May 12, 2015

How Should Sheryl Sandberg Handle Grief at Work? Advice from former LiveNation CEO Jason Garner

My heart goes out to Sheryl Sandberg with the tragic loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg. Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult but even more so when you return to work and try to carry on while knowing everyone is tip-toeing around you.

Today, my guest blogger is Jason Garner who will talk about dealing with grief in the workplace, sharing his very personal experience.  Jason says when his single mother, who struggled and sacrificed while raising him, died from stomach cancer,  he lacked the tools, support, and understanding to get through the grieving process. Garner’s book And I Breathed (2014) tells his cautionary tale  and he has lots of advice, tips and insight for people like Sandberg who must readjust their work life balance and fit grieving into the equation.

 

  Smaller Jason headshot-1

Six years ago I was the CEO of Global Music for Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter … and then my mom died.  My life took a drastic turn as I found myself unable to deal with the crippling grief while continuing my duties of overseeing thousands of employees and live concerts around the globe.  I lacked the tools, support, and understanding to get through the grieving process, and have spent the last six years on a journey to better understand myself.  I’ve spent thousands of hours learning with masters of body, mind, and spirit with the hope that by sharing what I’ve learned, others won’t have to face life alone like I did.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is a complex and difficult experience full of powerful emotions.  Experts say the grieving process takes around three years for us to heal, understand, and accept life absent a person we deeply loved.  I’ve learned this process is necessary and can’t be rushed.  But few of us have three years to pull ourselves together before getting back to the pressures of work.  This is where simple tools can be valuable in helping us cope with our grief as we return to work after a loss. 

Following are ten tools that can help us better function in our jobs while dealing honestly with the pain and loss that comes with death.

  1. Be real.  Grieving is tough.  Our hearts are filled with emotion that often comes spilling out in the form of tears, anger, and lack of patience with others. Accepting this fact and giving ourselves permission to be human in the process relieves the tension of trying to “gut our way through it,” “put on a game face,” or “just move on.”  Have patience and compassion with yourself and set the tone for how you hope others will deal with you during this process by being kind and understanding with yourself.
  2. Breathe. When we are going through pain we often hold our breath in the fear that letting go might lead to us breaking down.  In reality though, the body interprets the holding of the breath as an emergency, which causes our bodies to feel even more stress and pressure.  Take frequent breathers — regular intervals where you remind yourself to breathe deeply — and send the soothing message to your body that all is well.
  3. Move. The grieving process is filled with emotion, which is stored in the body as adrenaline.  This stagnant adrenaline is the cause of the racing and trapped feelings we often feel under stress.  Movement allows the body to release the pent up emotions and promotes flow.  Find time in the day to move: take a walk, stretch, do yoga, or just stand up and move your body to allow the stagnant emotions to move and release.
  4. Cry. Crying on the job is often seen as taboo.  But when we spend half our day at work, it’s bound to happen at one point or another, especially when we are mourning the loss of a loved one.  Bursting into tears can be embarrassing and can cause alarm to our coworkers.  So find a safe space and time — in the bathroom, at the park on your lunch break, or for a couple of minutes in your car — and give yourself permission to let go, to really cry, and to feel the sadness that naturally comes with death instead of bravely trying to hold it all in.
  5. Share. Sometimes during life’s challenges we behave as though we’re the only one having problems.  So we bottle our troubles up inside and try to be superhuman.  The result is rarely positive and eventually we break down, feeling misunderstood, alone, and isolated.  The reality is, though, that many people are going through challenges at the same time.  Death in particular is an experience to which we can all relate.  Be open with your boss and coworkers.  Share your challenge with them, ask for the patience, and allow yourself to be supported.
  6. Sleep.  Getting enough rest is a powerful way to help regulate your emotions.  Be sure when you’re grieving to plan for extra sleep.  Pulling all-nighters at work or with friends is a sure way to leave your emotions frazzled and increases the likelihood of a breakdown on the job.  Make it a point to shut down work at a reasonable hour and give yourself ample time to rest and relax.
  7. Get away.  Many employers offer some kind of leave following a death.  Even if your job doesn’t have a formal policy for leave, talk to your supervisor and ask for some time.  A few days away from work to process your loss and let your emotions out in private can go a long way in making your return to work less emotional and more productive.
  8. Get help. For many of us, our job has become all-encompassing and we have little time for friends, family, or hobbies.  While grieving, this adds another element to the challenge of coping at work because we lack outside outlets where we can share our feelings.  Find a friend, family member, or therapist and allow yourself the chance to vent your feelings so you don’t have to carry so much to work.
  9. Meditation. Even if you’ve never practiced meditation, the grieving process is a good time to start.  A few minutes of silent meditation gives you a break from the stress of the day to be present to yourself and your emotions. Don’t worry about how to do it; just sit, close your eyes, breathe, and give yourself a little space.
  10.  Be tender. Be tender and gentle with yourself even if the world around you isn’t understanding.  Share words of encouragement, give yourself space and patience, and don’t add extra stress by taking on new responsibilities or obligations.  Most of all, understand that you’re going through a major life event and give yourself love and compassion along the way.

