February 29, 2016

How to Be Super Productive on Leap Day

                                     Leap


If you're like me, you feel like you never have enough time to tackle all the things you want to get done. So, Leap Day is like a big bonus for us who want a better work life balance  -- it's an additional 24 hours or 1,440 minutes that we don't have every year.

Wow! A whole extra day to get things done sounds awesome, right? 

Here are suggestions for what you can do with your bonus day:

  • Take time to make a list of the events you want to get to during the rest of the year. It can include play and work activities such as races, art festivals, conferences, webinars.
  • Book a spa day. Some spas are giving discounts if you book a treatment today. 
  • Have dinner somewhere exotic. It doesn't have to be expensive. Pack a picnic or bring pizza and wine to the beach to celebrate leap day.
  • Get moving. This doesn't mean you have to run a marathon. Just take a walk, or if you already walk, take a longer walk. You can spend the extra time because, well...why not? It's time you would not have had if it wasn't February 29th.
  • Spend time with someone you've been meaning to get together with for a while, even if it's only by phone.
  • Use the day for strategy. Sometimes we get so caught in the day to day, we don't have time for big picture thinking. Today's your day to do that....think big!

 

Whatever you do today, make it special. You won't get a leap day again for four more years. Wishing you a great day!

 

                              Leap day

 

February 25, 2016

Why we think everyone else has it together

                                            Sign

Have you ever looked at someone in a high powered job with a big family and thought Wow, she really has it together. Then, you paused and wondered, "Why is it so easy for her when I'm exhausted and struggling to keep up?"

If you answered, "I think that just about every day" then we totally think the same way.

But this week, two things have changed my thinking. The first is a column by Fred Grimm in this morning's Mugshot Miami Herald. Fred wrote about that "crazy" guy whose strange jailhouse mug shot was smeared with black grease paint. The media reported that this crazy Virginia man in Florida was arrested for strange and threatening behavior. But Fred dug deeper to learn who this guy really was, the story behind the image. He found out that the guy in the mugshot was an American soldier who did three combat tours in Iraq. When he returned, his mother had died of breast cancer, he hasn't been able to find a job and there hasn't been much support for him making the transition from war life to a normal one. In other words, an image of someone isn't always what it seems.

Coincidentally, I did an interview with a successful restaurateur who spoke about how hard he works to support his two young children. He seemed so positive, so together, despite the long work hours he puts in. He made work life balance seem so effortless. It was later that I learned his newborn is not well and he's been a mess about it. In other words, an image isn't always what it seems.

As we live our lives, we will face constant challenges at work and home and we must resist the urge to think everyone else has an easier time with work life balance than we do. Next time you find yourself struggling with work and life and stress and competing time demands, don't get hung up on an image of what work life balance is supposed to look like. Everyone has challenges, whether or not they are visible to us.

We are struggling more than previous generations. Parenting a generation ago was simpler. It just was. Parents just didn't feel pressured as much to help their children succeed academically, socially, athletically. Being a stand out worker a generation ago was easier. It just was. Workers just didn't feel pressured to be on call at all hours and collaborate across teams and stay relevant. We are living in an increasingly competitive world and we need to stop second guessing ourselves because keeping up is hard work.

Today, Dear Abby wrote a column about how young moms feel pressure to do a good job raising their Dabbychildren in a way their grandmothers may not understand. The truth is all of us  feel pressure to succeed at everything we do, but we have to be okay with knowing that today success comes with exhaustion, sacrifice, regrets and a struggle to make multiple people happy at the same time. 

We need to look past the image of the amazing CEO, or senior leader, or celebrity who seems to have it all and see what we can learn from what we think he or she is doing well. I'm sure if you asked about work life challenges, that amazing person you think has it so together would rattle off a list without a blink of an eye --  and be as willing as the rest of us to invite change. Maybe, just maybe, the saying is true...The secret to having it all, is believing you do!

February 24, 2016

Friends can make great business partners -- or destroy your work life balance

 

 

One day I visited a friend at her children’s clothing shop. The merchandise was displayed nicely, the store had customers, but my friend was furious. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My partner went home early again,” she grumbled.

