February 23, 2015

Do you really want honest feedback?

Most of us tell ourselves we want feedback at work -- until we actually receive it. It's kind of like when we ask our spouse if a certain pair of pants makes us look fat. We aren't actually okay with the answer being yes.

Now, employers are asking managers to ease up on harsh feedback for their staff. At a time when younger workers want ongoing feedback, they want the managers to accentuate the positive instead of negative. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

While positive feedback definitely helps with motivation, I want to know the honest truth about where I stand. If something I'm doing is holding me back in my job or career, I want to know it, just like I would want to know if I'm walking around in pants that make me look fat.

There are nice ways to deliver the harsh truth. Good managers have mastered the art of giving truthful feedback in a constructive way. Of course, not every manager has skills to find a constructive way to tell someone he or she is not assertive enough or productive enough or focused enough to get ahead.  While criticism may be awful to hear, if something I'm doing is standing in the way of a raise, promotion or plumb assignment, I want to my manager to empower me correct it.  Having a manager give me only the positive is not going to be enough to open my eyes to the need to change my behavior.

As Talent Management Magazine notes: In a perfect world — and with a perfect employee —  focusing only on the positive is likely effective. But sometimes — and in specific industries — being a little tough can be beneficial as well, especially with an employee who perhaps has taken advantage of a "nice" manager and whose work has suffered as a result.

One boss I know always gives negative feedback. No one wants to work for her. That's not a great approach either. I have seen it lead to bad morale.

I want my manager to extol my strengths and heap praise on me for what I'm doing well, but I also want him or her to be honest about real or perceived weaknesses that might be holding me back. If I'm a remote worker and the perception is that I don't work hard, I want to know that so I can do something about it. If I see myself as a leader and no one else does, I want to know that, too, so I don't put in long hours and become frustrated when it doesn't lead to advancement.

Providing the right kind of truthful feedback -- which includes strengths and weaknesses -- separates a mediocre manager from a great one. A really great manager might tell me how to use my strengths to improve my weaknesses.

What are your thoughts on feedback from the boss? Do you only want to hear the good stuff? Do you think allowing a manager to give critical feedback is opening the door for bad morale?

February 11, 2015

Choose your Valentine wisely if you want career success

There is no doubt about it. I am CEO of my home. Because I am conscientious and get things done at home, my husband can put in really long hours as CFO of his company and still spend time with the kids when he gets home. However, because he is conscientious too, I can advance in my career, and count on him when I need him to take over dinner or a meeting with the teacher so I can turn an article in on deadline.

New research shows what many CEOs already know. Who you marry is key to career success. If you are a go-getter, it's best to avoid partnering with  someone who is lazy, resentful or lacks confidence.

Male or female, you stand a better chance of career success if your spouse or romantic partner is conscientious, reliable, organized, extroverted and generally happy. Think Michelle Obama, or David Goldberg, SurveyMonkey CEO and husband of Sheryl Sandberg.

 

“Even if they are not going into your workplace at all, somehow your spouse’s personality is having an influence on your career,” says Joshua Jackson, co-author of new research published in Psychological Science on the link between a spouse’s personality and job success. “People can benefit at work not just because they are married, but in part because of who they married.”

 

 

Here are three reasons why you need to choose a conscientious partner if you are ambitious:

* First, a conscientious partner helps with household tasks, taking some pressure off you and freeing you  to concentrate on work.

* Second, a conscientious partner allows you to feel more satisfied in your marriage or relationship — happiness that spills over into greater satisfaction at work.

* Third, a conscientious partner sets an example, leading his or her mate to mimic his or her diligent habits.

You might also want to choose someone who is outgoing. Researchers also found that people with extroverted, outgoing partners are more likely to have higher levels of job satisfaction, “mostly because your spouse is happier and you take that with you into your workplace,” Jackson says. An added benefit: an outgoing spouse who comes with to work events can help you network or strike up a conversation with the boss.

Most C-suite executives, millionaire entrepreneurs and high-powered law firm shareholders will confirm that a romantic partner with the right personality can provide career advice, lift your mood while you work, encourage you to see opportunities and even refer you business or help you make connections.That's definitely something to keep in mind when you're searching for a Valentine!