 

Remember: you aren’t alone.  The process you’re going through is one that everyone faces at one time or another. Use these tools as trusted friends to lean on when times are tough.  And above all be kind and gentle with yourself as you grieve. 

 

May 11, 2015

Working Mothers' Biggest Challenges

One day last week, I was interviewing someone for an article while in the waiting room at my son's orthodontist. My son came out and was trying to get my attention. I was trying to signal that I needed a few more minutes of phone time. He was aggravated. I was aggravated. This is the kind of craziness that working mothers go through trying to achieve work life balance.

As working mothers our work life balance challenges are similar to those of fathers, but yet, so different.

In celebrating mothers this month, TheLadders.com sent me info on a survey they previously conducted to find out how working mothers feel about their work life balance. Want to know how they feel?

Overwhelmed and guilty.

Working mothers walk around with massive guilt --  Guilt that we are not spending enough time with our kids, coupled with guilt that our work may be suffering from not having our undivided attention 24 hours a day.

The Ladders surveyed 250 women and found balancing a career and a family is a huge struggle for 87% of of them, with 55% admitting that “excelling at both is overwhelming.”

On the phone with Nichole Barnes Marshall, I asked her about her work life challenges. Nichole is Global NicholeHead of Diversity and Inclusion for Aon, a job that has her traveling and connecting with thousands of Aon professionals. Nichole is also a married, working mother with three children ages, 4, 7 and 9. 

She told me her big challenge is prioritizing work in way that she can be operating at high performing level and be available to go to her kids activities like the recent school Cinco de Mayo festival.  "I wish I could be there for all the activities."

"The challenge for me is how I can be my best at work and be the best mother," she says. "I try to manage that by focusing on quality, not the quantity."

Nichole, like many other mothers, works to contribute to the household income but also enjoys her work. "I’m getting lot of satisfaction out of what I do, which makes  it (the balancing act) worthwhile. But, that doesn’t take away the twange when I get sad eyes from my kids for leaving for another business trip."

Not only do us working mothers feel challenged by and guilty about work conflicts causing us to miss events in our kids' lives, most of us feel guilty about any detail of our kids' lives that falls through the cracks.

I found myself nodding in agreement with every word of this op-ed piece in the New York Times titled Mom: The Designated Worrier.

Here's the gist of it:

Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties “worry work,” and the person who does it the “designated worrier,” because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all. I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t.

While fathers are helping more with household work and child care, women still keep track of the kind of nonroutine details of taking care of children — when they have to go to the doctor, when they need a permission slip for school, what they will eat for dinner."

So, in addition to our job demands there is tons of pressure on mothers to be the right kind of mother who keeps all the details straight and our families organized. That's our big challenge.

No wonder we walk around worried, overwhelmed and feeling guilty!

To all you sleep deprived, overwhelmed working mothers, you are awesome.  Lose the guilt, stop worrying and realize that whether or not you miss an event or forget to sign a permission slip, your children still love you.

 

 

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May 09, 2015

Moms who work on Mother's Day

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(Molita Cunningham and three of her children)

 

On Mother's Day, when the most of us mothers are celebrating, some mothers are working.