It wasn’t long after that my friend closed the shop and the friendship with her partner disintegrated. The two mothers both wanted flexibility, but one used it way too often at the detriment of the business, the partnership and the friendship.

Most of us want to help out our friends. Most of us also want to keep our businesses afloat once we start them. Sometimes, the two are in conflict. I am in a business partnership with a friend and about to enter another with a friend/acquaintance. I've noticed in my first partnership, I carry more of the weight. So, I'm being very careful with my second partnership.

Today, people are starting businesses in droves, aspiring to be their own boss and have the flexibility they crave. But, as I noted in my Miami Herald column today, when you go into business with friends, more than just financial rewards are at stake, and increasing work-life issues are at the crux of conflicts.

How many hours are each of you going to work? If you have flexibility, what does that look like? Are you going to split the responsibilities and the profits 50-50? There are so many questions to be answered before the business even gets started.
 
In asking around for advice, I've been warned by people in partnerships and by my attorney friends to make sure I have a written agreement in place. I thought about that when I spoke to Neydy Gomez and Claudia Machado who told me they spent about three months putting together a partnership agreement for their new business, Zaniac Miami. They told me the process of writing an agreement brought up all kinds of scenarios they hadn't really thought about. Both moms have young children and want to spend time with them. They also want their afterschool enrichment program to be successful. That means figuring out a way to make sure they both get their work life needs met.
 
New zaniac
(Neydy Gomez and Claudia Machado, owners of Zaniac Miami)
 
One of the nice things about going into business with a friend is that the person is usually someone you trust and can rely on. That can be important when you have a personal crisis and need someone to pitch in or "get your back" in your business. Dana Rhoden of The Dana Agency likened a successful partnership a successful marriage: "there's a lot of give and take and ongoing communication."
 
Dana also imparted this wisdom which she learned from a prior partnership that has since been dissolved: “A best friend doesn’t always make a great roommate, and all friendships don’t transfer into good business partnerships.”
 
 
Cynthia
Dana Rhoden (left) and her new business partner Cynthia Demos (right)
 
 
 

February 17, 2016

Work life balance? Let's call it work life blend

There is was...the question that often gets lobbed at successful women....

How do you balance work and family? Christine

Christine Barney, CEO and Managing Partner of rbb Communications, saw it coming. As a panelist at The Influential Women of Today event sponsored by MBAF in Miami, she had her answer ready.

"It's not balancing, it's blending," she said "Blending is the important part. Work does not happen between 9 and 5, and personal life does not happen 5 p.m. and after. There are personal things that happen during the day, and work things that will happen at night and weekends. Not just for me but everyone at my firm."

Christine then explained that her Miami public relations firm was built on respect and flexibility.

"Everyone in my firm chooses when, where and how we work. That will be different depending on your situation. I have clients in California that are going to want me at night so I have to be available for that. You have to bend in your mind to say how do I effectively do the things I want to do." 

Like most working mothers, Christine tries to be available for her children and her clients. That means blending her two worlds together and determining priorities on a given day. She has a lot to juggle.

"I have three children and I feel like I have three only children," she said. "I have a step daugher who is 35, a daughter who is 18  and a son who is 11. I have had kids my whole life and I will be paying for college until I'm dead. I was homeroom mom two years ago when my son was in second grade. I was the kindergarten art teacher for daughter one year. I am chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in addition to running my businesses."

With all that responsibility on her plate, Christine makes tradeoffs. She says she strives for excellence, not perfection.

"You can't do it all. I could work 24 hours a day and there would still be more to do. So you have to make choices and ask yourself, "What is really important to me? If I want to be homeroom mom, what am I going to give up and what am I going to feel guilty about? I put more guilt on myself than anyone else could put on me."

Of course, like most of us, Christine says her husband complains he is not a priority.

"My husband kids that my priorities are work, the kids, the dog and then him. My priorities shift. Next week my  daughter hears from a college. I am not making any appointments that day. She is getting an email in the morning and I will drive to school and be there with her. That's really important to me. Think about in advance what's important to you and don't let others make those decisions for you."

