July 21, 2015

Should you check your email on Saturday?

A friend, a senior executive for a pharmaceutical company, told me he has made a rule for himself. He doesn't check email on Saturday. He said he set the rule because he would check, see an email that needed action, but felt it was wrong to reach out on the weekend to the people he needed to contact to resolve a matter. Then, he would spend his Saturday aggravated about the unresolved issue.

Since he stopped checking emails on Saturdays, he says he is more relaxed. It's like he gave himself permission to enjoy his weekends and regain some work life balance. His wife, a teacher, is more relaxed, too. She doesn't have to worry that he's going to be steamed about a work concern while they are at the beach or on their boat. 

Listening to him, his email rule made sense. It wasn't that long ago that weekends were family time. There wasn't the expectation that we would react to work concerns on a Saturday -- unless we were in the office, specifically to handle a matter. While we've built an expectation of immediacy, my friend has found waiting until Monday to resolve an issue has given him time to think it through and approach it from a well-thought-out perspective. So far, nothing has been so urgent that waiting to respond to email Sunday night or Monday morning has been a problem. 

What are your thoughts on checking emails on Saturday? For so many of us, it's become a habit. Would you be able to abide by a "No email on Saturday" policy?

No-email

 

July 20, 2015

Good news: CEOs say they support paternity leave

 

Dadwithkids

 

 

What do you want to hear first -- the good news or the bad news?

 

First the good news. The Miami Herald polled local CEOs about their support of paternity leave. Most say they support it. 

Here's what they had to say.....

The question: Should male employees be given the option of taking paternity leave? Does your company offer it?

==========

Yes, they should but only for one week to support the childbearing wife. Our company does offer it.

Daniel Ades, managing partner, Kawa Capital Management

==========

Yes. It’s a win-win when companies support employees through life issues large and small. rbb’s employee-driven workplace believes in allowing time off for both men and women.

Christine Barney, CEO, RBB Communications

==========

Male employees should definitely have the option of taking paternity leave even if it’s only for a couple of days. When returning home after giving birth, mom needs help with the new baby and most importantly being home will allow the father to bond with the new baby in this very happy emotional time especially if it’s the first one when you go from being a couple to being a family.

Richard Behar, Founder and CEO, Capitol Clothing Corp.

==========

Yes, only when mothers with medical reasons are not able to take care of their baby. My company offers paternity leave.

Carmen Castillo, president and CEO, SDI International

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I think that on a case-by-case, male employees should be given the opportunity for paternity leave. Each family’s needs are different, and it may be that while the mother is carrying the child, the father will be the providing the primary care. It is important to maintain an open mind for the benefit of the family and the employer and do what makes the most sense.

Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, managing partner, Cervera Real Estate

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Yes, of course; men are needed at home just as moms are at the start of a child’s life. We do offer it to our staff.

Pandwe Gibson, executive director, EcoTech Visions

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Giving birth is an extraordinary physical and emotional experience for a woman. Maternity leave is necessary to enable women to absorb this experience while bonding with their child. I don’t think such leave is necessary for men.

Julie Grimes, managing partner, Hilton Bentley Hotel

==========

YES and YES. Parental leave is a critical need and benefit that is offered in every industrialized country EXCEPT the U.S. We need to support programs that support families and children to create a better society for all. My Canadian nephews all took 6 months off, of the one year that Canada offers for maternity leave, to bond with their babies and claim that it was the best experience of their lives. My son works for the Department of the Navy so he also took paternity leave and LOVED it! He needed it because he had premature twins that required weeks at the hospital and at home before he could leave his family with any confidence.

Ann Machado, founder and president, Creative Staffing

==========

No — and we don’t offer it. However, we are sympathetic to fathers of newborns and are very flexible with their schedules wherever possible.

Victor Mendelson, co-president, HEICO

==========

Yes, as a father of two young boys, I think time off for both parents is important. We do not have a formal policy in place for paternity, but we are flexible with our new parents to work within their needs.

