August 04, 2014

Will blocking social media make you more productive?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebookvacay

 

My favorite part of summer has become looking at vacation photos on Facebook. I love seeing where my friends are traveling and how they are enjoying their summers. And, I admit, I often log onto Facebook during the work day to take a peek at who just posted a cool vacation pic? Doesn't everybody?

Social media has become a part of the world we live in, including the workplace, but the jury’s still out on whether employers should care about employee time spent on Twitter and Facebook and whether they have a real need to ban it in the workplace.

A recent survey by Proskauer Rose shows nearly 90 percent of companies use social media for business purposes. And on the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, attorney Jon Hyman examines the question posed in an article in The Next Web, “Productivity vs. Distraction: Should you block social media at work?” Hyman says trying to stop workers from tweeting or posting photos on Facebook is a losing battle.

I like to argue that using social media at work can be productive. On social media sites you can learn about trends, new laws, news events and client needs. You can learn the bits of personal information about a customer that can help you create a bond. Currently, about 94 percent of recruiters are using social media as part of their hiring toolbox. 

After a quick look at Facebook, I feel like I just got up from my desk and chatted with a friend. I'm ready to return to the prior task with more focus. A short break to scan Facebook, look up a recipe on Pinterest, or engage in a conversation on Twitter might actually be the brain break you need to refocus and get more done.

Of course, there is a downside to allowing social media in the workplace. Employees posting negative, inappropriate, or downright inflammatory content can really put their employer into hot water. And, there are always workers who take it too far. Social media abuse can be a performance problem, but odds are the employee already has performance concerns. In that case, a boss should provide counseling and discipline if too much time is being spent on it.

Hyman suggests employers embrace the fact that employees will access their accounts from work and put policies and procedures in place to minimize problems and distractions. The best way to limit issues, says Hyman, is to train your workers about the various things that may come up when using social media (professionally or personally) and ensure that they understand what the company policy says.

Blocking social media at work won't necessarily make your employee more productive. With much more marketing happening online, it may become a necessity for more of us to use social media during our work day, anyway. Now all we need is to master self control.

 

 

July 31, 2014

Women can become law firm partners - and have a life

As a young lawyer, Tiffani Lee found a partner who believed in her ability and helped push her up to the top ranks of Miami’s Holland & Knight. Most often, the opposite is true: Organizational mechanisms at firms push out women and people of color.

But in a room full of women and minority lawyers, I heard some great advice on how to change that pattern. Here’s an employer and employee guide for how to navigate the challenges that lead people to leave.


Inclusion: Don’t leave women and minorities on the fringes. Amy Furness, a shareholder with the lawfirm of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt in Miami, says having someone in a leadership role who recognizes and shows a commitment to diversity by his actions can help the message of inclusion permeate throughout the firm, which can be particularly important for those partners who may not be thinking about diversity when they choose staff to work on their cases. “Getting leadership involved in ensuring inclusion prevents [diversity] from becoming marginalized,” Furness said.

Accountability: It is easy to create company policies that promote diversity, flexibility and volunteerism and work/life control. But there are some partners who will tell young associates that if they want to be successful, they should not take advantage of those policies. That is where accountability becomes crucial.

Tiffani Lee at Holland & Knight, said partners at her firm are evaluated — and even compensated — based partly on how many opportunities they provide to women and minority associates and what they’ve done to support diversity and inclusion. “The only way to drive change is to factor it into compensation,” Lee says. At her firm, partners “are asked about who is on their team and how they are working with the client to ensure the team is diverse and and how they are supporting the firm’s broader diversity efforts.”

She says ties between a commitment to values and compensation happen at all levels. Associates perform a self evaluation, too. They are eligible for a diversity kudos bonus if they have done something extraordinary.


Flexibility: At some point, the success of the firm – and the diverse talent pool — will depend on whether it offers flexibility, Most associates want a reputation for getting things done; however, they want control over how and when.

“We need to change the mindset around flexibility,” Says Manor Morales, president and CEO of the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance. “When managers hear flexibility, they think people don’t want to work as hard. Flexibility is not just reduced hours but also control over hours. It’s a different way to approach work and people actually achieve increased efficiency."