Molita Cunningham is one of them. She's a 56-year-old home healthcare worker who puts in 12 hour shifts as often as she can get them. Cunningham needs every penny she makes because as a home care worker she earns about $10 an hour( and that's after 30 years into her career). Her shifts are unpredictable so when she has work, she takes it.

Molita's children are less than pleased that she won't be spending Mother's Day with them ( 3 of 6 still live at home).  "They put on a sad face and say 'Mom, you're never home. You're always working' and I tell them it's just me paying the bills and struggling,'' Molita says.

Molita works for an home care agency that contracts with hospice. Sometimes, she gets hired for private clients. She rarely turns down a job. That means she can't always be there for her kids. "There are a lot of things I don’t attend -- my son’s track meet, my daughter's dance recital, things at school. The kids complain that I'm always working. "

Molita actually is one of the workers who are outspoken about raising the wages of home care workers. Despite being one of America’s fastest growing jobs, home care workers are living below the poverty level, getting paid an average of just $13,000 a year. Almost 50 percent of home care workers rely on some form of public assistance in order to make ends meet. Women, who make up 89 percent of workers in the industry, bear the brunt of these low wages. They typically do not receive expenses such gas or benefits such as health insurance. And, their jobs are unpredictable -- some assignments only last a few hours. 

Molita has spoken out at several rallies for higher wages for home care worker who pushing for $15 an hour. "That's still not a lot but at least I could breathe better. I'm a single mother and there are things my kids need. It's hurtful when I can’t provide for them for my children."  A new report from the National Women’s Law Center substantiates the challenges these moms are facing.

On Mother's Day, Molita will spend the day with an elderly woman whose family lives overseas. She will cook for the woman and care for her until late in the evening. Molita says caring for the elderly is  hard work. "You have to bathe them, feed them, dress them, help with oral care....you have to be caring and compassionate to wipe feces off of a stranger. Not everyone can do that."

Molita hasn’t spent Mother’s Day with her kids in years. It’s a feeling that she remembers from her own childhood - her mother was a home care worker and she remembers not being able to spend time with her on Mother’s Day. Molita says some clients will allow her to bring her children with her on holidays or with them if they go to church.

Even with the challenges, Molita says of her work as a home care attendant: “The work I do is demanding, and it keeps me from my family more than I would like, but it’s essential. I love this work and I intend to keep doing it.”

Happy Mother's Day to Molita and to all the mothers who are working at restaurants, in hospitals, as home health workers and any other job that requires they be away from their families on this special day.  For those who do their best to balance work and family, you are all amazing people! 

 

May 08, 2015

Mother's Day: What today's working mother is all about

                                 Mother


On Mother's Day, I will be rushing around from celebrating with my family to celebrating with my husband's family. The rushing around to make everyone happy is pretty typical of what most working mothers do on a daily basis. We can't help it...most moms feel we can and will juggle all kinds of responsibilities.

As Mother's Day approaches, my Inbox has been flooded with email about research on mothers. I find the research fascinating and insightful 

Here are 10 findings from various sources that paint a good picture of today's working mother. Do you see yourself in any of these stats. (I do!)

Finding 1: We've decided not to give up on having kids

Where highly educated women used to put their careers first and forego motherhood, that's not happening anymore. The share of highly educated women who are remaining childless into their mid-40s has fallen significantly over the past two decades ( Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data)

Finding 2: We're having more kids 

Pew found not only are highly educated women more likely to have children these days, they are also having bigger families than in the past. Among women with at least a master’s degree, six-in-ten have had two or more children, up from 51% in 1994.( Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data)

Finding 3 - We're successful (sort of)

While the vast majority of working moms feel they can have it all, only half (52 percent) said they are equally successful in their jobs and as parents. (CareerBuilder's Annual Mother Day Survey)

 

Finding 4 - We want to be providers

Four out of five working moms say the top factor defining success for them is the ability to provide for their families. (CareerBuilder's Annual Mother's Day Survey)

 

Finding 5 - We work and take care of our kids

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all mothers with children under age 18 worked or were looking for work in 2014. Even though they work, moms are primarily responsible for most chores related to taking care of the kids such a shopping, helping with homework and preparing breakfast. (Working Mother Research Institute survey, Chore Wars: The Working Mother Report)