These new findings linking a partner’s personality traits and career success supplement previous studies that show your happiness level rises when your mate’s does the same. Research has also found that workers put in more time in the office when their intimate relationships at home are going well, and the right romantic partner can become one's closest workplace confident and advisor.
 
In interviews, many CEOs of both genders often say they could not have succeeded without the support of their partners, wives or husbands, helping with the children and household chores, lending an listening ear when needed and agreeing to attend corporate events or relocate when necessary.
 
Women who lead the largest private companies in Florida realize they have to be in a relationship that operates as a true partnership, says Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director of The Commonwealth Institute South Florida, founded to help women-led businesses become and stay successful. In fact, Davis says that while she is super-organized, she depends on her spouse, a litigator, to be a reliable partner when her job requires more of her time: “I can’t imagine some being hugely successful in marriage and work if you don’t have someone who helps you be the best you can be.”
 
What's your take on your significant other's role in your career success? Do you think the personality of your partner has helped you get ahead at work? Has it prevented you from getting ahead?
 

January 28, 2015

Bouncing Back from Failure

                                                    Failure or success

 

 

Did you make an expensive mistake in 2014? Did you experience a setback in business or in a personal relationship? At some point, we all face rejection or failure and that's okay because at least we tried.

Now is a great time to bounce back while you still have most of 2015 ahead of you. I've reached out to people who have been there to get you some great advice for how to turn things around with your business, career or home life. 

* The first step is acknowledging your situation. This is not an easy step. It's really easy to wear blinders and believe everything is okay.

* The next step requires searching for the root cause of what went wrong. “It’s usually not what people think it is,” said David Harkleroad of Chief Outsiders, a consultant to CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses.  Usually, listening carefully to customers, team members and trusted advisors reveals a clue for how to course correct: “It requires listening to understand, not listening to respond.”

* Now it's time to evaluate your options. You will need to figure out whether to simply pivot or completely shut down operations. “You have to be decisive but you also have to live with your decisions,” says Vincent Smith, a Miami pharmacist and serial entrepreneur whose latest product is PopScope.  “I learned you don’t want to go on too long if you’re not making money and you don’t want to be too connected to an idea where you no longer become objective. Whether you’re the guy who introduced McPizza to the McDonald’s menu or the one who expanded Pollo Tropical into an underperforming market, recognizing the signs for when to give up and reading the signs can be critical to long-term success.
 
* Take a team approach to reversing failure. Success often requires a team who can cover each other’s blind spots. “To get that means you sometimes have to give up control,” says Johnson of ActionCoach. “If you get the right people in the positions they are wired for and empower them, that will reverse failure because it is leverage as opposed to you trying to micromanage everything yourself.”

* Hone your network. If your business or strategy fails, your business relationships will become crucial. Your network should include  mentors, future employers or team leaders who will give you a job, point you down the right path or give you the support to build back your confidence.  

Kenneth Rader and his twin brother Josh Rader founded The Cereal Bowl in 2006. The fledgling novelty concept selling dozens of cereals for about $4 a bowl was unable to survive the 2009 recession when credit tightened and disposable income became scarce. But when the business shuttered, the Raders bounced back by using existing connections and applying learned skills in a new way. “Walking away was hard to do, but we made good relationships and gained mentors,” Kenneth says.

* Learn from your mistakes. Kenneth says running a business, particularly one that failed has given him invaluable business knowledge. “Mitigating risk is an important skill that we learned and use even in our current jobs.” Adds Josh: “You get that ability with failure to look back and see what we should have done, learn from it and move forward.”

 

 

January 15, 2015

Where work life balance is headed in 2015

I recently had a conversation that enlightened me. I spoke with a 2014 college graduate working at an accounting firm, who is assigned to the Miami office. She told me she also works from other Florida offices or from home. She explained that her supervisors know when she is working because the company system shows her logged in, but they don’t know her exact location, which makes it easy to work from home. “I love that about this job,” she told me.

Yesterday in The Miami Herald, I outlined my predictions for workplace trends in 2015. One of the trends I feel most strongly about relates to flexibility and this conversation.

