens of others, I have seen firsthand that there are many women who want better lives and work tirelessly to get them. All they need is a little flexibility from their employer to make their work life balance fall into place.

There has been a long list of studies trumpeting the virtues of flexible working – benefits for the employee and employer. Fortunately, some employers “get it.”  When possible, they are embedding flexibility into their culture and encouraging managers to allow it at all levels within the company.  What they get in return is a loyal employee who does her job well. My wishes for Mother’s Day are that women who need flexibility get it so they can be the best employees and the best mothers they can be. 

Happy Mother's Day!

 

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.

May 10, 2017

Why you need to work for a boss who exercises

Corp wellness

I have always been envious of people who work for companies with onsite gyms. However, I was most impressed when the facility director told me most managers at the hospital encourage their employees to exercise during their workdays. In fact, the managers are evaluated on how actively they promote wellness in their departments, she told me. How great would that be to have a boss who is cool with a little longer lunch if it means coming back with a clear focus?

My husband spends his lunch hour at the gym near his office. Because he is a manager, his example has encouraged others at his company to exercise at lunch time, too. Like most other office dynamics, even fitness starts at the top. For all of the time and money businesses spent on corporate wellness, it seems pretty straightforward that the biggest enticement is a manager who believes in fitness and leads his team by example.

Boss

Most of us know that exercise is important for our physical and mental health. The challenge is finding the time for it when we are struggle with work life balance. When I'm stressed and overwhelmed, exercise is the first thing to go. But if I had a role model at work, someone who took fitness breaks even during the most stressful times and encouraged me to do so, I think it would change my mindset.

So am I saying that it's my boss' job to motivate me to exercise? No, that's not exactly what I'm saying. Instead, I'm saying that those people in a position to lead by example or influence others to embrace fitness, should make a conscious effort to do so -- the payoff will be huge in terms of productivity. 

Look around your office around 4 p.m. Who is hitting the snack machine or grabbing another cup of coffee and who seems to have the stamina to make it through the afternoon? I bet the person who worked out at lunchtime is the one with stamina. I bet the boss who worked out is a lot more patient with his team. I bet the overweight boss who hasn't exercised in a year is not the one who employees will go the extra mile to please.

Researchers have found that people who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle tough tasks. They felt better prepared for the challenges of the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work. As researchers put it, "an hour of exercise creates a feeling that lasts well beyond that hour spent at the gym." 

We definitely are seeing more of an emphasis from employers on wellness in the workplace. Now, if we can get more managers to offer some flexibility around exercise routines and be supportive of wellness efforts, I think more of us would embrace a workout when we feel stressed. In the end, everyone benefits. With that conclusion, I'm heading to the gym!