Finding 6 -- We show our kids we're there for them

More than half of the working moms (56%) and dads (57%) say they share the responsibility for attending school events and athletic competitions with their partners(Working Mother Research Institute survey, Chore Wars: The Working Mother Report)

 

Finding 7 -- We finally have more help from our spouses

Moms are getting more help at home. We have seen a historic reduction in unevenly shared housework among heterosexual couples. As of 2012, married mothers were doing almost three and a half times as much "core housework" -- cooking, cleaning, and laundry - as married fathers. Still, back in 1965 they did 22 times as much!(The Council on Contemporary Families )

Finding 8 -- We still look to our moms for advice

Even though we may have kids of our own, 3 out of 4 women seek their mother’s advice: 18-24 year olds seeking relationship and health advice, while age 25-39 is seeking parenting advice  and 40-54 and 55+ seek home project insights. (Mother's Day survey by 1-800-FLOWERS.COM)

Finding 9 -- We need to be around other working moms

Working mothers who are surrounded by other working mothers have a happier work-life balance and less negative spillover from work than those who are surrounded by stay-at-home mothers. (research from The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology to be presented at the SIOP Conference)

Finding 10 -- We need resources 

The best states for working mothers have quality day care, reasonable child care costs, abundant pediatric services, a high median women's salary and a low female unemployment rate. (Wallethub 2015’s Best & Worst States for Working Moms. Click see if your state is one of them) 

 

 

May 07, 2015

Sheryl Sandberg, her husband's death, and her new work life balance

                                         Sheryl:dave

 

What a week it has been for Sheryl Sandberg. The news of her husband's death stunned the world. 

The official report said Dave Goldberg,  chief executive of SurveyMonkey, died from head trauma and blood loss after apparently slipping off a treadmill while vacationing with family and friends in Mexico. He was 47.

Sheryl has handled the hand she was dealt in a way that has moved many of us.

As the author of Lean In, COO of Facebook and someone who has credited her husband and his household contributions, for her ability to find some semblance of work life balance, Sheryl certainly will have some readjustment. Mostly likely, Sheryl has help at home (a nanny/housekeeper). Most high powered women do. But there are things only a parent can do and Sheryl will have to figure it all out. Single moms know that travel, late night work functions and work obligations become much more difficult when there is only one parent in the picture. As a single mother, it becomes more of a challenge to Lean In, even more so when the world is watching how you handle the rebalancing act and when you're dealing with grief.

If you haven't seen Sheryl's post on Facebook, I think all of you will find it inspirational. 

Sheryl writes:

I want to thank all of our friends and family for the outpouring of love over the past few days. It has been extraordinary - and each story you have shared will help keep Dave alive in our hearts and memories.

I met Dave nearly 20 years ago when I first moved to LA. He became my best friend. He showed me the internet for the first time, planned fun outings, took me to temple for the Jewish holidays, introduced me to much cooler music than I had ever heard.

We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine... He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved – and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world.

Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn’t sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way – and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit.

Dave and I did not get nearly enough time together. But as heartbroken as I am today, I am equally grateful. Even in these last few days of completely unexpected hell – the darkest and saddest moments of my life – I know how lucky I have been. If the day I walked down that aisle with Dave someone had told me that this would happen – that he would be taken from us all in just 11 years – I would still have walked down that aisle. Because 11 years of being Dave Goldberg’s wife, and 10 years of being a parent with him is perhaps more luck and more happiness than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful for every minute we had.

As we put the love of my life to rest today, we buried only his body. His spirit, his soul, his amazing ability to give is still with us. It lives on in the stories people are sharing of how he touched their lives, in the love that is visible in the eyes of our family and friends, in the spirit and resilience of our children. Things will never be the same – but the world is better for the years my beloved husband lived.

 

What advice do you have for Sheryl now that she's a single mother? Do you think her adjustment is easier because she has no money concerns or is it more difficult because she lives such a public life and will have her every move scrutinized?

 

 

May 06, 2015

The cost of your commute on your work life balance

 

Two weeks ago, I did a 45-minute commute to a conference in Miami for two days. I tried to stay calm during my drive, but I couldn't believe how often I got cut off by other cars, honked at for no reason and stuck behind trucks dropping stuff on my car.