Nitin Motwani, managing principal, Miami Worldcenter Associates

==========

In short, yes. At this point, we don’t offer paternity leave, but we do consider it on a case-by-case basis. We review our benefits annually and make adjustments as needed and upon request by the staff. It’s a system that works well for our restaurant and our large employee base.

Abe Ng, founder and CEO of Sushi Maki

==========

We believe in policies that attract the best and the brightest. As a first-time parent to a 13-month-old, the difficulties that all parents face are very real to me. From a business perspective, we are always willing to work with people when they are a productive member of our community.

Todd Oretsky, co-founder, Pipeline Brickell

==========

Yes, male employees deserve to have the time to care for a newborn or adopted child and foster that special bond that is so important in the life of a child and parent. At Miami Dade College, we offer leave (vacation, sick time and/or FMLA) to all eligible employees, and male as well as female employees may take the time to care for a child whether it is due to birth, adoption or medical issue.

Eduardo Padrón, president, Miami Dade College

==========

Male employees should be afforded paternity time, though I think it’s at every business’ discretion to determine the appropriate leave length and compensation arrangements. Since my company is still small, we don’t have a formal policy regarding paternity leave, but we pride ourselves on being flexible about all employees’ family obligations and concerns.

Joanna Schwartz, CEO and co-founder, EarlyShares

==========

Yes, men should have some time to bond with and assist with the family’s newest blessing. We do allow for the time, but we do not entitle it “paternity leave.”

Darryl K. Sharpton, president and CEO, The Sharpton Group

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The birth of a child and the adoption of a child are transformative moments for any family and for all parents. Akerman offers our male and female lawyers paid parental leave following the birth of a child. Lawyers serving as primary care-givers are provided paid leave following the placement of a child through legal adoption.

Andrew Smulian, chairman and CEO, Akerman LLP

==========

Family friendly policies are important for both men and women. Paternity leave is common in countries where there is a much higher level of taxation — and corresponding social benefits. We don’t have paternity or specific maternity leave; in general, staff take vacation time.

Gillian Thomas, president and CEO, Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science

==========

I believe that family, in whatever form, is very important and it’s critical parents have the opportunity to make a positive impact on his/her child. When parents are in a child’s life from the very beginning, great things happen for the family, the workplace(s) and the community: a. The child grows up feeling valued and loved; b. The workplace(s) builds a culture where family is valued; c. Not only do both parents share in the household responsibilities, but both parents take time from work, which can help with equality in the workplace; d. Feeding South Florida does allow fathers to take paternity leave.

Paco Velez, CEO, Feeding South Florida

==========

Yes, I believe male employees should be given that option and we do offer Child Care Leave for both men and women. Even more important than offering it, companies should strive to create a culture that encourages men to take advantage of that leave. Enabling fathers to take time to bond with and care for their new child benefits not only the home and family, but also the future of the mother’s career if she chooses to have one outside of the home.

Alina Villasante, founder, Peace Love World clothing

==========

There’s no right or wrong answer to this, but I personally do not think male employees need a paternity leave option. Therefore, it is not something we offer.

Marlon Williams, founder and CEO, Fenero

==========

Yes, male employees should have the option. Our company is pretty progressive when it comes to family leave. We offer paid maternity/paternity leave to our employees as needed. Many of our male employees, including myself, have young children and wives who work outside of the home, so we understand the importance of having such an option available to us.

John Wood, president, Amicon Construction

 

Now the bad news....

Research shows only 13% of employers offer paid paternity leave,  and most men don't take paternity leave even when offered. New fathers give reasons that include stigma, guilt and fear of reprisal.

While it's great paternity leave is a topic of conversation, let's hope we see some significant changes in corporate policies and real life practices.

When dads bond with babies, it helps men feel like they are part of the team. Teamwork makes work life balance better for mom and dad.

