March 24, 2016

How Adam LaRoche got the work family conversation started again

 

 

                            Adam

 

 

Years ago I worked in a newsroom bureau next door to a charter school. Every afternoon, my co-worker would pick up his young son from school and bring him to the office to do his homework. While I thought it was awesome, I also kind of resented it because I thought that a mother who brought her child to the office every afternoon would get disciplined.

The topic of bringing your child to work became top of mind again last week when Adam LaRoche, a power-hitting first baseman, informed the White Sox that he intended to retire with a year and $13 million left on his contract. He made the decision after being told by club President Kenny Williams that his 14-year-old son, Drake, should appear less frequently in the clubhouse.

Initially, the White Sox welcomed LaRoche's son Drake and even outfitted him with a uniform and gave him a locker inside the clubhouse. Drake began traveling with his father during baseball season, receiving home-schooled lessons.

But Williams had enough of Drake’s constant presence and defended his position to ask his player to leave his son at home by saying, "Where in this country can you bring your child to work every day?"

The answer, of course, is hardly anywhere. And that got me thinking.

Some parents like LaRoche may want to bring their child to work. Some may need to bring their child to work. Indeed, as the Washington Post notes, “most people who wrestle with children-at-work issues do it for straight-up survival, not to form an unusually close bond with a child.” And, while it was LaRoche's choice to quit because he couldn't bring his son to work with him, some people (particularly mothers) have been fired for doing it. 

Fortunately, for workers who prove themselves valuable, businesses are starting to bend a little to keep their top talent happy.   Now, it’s up to each of us to ask for what we need to keep our work and home lives on track, convince our employers to give us those accommodations, and be prepared to make decisions based on the response to our requests. In Adam’s case, he faced a tough choice between work and family, and chose family. His decision resonated with baseball players around the country who rallied behind him when he quit, citing #FamilyFirst as the reason.

Tadd Schwartz, a father of two young children and owner of Schwartz Media Strategies, says thinks LaRoche should be able to bring Drake to work with him. Schwartz just allowed an employee to bring a sick dog with him to work. “Culture is critical and if an employee is productive and wants his or her son/ daughter (or dog) in the office and it's not a distraction then I'm fine with it. It’s called flexibility.”

I asked another employer what he thought about LaRoche's action and he told me doesn't think that anyone, male or female, should bring their child to work: "We're paying people to focus on their job, not their child. On an emergency basis, that would be different. But on a day to day basis it's a distraction for the parent and a liability for the company." 

I appreciate LaRoche's position as a father who travels a lot for work and wants to spend time with his son. I also appreciate the fact that LaRoche has America discussing this important topic. The movement to make workplaces more kid-friendly has been slow to take hold. But, as more men take on their fair share of childcare duty, I foresee fathers making the tough decision LaRoche made and more employers suffering the consequences for refusing to be open-minded. 

March 14, 2016

My Birthday Work Life Balance Lesson

 

 

                                                Cake2

 

Today is my 51st birthday and I'm officially in the "Over 50" age bracket. That could be a little depressing but instead of looking at what's behind me, I'm looking at what's ahead. 

Fortunately, I read something this morning that inspired me in my quest for work life balance in a stage of life that depends less on taking care of my children (two who are now in college) and more about finding the right fulfillment from work and life. 

Life coach Martina E. Faulkner says two little words can make a big difference in how we live our lives. Do you want to know those two words?

Get ready because they are simple and complicated at the same time....

“What if..?”

For example, you can ask yourself, "What if I could..." or What if I did..."

Instead of feeling frantic, overwhelmed or unfulfilled ...What if we ask ourselves "What if?"

What if I wrote the book? What if I published it? or What if I took on a new position at work? What if I asked my boss for flexibility?

Martina says “What if..?” is a simple little phrase that belies its greatness. It is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to manifest the greatest joys or undermine even the most assured confidence. It all depends on how you use it. 

What if I let go of the sad feeling I have that I don't have toddlers to tuck in bed at night and embrace the fact that I can talk to my kids about my work challenges or hear their thoughts about who should be President?

What if I allow myself to feel less stressed about the constant stream of information coming at me from every direction and make more effort to work productively and pursue new outside interests?

There are so many ways to strike a better balance if we ask ourselves "What if.."

I look forward to all the possibilities that those two words bring. Happy Birthday to Me!

March 10, 2016

We have to stop stressing ourselves out

                                                 Stressed

 

Today I judged the Miami Herald Silver Knight contest for high school seniors. One of the students I interviewed had Chinese parents -- her father is a doctor and her mother has doctorate degree in psychology. The student, a high school senior, had dozens of activities on her resume, really time consuming activities such as working in a medical lab 20 hours a week, playing violin in a youth orchestra and tutoring students in math. She did this all while getting straight As in 17 AP courses.

"How do you do it all?" I asked her. "My parents raised me to be busy all the time doing the things I love to do,"  she replied. She said this matter of fact without appearing the least bit stressed, despite all the demands on her time.  

Look around and you will see that most Americans have a lot to learn. We may be accomplishing as much as this young girl, but we're completely stressed about it.  People are stressed about such things as   “deadlines,” “traffic,” “over-commitment,” “not enough time,” "difficult bosses" and “dealing with stupid people.”

Many of us are too stressed to take vacation. The latest survey commissioned by Alamo Rent A Car found that "vacation shaming" or being made to feel a sense of shame or guilt from co-workers for taking a vacation has become prevalent in the American workplace.