Christine says sometimes, she has to help her employees figure out their priorities.

"They will say I have to go to this or that and I say, "Really? Do you really have to go to that?" I tell them, to look at what's value add for business and there usually is stuff you can cut out. We can't do it all."

And then, Christine reconfirmed her thoughts on work life balance.

"Balance is not the right word. It's blend."

I really like Christine's way of looking at the roles we play. Blend is a great way to describe it. 

February 11, 2016

How to multitask to find love (Your Valentine's Day Guide)

My friend works really long hours an attorney. She often tells me she has little free to date but wishes she could meet someone. While asking to bolt early to go to happy hour might be frowned on, her firm encourages her to sit on boards, join professional organizations and network for business.

The solution, of course, is to multitask. Why not network for business and love at the same time?

The great part of networking for business and love at the same time is that doing so removes the pressure of forcing a love connection. At business networking events, people are there to meet people and there's not that judgmental vibe or desperation that one might find at a singles event.

You might think that most people meet dates online but that's not true. Although 1 in 10 Americans now use online dating platforms, the vast majority of relationships still begin offline, according to Pew Research Center.

Fort Lauderdale publicist Kerry Phillips, a widow for four years, told me she wants to date again. She says going to a networking cocktail party to drum up business feels less stressful than going to a singles event: “I’m not going in thinking I’m there to find a date or a life partner. The pressure is not there. I’m going in to build business, and if I hit it off with someone, that’s a bonus.”

As workloads grow, time-pressed singles increasingly view relationship-building for business and social purposes as good time management. Sitting on a committee or organizing an event provides the opportunity to go beyond superficial conversations with someone you want to get to know better — and it may allow love to bloom.
 
Robert Goltz, President and CEO of the Miramar Pembroke Pines Regional Chamber of Commerce, offers a few tips.

* People looking to combine business and love should ask more personal questions when they meet someone of interest. It could be something like, “What do you enjoy doing outside of work?”

 * Call the chamber or business organization and ask about the age and type of people who attend their events: “If you tell me you want to meet mid-level professionals in their 30s to 40s, I would tell you which events draw that crowd.”

 Dan Silverman, founder of MatchmakingMiami.com, offers these tips.

* Start the flirtation and see whether you get feedback. If you do and it’s positive, then take it forward. If you’re not getting feedback, then shift gears and keep it business.

 * Steer clear of making anyone feel uncomfortable at a business function. (Watch out how much alcohol you drink!) But if you sense someone is interested, arrange a follow-up after the event.

* Hand someone of interest your business card and urge them to call. You can decide later what direction to take the connection.

Hope Plevy, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, met a man at a legal organization networking dinner who asked her out for dinner. After a few dates, the two didn’t see a romantic future, but they did start referring each other’s business.

If you find yourself alone this Valentine's Day, brainstorm what networking events you want to go to or business organizations you want to join. If you don't find love, at least you might drum up a new client.

February 09, 2016

Will I Ever Stop Dealing with Mommy Guilt?

                        

 

                                      Guilt

 

I have become a clingy mother who just can't seem to shake mommy guilt.

Now that I have two children in college, I see the work life balancing act from a different perspective. It's almost like I need to spend time with my youngest son who is still in high school more than he needs to spend time with me. I savor the school events that with my older children used to seem like an interference with my work day. 

Later this week, my son will play his first high school lacrosse game. It was supposed to be an evening game. I had planned to attend a women's business event in the afternoon and make it to the game right on time. Of course, it's the best laid plans that go astray. I just received an email that they moved my son's game two hours earlier. 

My husband has agreed to skip lunch and leave work early to go to the game. But here I am feeling extreme mommy guilt. Will he remember that I missed his first ever high school sports game? Or will he remember all the class parties and awards ceremonies that I attended for many years of his life?

For some reason, moms carry around huge guilt when we have a work family conflict. While dads experience the conflict, too, they tend to shrug it off more easily than mothers do. 