What are your thoughts on paternity leave? While the Miami CEOs say they support it, few have policies that directly address it. Is that okay? Do we need formal policies?

 

 

 

July 16, 2015

How weird would it feel to do a digital detox?

 

                                      Detox

Have you ever gone away for a day -- a full 24 hours -- and not checked email or Internet?

I've done it and It felt kind of strange, like I was missing out on something. But at the same time, it felt good, like I actually got something done, even if that something was a day at the beach enjoying my family. The question is...can you make it more than a day without logging on to an electronic screen? 

First of all, why should any of us try it? After all, logging on is how we do business, keep in touch with friends and let the world know what we are up to.

There are a few reasons why it's worth trying.

The first reasons is our eyes. This morning I was reading an article about why our kids need digital detox. The article suggested all the screen time might be hurting our kids development growth and their eyesight. The article even quotes an eye doctor who is seeing more children than ever before with vision problems because of too much time in front of screens. I have trouble believing these problems are confined only to children. Are we setting ourselves up for a severe case of short-sightedness as we grow older?

The next reason is our brains.  A few weeks ago I read about digital amnesia. Our addiction to our smartphones has wreaked havoc on our short term memories. Most of us can't remember basic phones for family and friends. We rely on our cellphones to keep the information on file for us. Worse, we're no longer worrying about remembering information of any sort, figuring instead that we can just go the Internet to recall a fact. Experts wonder if we will completely lose our ability to memorize.

Another reason is our anxiety level. In our increasingly tech-dependent society, the emotional stakes are high. In a survey of 1,000 people, many said they would become “overwhelmed by sadness” if they lost their phone. Some even said they’d go into a panic. I would definitely fall into that category.

Now that we know why we should cut back on screen time, we need to figure out how to do it.

I'm realistic enough to know I could never go more than a few days without connecting to the Internet. But this year while on vacation, I am going to try to go a little longer than I have in past years. And, I'm going to try to try to enforce "No Internet Saturdays." That's my version of digital detox.

Frances Booth writes in Forbes that ideal digital detox is 24 hours. She says all it takes is turning the power button to off on our digital devices. Easy! Not so easy?

She offers some steps: Remind yourself why you want to detox, choose a realistic time (not when you're super busy at work), announce it on your social media sites, plan something enjoyable to keep you focused. You might also warn your parents and friends that they shouldn’t take it personally when you don’t text them back or like their picture right away.

 

Give digital detox a try and let me know how it goes.  It might feel weird at first. But then, it might feel great!

July 10, 2015

Why I'm considering standing while working

My lower back is killing me. So, when I began to hear people talking about standing desks, I was intrigued. 

I thought standing while working would be tiring. But the people I spoke to who have standing desks say it's actually invigorating, especially after lunch when most of us hit our afternoon slump.

Here's my Miami Herald article on the standing desks:

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Miami wealth manager Adam Carlin has a more invigorating afternoon routine than those of us who retreat to our cubicles after lunch and sink into our desk chairs. Carlin spends his afternoons on his feet at his standing desk: “I feel so much healthier.”

The emphasis on wellness outside of work has shifted inside, and desk dwellers are the new target. With research showing Americans sedentary lifestyle taking a toll on our health, a trend toward standing desks is gaining ground as the U.S. workforce continues to shift to office-based work. People who use standing desks say the benefits are fewer backaches, more energy and a boost in productivity, allowing them to leave work in better a mood and with more work completed.

To avoid foot pain, users are switching it up, opting for desks or workstations that allow them to adjust the height, either electronically or manually. Throughout the day, depending on the task, they find a comfortable balance between sitting, standing and moving.