I believe in 2015, more employees, like this young accountant, will quietly use flexibility. While many companies are considering policies on flexible work arrangements, their workers are quietly working from outside the office whenever possible. Working where you want or when you want and is a perk employees will put a premium on in 2015.

Those workers who can work from home on occasion tell me they plan to stay in their jobs as long as possible, because not having that flexibility would cost them in commute time, babysitter fees or missed parenting opportunities. Most workers say they are more productive on the days they work from home.

Expect to see lifestyle choices over money when it comes to career decisions in 2015. Alex Funkhouser, CEO of Sherlock Talent, a Florida staffing firm for technology and marketing talent, says seven out of every 10 job candidates he encounters would make a move if he or she could work remotely at least two days a week. “They even would take a pay cut just so they wouldn’t have to commute into an office,” Funkhouser says. Smart employers will recognize and embrace that trend to attract and retain loyal employees, particularly now that their upgraded systems make it easier to work remotely.

 
I also believe America's workforce will struggle even more for work life balance. Google marketing experts are telling us our smartphones are the new remote control for our lives. They are where we go for finding movie times, answering work emails, playing games, communicating with our teens. The more data our smartphone has, the smarter it will be, and the more it will simplify our life — or tether us to the office and distract us from making face to face connections. In 2015 more of us must decide if we use mobile technology — even wearable mobile technology — as a new powerful tool to work and communicate, or if we let it dictate our lives.

“We have to define what’s important for us at which time of the day, the week and the year, and act consistently,” says Geoffroy de Lestrange, a marketing professional.

With our laptops and cell phones tempting us to bring work home, we are going to have to work harder this year to keep work at the office and protect our personal and family life from the demands of work. That will be a focus for my blog this year. I look forward to sharing my tips and hearing yours.

 
 

December 03, 2014

Shopping online at work: The key to work life balance

At 3 p.m. on Cyber Monday, I nabbed the boots for my daughter wants for the holidays for a bargain price. Coming off the high of snagging a great deal, I plunged forward into completing an article that I had been working on for weeks. Rather that distracting me, my online holiday shopping left me energized and ready to focus.

I say go ahead and shop at work. It's convenient and your boss is probably doing it too.

A new survey by CareerBuilder found bosses, and not the rank and file, are more likely to spend time on the company computer shopping this holiday season.

One senior executive told me she shops for almost everything online from holiday gifts to pantyhose to deodorant. She shops from home, work, airplanes and even during conference calls. She doesn't see shopping online at work as an intrusion but rather as a necessity. She wants to spend her free time with her kids, not searching for a parking spot and waiting in long lines.

With all of us squeezed for free time, online shopping has become the key to juggling work and a personal demands. A few clicks on the computer can help you reclaim your lunch hour for eating rather than battling crowds to buy a gift. Right now, most retailers are offering free shipping. You just can't beat the convenience!

“So long as productivity and customer service meet expectations, many employers are lenient in regards to a small amount of holiday shopping at work,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.

It does surprise me though that some employers still don't get where this trend is going. 

Some employers are adamant about putting a halt to holiday shopping on work hours. In the 2014 survey 53 percent of employers said their organization blocks employees from accessing certain websites from work, and 32 percent said they monitor the sites employees visit. Some companies flat out forbid employees from shopping online at the office.

What they may not realize is that employees don't need to use our work computers to shop online. We have all we need in our pockets or our purses.  CareerBuilder found more than 1 in 4 (27 percent) of employees they use their personal smart phones or tablets to shop at work.

The key to shopping online at work is be discreet and reasonable.  Limit yourself to a few minutes during lunch or a break, and refrain from having large packages delivered to yourself at the office. Most important, use common sense: don't neglect a customer or work project just to take advantage of the deal of the hour. 

A few abusers can ruin the privilege for the rest of the office, so don't be that person. Know the rules of your workplace.

Eric Younkin, Cleveland branch manager for Robert Half Technology, told Cleveland.com that online holiday shopping done at work - within reason - could be a win-win for both employer and employee. Employees get to cross-off items on their holiday shopping lists and take advantage of cyber specials that may only be available during work hours. Employers don't have to worry about an employee taking a long lunch break to shop at a brick-and-mortar store. As long as an employee isn't spending hours of the workday surfing the Internet for holiday bargains, the minutes spent making an online purchase pale in comparison to a trip to the mall or the local shopping district, he said.