Last week I participated in the Successful Mompreneurs Women's Summit, a two-day webinar produced by Jenenne Macklin with great tips from women entrepreneurs. Of course, the topic of mommy guilt came up over and over. Mommy guilt is the reason many of us working mothers weigh more than we should (we feel too guilty to  make time to go the gym). It's the reason many of us walk around exhausted (better to sacrifice sleep than time with our kids). And, it's the reason many of us are burning ourselves out as we try to build our businesses -- or simply earn a living.

The conclusion during the webinar was that it's impossible to completely avoid mommy guilt. It goes alongside the phrase "working mother" like jelly goes alongside peanut butter. But it is possible to evaluate why you feel the way you do and course correct if necessary. We need to separate the unproductive feelings of guilt from the kind that help us improve.

As a mother for 20 years, I know the reality is presence matters. It just does. So, when we have hard choices to make, I think each of us have to do the math in our heads to determine if we are there for our children more than we are not there. If the equation comes out favorable, we have to tell ourselves that our kids won't be scarred for life if we can't make it to everything.

Working mothers (and fathers) just have to let some things go without feeling guilty. We just do. So, I will go to my business event and I will make it to many other of my son's lacrosse games during the four years ahead. I can't pretend I won't feel mommy guilt for missing his first game, but I have a plan for dealing with it. I will explain to my son that my guilt is a sign I truly care about being there for him. And, I will back that sentiment with my future actions.

How do you find solutions to the work family conflicts that make you feel guilty? Do you think mommy guilt is an inevitable part of being a working mother? 

 

February 05, 2016

Could you work with your spouse?

Helen+Jacob__03__2013

 

My husband and I used to drive work together from Aventura to downtown Miami. He is a morning person. I am not. He would rush me out the door and then try to make conversation as soon as I shut the car door. Some days, he would sing along happily to cheery tunes. By the time he dropped me off at my office, I was ready to strangle him. I need my space.

Yet, around me I see many couples who work, live and play together without any tension. In fact, they make it look easy. Helen and Jacob Shaham are a great example. They built their company together from it's start in 1980. Today the couple own and operate nine senior communities under The Palace brand, including two in Homestead plus one under construction, four in Kendall, one in Coral Gables, one in Tel Aviv. They also developed an active adult community in Weston and they own and operate The Palace at Home, a home health agency.

They have worked side by side for 36 years.  How do they do it? 

In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Day, Helen shares her survival tips.

1. Divide responsibilities. Jacob is the visionary. He selects future Palace sites while overseeing financial and legal aspects.  I am in charge of marketing, architectural and interior design, customer service, the hospitality and human resources. We both are heavily involved in construction decisions and development.  I may be at a site frequently to review construction aspects in the design of the building and units while Jacob is involved with the general contractors. We recognize when specialists are needed and hire top talent and consultants.

2. Respect the talents of one another. We would not be able to build The Palace Group without the respect and trust in each other.  We disagree and fight, but in the end we hear each other’s point of view. At the time of our original partnership with Lennar, I needed to be convinced it was the right move at the time.  Jacob explained we couldn’t do it alone. He was able to convince me but the final decision took two years.

3. Build a case by putting it in writing. When I want something I find the best way is to write it down to build my case.  It may take the form of a 5-10 page letter but it’s the best way to explain my point of view.

4. Make it a family affair. We wanted our children to be exposed to what we were doing. Dinner was like a board meeting because we had so many issues to discuss about The Palace. When the kids left for college, we were building The Palace Tel Aviv and without the children, dinner was watching the 8:00 news to learn about Israel.  Now at dinner we really don’t talk about work.  Our two sons are involved in the company—Zack is the Executive Director of The Palace Gardens, the assisted living community in Homestead and Haim is the Director of Sales for The Palace Coral Gables.  Our niece, Liat Cohen, is Corporate Human Resources Recruiter.

5. Recognize your differences.  I am the pessimist while Jacob is the optimist. I wake up and think what can go wrong and what disasters can occur but Jacob balances me. He can look up at the sky in the morning and enjoy the beauty of the day.  In the morning, I have learned to not start talking about the problems we may face that day and enjoy his perspective. 