Carlin bought his standing desk two years ago after noticing the trend had infiltrated New York’s financial offices. He initially saw a standing desk as a way to alleviate back pain, but he quickly discovered it also helped him avoid the afternoon slump. Returning from lunch, he raises his desk that holds a keyboard and two monitors and reads research or talks on the phone while standing. Carlin said it was an adjustment, at first, for his feet, but after a short while, he found that standing gives him a second wind: “It feels like it’s how I should be situated, not trapped at a desk, unable to move around.”

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Once upright, most standers tend to move around their work spaces. Miami publicist Sissy DeMaria of Kreps DeMaria PR began using a standing desk two years ago. She still does tasks like writing notes or signing checks while sitting down, but she tackles other responsibilities like writing press releases or reviewing proposals while standing up. She stands most of the day and notices that she moves easily around the office and interacts more with her employees: “When you’re sitting, it’s an effort to get up out of your chair. When you are standing, it’s easy to go over to the printer or to someone’s office to ask them a question.”

The research in favor of standing desks is rising with their popularity. Experts have found the effect of sitting all day for years is associated with a range of health problems, from obesity to diabetes to cancer. One study published in the British Medical Journal found that spending less time sitting could help people live longer by preventing their DNA from aging. Another published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute contends that spending less time sitting could reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Experts quoted in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said Americans should stand, move and take breaks for at least two out of eight hours at work.

The shift to standing desks started in home offices but has spread to varied workplaces. Employers such as Google and Intel offer standing desks as part of an employee-wellness program to those workers who request them. Priority Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has given all of its 1,200 employees sit-to-stand desks. And in June, Westin launched a pilot program to offer treadmill desks to business travelers in guest rooms at its Chicago hotel.

It is difficult to quantify how large the standing desk/treadmill desk sector is, but it is growing at an impressive rate, both in terms of buyers and suppliers, according to Ron Wiener, CEO of iMovR.com, a manufacturer of adjustable-height standing desks, sit-stand meeting tables and treadmill desks. Weiner, who also hosts the website workwhilewalking.com has a full showroom in Bellevue, Washington. “We see new vendors and new products popping up almost daily in this category,” Weiner says.

At a recent office furniture trade show, Wiener says the number of desk manufacturers that were introducing new height-adjustable versions of their office desk furniture caught attendees’ attention. “There were literally dozens of desk manufacturers and component vendors unveiling new sit-to-stand desks in every shape, color, material and size imaginable,” he says. Adjustable-height or standing desks range from about $400 to $1,000. Some companies offer conversion kits that turn a regular desk into a sit-stand desk for a price tag of around $300.

Jeanne Becker, senior vice president at Miami’s Wragg & Casas, spent months researching options before purchasing a standing desk last month. Meanwhile, she rigged her computer atop a pile of magazines to test the concept and noticed an improvement in her lower back. “It’s been a relief to stand for a while,” she says.

Of course, buying the desk is just the first step toward better health. There are people who buy a traditional sit-stand desk and don’t move it out of the sitting position after the novelty wears off, according to industry research. Now, Weiner sees innovation around the next phase: cloud-based technology that measures the time workers spent sitting or standing at their adjustable desks, prods them to stand more often, and finds user patterns. “When you have the ability for companies to tell whether this is a good investment, that’s the inflection point,” Weiner says. Already, Stir, a California manufacturer, has created a kinetic desk that tracks when you are sitting or standing and can be programmed to nudge users to stand up and move more.

For office dwellers who want more movement, treadmill desks are catching on, too. Sharlyn Lauby, owner of a South Florida management training and HR consulting firm, says that when she would get busy with work, the first thing that would go by the wayside were her trips to the gym. She bought a treadmill desk to fit exercise into her work-life balance. Now, she starts her workday with 45 minutes at her treadmill desk doing simple activities such as reading news stories, checking social media, conducting online research, and listening to webinars or podcasts. “I won’t say it’s a replacement for a desk, but it definitely is an opportunity to move more activity into my day,” she says.

