April 09, 2014

Sheryl Sandberg gives great advice

Once again Sheryl Sandberg has convinced me she's one of the most interesting women alive.

She speaks her mind, speaks from experience and speaks with just the right amount of filter.

Here's her advice to college grads from this morning's Today Show. I love how she tells college grads that they can negotiate in their first job but they have to know how to do it.  I also LOVE how she believes this is the generation of young women that can achieve equality and embrace leadership.

For the full interview with "The Today Show," click here.  


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

April 08, 2014

The secret weapon behind work life balance

We all  struggle for work life balance, but most of us don’t realize that sometimes the path towards achieving might be something so simple.

Some of the most successful people I know are sharing their secret weapon for remaining strong and finding balance. 


One of them is Donna Shalala. By her own admission, Donna Shalala is a workaholic. She is the president of University of Miami and has a resume that anyone would find impressive -- accomplished scholar, teacher and administrator. Her jobs titles include a stint working for President Bill Clinton as secretary of health and human services. While Donna doesn't have kids, she does take care of her elderly mother and oversees thousands of employees. Last week, I was at a luncheon in which Donna was asked about work life balance. 
The secret weapon, she says, is a good night's sleep. "The biggest mistakes I've made in my career happened because I was overtired," she told more than 400 women at a lunch sponsored by The Commonwealth Institute South Florida.
Coincidentally, or maybe not, Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, also is on a campaign to advocate for a good night's sleep. Her personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye -- the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. She wondered, "is this really what success feels like?"
Instead of bragging about our sleep deficits or how busy we are, Arianna urges us to shut our eyes and see the big picture: We can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness — and smarter decision-making. The first step, she says, is getting 30 minutes more sleep a night.
So, there you go! Two powerful women are telling you that sleep is key to good decisions and our well being. If you're giving up sleep to get more done, it's time to change that habit. Arianna says sleep deprived women will learn the hard way the value of sleep as she did, especially when trying to see the big picture in business. 
As someone who is guilty of giving up sleep, I'm going to change my habits. I hope you will, too. 

April 02, 2014

How to become a better risk taker

Are women afraid to take as big risks as men?

Is that question even a valid one?

I have survey data that says it is a valid question and that women are more afraid of risk taking -- particularly when it comes to putting money on the line. But that can change.

All of us can become better risk takers if we change the way we think about risk -- looking at it for the opportunities rather than the repercussions.

I tackled the topic of risk taking in my Miami Herald column today and learned a lot about how to make risk taking pay off. I have edited the article to hone in on the best advice:

Many women business owners hesitant when it comes to risk taking

Mary Jo Eaton, executive managing director of CBRE, in front of the 777 Brickell Building, one of the properties the firm manages and where its Miami office is located. Eaton has taken big risks to help CBRE expand in Florida, most recently opening a Tallahassee office.
Mary Jo Eaton, executive managing director of CBRE, in front of the 777 Brickell Building, one of the properties the firm manages and where its Miami office is located. Eaton has taken big risks to help CBRE expand in Florida, most recently opening a Tallahassee office. 



Allison Sokol, CEO of Specific Beauty, needs to be a risk taker. Her marketing channel, HSN, wants her Miami multicultural skin care company to forge into new product lines. Her buyers want her to expand into Europe. Her business partner, Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, wants to showcase the science behind results through infomercials. But Sokol approaches risk taking cautiously.

“I’m not risk adverse,” she says. “I’m just not impulsive. I believe in being sure and taking educated risks.”

Sokol’s caution mimics many women who run businesses. But when big risks lead to big rewards, women leaders must shift their thought processes if they are going to increase their growth prospects. How exactly, does someone become more of a risk taker?

The first step is a mindshift. A new survey shows women business owners in Florida are struggling to find an appropriate balance between risk and caution. The survey of nearly 250 women by the Commonwealth Institute South Florida found women leaders and owners are optimistic about growth for their businesses in 2014. But while they express interest in expanding product lines and moving into new geographies, most hesitate to take a financial risk.

Most telling: More than 63 percent said they plan to fund growth in 2014 with internally generated funds. That represents a startling figure when research by the Department of Commerce shows most male owners are willing to borrow money to fund their ambition and cease growth opportunities.