At most firms, men are taking advantage of flexibility – although informally and quietly. Morales found at one firm, a senior male partner works from home every Monday, but few realize it. "Flexibility will be embraced when firms encourage people who have power to be open about how and when they use flexibility."

Succession: While most law firms have eliminated a mandatory retirement age, many of the boomers at the top will begin paring back in the next decade. As leaders retire, it creates opportunity for the next generation – and for more inclusion. Some firms already are planning ahead.

Nikki Lewis Simon, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami, says her firm has worked consciously to bring women and minority lawyers into leadership, onto the executive committee and onto committees that interact with senior management. This allows the firm to address issues of the next generation not just years from now, but today.

“I think the next generation of leaders will have a sense of mutual respect: With them, it isn’t us and them, it’s we. There’s an understanding that we all have stuff we want to accomplish outside the office.”

Transparency: Women who have made it to the top have this advice for others: Don’t over-explain.

Women tend to give a detailed explanation for why they need to leave early or work from home. “They give much more information than necessary,” says Yuliya Laroe, a lawyer and business coach. Laroe say that often hurts them when partners assume if they don’t see them in the office, they are with their kids. “We need to empower ourselves to believe it’s no one’s business as long as we have met our deliverables.”

Simon, a mother of five, says she advanced to partner while on maternity leave, and has been quite clear about her whereabouts to derail assumptions: “I let them know when don’t see me, it doesn’t mean I’m not working. It just means I’m not working here. I’m doing something to advance cause of the firm.”


Time management/work-life control: Getting to the top to become an equity partner and staying there is giant responsibility that requires the ability to bring in business and make a contribution to the firm’s bottom line while balancing home life and community involvement.

Morales tells lawyers to be strategic. “You could have activities that fill your plate but not all give you the same benefit,” she explains, adding that women tend to be on committees that don’t advance their careers. “When you’re asked, think, ‘Will this committee connect me with the right people? Is it valued in the firm? Or, is it just busy work?’”


Clearly, support for talented women and minorities needs to be evident at all levels. Says Laroe: “People don’t leave firms, they leave individual partners who make staying difficult.”


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Photo by The Miami Herald: Tiffani Lee with her mentees and her mentor pictured behind her.

July 29, 2014

Pursuing a dream is easier than you think

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to her college orientation. One young woman excitedly told me that she was going to learn a few languages and work in an embassy. Of course, she also plans to do some studying abroad and do an internship at a global corporation. I remember having that same enthusiasm in college for all that was ahead.

While I love the career I chose as a writer, and I love being a mom, there are dreams I had planned to pursue by now that just haven't panned out. Has that happened to you?

For example, I wanted to learn Spanish. I have always fantasized about taking an immersion course and then traveling to Spain or conducting an interview for an article completely in Spanish. A few years ago, I bought Rosetta Stone Spanish Language Software. It is sitting unopened in a drawer. (It wasn't cheap!) 

After returning home from my daughter's college, I thought about how I might pursue my dream, despite my constant struggle for work life balance. I decided to start small. Baby steps. I put a book next to my bed with Spanish vocabulary. Each night, I'm learning one new word. Some nights I learn as many as 10. Regardless of how busy I get or how tired I am, I have been able to muster the energy for at least one new word. It might take me a while to become fluent, but at least it's a step toward my dream.

A friend of mine is a legal consultant who calls herself a hobby baker. She has told me for years that it is her dream to turn the hobby into a business. Earlier this week, she struck a deal with a local restaurant to supply it some baked goods. It's a very small order and she won't make much money on the sale, but it's a baby step in the right direction. 

Is it possible for you to pursue a dream if you take baby steps? What could you do to take that first step?

July 25, 2014

How to negotiate workplace flexibility

After having two kids a year apart, I realized at that time in my career, I could not survive motherhood and news deadlines unless I negotiated flexibility. I asked for a four day work week. For me, the key to getting that schedule and finding some work life balance was the fact that I had proved myself and I was able to tell my boss exactly what he would gain by giving me flexibility. 

Today, my guest blogger, Tonya Lain, Regional Vice President at Adecco, the world's largest staffing firm, provides great advice for anyone who want to negotiate flexibility. Although Lain targets moms who want flexible schedules, there are dads out there who want them too. Her advice is useful to all.