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Lauby recently joined a LinkedIn group for treadmill desk users. The group’s 170 members are standing or walking while working as architects, real-estate appraisers, marketing consultants, software developers, corporate trainers and high school teachers. Discussion centers on everything from the best shoes to wear or floor mat to use to where to go to try out new models. Lauby, who wrote about her new treadmill desk on her HR Bartender blog, says they may not be for everyone, but she has gotten her return on investment: “We’re all busy, so for anyone who wants more activity in their day, these desks are a great way to get it.”

 

July 09, 2015

Too connected? Why you need vacation rules

                         Vacation

Earlier this week, I left a message on an accountant's voicemail asking him to call me about an article I am working on. He called me back within a few hours. Well into our conversation, he mentioned he was on vacation. It was at that point that I could hear his wife in the background and she was noticeably agitated. I suggested he call me back when he returned from vacation. When we hung up, I had a feeling he was in big trouble.

Staying connected to work may make traveling less stressful for you, but it can become annoying to people who are with you on vacation. One of my friends recently told me it was while on vacation that she realized her marriage had hit rock bottom. She couldn't get her husband off his phone long enough to do anything romantic.

My suggestion for anyone traveling with a friend, spouse, or partner is to set vacation rules. My husband and I realized years ago setting rules was key to a better vacation. I agree to let my husband check in with his office every morning. He spends about an hour on his laptop checking email and returning calls. I usually check my email less often while on vacation but I tend to do it in the late afternoons when everyone is unwinding before dinner. We each get about an hour a day without guilt. The rule also is that we leave our phones behind when we do a family activity.

Today it has become increasingly easy to integrate work and travel -- regardless of where you are vacationing. There are more hotels and cafes that offer Wi-Fi, and more mobile devices with the same functionality as desktop PCs. But that ease of connection makes being on the same page of your travel companion more important than ever. 

When the goal of a vacation is to reconnect with friends or family, it can be frustrating when your travel partner sends a different message. Your stressful interaction with work can affect those who are traveling with you. My neighbor says while on his vacation, it completely unnerved him to watch his wife's reaction to an incoming work-related email as she lounged by the pool. "We're supposed to be on vacation relaxing, and I can see that something at the office didn't go her way. It not only stresses her out, it stressed me out, too."

Companions who are with someone who resists disconnecting say they find themselves torn between bringing their vacation partner in the present and coming across as a nag. Most of us only have a week a year when we can spend solid uninterrupted time with our spouse or kids. Don't they deserve to experience us enjoying time with them?

The solution may be agreeing upfront on how, when and where work check-ins will fit into a vacation schedule. Logging on and sending emails before others awake or during rest periods in the hotel room may be palatable. Missing a mid-day, zip-line excursion or interrupting pool time to make a work call may not be okay. Setting vacation rules may require respect for your companion’s work demands and it may take compromise.

Some business owners and professionals say checking in briefly allows them to relax more. It prevents them from a stressful return to work. That's understandable. But remember, the goal is to use your vacation to come back to the office and your home life happier than before you left. If setting vacation rules ahead of time is what it takes to make that happen, why not give it try?

 

July 08, 2015

Carli Lloyd, US Women's Soccer Champ, envisioned her goal and we can too

Carli

For years, I've been told to envision my career goals to make them come true. 

I've been advised to create vision boards and urged to read books on the power of visualization. And still, I have resisted. I have prefered to take opportunities as they have come my way.

Not long ago, I heard comedic actor Jim Carrey talk about his experience trying to make it in Hollywood. While trying to break into acting, he says he visualized his success and wrote himself a $10 million check for acting services rendered and post dated it Thanksgiving 1995. The amazing part is that just before Thanksgiving 1995, Jim Carrey signed a contract for $10 million.

But today, I am re-committing to visualization after Carli Lloyd explained how it helped her during Sunday's championship game of the 2015 World Cup for Women's Soccer. 