“Women by nature are not gamblers,” says Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director of the Commonwealth Institute

Visualize the potential outcome to make risk taking less scary. Judy Leibovit, founder of Sweet Endings offers this advice as she looks toward national distribution for her desserts:  "It’s about doing it carefully, slowly and smartly and seeing clearly where the risk will take you.”

Size up competitors’ risk tolerance. Risk can be critical to increasing market share, the outspoken Richard Branson founder of the Virgin Group has noted. In this competitive economy, avoiding risk can be its own gamble.
Reframe risk as an opportunity to succeed. This thinking has helped men build more million dollar companies than women. Of course, some of that may be by choice. Women business owners often work harder at juggling work and family; accordingly, they often have smaller performance expectations for their businesses, according to research by the National Women’s Business Council. In assessing risk, look for long term pay off rather than short term rewards.

Think bigger and bolder. “Women are taking risk consistent with their goals but their goals aren’t big enough,” says Sharon Hadary, former and founding executive director of the Center for Women’s Business Research in Washington, D.C. “We live up to our own expectations.”  Mary Jo Eaton, executive managing director for CBRE Florida, has relocated twice and taken on difficult roles that she saw as opportunities to stand out. “I have had great male mentors who I’ve watched assess risk, take significant risk and be rewarded.”

Prepare well. The greatest rewards come from preparing for risk in advance and seeing short-term setbacks as a stepping stone to long-term success. Allison Sokol's Specific Beauty offers a case study. Sokol's initial strategy for distributing her tone-evening skincare line required an unsustainable marketing budget to support sales through retail stores. She has since begun distributing the projects through doctors’ offices, med spas, the Internet and HSN.

Still, Sokol wants big rewards for her company and factors that into every potential risk: “The bottom line is I didn’t go into business to make little bit of money. I went into it to make a lot of money. If I am taking away time from family, I want to do it in big way.”





March 31, 2014

Gwyneth Paltrow ignites outrage from working mothers

G and kids

So after all these years, moms still don't understand we're all in this work life balance struggle together. 

All moms, I repeat, all moms, live with stress, worry, guilt and self doubt when they try to be the best moms they can be and hold a job.

The latest to stir up controversy: Gwyneth Paltrow who struck a nerve when in an interview with E! News, the 41-year-old talked about needing a break from acting so she could spend more time with her children, Apple, 9, and Moses,7, 

"It’s much harder for me,” she said. “I feel like I set it up in a way that makes it difficult because … for me, like if I miss a school run, they are like, ‘Where were you?’ I don’t like to be the lead so I don’t [have] to work every day, you know, I have little things that I like and obviously I want it to be good and challenging and interesting and be with good people and that kind of thing.”

She also pointed out that things are more difficult for her than other moms, because of the demanding nature and unpredictable schedule of her acting career.

“I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set,” Paltrow said.

Ouch! That stung working moms like Mackenzie Dawson who responded with an open letter to Gwyneth in the New York Post. Here's an excerpt from her well written letter:

Dear Gwyneth,

I really enjoyed your recent comments to E! about how easy an office job is for parents, compared to the grueling circumstances of being on a movie set. “I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening,” you said. “When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day, and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”

As a mother of a toddler, I couldn’t agree more!

“Thank God I don’t make millions filming one movie per year” is what I say to myself pretty much every morning as I wait on a windy Metro-North platform, about to begin my 45-minute commute into the city. Whenever things get rough, all I have to do is keep reminding myself of that fact. It is my mantra.

And I know all my fellow working-mom friends feel the same. Am I right, ladies?

We’re always gabbing about how easy it is to balance work and home life. Whenever I meet with them at one of our weekly get-togethers — a breeze to schedule, because reliable baby sitters often roam my neighborhood in packs, holding up signs peddling their services — we have a competition to see who has it easier. Is it the female breadwinners who work around the clock to make sure their mortgages get paid, lying awake at night, wracked with anxiety over the idea of losing their jobs? Or is it the mothers who get mommy-tracked and denied promotions? What about the moms with “regular” 9-to-5 jobs, who are penalized when their kids are sick and they don’t have backup child care?

Those women are living the dream, I tell you!

To both women I say: No one balances work and family without feeling some pain.

Being a working mom is a challenge, regardless of what career you pursue or job you hold.

I can personally argue that any time you spend away from your kids for work, you will be racked with guilt and self doubt over something you miss out on. I get it Gwyneth, missing the daily routine of your kids' lives for a period of time can be emotionally difficult.

