February 05, 2016

Could you work with your spouse?

Helen+Jacob__03__2013

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

January 26, 2016

How to Copy Lena Dunham's Year of No

                                  Lena

 

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

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

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

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

Oh, how I know that routine way too well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

                              No

 

 

January 20, 2016

5 ways to fit mentorship into your work life balance

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

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

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

But here's an interesting tidbit: 

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

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

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


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

SOME YOUTH MENTORING ORGANIZATIONS

▪ Stand Up for Kids (standupforkids.org)

▪ Big Brothers Big Sisters (bbbsmiami.org)

▪ Girl Power Rocks (girlpowerrocks.org)

▪ Honey Shine Mentoring Program (honeyshine.org)

▪ Women of Tomorrow (womenoftomorrow.org)

▪ Take Stock in Children (takestockinchildren.org)

 

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

 

January 19, 2016

Why are we afraid to take vacation?

Poolside


Ah, the thought of being on a lounge chair right now, reading a good novel and sipping on a margarita. Heaven!

But it looks like I might not have a lot of company in dreaming about a lazy day poolside. For some crazy reason, year after year, people leave paid vacation days on the table. Yes. You read that right. American workers are not taking PAID vacation days.

This morning, I woke up to read this perplexing finding: Approximately two in five Americans did not take a single vacation day in 2015, according to a recent Skift survey. Around 17 percent said they took less than five vacation days.
 
What is going on? Everyone is wired and tired, but we're not taking time off, and even we we do, we're still doing work. We deserve work life balance but we just won't let ourselves relax. 
 
The Skift survey found Americans living in rural areas were the largest group taking no vacations and women took less time off than men, though not by much.
 
The numbers force us to ask ourselves what's going on.
 
Are we afraid that we won't have a job when we get back? Yes, many of us are afraid.
 
Should bosses make using paid vacation days mandatory? They should but they probably won't.
 
Is it right for bosses to email you or call you when you're off the clock? No, it's not right. But it happens anyway.
 
Should you schedule your vacation time off now, at the beginning of the year to ensure it actually happens? Yes, you should.
 
Should you plan ahead so you don't have to work on vacation. Yes, you should. But will you?
 
The majority of people surveyed recently by travel service Expedia and its business-focused brand Egencia think their smartphone is the single most important travel tool. I understand that line of thinking if you want to use it for the camera function, or the map. However, if you plan to use it for staying connected to work, you will never really fully relax on your vacation. We can't' be afraid to power down.
 
Visualize the place right now that you feel most relaxed. Is is poolside or oceanside like me? Wherever it is, I hope you make it there in 2016! 
 
 

January 14, 2016

Work Life Balance Trends that will make your life easier in 2016

One night, I was typing away on my laptop when I realized I easily could have finished what I was working on during the day if I hadn’t gotten distracted by social media. (Do you have this problem, too?)

So, when I welcomed 2016, I resolved to become more productive during the workday and spend more quality evening time with my family. Many of you started the new year with similar intentions to reclaim boundaries and improve your work/life balance. Fortunately, a number of work/life trends are taking hold to help us with our resolutions.

Rethinking around flexibility. If you want a flexible work schedule, this could be your year. With the rise of new technology tools, workers are demanding flexibility. In 2016, look for an increased acceptance of flexible schedules and organizations that support flexible work options.Paul D’Arcy, senior vice president of marketing at Indeed.com, a job search site, says job seekers increasingly are asking for, and choosing, employers that provide flexibility.

Pushback on overwork. If you feel swept up in the cult of overwork, you may get a reprieve. A backlash is growing against the expectation that work hours never really end. Look for this conversation to get louder in 2016, for workers to push back against constant connectivity and for companies to be forced to grapple with their own role in preventing burnout. “Employees are feeling put-upon,” says Robert Preziosi, professor of management at the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. Preziosi believes workers will turn to their managers for help with setting priorities: “If you know your priorities, you know who and what you need to respond to quickly.”

Raises more likely. If you’ve been putting in long hours without much reward, a raise could be on the horizon. Mark Zandi, chief economist at research firm Moody’s Analytics, has forecasted 2016 will be a breakout year for wage growth, particularly as the economy heads toward full employment. A new CareerBuilder nationwide study found that 68 percent of employers plan to increase current employee compensation levels and 46 percent plan to increase starting salaries for new employees. Finally, some good news!