 

Tonya
 

It seems a day doesn’t go by without reading or hearing about whether it’s possible for working mothers to “have it all” successfully, advance and balance their careers with their responsibilities to their children. Given today’s economy and cost of living, a family with two working parents is the norm, and in many cases an absolute necessity. A Pew Research poll shows that though the gap between the number of hours moms and dads spend with their kids and doing house chores has grown smaller in recent decades, women still spend more time than their spouses tending to the kids and home. This leaves mothers often feeling as though they are expected to be in two places at once.

 

A lot of this stress can be alleviated by pursuing a flexible work schedule – something 13 million Americans are doing. Stanford University conducted a study to debunk any misconceptions associated with the productivity, revealing that those working from home “were noticeably more productive, spending 9 percent more time on calls and handling 4 percent more calls per minute.” Even so, many of us aren’t prepared to have that conversation with our supervisors. Here are some ways to best make a case for a flexible working arrangement:

 

  • Do your research. Your company may already have guidelines about flexible working arrangements in the employee handbook. You may also want to consult with other moms in the company who have successfully negotiated a more flexible work schedule. This will allow you to develop a proposal based on what’s been done and what’s possible.

 

  • Determine what works for everyone. Really think about what arrangement would produce the best results for you and your employer—whether working from home three days a week or coming in later in the morning, allowing you to send your kids off to school. Consider how your employer will benefit as well. Will you be less preoccupied with how your children are being cared for? Will you gain two extra hours a day for working that you would normally spend commuting? Emphasize how this will produce results that will please everyone.

 

  • Establish quality control. Approach your employer with your research and a clear proposal on what your ideal flexible arrangement will be. This gives your supervisor a starting point to react to.  In the proposal, include recommended check-points to ease any doubts they may have on your performance. Suggest implementing frequent performance evaluations and communications standards, such as joining meetings electronically or establishing the expectations for responsiveness while you’re working from home. Emphasize a feedback system so concerns are communicated and rectified quickly. You may also want to suggest a trial run where both parties test the flexible working schedule for a month to three-month period before committing to anything long term.

 

Women today must take pride in all they have accomplished as far as their career and in their role as Mom. Carefully planning a conversation about work flexibility with an employer can help women gain the flexibility they need to make their lives less stressful and more productive.  

July 24, 2014

Why is binge-TV watching worth your time?

I admit, I'm perplexed. I'm constantly told by people that they don't have enough time to read newspapers, exercise, keep up with friends, travel. Yet, people who struggle to find work life balance have huge chunks of time to binge TV watch. I wondered how and why they are getting the time and I set out this week in my Miami Herald column to find out....

 

Binge-watching TV: an escape zone?

 

 
 

Many workers say that on their time off, marathon viewing sessions of television shows is a pleasurable way to keep the world at bay.

 

(Above: Breaking Bad)

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

BALANCEGAL@GMAIL.COM

On a rainy Saturday in South Florida, Gabriela Garcia lay in her bed watching another episode ofCastle. She could get some fresh air, or even read a book or two, but watching Richard Castle investigate the homicide of a reality-show contestant had her enthralled. Before the day was out, she watched five more episodes of the TV series on Netflix.

“It’s my therapy,” says Garcia, a 37-year-old compliance officer at a Miami bank. “I work hard during the week and on weekends, I want to be lazy.”

It’s now easier than ever to get lost in marathon TV viewing sessions — a refuge that is becoming increasingly popular with America’s workers in their off hours. But how does the TV time-vacuum square with complaints about increasing workloads, hectic lifestyles and struggle for work/life balance? If workers value free time so fiercely, why spend that time glued to the tube?

A new study by Harris Interactive on behalf of Netflix shows 61 percent of us binge-watch TV regularly, watching at least three episodes of a single series in one sitting. Almost three-quarters of the public view binge watching as a positive experience and nearly 80 percent say that feasting on shows actually makes them more enjoyable.

“People are looking for refuge from the constant press of business,” says Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist who helped conduct the Netflix research. “At the same time, the stories are getting better than they used to be.”

