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

 

 

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.”