The difference, Gwyneth, is the logistics of work life balance are easier for you. You can hire good child care to handle the logistics while you're gone. Can you really compare your struggles as a Hollywood actress to those with desk jobs or even that of a low wage single mothers who juggle work and family? These women live day to day with guilt, and self doubt and fear that they won't be able to pay the bills if their child gets sick and they need a day off work.

So, Gwyneth and Mackenzie and all other working mothers, let's all recognize that most of us want success in our careers and to "be there" for our kids when they need us. Let's rally behind policies that will make it easier for all working mothers to juggle work and family. It's not us vs. them. It's just us! 


March 28, 2014

Is there no such thing as "out of office" ?

Remember the days when an auto response that read "out of office" meant that the person was going to be completely unavailable?

Those days are long gone, aren't they?

Today,I got the "out of office" response from someone I desperately needed to reach. I waited. Patiently.

And, a few minutes ago, an email arrived from that person with the information I needed.

I'm noticing that with today’s devices, it's increasingly impossible to really be out of the office and out of touch. It's as if out of office no longer means, "Get lost, I am on a cruise with my family and I am soaking up the sun. I'll respond in five days." Instead, it now  means "You might not hear from me instantly, but I'll get back to you back to you by tomorrow."

If you're like me, you no long believe "out of office" status any more. With that option disappearing, how are any of us really going to disconnect?

Richard Moran, CEO of Accretive Solutions writes: "My advice is when you need to take a break, post the out of office status but add the word REALLY. Maybe it will work and your health, both mental and physical will thank you. Or, only take vacations in places where there is no Internet access. If you can find one."

I've been on Spring Break this week and I didn't even bother to turn on my "out of office" status. I just checked in periodically and dealt with the email I felt needed to be tended to right away. I guess that's what others do, too.

So, now we all know the sad reality  "out of office" is a lie. If we really plan to disconnect maybe we need to get more specific and try something like this:" I'm not going to be reading or replying to any emails until a given date."

Or, maybe we just need to work harder at setting boundaries and rethink our expectations of others.

How do you react when you get an out of office response? Do you still expect a quick reply?


March 25, 2014

Is a friend standing in the way of your work life balance?

Last night I was perusing through Cosmopolitan when something grabbed my attention. It was a list of  things you need to know by your late 20s.

Number 14 on that list: No matter how close you get with a guy, never neglect your closest, most solid friends.

I am well past my late 20s but I have learned that friendships are CRUCIAL to sanity and work life balance both for men and women. They can make life easier for you, or make your juggling act much more difficult.

Here's what I have discovered:

A real friend doesn't insist you attend girls night out or guys night out if he or she knows you have spent very little time lately with your significant other.

He or she asks you to pitch in with driving kids or taking over a piece of a work project, but he or she returns the favor.

A real friend notices when you've had a hard day at work or feel  overwhelmed by the demands on your time -- and listens to you vent without being judgmental. If your "friend" wants you to listen to his or her drama but doesn’t seem to have time for yours, they’re not really a friend.

I've discovered that real friend understands that there might be times in your life when you can only spare a few minutes for a phone conversation and that's all that's needed to keep the friendship going.

In my 20s, I had a very high tolerance for selfish friends.  But as I approach my 50s, I surround myself with friends who I want to make time for because they add something to my life. They make my life better and I think I make their lives better, too.

If a  so-called friend is interfering with your work life balance, don't be afraid to end the friendship and move on. It's a lesson we all learn -- some of us just take longer to figure it out.

Do you have the right friends in your life?







March 20, 2014

Spring Break isn't what it used to be

One day last week, my friend called me and was panicked. Unexpectedly, she was told she needs to travel for work next week during her kids' Spring Break. "I have to go or we'll lose the client," she told me.

Usually, I offer sympathy. But this time, I took a different tactic. I asked her how she'd feel if she stayed home. Would she be enjoy herself and feel like she was on vacation? Or would she be consumed with guilt and worried about what was going on at work without her? I suspect the later.

Don't get me wrong, I treasure my time with my kids. I look forward to spring break every year with them. But while I don't endorse making work a priority over children, sometimes making a sacrifice in your personal life is necessary to keep a job. 