I agree that online shopping can be a win-win for all.

My motto this season: Shop smart. Work smart. And don't push the limits of your employer's trust.  

November 26, 2014

How to bring your idea to reality

 

 

When I ushered in the new year, I came up with an idea for a book I wanted to write, a business I wanted to start and an app I wanted to launch. Now, I am eating a turkey feast and realizing I have not focused on turning any of them into reality.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to step back, look at all I am grateful for, and ponder the ideas I had wanted to pursue in 2014. With one month left in the year, I plan to ask myself some tough questions about where I have gotten stuck and what I can do to move at least one idea into action.

A friend of mine says she, too, has stalled while trying to move an idea forward. She wants to add an ancillary service that could help her pet-sitting business become more profitable. But like me, she has become bogged down in the daily struggle of balancing work and family.

Recognizing we all need help bringing our ideas to reality, I have turned to experts to share their best methods for follow through. These tips appeared today in my Miami Herald column.

 

 

Missy #5

(Above: Anne Louise "Missy" Carricarte, author of Power Wishing: Visualization Technology for Manifesting, at her appearance at the Miami Book Fair International)

▪ Do your research. Wifredo Fernandez has seen dozens of ideas come to fruition as co-founder of The LAB Miami and now as founding director of CREATE Miami, a venture incubator and accelerator at Miami Dade College. Fernandez tells entrepreneurs to propose their idea to at least 100 potential customers and even ask for feedback on how to improve on it.

 Let passion drive the idea: The pivotal shift from idea to reality happens once you find yourself unable to think about anything else but solving the problem. “The specific idea may change, but if you’re passionate and focused, your drive to solve the problem will push you to execute,” Fernandez says. 

 

▪ Believe in the idea. Most people fail in pushing forward an idea because the unexpected challenges become more than they think they can handle. If you want to be successful, “stage the day,” says Anne Louise “Missy” Carricarte, entrepreneur and author of Power Wishing: Visualization Technology for Manifesting. Take a moment before you step out of bed to think about what you want to accomplish and plan your intention for how it will happen.

▪ Continue with what works. With a month left in 2014, consider what you have done already to move an idea forward, rather than what remains unfinished. “That can shift the outcome,” Carricarte says. If you have moved an idea forward 10 percent, look at how you accomplished it, rather than at the 90 percent you haven’t achieved. “Build on what’s working,” she says.

▪ Tap your network. Whether an idea involves starting something new or building on something that exists, look at who you know that can help you convert it to reality. When Kim Weiss got an idea to package her photos of sunsets into a book, she enlisted her boyfriend to write the accompanying haikus and a publisher friend helped to get it into print. “There are people you surround yourself with who can help you realize your dream,” says the author of Sunrise, Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe and Gratitude. “Everyone has a network they can tap.”

▪ Stay strong, focused. Shark Tank fans know successfully converting an idea into a reality is a marathon, not a sprint. Real work life conflicts will arise, as will naysayers. “The only way to get over disappointment, frustration or distraction is to get to work on your idea,” says Janet Burrowayauthor of plays, poetry, children’s books, eight novels and two textbooks. “It’s easy to terrify yourself into inactivity.” Burroway believes the longer an idea rumbles around in your brain, the less likely you are to act on it. When she has an idea for a book, she says she puts anything that pops into her head down on paper. From there, she allows her creativity to expand.

▪ Do something now. Rather than wait for the next calendar year, or for when you have more time or money, “take some sort of action today towards making your idea happen,” says Dave Lorenzo, founder of Miami’s Valtimax Consulting. “Even if you proceed in the wrong direction and make a mistake, you can take quick corrective action.” As a business owner, Lorenzo says he carries a notebook and jots down ideas all the time. Some morph into newer ideas and go through twists and turns before he brings them to life. Remember, he says, “The idea is not dead until you decide it is.”

What stops you from moving forward with ideas? Money? Time? Fear? Do you see yourself taking the first step toward moving an idea to reality by year end?
 