Dramatic series such as Breaking Bad, The Wire, Downtown Abbey, Orange is the New Black andGame of Thrones are breaking the traditional rules, making TV even more complex and binge-watching more fun. At the same time, more people have signed up for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime to get TV content streamed right into their television, laptop, tablet or smart phone, giving them a library of shows at their fingertips. And viewers are logging on in droves; just this week, Netflix reported it increased its total of paid subscribers to 47.99 million in the second quarter, up 34.7 percent from the same period last year.

Viewers say watching multiple episodes in order makes the sometimes-complicated plot lines easier to follow. But there is more behind the trend. Some workers admit they have binged to catch up with the current season so they can participate in conversations and inside jokes in their workplace lunchrooms or staff meetings.

It was water cooler conversation at her office that led publicist Mary Sudasassi, 43, to watch The Walking Dead. Sudasassi says she quickly became addicted to watching multiple episodes in a row. “After work and dinner, I would look forward to it like a prize.”

This summer, she and her husband, a mechanical engineer, are spending entire weekends diving into series that capture their attention. One Saturday, the couple watched eight episodes in a row of Game of Thrones. “We had to stop ourselves because we knew we should be doing something more productive.” But at the same time, Sudasassi says she looks at it as a fun couples’ activity. “It’s a way for us both to escape from stress.”

McCracken found the word “binge,” typically tinged with guilt or shame, has evolved into something different when it relates to television. Instead of vegging out like couch potatoes, television viewers now are called on to pay more attention to the action — and they are rewarded for it.

“There’s an ‘Oh My God’ reflex that comes out of new TV,” says McCracken, that causes views to look beyond the surface to explore the plot and their responses do it. “It’s not really that [Americans] are binging but rather they are feasting on good TV.

Much of this new “feasting” behavior is triggered by control. With DVRs and streaming, viewers can watch shows when they want, where they want, how they want and at the pace they want – in the middle of the night on a plane on a laptop, for example. Netflix studied viewer behavior and reacted to it “when given option, people were watching at least a couple of episodes in a row,” says Jenny McCabe, a spokeswomen for Netflix.

Those findings were behind its decision to release all episodes of House of Cards out at one time. Netflix’s research showed that 25 percent of subscribers who watch its 10 most popular shows cram an entire 13-hour season into two days; another 48 percent watch the entire season in a week. McCabe said Netflix intentionally eliminated commercials and the replays before each episode to [enable] viewers to use TV time efficiently. Or, as one lifestyle blogger, wrote, content producers are basically saying “Take the weekend, watch all 13 hours of this thing. DO IT.”

A working mother of young children, McCabe admits she binge-watches, too, catching up on multiple episodes of her favorite shows when she goes on a business trip. “I don’t’ have to share the TV with my significant other and I can just power through something.”

National branding guru Jay Leopardi, co-owner of Bad Boy Branding agency in Miami, says not only has he marathoned while on business travel, but he has watched multiple episodes late at night, sacrificing sleep and giving in to the urge for ‘just one more.’ “I’m an extremely busy person, but I have stayed up and watched House of Cards for five hours straight while my wife and kids were asleep,” says Leopardi. “It hooked me. It was that good of a show.”

In our instant-gratification society, the new content-providers, like Netflix, have realized that there is something satisfying for viewers in knowing that if an episode ends in a cliffhanger, in a few minutes they can see what happened. Leopardi says this is true for him: “I have zero patience. I don’t want until wait to next week to find out what happens.”

Regardless of when or where it happens, marathoning represents a huge time commitment. Watching the entire five-season series of AMC’s Breaking Bad, the highest rated show of all time, requires the devotion of more than 46 hours.

“When you put it like that, I feel embarrassed,” says Robert Yanks, a 24-year-old Fort Lauderdale advertising executive. “When you’re watching, it never seems like a big commitment because it is at your leisure.”

Over a weekend, Yanks said he and a friend might spent up to six or seven hours on the couch in a TV marathon of provocative dramas, illustrating that binging isn’t necessarily a solitary act. Among those who streamed multiple episodes of a TV series in a row, a combined 51 percent prefer to watch with at least one other person and talk about it afterward, research shows. Many even turn to social media for discussions.