Around me I see working parents unable to get time off to be with their kids for Spring Break. They are scrambling to find a low cost option to keep their kids busy. Even those of us fortunate enough to take time off will most likely stay connected to our jobs by checking our email. Most of us working parents are far away from the days when Spring Break was a time to cut lose and soak up the sun without responsibilities.

I assured my friend that even if she grabs one afternoon of uninterrupted beach time with her kids, she has achieved the goal of breaking from her daily routine. In the end, work life balance is about making work and family blend the best we can -- and not beating ourselves up when life doesn't go as planned. 




March 19, 2014

Do singles get taken advantage of in the workplace?

Are you the one who is asked to stay late? If so, are you the one without kids?

Singles in the workplace say they are the ones who bear the brunt of the workload. They are the ones who are considered most dependable and therefore asked to do more. It was eye opening for me to hear their point of view as I reported the article below for The Miami Herald.

Do  you feel the tension in your workplace between parents and non parents?





Jennifer Verdeja, a massage therapist at a South Florida spa, talks excitedly about her job, until the conversation turns to the unfairness of her work schedule. “Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I should get the Saturday night shift every week.”

As businesses make more effort to accommodate working parents, the resentment from non-parents is mounting. Early results of a new study of 25,000 workers shows two-thirds of non-parents feel they carry an undue burden at the office and are expected to work longer hours than those with children.

The tension between non-parents and parents on job sites has been especially true in the private sector, according to Project 28-40, the largest ever British study of women in the workplace set to be released on April 2 by Opportunity Now, a UK workplace gender diversity campaign.

Sometimes the tension is subtle, exhibited in squabbles over who comes in on the weekend or gets holidays off. In other instances, clashes are overt, resulting in claims of discrimination that explode into lawsuits or force new policies.

Employers often unwittingly feed the conflict. While more than 70 percent of mothers are in the workplace, companies may forget that 42 million working households have no children under 18, according to 2012 U.S. Census data.

“The real problem is the structure of the organization,” says Donna Flagg, the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and founder of The Krysalis Group, a management consulting firm. She says managers often are terrified of someone throwing a discrimination claim at them and tend to tread carefully around pregnant workers or new parents. In doing so, they unwittingly create a double standard.

“There has to be an objective measure in place that applies rules equitably to everyone,” says Flagg. “Only a handful of companies have achieved it and most are a long way off.”

Sandra Rodriguez, a Miami market research professional, says she is often baffled by the accommodations working parents receive. “It’s as if they have a valid excuse for coming in late, leaving early and taking sick days.” A non- parent would be reprimanded for similar behavior, she says.

She also resents that the parents in her workplace receive more flexibility, and that she is expected to work more hours than coworkers who are married with kids.

“My personal time is less respected,” Rodriguez says. If there’s work to be completed after normal business hours, Rodriguez gets asked to stay late. “It’s like I don’t have anything important to do, so it doesn’t matter if they ask more of me.”

Alisha Forbes, a manager at a multinational firm who has no children, says she experiences similar expectations — and she resents it. “If we [non-parents] cannot stay late, contrary to the attitude that parents receive, there is pressure to come up with a valid reason to justify our unavailability.”

A 2008 British study showed that single women, in particular, were bearing the brunt of the new 'long hours' culture, with 40 per cent regularly putting in unpaid overtime — markedly more than single men of the same age (26 percent) and working mothers (17 percent.) Today, single women still argue that while the challenges faced by working mothers are being acknowledged, the extra burden being placed on childless women goes unnoticed.

Men without children have complaints, too. The notion that a “work-life balance” should apply only to working parents infuriates Stan D’alo, a South Florida customer service technician. D’alo found that when he wanted time off to participate in tae kwan do tournaments, his manager gave him a hard time. “They allow others flexibility because I’m dependable. I’m expected to make more sacrifices,” he says.

D’alo also resents that his parent colleagues try to use kids as leverage when asking for raises. “I have had people who work at lower positions whine that they should make more money than me because I have no children.”

Flagg said organizations still haven’t figured out how to allocate time off, dole out promotions and set rules around flexibility in a way that is fair for all. However, employers have come to realize that by making the lives of working parents manageable, these workers contribute more to the organization.

“There are responsibilities that having children requires and a reality to demands they place on you” she says. “But there’s a tension that is intensifying in workplaces. If it festers and is not addressed, it will gain energy and create a lot of ill feelings.”