Paid leave gaining momentum. If you need time off to care for a newborn, you may have a better chance of getting paid for it in 2016. Currently, only 13 percent of people in the U.S. have access to paid family leave, but that percentage is getting bigger with municipalities and corporations introducing new paid leave policies. Last year, the percentage of large corporations offering paid parental leave jumped to 21 percent from 12 percent the previous year, and we saw companies like Netflix announce unlimited maternity leave policies. In 2016, expect that momentum to continue!

Renewed interest in engagement. If you’ve lost interest in your job, this could be the year when you find more fulfillment. Gallup surveys show 68 percent of U.S. employees are not engaged in their jobs, and with this awareness, more organizations are launching engagement initiatives. It's likely this will be the year your company makes more of an effort to keep you happy.

More self-employment. If you think your work/life balance would benefit from going out on your own, there is no better time. As of May 2015, 15.5 million people in the U.S. were self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — an increase of roughly 1 million from a year prior. In 2016, that number will keep growing as more people become independent workers — freelancers, contractors and temporary employees. Several factors contribute to the trend: There are more ways to work remotely, new co-working spaces are opening in most urban centers including Miami, and employers now see the benefit of using experienced contractors rather than full-time employees. “Different people have different priorities,” D’Arcy notes. “It’s all about how each of us want to live our lives.”

 

 

December 30, 2015

How technology can help our work life balance

                                         Woman on phone


A few days ago, my son was driving me to the mall and telling me about his college experiences while I was responding to a work email on my iPhone. “Just one minute,” I told him. Of course, he knew it would take me more than a minute.

As much as we love our smartphones and mobile devices, it’s hard to deny how much attention they demand. In 2015, we found ourselves torn between embracing our devices as powerful tools to work and communicate and letting them dictate our lives. As entrepreneur Jessica Kizorek has noted: Tech addiction is tough to define because “everybody’s doing it.”

Yet, there are some notable ways technology is evolving and can help work/life balance.


Romance. In the digital age, the concept of romance has evolved to adapt to our complicated work and home lives. While some people question whether technology gets in the way of real romance, some believe the opposite is true. Some couples text throughout the day, using digital communication to stay in touch or spice up their relationship. Relationship coach Maya Ezratti says: “Communicating electronically is not a replacement for face to face, but it can be an enhancement.”


Inboxes. From software to mobile applications, new innovations are rolling out to change our experiences with email and help us create the boundaries and priorities that we are struggling to set on our own. Companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Google are studying our behaviors to develop tools and email features to help us be more efficient. The technology companies are looking at how analytics and algorithms can sort our email and figure out what we should — or shouldn't — be giving priority.
 
Personal development. Technology now allows us to better fit workplace training into our work/life balance. The traditional training models of all-day workshops are being replaced by apps, games, simulations and podcasts to better fit workers’ needs. Some employers are tapping into the explosion of educational technology and online courses and aggregating options through portals they are pushing out to employees. Allison Rossett, emeritus professor of educational technology at San Diego State University says learning is becoming “on demand, personalized and mobile.”
 
Motherhood. By embracing technology, millennial mothers are almost all earning income — even while home with their children. These young moms take risks, aren’t afraid of failure and find financial opportunity in areas prior generations overlooked. From home, millennial moms sell products and services through social media. They work remotely as contractors or contributors for former employers. They take risks on ventures — even when loaded with student debt. Subsequently, they are proving to be a trove for businesses that realize these women know how to build online relationships and market to other millennials.

Flexibility. Our devices make it easy to work from our homes instead of spending late nights toiling in the office. Of course, our new work pattern now makes knowing how to unplug as valuable as knowing how to plug in. David Greenfield, director of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in Connecticut. Greenfield says that if you think you are spending 15 minutes online, you likely really are spending 10 times that — or as much as 150 minutes. “We need more conscious self-awareness of our technology use,” he says. 

As I pointed out in my Miami Herald column today, the devices that make it seductively simple to work outside of business hours will only get more sophisticated. Let’s make 2016 the year we use them to help us create the career path and  work/life balance we seek.