Experts say people are giving up movies, books and exercise to escape into the world of Breaking Bad’s Walter White or Scandal’s Olivia Pope. McCracken says it’s clear to him why: “There is pleasure in the ability to sit at home watching episode after episode of great TV with the world kept at bay.”



July 21, 2014

How far should you go in de-cluttering

Garage-cleaning-2-062312

Yesterday, while throngs of South Floridians were at the beach or enjoying the cool indoor a/c, I was in my hot garage cleaning out the junk. It's amazing how much clutter a family can accumulate from one summer to the next. 

Our garage has become the entry to our home. So every time I come in and out of it, I feel cluttered. As much as I tried to pretend otherwise, seeing clutter around me -- in the car, garage,  desk -- affects my psyche. Having clutter around me makes work life balance seem more elusive.

Cleaning the garage was a process. Not only did I weed out what I considered junk, but I had to get my husband and kids to be part of the de-cluttering. When I tried to toss my hubby's deflated basketball, he agreed only if I agreed to toss my yellowed newspaper collection.

At the end, I felt like the process of de-cluttering was as important as the results. First, I went through the  internal struggle of what can I purge from my life. Next, I survived the external struggle of negotiation with my family members.

This morning, I walked out of my home through my garage to walk my dog. I felt lighter, happier, more in balance. Over the years, I found summer is a great time to de-clutter my life. Now, I'm looking at all the responsibilities on my plate. For the last few years, I have become involved in several organizations that I had considered of high value. If I want to de-clutter my calendar, I have to ask myself whether being involved still brings value to my life.

Last week, I was at an event where a young attorney talked excitedly about how much she enjoys being involved in the local minority bar association. Her enthusiasm was overwhelming and made me think about whether I feel as excited as she does about the things I'm involved in that consume my time. Just like I did in my garage, I'm asking myself what I need to keep and what has become clutter.

But how far do I go in purging?  I still regret throwing away a box of Nancy Drew books that has enchanted me as a young girl. I wish I had saved them for my daughter. 

When you're peering over piles, mounds and stacks of stuff, it's hard to know where to begin and what to do in order to de-clutter and with the new push toward minimalism, I'm worried I will go too far.

I recently read a blog post about the powerful difference between organizing and de-cluttering. "Decluttering—or, just getting rid of stuff, is permanent. It leaves your four walls, and immediately you have more visual and physical space." 

So, I'm carefully looking at my clean garage and my cluttered calendar and making tough choices about what stays and what goes.  As the Art of Simple blogger notes: De-cluttering leads to freedom --  Freedom to live with more clarity, freedom to pursue work and hobbies we truly love, and freedom to spend more time with people instead of taking care of our things."

Who wouldn't want that?

 

July 17, 2014

Lying to the boss about family obligations

Liar

 

A friend of mine who held a high position in an entertainment conglomerate told me that one afternoon, she lied to her boss about where she was going. She was going to her daughter's dance class. She had missed every class since her daughter enrolled. But she told her boss she was going to a business meeting. When she got to the dance class, she couldn't believe what she saw -- a top executive at her company who was there to watch his daughter. She begged him not to say a word to anyone and he seemed shocked that she would be worried about her job enough to hide her whereabouts.

I completely understood why she did it.

Working Mother Magazine reported today that some working parents (23 percent) admit to bending the truth to their bosses in order to meet family obligations.  

The Modern Family Index, sponsored by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, reveals that 48 percent of parents are afraid their family commitments and obligations could put their jobs in jeopardy. And 39 percent believe family responsibilities could prevent them from receiving raises. Many working parents also think that tending to family duties may prevent them from being considered in key projects (22 percent) and excluded from important meetings (19 percent). 

After giving birth for the second time, I asked for flexibility in my schedule. I remember feeling almost immediately that Iwas viewed in a new light and no longer included in brainstorming meetings about bigger projects.  

This new study found more than half of participants would think twice about asking their boss for reduced hours, working remotely or placing boundaries on responding to calls or emails. No wonder work life balance is a huge concern!

In spite of efforts in this country to promote and offer family-friendly workplace policies, many working parents still hesitate to tell employers that they need to tend to family responsibilities—and even fear job loss, according to the study.