6. Don't compete with your spouse. Spouses aren’t competitors. Neither of us has to be right.  Working together means everyone will share credit.

7. Have separate hobbies and interests. Jacob enjoys golf and playing courses where we travel; I am an avid reader and a fitness fanatic.  I log my steps walking each day.  I also enjoy estate sales and have collected many of antiques that are used in Palace communities.

8. Be passionate about your business.  Both of us usually can be found at one of our communities. We make an effort to be accessible to our employees and talk and listen to them. We try to have lunch with not just managers but our hourly employees too.  It’s not unusual to invite managers to meetings at our home as well. We make a concerted effort to learn about everyone.

9. Hold on to family traditions. Regardless of our schedule, it's tradition for the family to come together for Friday night (Sabbath) dinner and usually 20-25 may gather at our home. 

10. Be crazy in love with each other. Love has carried us through the many challenges we have faced over 36 years.

 

Readers, what are your thoughts about working with your spouse? Do you think it would enhance your marriage as it as for the Shahams, or would it destroy it?

 

February 02, 2016

You don't need an excuse for being late to work

 

 

                                 Late to work

        

It's 8 a.m., the thick of rush hour traffic in South Florida, and my friend is swearing while she's talking to me on her speaker phone. She tells me that traffic is particularly bad, she's late to work and that her boss is going to be upset with her. Then, she proceeds to complain about how she was up until midnight trying to finish a project for a demanding client. 

Why would your boss care what time you arrive when you're were up until midnight? I asked her. 

He is just like that, she said.

The conversation got me thinking about the new rules of the workplace and the questions they raise. For example, since just about everyone is answering work emails and calls after hours, should bosses look the other way when salaried employees are running late? Is the whole concept of punctuality outdated?

Being chronically late is different. To me, it requires a conversation between employee and boss about expectations.

But if work hours are extending well past the traditional work day, then there should be some leeway on occasion in start time. (That's what flexibility is all about!) Rather than giving an excuse on the days when you are running late, I find it more productive for the employee to just sit down and get to work.

CareerBuilder released its list of the top bizarre excuses employees give for coming in late.  It conducted the survey alongside Harris Polls from Nov. 4 to Dec. 1, 2015, with more than 2,500 hiring and human said they were late for work at least once a month, while 13 percent fessed up that they are tardy once a week.

Traffic remains the top reason people give for lateness. (We can all relate to that!) But workers still give all kinds of crazy excuses to their bosses including this one: "I thought of quitting today, but then decided not to, so I came in late."

CareerBuilder went on to report that about two-thirds of employees and employers consider the 9-to-5 grind to be antiquated. And yet,  51 percent of employers expect employees to arrive on time. So, bosses expect employees to arrive on time, but they also expect them to stay late. Does that about sum up your workplace?

On a positive note, a third of employers said occasional lateness is not an issue, while 16 percent said they don't consider punctuality to be essential as long as their employees get their work done. To me, that's the key "as long as employees get their work done." Treating workers as professionals who can manage their time and workload goes a long way. As an employee, I would stay late and worker harder for a boss that didn't nit pick my arrival time.

What are your thoughts? Do you think hard-working professionals need to offer up an excuse for being late to work?

January 26, 2016

How to Copy Lena Dunham's Year of No

                                  Lena

 

Today, Lena Dunham - creator of the HBO series Girls -- made a bold announcement. She confessed that she's a people pleaser and says yes way more than she should. Her announcement made me cringe because I could relate to it.

Lena explained her situation this way: "No" is a word that could have served me well many times, but I didn't ever feel I had the right to use it......

Can I be there at noon? Sure can! Will I bring three hundred bucks in foreign currency? Absolutely! Will I also promise to help a friend move, be late meeting them because I also agreed to babysit another friend's sick rabbit, then disappoint everyone in the process? I sure will!

Lena had convinced herself that saying yes at work and in her personal life was the key to her likeability. So she sprinkled it liberally until she began to build up resentment. 

Oh, how I know that routine way too well.