Carli scored twice in the first five minutes and added a third goal roughly 10 minutes later to give her a hat trick in the game (she scored from midfield). While some were surprised at Lloyd’s scoring output for the game, Lloyd wasn’t one of them. Lloyd says that before she left for the World Cup she visualized scoring four goals in a World Cup Final. ( She scored three, but the team scored a total of four in the first half)

USWNT manager Jill Ellis also envisioned success, saying saw her US Women's team lifting the trophy at the end of the game.

While Carli stood out as a superstar, all along the players have said that teamwork and a strong belief that together they could win made their dream of being world champions come true.

For those of us who get bogged down in "doing it all" and forget to envision where we want to go, the lessons from this championship soccer team are inspiring. 

NBC Sports says Carli, who turns 33 years old this month, has evolved from an out-of-shape young player, who was cut from youth national teams and on the verge of quitting the game over a decade ago, to one of the greatest players in the history of the greatest women’s soccer program on the planet now that it has become the first nation to win three titles, in addition to four Olympic gold medals. Carli also won the Golden Ball award for the 2015 World Cup, given out on Sunday to the tournament’s best player.

NBC also called Carli  "the epitome of an athlete who is laser-focused, eyes wide and hungry at every moment on the field." Her secret for success is that she disconnects from her personal life during major tournaments and maintains minimal contact with her family and friends in order to focus solely on herself.

I think we can all learn from Carli's focus on her goals. In the age of distraction, envisioning what you want in your career and staying focused can be a big challenge. But Carli -- and her teammates -- have proved to all of us that it's worth the effort.

You still have half of 2015 left...what goal do you envision accomplishing by year end? How do you plan to stay focused on your goal?

 

July 02, 2015

More work but we're happy: the new work life balance reality

 

          Happy-employee-group

 

 

A strange phenomenon is going on in workplaces. We are walking around, smartphones in hand (sometimes even in bed when we sleep), complaining about how much we're working, and yet -- we're happy in our jobs and have no intention of leaving them.

What the heck is going on? Have we settled comfortably into a new reality?

Here is what new research reveals:  We are putting in more than 8-hour days, working on weekends at least once a month, eating lunch at our desks, and working after hours to complete work we didn’t finish during the day.

Even with our heavier workloads, the majority of employees (85 percent) said they are happy at work and motivated to become future managers. These are the findings of a new Workplace Index study of about 2,600 workers in the United States and Canada conducted by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc.

"Workers have accepted that work is no longer 9 to 5," says Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory membership service for HR professionals.  "They might have to answer an email after 11 p.m. I think people have adjusted to the new reality."

So, why exactly are we working so much -- and at all hours? 

More than 30 percent of employees participating in the research say the driving force behind the "always on" work culture is the need to complete work they don't have time to do during the day, followed by a desire to get ahead on their work for the following day.  One in five employees said they spend at least two hours a day in meetings and just as many report the meetings are inefficient (a possible reason we're taking work home?).

While we've accepted the new reality of work life blend, how can we be happier? Here are suggestions given in the Staples Advantage findings.

- Flexibility is key to happiness at work. So true. When I talk to employees I notice the happiest workers have flexibility. In the Staples Advantage research,  37 percent of employees say that if employers provide more flexibility it would increase their happiness.

-Office perks are important too. Employees want simple things like break time to refresh or an onsite gym.

-Improving technology would make a difference. Employees say more advanced technology helps them be more creative and better at their jobs.

-Providing better office design is key as well. Employees thrive in offices with high-ceilings, lots of windows, lounge areas and a laid-out break room designed to promote collaboration and rest.

In a definite sign that workers have accepted the new reality of our heavier workloads, few are planning job changes. Only 19 percent said they expect to make a job change in the next year and money was the top reason.

Schawbel says the research confirms that workers are doing more with less on shorter time frames, and have accepted the 24/7 work philosophy -- if it comes with flexibility.  But he wonders if there will be a point where burnt out employees will push back, especially because the study found about a third of employees consider work life balance the leader contributor of loyalty.