 
 

December 22, 2015

What I Love About Adele's Views on Motherhood

Adele

 

 

 

I just read Adele's interview in Time Magazine and it made me love the woman for more than her incredible voice. I absolutely adore what she had to say about work life balance and her views on motherhood and staying focused. 

Here are some of my favorite lines in the interview. I modified the questions a bit to make her answers clearer:

Why do so many people respond to Adele songs?

Adele: “The fact that I’m not shy or embarrassed to be falling apart. Everyone falls apart, I think. A lot of people try to be brave and not shed a tear. Sometimes when you know someone else feels as s— as you do, or approaches things in a certain way just like you do, it makes you feel better about yourself. Even though my music is melancholy, there’s also joy in that. I hope I do bring joy to people’s lives, and not just sadness, but I think there’s there’s a comfort in it. But I honestly don’t know. If I knew, I would bottle it, and sell it to everyone else.”

What's motherhood like (her son Angelo is 3) while balancing a demanding promotional schedule?

Adele:  “The other day I was saying, ‘Oh God, I’m finding this really hard again with a kid. I have no time for myself because in between doing this, all my spare time is with him. But then I realized, he’s been keeping me totally cool and calm about the whole thing.”

Has motherhood changed your outlook?

Adele: “He makes me so proud of myself, and he makes me like myself so much. And I’ve always liked myself. I’ve never not liked myself. I don’t have hangups like that. But I’m so proud of myself that I made him in my belly. Cooked him in my belly and then he came out of me! This human who’s suddenly walking around and doing his own thing. I can’t wait to know who his best friends are going to be, who his girlfriend or his boyfriend is going to be or what movies he likes… Whatever my kid wants to do or be I will always support him no matter what.”

What's life like outside of work?

Adele: "It’s as normal a life as I can have. I think people would be pretty surprised. When I’m not doing a photoshoot, it’s just me, my boyfriend and the baby. I think it’s really important that you don’t get f—ed up by everything,” she says. “It’s important so you stay in touch with yourself. If you lose touch with yourself, no one’s going to want to talk to you or listen to anything you’re f—ing doing. They’ll just point at you and laugh. At you, not with you.”

What do you want for your son?

Adele: “I’m very self-conscious that I have a kid, and I don’t want him being one of those dickheads, who grows up being, like, ‘Driver, driver!'” She snaps her fingers. “I have no clean clothes! Well, have you washed them? I really don’t want him growing up like that. I’m very conscious of it.”

Do you want fame for your son?

Adele: If my kid decides that when he’s old enough to make his own decision that he wants to be known for being my kid, I’ll be annoyed, but I won’t stop him. I’ll be like, ‘It’s your choice now.’

Why did you cut out social media use to write your album?

Adele: "How am I supposed to write a real record if I’m waiting for half a million likes on a f—ing photo? That ain’t real.”

What about acting in the future?

Adele: "I have no interest in acting for the foreseeable future, at all, especially while I’m doing my music, because I can’t give my all into two things..."

 

To me, Adele's answers speak volumes about how she stays focused and down to earth and the value she places on being a good mom. Do you feel like Adele does that being a parent helps you keep life and work in perspective?

 

December 18, 2015

Close out the year the right way

List


Just about now, I find myself worrying a lot about what needs to get done and whether I made the most of 2015. I look at my goals and wishes for the year and I get mad at myself about what didn't get checked off the list.

But last night, I decided to approach the year end differently. I decided to look really hard at what I did get done this year -- big and small. It's a list I should have been keeping all along. 

On my list, I’ve decided to include the small accomplishments I might otherwise have considered no big deal. For example, this year, I combined my personal and work calendar and managed to create a clear picture of everything on my plate. I put reminders of important events on my mobile phone.  The system really helped keep me organized. Yet, I hadn’t given myself any credit for creating and following it.

This year, I had a few big work projects I wanted to launch and I didn't. Just as I began to feel disappointed in myself, I reexamined my year and my work life balance. I realized I pulled off some personal accomplishments I hadn't given myself credit for -- moving two children into their college dorms, transitioning my youngest child to high school, celebrating a 50th birthday. Careerwise, I also took on a few challenging writing projects.

Career goals and New Year’s resolutions are great to make each year, but when we fall short, we can’t beat ourselves up because day in and day out, most of us do more than we realize. (I even looked back at my daily to-do lists and reviewed all I had checked off.)