November 20, 2014

How to Get on a Corporate Board and Why it's Worth Doing

This morning at Women Executive Leaderhip's Corporate Salute, I listened as a handful of powerful women talked about how they landed a board seat at some of the biggest companies in America (McDonald's, Cox Communications,Pennzoil-Quaker State Corporation)

Being on a board not only pays well, it can allow someone to influence corporate strategy at a company they patronize. Yes, it is a time commitment, but it comes with a great deal of prestige, a chance to exert a strong voice and an opportunity to meet influential people.

Some key strategic moves:

Get connected. Hearing these women speak, it dawned on me what these board directors had in common: they knew the right person who advocated for them. While these women were qualified, they got the position after being recommended by someone with an in. Chances are you have the right connections, too. You just have to use them."I can't stress enough the importance of networking with other women in power," said Terry Savage,  a nationally known expert on personal finance, the markets, and the economy.

Put the word out. Last week, when I was out at Perry Ellis International and spoke with CEO George Feldenkreis, he told me that women are often low key about their skills or interest in being on a board. You have to make yourself visible to sitting board members, and you have to make them aware of your strengths and skills, he told me.

Gain the confidence. You also have to believe that you have what it takes to serve on board. "It's amazing to me how prepared women are without knowing it," said Lynn Martin, former U.S. Secretary of Labor who has held numerous board seats.

Make an action plan. Stephanie Sonnabend, co-founder of 2020 Women On Boards, advises creating an action plan that includes deciding what companies or industries you want to target for a board position, inventorying your skills to fill the gaps and preparing your resume, bio and elevator speech.

Get past work life concernsMy Miami Herald column goes more in depth about the status of women in the boardroom in Florida and nationwide. I found these comments by Korn Ferry's Bonnie Crabtree right on point:

To land board seats, you need to go after them and get past the real or perceived work/life balance concerns or lack of confidence that holds you back.

“Women say they would love to be on a board, but that isn’t enough. They must research what boards are looking for, their own experience, and work to close the gaps.”

Crabtree said qualified women need to believe they can do the job and step up for consideration. “Women worry more about travel or the time investment to be on a board or getting permission from their CEO, and they unconsciously take themselves out of the running.”

Do you think you have what it takes to land a board seat? Having diverse boards makes good business sense. Are you willing to help prove that point?

 

 

WEL2-1

(Cindy Goodman, Michelle Eisner, Stephanie Sonnabend and Shari Roth at Women Executive Leadership's Corporate Salute)

 

 

November 18, 2014

Never bring your boss a work life balance problem

This morning, a male friend called me with a management issue. He wanted my thoughts on how to handle a situation with one of his female employees who is struggling with a work and family conflict. 

The problem is that each member of his staff takes a turn with a task that requires they stay late at the office one night a week. This one employee, a mom, has a young child at daycare and finds it impossible to rely on her husband or a family member to pick the child up when it is her turn to stay late.  She approached her boss and told him she couldn't continue to stay late once a week. 

"She's a good employee," my friend explained. "I don't want her to quit. But we are making everyone else take a turn at staying late."

My immediate response was to rattle off questions. 

First, why is this just this woman's problem? If there's a father in the picture, why isn't he working to find a solution, too?

Second, if she knows in advance she needs to stay late once a week, why can't she plan for it?

Last, and most important, why did she approach her boss with a problem, rather than a solution?

The number one rule in negotiation of a work life accommodation is bring a solution to the table.

I advised my friend to tell his employee to come back with a proposed solution to this dilemma. Then, she and her boss can negotiate from there.

If I were the frustrated mom, I might have asked my boss if there's a task I could take on early in the day in order to skip my turn on the late night rotation.

Long ago, I learned that bosses respond best to proposed solutions rather than problems. Because this woman's co-workers are single or have no kids, there is a possibility of resentment. As a manager, my friend needs to make sure whatever accommodation he makes for this working mom comes off as fair to all. 

We work in an era when the needs of the 21st Century workforce must be considered. In two-job families, men and women may both confront work life balance challenges. No one wants to lose his or her job over a child care issue. And, a good boss wants to keep a good employee. 

