July 08, 2015

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


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





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?


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


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!"




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?

June 19, 2015

Why paternity leave is the hot topic this Father's Day



As we head into Father's Day weekend, the topic du jour is paternity leave.

We are hearing about who offers it, who doesn't, who takes it, who doesn't take it and why we should care about it. 

The bottom line is that when fathers take time off when their babies are born, they establish a lifelong bond, according to research. That's not to say fathers who don't take paternity leave don't bond. It's just that when they do take it, a pattern is established that's good for fathers, mothers and babies. It sets the tone from day one that dad will be involved in childcare.

One of the interesting trends we are seeing around paternity leave is even as national efforts are underway to promote more businesses to offer paternity leave, men are admitting they often are afraid to take it even if it's offered. They fear being stigmatized as someone who is less committed to work.

So basically, fathers are fighting two battles. One to get family-friendly policies approved. A second one to be able to use those policies without being penalized.

Both are worth the attention media outlets are giving them. Paternity leave is a family friendly benefit that fathers can claim for themselves. It moves the conversation about balancing work and family from being a "mother's issue" to being a father's issue, too)

This morning, I heard a report on paternity leave on NPR. I've seen articles in Fortune, in USA Today, in TIME.

Even celebrity entrepreneur Richard Branson has hyped the topic by announcing Virgin will give new fathers up to 12 months paid time off (if they qualify). 

 Lifehacker has drawn up a list of companies with the best paternity leave policies

I expect the conversation will continue well after Father's Day has come and gone. I hope it will continue because what's good for fathers is good for families.

Unfortunately, only about 14% of private employers in the US offer paid paternity leave, according to a 2014 survey by the Families and Work Institute. Right now, offering paid paternity leave is useful in the war for talent, but that's assuming fathers covet such a benefit and plan to use it. 

We have a long way to go to make fathers part of the work life conversation, but the discussion has begun and we are moving in the right direction.

Happy Father's Day!


June 18, 2015

How involved fathers deal with work life balance

My husband coaches my son's sports teams, helps review spelling words, and spends most of the weekend shuttling kids to activities. He also works 10 hour days. 

The more time my husband spends with the kids, the more relaxed he seems and the happier he is at work and home. 

As research comes out on today's working fathers, we are learning that for men, being an involved dad helps them at work. The increased interaction with their children makes them more satisfied and committed to staying at their jobs. It helps them bond with other parents at work and better manage their staffs. And, it even can increases their productivity.

But men are walking a fine line. 

Research also found that many men feel stigmatized at work if they are too “conspicuously” involved at home  - if they use flexibility formally or take paternity leave. “Being a little bit involved is good,” Ladge told me. “Being too involved is perceived as a bad thing.”

Today, it's a given -- especially with the younger generation -- that moms and dads will be involved in childcare.  Yet, the workplace still operates as if men had wives at home doing all the childcare and housework. While fathers often work long hours and find themselves on-call at all times, many of them balance work and family by bypassing formal flexible work policies and just slipping out a bit early or coming in late. 
I randomly interviewed a dozen fathers and all of them talked about how they balance work and family life by moving between work and home in a way that has them answering emails at 10 p.m. but also coming in late if they need to take a child to the pediatrician. Some fathers even bring their children to work when needed. Spencer Gilden loves his job in sales because it allows him to work from home and spend time with his 4-year-old daughter, Julie.
(Spencer and Julie)
When workplaces support involved fathers, the payoff is huge -- especially when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. 
I received this email in response to my column in The Miami Herald on Working Dads' Changing Roles:

Dear Cindy, 

I loved your article today, especially because the first thing you see coming into our conservation studio is 6 month-old Jack's bounce chair.  His dad, Oliver, my senior conservator, has been bringing him to work since Oliver's three month paternity leave ended.  My kids grew up in the studio (yes, among Monet's, Dali's, etc.) and Oliver grew up in his dad's studio.  We love being baby Jack's village. 

Thanks for a plug for involved fathering....


Rustin Levenson


ArtCare Miami

Here's another email from an involved father: 

Hi Cindy!

I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your article about working dads being more involved in their kids’ lives. I am a father of two boys with my wife. One is three years old and the other is four months old. I own my own PR firm but I made a commitment to my wife and myself before the first one was born to be part of his life. 