Have you accepted the new reality that 9 to 5 workdays have disappeared? Despite a heavier workload, would you say you are happy in your job?

 

July 01, 2015

Should your spouse come to the job interview too?

Boss:spouse


Have you noticed at the Academy Awards, all winners thank their spouses. It's the people you are married to who suffer the consequences of an all consuming job. 

Before taking a job, most of us discuss it with our spouses. We tend to look at what this position means for us and also for our spouse and family -- more money, less time at home, more travel, etc. When I saw an article about a trend toward more companies interviewing candidates' spouses before they take high level positions, it made sense to me. In fact, I applaud the move.

An article in Corporate Counsel says ThoughtSpot, (misspelled in an earlier version) a business intelligence company, invites a prospective employee's partner to meet with CEO Ajeet Singh in the final round of interviews. "I want spouses to know that we're not a company full of mercenaries that are going to bleed their families dry and not care about their life outside of work," Singh told Business Insider. 

While some lawyers advise against companies taking this approach, I think it's fabulous. The legal concern is that the candidate could claim discrimination if the spouses raises a concern and the applicant assumes the offending information was used in the final decision, thus opening a possible discrimination claim. 

Yes, that's a risk. However, when you're hiring someone and you have the buy-in of a spouse, you've already alleviated some of the tension that can interfere with job satisfaction. Americans today are working long hours. We're getting calls from work long after we've returned home. We're checking our email at the dinner table. There are so many ways work interferes with our home lives. So, if you're going to call my husband during dinner, at least tell me the benefits of the job so I can see past the infringement it makes on my home life. 

Recently, board members of a non profit organization were complaining to me. They hired a CEO and expected his wife to be involved, too. In the last year, she's come to very few of the organization's events. She has made it clear, she sees her participation as unnecessary. Had the board interviewed her along with her spouse, they would have known her position upfront.

When your spouse is going through a job search, you are emotionally attached to the outcome. It is much better for your relationship to have someone outside your home coaching him or her through the process. But when the search comes to the point where someone is seriously considering a position, I see it as a win-win for all to air expectations during the interview process.

What are your thoughts? Do you think a spouse should be part of late-stage job interviews? 

June 26, 2015

Are meetings killing your work life balance? How to hold a better meeting

                                      Meeting


Have you ever been sitting in a meeting thinking "This is such a waste of my time!"

Or, worse...have you ever been in a meeting when most of the participants are tapping away on their smart phones, not even paying attention to the person speaking?

In her new book, Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers, Sharlyn Lauby says employees spend between 21 and 28 hours a week in meetings and this number continues to rise in double-digit percentages. For those of us who want work life balance, much of our time spent in meetings is unproductive. 

So, what can be done about that?

Lauby Hi ResLauby, author of HR Bartender and  president of  ITM Group, Inc., a training company focused on talent engagement, outlines different types of meetings and how to run them effectively (She does an amazing job!). I pulled out some of her suggestions and presented them as questions .

  • What's the meeting really about? Lauby says the first rule of meetings is to understand why a meeting is being held and what role each person plays towards the meeting's success. People will attend meetings when they understand the reason for them. They will participate and engage if they feel they are a part of the agenda. 

 

  • Why am I at this meeting? People need to know the reason they're being asked to attend the meeting and the purpose of the meeting. (Is the purpose to convey information, reach a decision, get feedback?) They also need to know their role in the meeting's success and the objective that is trying to be achieved.

 

  • What kind of meeting is it? Is it a status meeting, a strategy meeting, a problem solving meeting, a brainstorming meeting, a networking meeting, a training meeting, a pitch meeting, a project meeting?  Each meeting has a different purpose and different rules. Status meetings should be focused on conveying information. When there is no information to share, the meeting should be cancelled. This truly demonstrates respect for participants and eliminates ineffective meetings.