As I hung up with my friend, he said: "Let's see what she comes up with. I really want this to work out."

I pretty sure most bosses feel that way. 

 

November 05, 2014

The Way Men Use Flex is Different

Flexibiilty at work. 

For many years, those three words have been associate with working mothers.

But quietly, working fathers are tapping flex, too.

Rather than making the formal flex arrangements that moms make, dads are using flex under the radar. 

Take Phil Ward, for example. Twice a week, Phil arrives at his Fort Lauderdale law office earlier than usual and plans his day knowing he wants to watch his son’s lacrosse practice at 6:30 p.m. If his wife can’t drop his son off at practice, Ward does some extra maneuvering of his schedule to leave his office earlier. He might work through lunch or log on later in the evening. 

How Men Flex, a newly released report commissioned by Working Mother, shows that seven in 10 men enjoy the ability to influence their schedule and do so without fear of negative consequences. But only 29 percent report that their flexible work schedule is a formal arrangement that repeats week to week. Men “flex” mostly as needed.

To better understand how men are navigating the flexible work and home terrain, the Working Mother Research Institute (WMRI), with support from Ernst & Young, surveyed 2,000 men and women about the impact of “flexing” on their lives. Researchers discovered that working dads, whose spouses now work too, increasingly want and need flexibility in their schedules as they partake in the juggling act once considered the exclusive domain of women.

Jose Hernandez-Solaun, president of a Miami real estate firm, notices that most men who need informal flexibility — in jobs where it is possible — negotiate it on the fly, and get it. Yet, “flex” comes paired with expectations, he says. “If I need you to produce spreadsheets and a presentation by Friday and you ask to leave early because you need to be with your kids, you better produce that information. It’s really about accountability.”

Hernandez-Solaun, a father of young children, says the expectations are two-sided: men expect leeway in their schedule and, in return, bosses expect a certain level of availability — even at home or on vacation. “Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case.”

Going beyond informal flexibility gets trickier for men. Most men fear that formal arrangements — such as a scaled back work schedule, telecommuting from home or leeway in starting times —  create the impression that they aren’t fully committed. 

For men in particular, there is a real fear of the stigma, too. “The No.1 concern … is that men feel the moment they step out or step back, they become dispensable. That’s the greatest insecurity of every man I know,” says Mike Tomas, a South Florida entrepreneur.

Like women, men with access to flexibility are more likely to say they are happy at work, productive, loyal and have good relationships with co-workers. And, those men who do flex — even informally — report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships with their children.
 
The men surveyed say the ideal mix is working in office but from home occasionally as needed. To do that regularly, requires a workplace that allows that type of schedule. It looks like slowly, with more managers doing the balancing act, we're moving in that direction. Working moms may have paved the way, but men are quickly learning that flexibility has benefits.
 

October 31, 2014

Should we care that Apple CEO Tim Cook is gay?

Tom cook

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has announced he is gay. 

We should be saying who cares about someone's sexual preference. But we're not. We've turned his public outing into big news because unfortunately, it's still news. Cook is the most high profile CEO to openly say he's gay.

Some will say this is a turning point in the evolution of business, that this announcement expands economic opportunities for LGBT poeple. 

To me, it's a signal that the lines between personal and professional are gone. We bring our whole selves to work -- we're moms, we're dads, we're grandkids, we're domestic partners -- and no one should care. Today, we trouble shoot our home life from the office and our office life from home and it's all good. Cook says he's been open in the workplace about his sexual orientation and that it doesn't make a difference in how his co-workers treat him. It shouldn't. I don't care if my boss is gay. I just care if he or she is a good boss.

I asked my teenage son what he thought of Cook's public announcement about being gay. My son quickly replied "what's the big deal if he's gay?" That's the outlook of the next generation: a big "who cares" about someone's sexual preference.

The highest level corporate executive to come out of the closet has signaled that there is a place for all in the business world. He's shown that we don't need to hide who we are outside the office.

We're still going to buy Apple products. We're still going to apply for jobs at Apple. We're still going to want to work for Tim Cook because we like his management style.

Should we care that Tim is gay? We're getting much closer to the day when society's answer will be no.