I found myself asking out loud several times, "How do people do this every day?"

Commuting is stressful so the incentive needs to be there -- better pay, great co-workers, flexibility, a job you love or one where you have built up seniority.  Some people are willing to make the commute to live in a nicer neighborhood or one with better schools.

But as the economy rebounds and traffic worsens, people are less willing to put up with a stressful commute. Commuters are once again negotiating with bosses and changing jobs to cut back on the time they spend on the road. 

Research shows that the longer a person’s commute, the more profound the effects on personal well-being and life satisfaction. Spending hours in a car, day after day can be a drain on productivity and happiness. To improve work/life balance, attorney Patricia Ferran looked at her options and found a job closer to her home-- slimming her commute from 60 minutes to 10.  “Now I can sleep more and go out at night with friends because I’m not as tired.”
 
A 2013 Census Report shows that more than 1.5 million American workers commute 90 minutes from work to home, a time toll that can make it a struggle to put dinner on the table, pick the kids up from childcare, make it to an exercise class, or have downtime before going to sleep and doing it again the next day.
 
Jorge Alvarez of Albion Staffing says job candidates are specific that a new position be in close proximity of their home or where they have childcare, Gonzalez says. Lately, he has been getting more rejections from job candidates who don’t want to drive the distance — even with the promise of a higher salary. “Employees now have choices, and they will turn down an amazing job because the commute is out of what they consider comfortable.”
 
It wasn’t primarily the distance or time that led Susan Greene to change jobs — it was the stress and toll on her health. She had been commuting an hour each way for her job as marketing director of a law firm. Two weeks ago, Greene took a new job as chief marketing officer for The Beacon Council, about 10 minutes from home. “It’s liberating,” she says. “I can make dinner plans. I am so much happier.”
 
One women I spoke with says the tradeoffs are worth it. She tries to shake off the stress before she walks into her office.   Angela Foskolos told me she added about two hours of driving to her day when she took on a new position with her company, a currency exchange near the Miami International Airport. Foskolos said her cross-counties commute is a tradeoff for a higher salary and additional experience, but mostly she endures it because she likes her co-workers: “Everyone is in an upbeat mood, and the environment is positive. It makes me happier to do the drive.”
 
A lot of managing the daily commute comes down to making compromises — in terms of limiting where you take a job, what kind of job you take, what neighborhood you live in and the nearby schools, and which partner in a dual-income household sacrifices personal time. “For some of us, commuting to our jobs is just a normal way of working,” South Florida commuter Lynn Holtsberg says.
 
How does the commute affect your work life balance? As the economy rebounds, are you considering a job closer to home?
 
 
Carla

(Above: Carla Vertesch was able to work out an arrangement to leave her television production job earlier, allowing her more time for her commute to pick her children up from aftercare. The Vertesch family owns CertaPro Painters of Central Miami and counts on Carla's income as their family business gets off the ground.)

 

April 30, 2015

Miami Heat players says health scare led to better work life balance

 

Chris bosh

 

Sometimes, it takes a health scare to make us reflect on our lives. 

For Miami Heat's Chris Bosh, it was a blood clot. 

Last week, after the Miami Heat's basketball season ended and the rest of the players were cleaning out their lockers and doing exit interviews, Chris Bosh spoke to the media and said he was coming back next season way better than ever. While the other players seemed worn out, Bosh was upbeat and talked about his new perspective on the game of basketball and the game of life. 

In February, Bosh had been diagnosed with a blood clot and landed in the hospital. Bosh said he played with blood clots in his lungs for "three weeks probably" before being diagnosed. While lying in a hospital bed with clotted blood stopping up his lungs, he thought his career might be over. It gave him time to think and realize how much he missed basketball when he wasn't playing.

Bosh told the media that stepping back and taking time off allowed for reflection. "I needed to recharge my passion because I was getting beat down a little bit over the last four years," he said. 

Many of us forget how important it is to recharge. We push on, and on, until we find ourselves off our game. Life and all its stresses just add up. And while we might not be able to make those stressors go away, we can take a step back and force ourselves to reflect and recharge. 

Finding work life balance is not an easy feat but we can't wait until we're lying in a hospital bed to realize that prioritizing time for ourselves is not a luxury but a necessity. 