As you start to think about your resolutions for 2016, jot down your 2015 accomplishments at work and home. The small things count – challenges in your personal life that you powered through or changes you made that had a positive result. Taking pride in all you have done will help you realize all you are capable of achieving next calendar year. 

Using your holiday time off to recharge in the next few weeks counts as an accomplishment, too. Closing out the year right means moving into a more positive mindframe -- and giving ourselves the credit we deserve! 

December 01, 2015

The Best Way to Unwind

Fried out

 

Last night after hours of writing and flipping screens at my desk, I got up and feel mentally depleted. It was the exact sensation that Ana Veciana-Suarez described in her Miami Herald column today as feeling like her body had been plowed over by a tractor after too many hours in front of a computer. This affliction is not the same kind of exhaustion one would feel after running a marathon. It's a mental tax in which someone longs to do little else but veg out. 

Have you ever felt that way -- as if your brain is completely fried out?

Ana writes: "I find myself wanting to talk to no one, wanting to stare at nothing. The idea of sitting still, in silence as gathering twilight provides a protective blanket, has become so attractive. And comforting." For Ana it used to be that taking a walk across the hall or looking away from her monitor for a few minutes was enough for her to restore and redirect. Now, she says, that pause button no longer works.  "A fried brain apparently needs more than a few minutes."

It sure does. 

This is a challenging time to be an American worker trying to find work life balance -- or just merely unwind from a busy day. It's getting increasingly difficult to keep information coming at us from every direction. Some of us do almost everything with our smartphones in our hands. When we're not behind our laptop monitors, we are Facebook messaging or texting from our mobile devices. The demands for our attention are accompanied by pings and rings that practically scream at us to respond. Simply walking away from our computer is not enough to relax us. 

So how do we unwind when most of us have become used to exchanging one screen for another? 

The answer is we must become more comfortable with discomfort. 

David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Tech Addiction, explained to me that taking a tech break or completely powering down can be an uncomfortable experience the first time we try it. Imagine leaving your phone behind when you go to the movies or for a long walk. Can you do it without feeling slightly panicked?  But Greenfield says, "If you do tolerate the discomfort, the next time will be easier."

In this 21st Century period when our brains are on overdrive, Greenfield points out: We are not designed to be in a constant state of nervous system arousal.

So, next time you walk away from your monitor and pick up your cell phone or iPad, think twice. There's a certain sense of relief in letting our brains focus on something other than a screen. It's the kind of unwinding that we need to get used to doing more often. 

November 18, 2015

Finding Work Life Balance And Hating It

                                         Tipped

 

 

The other day I met a friend for lunch. She is finally in a job that has normal work hours, one that allows her to make lunch plans and have dinner with her family. She no feels exhausted or has a high level of responsibility at work. But she is miserable.

"I miss feeling excited about going to work every day," she told me. "I found work life balance, but I thought I would enjoy it more."

My conversation with my friend replayed in my mind this morning when I read a Huuffington blog post by Erin Blaskie. In the post Erin writes that after being a entrepreneur for 12 years, she burned out and thought that more balance was the answer. So, she decided she would concentrate on a year of self care. What she discovered when she scaled back in her business to a more manageable size, was that being less than all in made her miserable.

In her post she writes: "Stepping out of my craft, to focus on everything but work, created a hole in my soul where my business used to be. It created a void and I filled it with negative behaviors." She describes those behaviors as experiencing envy at what her colleagues were doing and questioning everything she had done in her business for the last 12 years. Even though she was able to take nights and weekends off, she was not happy. 

"The truth was, I wanted my business, my purpose and my passion back, " she writes. Erin says she began to ramp up again in her business and felt happier. "When you've found your calling, work fuels your life and your life fuels your work."

What Erin and my friend have come to realize is that work life balance will look different to everyone and sometimes when you do find balance, it doesn't look like the balance that everyone else says it should.

Erin said it well: Look for the version of work/life balance that is going to work for you.

I often hear from readers and friends who have tipped the scale one way or the other between work or life -- and they are happy. Balance doesn't have to be an equilibrium. Remember there will be times in our lives when responsibilities require we spend more time caring for family or our own needs. And, there will be times when we need or want to devote more attention to work. Work life balance means making choices that are best for us and not those choices we think we are supposed to make.