Parents, what do you think about lying to the boss about family obligations? Is it necessary in some working environments? Do you think most bosses understand family commitments or as a country, are we not there yet?

 

July 16, 2014

How much is your time worth? Why you need to outsource

My cleaning lady is at my house today. If I didn't have her, I would spend several days cleaning and not writing. I would be miserable and I'd have less money in the bank. By doing the math, I figured out I come out ahead spending my time writing rather than cleaning. 

Outsourcing is all about doing the math. What are your spending time doing -- maybe even not doing well -- that you could farm out and come out ahead? I've discovered that busy working parents need to outsource something if they want work life balance. Do you agree?

Here's my Miami Herald article on outsourcing...

How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

TODD

(ABOVE: Todd Paton of Paton Marketing)

Todd Paton has a booming Miami business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

 “You have to value your time so you know what is or is not a good use of it,” Paton says.

As a proliferation of outsourcing sites spread, today’s business owners have more options for hiring out tasks that detract from generating income and having a balanced life. For some small firms, outsourcing has had a compelling impact on their growth, productivity and bottom lines.

An important first step in outsourcing is figuring out what doesn’t make sense for you to do personally. Paton suggests dividing your income by the hours worked and coming up with an estimate of your time value. Then, factor in the time it would take you to become an expert at a specific function and complete it. “Often you find you are spending time on something you could have done by an expert for a lot less than your time is worth,” he says.

How much you can you expect to pay a contractor depends on the type of work you’re buying, the skill level and location of your provider, and your own preferences. For example, Paton goes to eLance to find U.S.-based freelancers, and pays about $30 a press release. Rather than spend half a day on the task, hiring it out is worth the expense.

Elance and oDesk (which merged in 2013) are two of the most popular marketplaces for employers to connect with talent on an as-needed basis. They are joined by an ongoing rollout of sites that give business owners access to a global pool of human capital such as virtual executive assistants, marketing directors, graphic designers, transcriptionists, paralegals, Web designers, human resources consultants, bookkeepers, public relations directors and information technology specialists.

Lesley Pyle founded HireMyMom.com seven years ago to allow owners in need of outside expertise to tap mom professionals. She finds small-business owners increasingly coming to her site to hire skilled, work-at-home moms to build or design websites, create social media followings and manage email marketing campaigns. For many entrepreneurs, the new demands of technology are the most natural tasks to outsource, Pyle finds.

“There are constantly new and better ways to do things online. Unless you enjoy that or have time for that, it’s an easy one to put on your delegation list,” Pyle says.

Mande White-Pearl, a South Florida marketing strategist for female entrepreneurs, says that even when a business owner outsources, she needs to understand the specific outcome she wants from whomever she hires. White says she has used more than 20 virtual workers to complete tasks like data entry, graphic design or project management while she concentrates on bringing in business and spending time with her new husband.

The first year she began using contractors to help carry her workload, White-Pearl says, she doubled her company's revenue.

White locates her freelancers on oDesk and has paid $5 to $50 an hour, depending on the task. She typically gives out small projects to new hires, testing them before doling out ongoing needs. “Over time, I have gotten much better about being clear on what exactly it is I need people to do. If I have had a bad experience, it has been because I had not properly communicated what I needed, wanted or expected.

To ensure quality from freelancers, sites such as Elance, oDesk and Freelancer.com allow the hiring party to see how previous clients rated prospective vendors’ work, as well as detailed profiles of the vendors and what they charge. There is no charge for freelancers to post profiles on the sites and to apply to jobs.

The sites make money by charging the employer a fee that equals a share of the total amount they paid the freelancer. Expect to pay U.S.-based contractors higher fees, but remember, with offshore providers there may be a language barrier. Fees are paid per hour or per project.

For more-creative tasks, business owners are finding talent on Fivver.com, which introduced a mobile app in December. While the site is now far from the original everything-for-$5 concept, the costs of specific jobs are straightforward. White-Pearl says she has used Fiverr to find individuals to do video editing, logo design, animation and proofreading, and she has spent from $5 to $40 to get the job done.