"We've created this kind of work martyr culture," said Cait DeBaun, spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Association's "Project: Time Off." The number of vacation days American workers take annually has fallen steadily since about the dot-com era..."

Meanwhile, we walk around completely stressed while we are at work. Only about a third of employees are happy on the job, according to a Gallup and the Families and Work Institute study. The study also showed that more than half of workers felt overworked or overwhelmed at least some of the time.

Now, let's look a little further....We aren't taking all our vacation so that's stressing us out, we're stressed when we're at work, and we're definitely stressed when we're commuting back and forth to work. So, what about at home? Are we stressed at home?

study from the Council on Contemporary Families found people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Three Penn State researchers measured people’s cortisol, which is a stress marker, while they were at work and while they were at home and found it higher home.

Ugh...we can't go on like this. We have to lower our stress levels. 

Here are my top 7 suggestions:

  1. Get moving. Every time you find your stress level on the rise, get up and move. You can stretch, run in place, dance, or walk around the office or building. Just try to get your blood and endorphins flowing.
  2. Think positive. It's inevitable that something during your day is going to go wrong, or not as planned. You can take the sting out of these negative events by focusing on what’s great in your lives.
  3. Say no. Be polite but firm: Explain to others (even your manager) that you are overcommitted and that you must say no.
  4. Gift yourself time. Plan time in your day for fun, creativity and socializing. Even if it's just five minutes.
  5. Shake it off. Life is hectic. People are busy. You can choose to let small things stress you out, or you can let the little things go and tell yourself we deserve to live a happy, contented life. Focus on what you can control and shake off what you can't.
  6. Make a list. I bet you can think of a million stress-relieving, calm-inducing activities when you don't need them. Keep a list in your car, on your phone or in your office to refer to when you need to get back in balance.
  7. Set your alarm. It's up to us to establish a clear time to go home or set times after which we don't check email. Even if you have a difficult boss or client, it's up to you to set your limits.

Do you feel like you're living your life more stressed than your parents lived theirs? Do you think job stress and the stress of trying to strike a work life balance is inevitable, or do you think we can learn to manage our stress better than we are now?

March 02, 2016

How to pivot for better work life balance

So, you know you're in a rut. You are working hard, catching up on email even when you should be enjoying your time off. Lately you are asking yourself..."Is there all there is?"

You need a change. You want more fulfillment. More work life balance. But where do you start?

Last Friday, I sat in the audience of Office Depot Foundation Women's Symposium and I listened to speakers motivate the audience with stories of their path to success. As I listened, I noticed that all of them had pivoted to find better work life balance, or more fulfillment from how they live their lives.

Personal branding consultant Michelle Villalobos had just returned from a year long road trip that she said re-energized her. While that's not realistic for most of us, Michelle  suggested we stop living in the day to day and start thinking about what we want our work and home lives to look like. “You need to think about how you want your life to look in a year and what’s standing in your way,” Michelle told us. “Sometimes, that’s hard to see by yourself. You may need to get the right people to help you."

For some people, pivoting to achieve better work life balance may require a slight shift, while others might need a complete change in direction.

GilaIf you own your business and you're working much more than you should be, think about how you can change that. Do you need to bring in a partner, hire more employees or rely more on the ones you have? Gila Kurtz has spent the last year figuring that out. “I had lost who I was in the volume of work,” she said. Kurtz, who is founder, co-owner and vice president of sales for Dog is Good, a California company that creates and markets gifts and apparel for dog lovers, made a plan.

She transitioned from a hands-on role as vice president of sales to a leadership position as brand ambassador. Over the past year, she hired a sales team, wrote a book called Fur Covered Wisdom, and began speaking at events, including the women’s symposium, to promote her brand. Kurtz also got a puppy that she takes to the beach, and body-surfs with, on weekends. “I have put play back into my life,” she says.

 

Let's say you're traveling too much or you want flexibility. A slight pivot may be all that’s needed. Christine Lam at Citigroup describes how she reached her pivot point when her son washed his hands without a step stool and she realized she had missed most of his growing up because of her constant business travel. Instead of a drastic career change, a conversation with her manager at Citi led to a new position with Citi’s Global Consumer Bank that halved her travel and improved her work life balance.

Randy McDermott at Robert Half, a staffing firm, finds people often underestimate the support from managers for the right work/life balance. “The first step should be to talk to your direct supervisor about changing your circumstances in your current role,” he says.

Still, a growing number of frustrated workers find an extreme pivot is their best path to a more fulfilling and balanced life. They change jobs and even careers, give up responsibility, or find new interests outside the office.

Making an extreme pivot takes courage. But it could turn out to be the key to a much happier life.  Jen JenLancaster says she did an extreme pivot when she got laid off and couldn't get a job in marketing. She launched a website to air her frustrations about unemployment and shortly after became a humor columnist. She now has 12 books. 
 
"I learned to embrace the pivot," Jen told the audience at the Office Depot symposium. "It takes being introspective and reframing your thinking."
 
So, if you're sinking under the weight of work, or just plain fed up with having no time for fun, reframe your thinking and come up with a plan, Jen says. "Consider it the first brick as you pave your path to success."
 
 

 

 

 

 

February 29, 2016

How to Be Super Productive on Leap Day

                                     Leap


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

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

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

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

 

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

 

                              Leap day

 

February 25, 2016

Why we think everyone else has it together

                                            Sign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 24, 2016

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

February 09, 2016

Will I Ever Stop Dealing with Mommy Guilt?

                        

 

                                      Guilt

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 05, 2016

Could you work with your spouse?

Helen+Jacob__03__2013

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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