 

  • Are the right people in the room? What a waste of time to hold a meeting when the right people aren't there! Going in, a manager needs to know if there a problem solver at the meeting or a decision maker. He needs to look at whether a meeting facilitator is needed and whether senior leadership should be present. Without the right people, a meeting could go on for what seems like forever or end without a solution. But inviting the people who don't need to be there wastes time as well. People can participate in the process without attending the meeting.

 

  • What's the solution or outcome? A business meeting can be completely ineffective if the solution arrived at is unattainable or the participants have no clue who is going to implement the action steps. Lauby says in thinking about the implementation plan, the group might want to consider breaking down the solution into smaller components or milestones. It becomes easier to monitor and evaluate results. She says at the end of any meeting, participants should be on the same page regarding the following three things: The actions that need to take place outside of the meeting, the individuals responsible for those actions, the timeframe for accomplishing the agreed upon actions. 
 
  • What makes a bad meeting? It's a bad meeting or time waster when the meeting leader is unprepared, meeting participants are unprepared, the wrong people are at the meeting, the participants take over the meeting or take it off track, and when the meeting runs much longer than necessary. Unfortunately, most of us have been at a bad meeting.

 

  • What makes a good meeting? Well-run meetings provide valuable information, help companies solve problems, and allow employees to make better decisions. Participants leave with everyone on the same page. 

Lauby told me as a manager, it should be your goal to have people leave your meeting and believe it was a good use of their time. "The biggest compliment a manager can get is when someone walks out and says, 'that was a great meeting,' Lauby says. "That should be your goal!"

 

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June 25, 2015

Why Americans are afraid to take vacation

Are you afraid to take all your vacation days? If so, you're not alone.

Erich McLane, a corporate recruiter, is planning a cruise for his summer vacation. It will be a short cruise over a long weekend. Erich gets two-weeks paid vacation, but says he has no intention of using all his allotted time off. He says he wants his boss to think he's dedicated. Still, Erich admits he's not entirely sure his boss notices who takes all their days. 

The fear of taking vacation has Americans leaving 429 paid vacation days on the table. 

Like Erich, many of us have become obsessed with showing off how much work we do and we've convinced ourselves that taking too much time off makes us look replaceable or less committed to our jobs.

But most bosses don't really look at vacation as unproductive time. In fact, many see at as critical to re-charging and bringing more innovation to the job. One boss told me he can tell when his employees or managers need vacation by the air of fatigue they give off at work.  Stuart Chase, president and CEO of HistoryMiami, Miami’s historical museum, says he wants his employees to take vacation and come back re-energized,with new ideas.

In my Miami Herald column this week, I revealed the results of new report released this month, “The Mind of the Manager: What Your Boss Really Thinks About Vacation Time.” The report found that managers understand the need for time off, but they don't convey that well to their staff.

"It’s very important what signals a manager sends,” says John de Graaf, president of Take Back Your Time, a nonprofit trying to reduce overwork in America. “Often, because managers don’t send any signal at all, their employees tend to fear the worst.”

When an employee asks for time off, managers say their first thoughts are how that person’s responsibilities will be covered, what tasks need to be done in advance and, depending on the employee’s level, whether that person will be reachable if needed.

In some workplaces, employees say they sense hesitation, even a little judgment, when people take time off.They also say they fear the pileup of work that will await them when they get back.
 
Don't let that deter you. 
 
Get your vacation on the calendar, remind your boss, co-workers and customers that you will be away, and delegate your responsibilities. Instead of being afraid to take time off, look at it as an opportunity to show your manager you are organized enough to plan ahead. Yes, staff is lean in most workplaces. But that's even more reason you need to get away and re-energize. 
 
"When team members take vacations, they are more productive, happier, healthier and have an improved overall well-being," says Nizar Jabara, senior vice president, global human resources for Diamond Resorts International.
 
 
Everyone deserves a break. Is this the year you will take all your vacation days?