And I agree on many things in your article! It was refreshing. I don’t want to work 80 plus hours to the point of burning myself out, and not enjoy these precious years of my kids’ lives.

Thank you again for the write up! I forwarded to several dad friends who have the same mind frame as me. 

Jose Boza

President & Digital Boss

Boza Agency

Fathers, how are you balancing work and family? Do you consider yourself an involved father? Has your employer made that easier or more difficult for you? 


June 10, 2015

How to be a strategic thinker at work and home

When I was younger, I aimed to be strategic at work. I aligned myself with editors who were most respected in the newsroom and proved myself to them. By doing so, I was better able to balance work and family and they were able to sing my praises to those above them. 

Thinking strategically is a crucial skill for achieving advancement, and one that can make your work and home life better in myriad ways.

Aaron_olson-6215 croppedMy guest blogger today is Aaron Olsen, Chief Talent Officer at Aon, a global firm specializing in risk management and human resources. In his spare time, Aaron also serves as an graduate instructor at Northwestern University and is co-author of the book Leading with Strategic Thinking. Aaron and his co-author, B. Keith Simerson, say you become a strategic thinker and leader by going about it in a focused way. Below are their suggestions:

  • Recognize patterns. Strategic leaders  make connections that others do not, taking an active approach to reviewing relevant data and seeking out information and experiences that can provide new insights.
  • Make choices. Strategic leaders take a disciplined approach to decision making that identifies all options and then they select the one that creates the most value.
  • Manage risks. Strategic leaders find ways to maximize the balance between risk and reward, identifying and handling challenges to ensure that a good plan isn’t undermined by unexpected surprises.

By doing these three things well, strategic leaders create results. They also stand out from the crowd, which can open doors for additional career opportunities.

How can individuals get better at doing these three things? One place to start is by looking for opportunities to generate new ideas and get creative.

Here are some practical things you can do to stimulate creative thinking:

  • Get uncomfortable. Engage in communities, conferences, or reading that is outside your typical area of expertise.
  • Ponder. Set aside time in your week that doesn't involve completing routine tasks and think about your work. What works well? What could be done differently?
  • Explore. Visit places where you will encounter unfamiliar people, cultures, or ideas. How do they go about work or life differently?
  • Circulate. Spend time with coworkers in your organization with different roles. What are they doing and how does it relate to your work?
  • Embrace change. Debate commonly held assumptions about your work or business. Are technology or trends creating change that you should apply in your work?
  • Think differently. Imagine a situation in which you (or your organization) could no longer work the same way—what would you do?

Each of these activities can open up a new way of thinking and reveal unexplored opportunities. Finding time for one or more of them in your schedule can be a practical first step towards thinking and acting more strategically.

This summer, ask yourself whether you are spending too much time on low-value tasks and not enough on big-picture strategic thinking. If you're frustrated with your lack of advancement, stagnant personal growth or unclear priorities, take time to put some more effort into strategic thinking and leadership. By fall, you should be able to see results.


June 09, 2015

When the boss is on vacation, are you?

                                               Boss on vacation

A friend has been going in a little later to work, dressing a little more casual, taking longer lunches, leaving a little earlier....

The reason is her boss is on vacation. She sees his absence as a mini vacation for her, too.  I can understand that line of thinking. But, I'm not sure I agree with it. To me, work ethic is self generated. Either you're a responsible worker, or you're not. I wouldn't want my boss to feel as if I took advantage or as if no one was minding the store. I also look at the boss going on vacation as an opportunity for my friend to show her traits as a leader and advance her prospects with others at the company.

Some studies have found that workers are more productive when their boss goes on vacation, because being micro-managed isn’t slowing them down. 

My friend argues that she deserves the leniency. During the year, she puts in long hours. She says the combination of summer and her boss being on vacation signals an opportunity to regain some personal time. I do understand that line of thinking, and I feel like it's okay to kick back a little. But I also feel like my friend's boss deserves to go on his summer vacation without worrying that his staff is slacking off.

What are your thoughts? When the boss is away, is it time to play?

June 04, 2015

Why high school graduation is tough on parents




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.