I think Chris Bosh realized the importance of down time and balance and putting your health first. Now, he is back with his team and ready to win. The rest of us need to approach life the same way, and surely, then, we will win too.

Pope Frame thinks the wage gap is a shame, why don't CEOs?

                                      Pope
There are lots of people who don't believe the wage gap between men and women really exists. And then there's Pope Francis.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis used his high profile platform to make the world realize that equal pay for equal work benefits not only women, but also families.

While making audience Wednesday at the Vatican, Pope Francis called the gender pay gap a "pure scandal" in remarks on marriage and family.

A pure scandal!

He also said it is wrong to blame the troubles of modern marriage on women's liberation. Rather he said that economic stresses are a bigger problem for marriages. Those stresses could be lessened if women were paid fairly. He is so right!

This morning, I heard a radio host speak about how her friend became a boss and realized that the men in his department were paid more than the women for the same job responsibilities. He was disgusted and asked for the women to be given a bump in salary. When his boss refused, he agreed to give part of his next raise to the women who earned less. How great is that!

It is no secret that many women still earn less than men for the same job. And when women seem to infiltrate a profession, suddenly the salaries decline. My friend recently told me that she heard the publisher of my newspaper speak about how more of the newsroom are held by women. My friend pointed out that this is because the salaries in the profession aren't rising with journalism jobs on the decline. It made me sad to think she might be right.

Just last week, American's observed Equal Pay Day, a sobering reminder that a stubborn wage gap persists. 

The National Partnership for Women & Families called the wage gap: "pervasive and punishing."

Here are some sad facts:   If the gap between the wages of women and men who work full time, year round were eliminated, a mother in the United States would have enough money for 2.4 more years of food, 11 more months of mortgage and utilities payments, 18 more months of rent, 25 more months of child care, or 6,600+ gallons of gas

Women in the European Union were paid 16.4 percent less than men on average in 2013, according to statistics agency Eurostat. United States Census Bureau data indicate women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, based on annual median salaries.

Think of the difference it could make in how women balance their work and family if we closed the wage gap. More mothers could afford to buy a car, hire a babysitter, pay their medical bills.

I wondered long ago why CEOs don't look at their payroll and make sure women and men who work the job earn the same pay. 

Members of Congress have reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, supported by President Obama, which would help break harmful patterns of pay discrimination and establish stronger workplace protections for women. How unfortunate it is that we need such legislation! The reality is simple: Two people do the same job, they should be paid the same amount.

Pope Francis gets it. Even Obama seems to get it. Why can't employers get it?

We need to close that wage gap. We need men to care that their wives, sisters and daughters are affected and that in the end, everyone pays the price. We need change and we need it now!

Do you think the pope's words will be enough to get business leaders to re-examine their payrolls? If not, what do you think it will take?

 

April 27, 2015

The ideal worker is ruining our lives

                                                 Ideal

 

 

The idea worker is not me and it likely isn't you.

The ideal worker doesn't take parental leave when a child is born. He or she has no need for family-friendly policies like flexible schedule, part-time work or telecommuting. The ideal worker doesn't need to find babysitters, deal with school closures or worry about child-care responsibilities.

The ideal worker, freed from all home duties, devotes himself completely to the workplace. He or she is a face-time warrior, the first one in in the morning and the last to leave at night. He or she is rarely sick, doesn't take vacation and is willing to hop on a plane whenever needed. The ideal worker will answer email at 3 a.m. or pull an all nighter if asked. He is the guy who works endless hours, even if it cost him or her their health or family. 

In her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One Has Time, Brigid Schulte brilliantly points Overwhelmed-TPBookshot-250x372out that the notion of the ideal worker wields immense power in the American workplace. "We are  programmed to emulate him at all costs, or at least feel the sting of not measuring up," she notes.

Here we are in the 21st Century, one in which most women and men work and most have some kind of home responsibilities. Yet, as Brigid points out in her book ( a must read!) most of us are being penalized because we can't meet the expectations of the ideal worker. 