She points out that work is all about taking on the challenge and typically, a place of yes. Which is exactly what she was doing until one day, she missed a work deadline and began rattling off all the reasons why. Her work partner then explained to her that life didn't have to be an endless jog to accommodate all the Yes's.

Lena says it was a slow process but a polite "no" soon entered her vernacular. People responded well to her honesty. They understood. They may have been disappointed, but they understood. 

You may not have scripts to write or actors to meet with but within the last month, it's likely you said yes to something you really didn't want to do. I know I did. Now, it's time to change that. It's time take a cue from Lena, be realistic about what we can do and save ourselves stress and resentment. 

For the sake of work life balance and sanity, try one of these responses next time you're about to say yes:

"I can't do it realistically by Friday,"

"I wish I could help you on that project but my week is insane,"

"I can't be at that event. I have  conflict. "

 I don't want to go to go out after work.  I am exhausted."

Lena tells her friends and colleagues: Don't take it personally when I tell you no this year. I am using it on everyone."

That seems like a line all of us can spit out when we need to say it.  Are you ready for your Year of No!

 

                              No

 

 

January 20, 2016

5 ways to fit mentorship into your work life balance

When I saw a TV interview with Lydia Muniz from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, something she said repulsed me. She told interviewer Helen Ferre that Miami is dead last out of 51 metro areas when it comes to its volunteer rate. Dead last.

Growing up in South Florida, I'm the first to admit that we tend to be self absorbed in the Sunshine State. We also consider ourselves very busy people with little time or money to donate to help others. 

I get it, people are busy. We work long hours.  We carry our smartphones on us all the time and can't get away from work calls and email. We have wives. We have kids. We have hobbies we want to pursue. Mentoring a child just doesn't seem like it should be something we sacrifice our free time to do.

But here's an interesting tidbit: 

A study by Wharton’s Cassie Mogilner, published in the Harvard Business Review, found spending time helping others left participants feeling as if they have more time, not less. Mogilner’s research shows that spending as few as 10 minutes helping others can make people not only feel less time-constrained but also feel capable, confident and useful.

If that's not motivation here's another tidbit:

Children who are mentored maintain better attitudes toward schools and are less likely to use drugs or start drinking, according to Mentoring.org, a nonprofit charged with expanding youth mentoring relationships.


With that as our motivation, we should be able to figure out how to mentor a child without it taking too much of our time. January is National Mentoring Month so this happens to be a great time to consider it. 
 
Natalie and Kriss 4.2015 II
(Natalie Parker, on left, mentors Kriss Reyes, right, in her workplace, The DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Miami)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some ways to fit mentoring into your schedule:
 
1. Have the children come to you. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a School to Work program that will bring students to your workplace once a month for four hours. The only requirement is that you have at least 10 volunteers.
 
2. Find a school near your office and pop in during your lunch hour or before work. Many schools encourage this type of mentoring as long as you are cleared by the county as a volunteer. 
 
3. Mentor as a couple or family. Forming a relationship with an at-risk youth can be easy when you include him or her in what you already are doing such as going to the beach, a football game or the park.
 
4. Mentor by phone. Some college students ( and high school seniors) are desperate for career advice. Young professional organization often are able to pair you with these type of students who are at risk for giving up. One of two phone calls and support as needed can set a young person on the right path.
 
5. Mentor occasionally by speaking on career day or at an afterschool club meeting. Schools are desperate to find speakers who are good role models. Organizations like Women of Tomorrow and Girl Power Rocks can facilitate this type of mentorship.
 
 I hope you will join me in making a difference in a young person's life!
 

SOME YOUTH MENTORING ORGANIZATIONS

▪ Stand Up for Kids (standupforkids.org)

▪ Big Brothers Big Sisters (bbbsmiami.org)

▪ Girl Power Rocks (girlpowerrocks.org)

▪ Honey Shine Mentoring Program (honeyshine.org)

▪ Women of Tomorrow (womenoftomorrow.org)

▪ Take Stock in Children (takestockinchildren.org)

 

Read more on this topic in today's Miami Herald.