Conversely, parents hold resentment too, the report shows. Only a third of the women (34%) believe that the opportunities to advance are equal between women who have children and those who do not.

Working mothers like Janna Montgomery, who has a special needs child and has used the Family Medical Leave Act, says single mothers are the ones that suffer most and, she believes, are automatically viewed as less committed.

In some ways, it’s a gender issue, she says. When a man has children, he gets promoted but a women has to work harder to just keep her job, she says.

Working parents also hold the widespread view that if they work flexibly, they will progress slower than their peers, regardless of contribution.

Leslie Smith, a partner in the Miami LAW office of Foley & Lardner, said firms like hers have begun focusing on making this a non issue. “Everyone has a perspective formed by specific instances or circumstances,” she said. “At law firms, attrition is a big issue.”

The goal has to be not only to keep lawyers, but to encourage them to work with each other. “We need collaboration and that means the working environment has to be attractive for all.”




March 17, 2014

Where does luck come from?

St. pats

This morning, I opened an email from Paula Rizzo who writes The List Producer, one of my favorite newsletters. In today's edition, she pondered the question, "Where does luck come from?"

I had been pondering the same question myself when I went to the racetrack on Friday. It was my birthday so I wondered if I should be particularly lucky.  One of the women I was with had amazing luck. She would scrutinize the horses a bit and then bet. She won nearly every race. I won a few, too, and used a completely different method. I bet on the horses I felt were lucky. I used the hunch method. The two of us went about placing bets differently, but both of us created our own luck.

So, where does luck come from? I mentioned to friends while at the racetrack that I was going to bet small and therefore win or lose small. And, if I lost, it would be okay. For me, it's more important to be lucky in life than to win bets or raffles or even bingo games.  In life, I believe I'm very lucky. 

I know a successful woman business owner who gets angry when someone tells her she has been lucky in her career.  "My fortune has been earned," she will say. Along those lines, you might consider Sara Blakely lucky.  Sara is founder of Spanx, a multi-million dollar undergarment company. She is the world's youngest self-made female billionaire. Sara heard a lot of "nos" before she heard "yes". She brought a unique shapewear product to the market at the right time and convinced department stores to sell it. Sara will argue her success has been anything but luck. She will tell you that it's been all about hard work determination and dedication.

Rizzo asks: "Is it luck that opens doors in our life or is it our hard work and determination that pushes us forward? I think that it’s a little bit of both! When I look back at the good things that have happened to me — sometimes I’m the one who creates my own luck! I think that Oprah puts it perfectly, ”I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been ‘lucky.’”

I completely agree. To me, luck comes from believing things will go your way. If you believe you can find work life balance, and you are prepared when opportunity comes knocking at your door, you can create the path to happiness and career success as you define it. That's part luck, part attitude.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


March 13, 2014

How smartphones make us ignore our kids


Have you ever ignored your kids because you were on your cell phone?

I hate to admit it but I definitely have done it. It's so hard to balance work and family and stay off your phone when you're around your kids.

ABC reports that researchers from Boston Medical Center went undercover in 15 local fast food restaurants to observe nature's parenting playground. Watching silently from a distance, they observed the interactions between family members, noting in particular the reactions children had when mom or dad punched away at the portable keys.


"It's just like people watching, basically, except we were taking very detailed notes about observations," said Dr. Jenny S. Radesky, a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and lead author of the study published in the journal Pediatrics.


Parents in 40 of the 55 families observed were absorbed in their mobile devices, according to the study. They seemed more distracted when they were typing and making swiping motions with the fingers than when making phone calls. And almost a third of the parents used their devices continuously throughout their meal.


Now, what I think is interesting is that some kids didn't even notice while others acted out to get their parents' attention. Our kids shouldn't have to fight for our attention when we're right next to them. We should be able to eat in a restaurant without using our smartphone.

My big concern is the message we're sending to our kids.

How many of you have seen teens at restaurants on their smartphones? I just raised my hand.

When parents do it, kids do too. We're sending our kids the message that it's okay to ignore us. 

The reports authored noted: "The conclusion I wouldn't draw from the study, is that we need to completely remove these devices when we are with our children," she said. "But it does raise the issue that we need to create boundaries for these devices when we are with our children."


So parents, are we trying too hard to balance work and life that we've let our smartphones interfere with family time?