This outdated notion of the ideal worker is a big reason why some education mothers disappear from the workplace and why some men hate their jobs. "Fathers are stigmatized when they seek to deviate from the ideal worker," Brigid writes. That leaves men with children faced with a sharp choice -- either they choose not to be equal partners at home or they choose to be equal partners and hurt their careers, she writes. 

What's it going to take to zap this longtime definition of the ideal worker?

That's a loaded question because with fast emerging technologies, the ideal worker is now expected to be on call and ready to roll all day, every day, all the time. Even worse, people who work for ideal worker managers sleep less than those who have flexible managers and are at great risk for heart disease, Brigid points out.

"No matter how much you do, how hard you work, how much you sacrifice, how devoted you are, you can never attain the ideal," Brigid convincingly argues.

So, here we are raising our kids, trying to please our customers and bosses, working crazy hours, and still, the workplace demands more. We are stressed. We are exhausted. We are on an unfulfilling search for happiness and we need a new definition of the ideal worker. NOW.

My definition of the ideal worker is someone who gives work his or her full attention while at the office and refuels once he or she leaves. My definition includes working parents who take their vacations, fathers who take their children to school or meet with their teachers, and singles who take time to do activities they find enjoyable. Under my definition, the ideal worker doesn't necessarily work less, he workers smarter and more innovatively.

If the outdated notion of the ideal worker is ruining your life, causing you to be overwhelmed and unsure of whether you can ever please everyone on the job and at home, it's time to work toward change. We can make the new definition stick, we just need to acknowledge it needs changing and get the movement started. 

April 16, 2015

Take a pause, Get in flow, Learn to play

                                       Trapeze

 

 

Have you ever heard of flow? Let me describe it to you....

Picture yourself on a surfboard, riding a wave. You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the feel of the board on the water, the sound of the wave and the splash of the ocean on your face.  Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice. According to Steven Kotler, what you are experiencing in that moment is known as flow, a state of complete immersion in an activity. 

When you're in flow, your attention is focused and you are capable of amazing things,  every action flows effortlessly and innovation gets amplified. 

Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. A writer might experience this when working on a novel and the pages seem to write themselves. A basketball player might experience it when he gets into the zone, undergoes a loss of self-consciousness and focuses only on his shot from center court.

Flow states are now known to optimize performance, enhance creativity, drive innovation, accelerate learning and amplify memory.

The happiest people have flow. I don't have flow. I have stress. I am walking around with a to-do list that never gets shorter and I'm always thinking about ten things at the same time.

But I can get flow and so can you.

I bet you're thinking, "How in the world would I do that?" That's what I was thinking when I heard Steven Kotler speak about flow earlier this week at Human Capital Media's  Chief Learning Officer Symposium in Miami. Steven wrote  the book "The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance and says we can tap flow at work, home, or skiing down a mountain.

Here are a few of Steven's suggestions for triggering flow: Choose your own challenges, Put yourself in an unpredictable environment, stretch yourself just slightly greater than your skill set, embrace solitude, be aware of your senses, engage in serious concentration.

After hearing Kotler speak, I wandered into a nearby room at the conference to hear Yogi Roth talk about finding your inner grit. Roth, calls himself an Aventure-preneur (don't you love that title!) From Roth, I learned that I don't pause enough to think about my personal style, my vision, my theme and my philosophy.  I want to pause more, and think about these things. I want inner grit.

To get it, Roth says I must make sure how I describe myself, how my best friend describes me and how my mentor describe me are the same. I will start working on that...

Thanks Yogi, good stuff to know.

Most important, from Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time and the final speaker at the conference, I learned that I don't take enough time to play. When is the last time you jumped on a trampoline, glided through air on a swing or climbed a tree? For me, it's been way too long ago. So, if I want work life balance and a less stressful life, I must learn to play. I like the idea of playing more, don't you? At Patagonia,  managers have their meetings while hiking mountains and people take time in the afternoons to surf with co-workers. I love that concept -- play at work.

Do you know that in some parts of the country  there are women's play groups? Yes, these women get together weekly for playdates for a fun activity -- they trapeze, rock climb and bike ride. How cool is that!

Clearly, I have a few things to work on if I want to up my game. 

What are your thoughts on flow, grit, and play? If you have tapped into flow or found a way to fit play into your day, I want to hear from you. How do you make these concepts a reality?