With the increase in demand, a variety of models for online hiring are gaining popularity. Sites like OnForce and FieldNation have created networks of independent workers in the same specialty who can be hired per gig and dispatched to a job site as opposed to working remotely. In Spring 2013, OnForce introduced a mobile app to help pair the buyer with the freelancer who might already be out on a job nearby.

Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio in Coral Gables, runs a business that provides IT support to local companies. However, Michael says he recently became a vendor on OnForce, a network of independent IT professionals looking for gigs in their area. “We see it as a way to get our foot in the door.”

While on OnForce he’s the independent contractor, Michael says that as a business owner, he, too, has at times been the outsourcer. He has used hiring sites to tap professionals to create logo designs or marketing materials. “If you are a small business and trying to grow, adding headcount isn’t what you want,” he says. “It is much better to find someone with expertise who is affordable. Now you have more time in your day, and you’re still getting what you need done.”

 

 

Kevinvmichael_datacenter_shot

(Above: Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio, IT Support)

July 14, 2014

How to sharpen your people skills

Last week I sat among other anxious parents at my daughter's college orientation. When the president of the university addressed us, telling us he was about to reveal the key to success in college and life, the reporter in me kicked in, eager scribble down notes on this crucial piece of advice.

And then, he said something so simple, I put my notepad down and just nodded my head in agreement. He told us the key to success is "people skills." In today's workplace, there usually is complaining, gossiping, and griping about anyone with authority who lacks the know-how to inspire, manage and get along with others.  After a few decades in the workforce most of us discover that its take people skills, rather than expertise, to be a successful leader. 

Today, my guest blogger is Corali Lopez-Castro is a shareholder at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, who concentrates her practice on bankruptcy and commercial litigation matters. Lopez Castro recently attended an event that emphasized the importance of people skills for women who want to get ahead. Here's her take on the topic:

 

Cori LC 2

I recently attended an event hosted by Lean In Miami, a local group of professional women founded by Stonegate Bank’s Erin Knight that is committed to empowering women to lean in to their ambitions and potential for success.

 

The keynote speaker at this event was Marlene Green. She is a leadership coach, author and two-time Emmy nominee with an impressive track record having worked with Fortune 500 companies and executives.

 

Ms. Green’s discussion topic, “The Art of Attraction – Communicating in a way that inspires and attracts others in the business community,” focused on how we should lean in to our careers by mastering our interpersonal skills.

 

The event was a perfect reminder that being career driven is not only about your technical expertise, but also about nurturing the human element of business, such as the way we communicate with others, and how this impacts our relationships and ultimately the bottom line.

 

From being present and engaged in a conversation, to being open minded and aware of your habitual ways and how others perceive you, the key is creating an everlasting connection with people. This means building relationships by remembering a person’s names when you meet them, establishing commonalities and creating value for others.

 

According to writer Darren Dahl of Inc.com, “relationships are the fuel that feeds the success of your business.” This follows Ms. Green’s mantra about mastering the art of attraction. Those who are positive, radiate enthusiasm about their profession, and offer support to their peers are creating value for themselves and those around them, which is a driving force to building and fostering relationships.

 

Since hearing Marlene speak, I’ve been more conscious of my actions when meeting new people, especially trying to remember their names and repeating it at the close of our conversation. The key is being aware of the situation, and I am definitely playing a more active role in communicating with others as a result.

As we juggle the many tasks that encompass being a working professional, we sometimes need to take a moment and gather perspective on “big picture” thinking about becoming a magnet for new business or expanding existing relationships and networks. After all, there is always room for improvement.

I encourage people to look deeper at the human side of business and the importance of enhancing these skills to be a better leader. A professional’s level of success is dependent on becoming an attractive asset for new business opportunities. 

 

 

July 09, 2014

Need more balance? It may be time to hire a career coach

Have you ever felt stuck with your career? 

I've heard a lot about career coaches but I wasn't really sure exactly what they could do for me. I felt that maybe career coaches were for top executives who want to become better leaders. But I found out a career coach can be a HUGE help to almost anyone at any level. 

My Miami Herald column today answers these questions -- When is the right time to hire a career coach and how can hiring one improve your work life balance?

Read on...

Feeling stuck in your job? It may be time to hire a career coach

 

Executive Coach Monique Betty, owner of Boca Raton-based CareerSYNC, coaching the staff of the Women’s Business Development Council of Florida

 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

If you’re putting in the hours and still not seeing the rewards, feeling undervalued or simply striving to be more successful, it may be time to hire a career coach.

When New York Times Editor Jill Abramson was fired last month, she had begun the process of working with a career consultant to work through some of the “management style” and “temperament” concerns that allegedly did her in. Like Abramson, most of excel in our jobs because of our technical expertise in our fields, but often, it is the “people” skills, such as managing and motivating staff, that trip us up.

A career coach can help you figure out behavior changes to help you advance, strategies for a new direction, or an action plan to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

“Think of a career coach as an objective person to talk to who doesn’t have a vested interest in anything but your success and satisfaction,” said Teressa Moore Griffin, an executive coach and founder of Spirit of Purpose.

One Miami executive hired a coach when her nonprofit women’s organization needed new direction.

At the time, Nancy Allen, president/CEO of the Women’s Business Development Council of Florida, was facing the high levels of stress common when nonprofits face board transitions and pressure to raise funds. Allen said that while working with a coach weekly for seven months, she defined steps to bring in new sources of revenue and new programming. Her coach also helped her scrutinize where to focus her time.

“I came out of it with clarity of purpose,” Allen said. “Most executives know what to do, but professional coaching helps them move beyond the minutia to set a plan of action, stay focused and accomplish defined tasks.” Now, Allen has brought her coach to work with her staff individually to develop their strengths: “I think it will lead to a happier, more productive staff.”

As the job market opens, more people, particularly younger workers, are turning to career coaches. In a survey of 12,000 professional coaches by the International Coach Federation, 60 percent of respondents reported an increase in the number of clients over the previous 12 months and more than 75 percent said they anticipated increases in clients and revenue over the next 12 months.

Coaching, once perceived as a luxury available only to senior executives, is increasingly appealing to younger generations, according to the International Coach Federation’s 2014 Global Consumer Awareness Study. Of the 18,800 workers surveyed, 35 percent of those between 25 and 34 years old said they already had participated in a coaching relationship.

Employers, spending once again on leadership development, are hiring coaches for managers, vice presidents and high-level executives who have hit an obstacle in their career progressions or face new challenges. Griffin said that like coaches who work with athletes, she encourages corporate leaders to see how a small change in behavior affects performance: “Often, the person thinks the organization is the problem. I have to get them to see that if they want the team or boss or customer to behave differently, change starts with them.”

Hiring a career coach is different from hiring most other professionals, and can be costly. Expect to pay $100 to $350 for a one-hour session, according to the International Coach Federation. Most professionals work with their coaches for six months to a year.

There is no official licensing agency for career coaches, which has led to a wide range of quality among those claiming to be experts. However, the International Coach Federation has built a worldwide network of more than 12,000 credentialed coaches with a minimum level of training and certification. When selecting, Miami career coach Marlene Green advises asking for recommendations, checking references and asking questions “just as you would when hiring an attorney.”

To be clear, a coach differs from a business consultant. Where a consultant identifies a business problem and gives a solution, a coach asks questions and encourages the client to find answers.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I have financial resources and time resources to get coached and am I in a place where I’m ready to have self-introspection?’ ” said Alexa Sherr Hartley, president of South Florida’s Premier Leadership Coaching. “You’re paying for a coach to help you figure it out, not to figure it out for you.”

After she was twice passed over for a management position at her company, Jenna Altman decided it was time to hire a career coach. “I felt like I was doing everything right and I needed to figure out why I wasn’t being promoted,” she said. Altman says her coach asked her questions that made her think differently about her strengths and weaknesses and how she adds value to her company.

She ended up asking for, and getting, a completely different position that she had never previously considered.

“When you have tried all the tools in your toolkit and you can’t move from your current state to your desired one, that is the help a coach provides,” Sherr explained. Research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of business success comes from personality — the ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.

Shockingly, only 15 percent is attributed to technical knowledge. But Sherr says that with coaching, those soft skills can be learned and practiced at work and home: “That’s why investing in coaching makes sense.”