April 16, 2015

Take a pause, Get in flow, Learn to play




Have you ever heard of flow? Let me describe it to you....

Picture yourself on a surfboard, riding a wave. You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the feel of the board on the water, the sound of the wave and the splash of the ocean on your face.  Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice. According to Steven Kotler, what you are experiencing in that moment is known as flow, a state of complete immersion in an activity. 

When you're in flow, your attention is focused and you are capable of amazing things,  every action flows effortlessly and innovation gets amplified. 

Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. A writer might experience this when working on a novel and the pages seem to write themselves. A basketball player might experience it when he gets into the zone, undergoes a loss of self-consciousness and focuses only on his shot from center court.

Flow states are now known to optimize performance, enhance creativity, drive innovation, accelerate learning and amplify memory.

The happiest people have flow. I don't have flow. I have stress. I am walking around with a to-do list that never gets shorter and I'm always thinking about ten things at the same time.

But I can get flow and so can you.

I bet you're thinking, "How in the world would I do that?" That's what I was thinking when I heard Steven Kotler speak about flow earlier this week at Human Capital Media's  Chief Learning Officer Symposium in Miami. Steven wrote  the book "The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance and says we can tap flow at work, home, or skiing down a mountain.

Here are a few of Steven's suggestions for triggering flow: Choose your own challenges, Put yourself in an unpredictable environment, stretch yourself just slightly greater than your skill set, embrace solitude, be aware of your senses, engage in serious concentration.

After hearing Kotler speak, I wandered into a nearby room at the conference to hear Yogi Roth talk about finding your inner grit. Roth, calls himself an Aventure-preneur (don't you love that title!) From Roth, I learned that I don't pause enough to think about my personal style, my vision, my theme and my philosophy.  I want to pause more, and think about these things. I want inner grit.

To get it, Roth says I must make sure how I describe myself, how my best friend describes me and how my mentor describe me are the same. I will start working on that...

Thanks Yogi, good stuff to know.

Most important, from Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time and the final speaker at the conference, I learned that I don't take enough time to play. When is the last time you jumped on a trampoline, glided through air on a swing or climbed a tree? For me, it's been way too long ago. So, if I want work life balance and a less stressful life, I must learn to play. I like the idea of playing more, don't you? At Patagonia,  managers have their meetings while hiking mountains and people take time in the afternoons to surf with co-workers. I love that concept -- play at work.

Do you know that in some parts of the country  there are women's play groups? Yes, these women get together weekly for playdates for a fun activity -- they trapeze, rock climb and bike ride. How cool is that!

Clearly, I have a few things to work on if I want to up my game. 

What are your thoughts on flow, grit, and play? If you have tapped into flow or found a way to fit play into your day, I want to hear from you. How do you make these concepts a reality? 

April 08, 2015

Is chit chat ruining your work life balance?


A few days ago, a panel of women leaders gathered for The Commonwealth Institute South Florida luncheon. During a panel discussion, one of the women leaders , Gillian Thomas, spoke about how she came from the U.K. where meetings are run differently than in the U.S. Mostly, they are more efficient, she said, because they are all business. When she arrived in the U.S., she realized that chit chat is part of most business meetings. "I've had to learn to respect that," she said.

Yet, there is a movement underway to shorten business meetings and eliminate chit chat.

Not long ago, you may recall I wrote about a business owner who does most of his interaction by email. He considers phone calls and in person meetings a huge waste of time, mostly because he abhors chit chat. He calls small talk: "the biggest time waster known to man."

And, plenty of productivity gurus will tell you that chit chat wreaks havoc on our work life balance because it makes meetings and phone calls longer and distracts us from getting work done.

Still, I'm a big proponent of chit chat. To me, it's what makes the person sitting next to you more human. From a business perspective chit chat helps you find common ground with a client or co-worker. Getting to know someone on a more personal level makes them more likely to want to work with you. It makes them see you as a whole person and often it makes them respect your personal life that much more.

Have you ever worked with someone who was all business? I have and while I was extremely efficient when I work with them or for them, I didn't feel motivated to give any extra effort.

Not long ago I heard a businesswoman tell her story about how she landed a seat on a prestigious all-male board of a major corporation. She had played hockey in college and was a huge fan of the local NHL team. The chairman of the board was a big hockey fan too. During the interview process, they had chit chatted about hockey. It disarmed the man and made him see this woman as someone who could fit in. The male candidates who interviewed for the board seat had avoided chit chat but the woman, who also had amazing credentials, stood out.

I've noticed that small talk can lead to a variety of positive outcomes, from a merely pleasant exchange to the signing of multimillion-dollar business deal. It's a way to connect and while it may seem like a time drain to some, likeability is a key factor in getting hired, promoted or engaged as a vendor. And what determines a large portion of your likeability? You guessed it: your ability to small talk.

At the same TCI luncheon last week, the panelists were asked about their leadership styles. Alex Villoch publisher of The Miami Herald, said her style is all about getting out of her office and chit chatting with staff. "When you stay in your office, people will come in and tell you want they think you want to hear," she said. By roaming around and talking to employees, Villoch says she picks up small tidbits that often lead to big ideas.

Some of us feel guilty about wasting time at work. I say, go ahead and build chit chat into your workday. Good leaders do it, good networkers do it, good team builders do it. Small talk matters. That's something to consider next time you feel annoyed by a simple "How's your day going?"

April 06, 2015

Why women and young people don't want the top job


Inside the cubicles at many workplaces, there's a strange trend taking place.

Young people are comfortable and really don't want to upgrade their cubicle for the corner office. A new survey calls it the "Aspiration Gap".

In a recent study by talent management firm Saba and WorkplaceTrends.com, just 31% of Millennials said they aspire to a C-level position at their company. Also disinterested in the top job: women. Only 36 percent of women versus 64 percent of men aspire to be C-level executives in their organization.

What's going on?

While millennials do prioritize work life balance, Dan Schawbel, Founder of WorkplaceTrends.com., says the reason for the aspiration gap could be simple: "They just don’t see the path up."

According to Fortune, an obvious factor that explains why fewer women respondents expressed an interest in executive positions is not for a lack of ambition, but rather a lack of women role models at the top. After all, there are only 24 female CEOs in the United States’ biggest companies.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” says Caroline Ghosn, founder of Levo League, an online community dedicated to helping women in the early stages of their careers. “If I look up the food chain in my company and I don’t want to be any of the people that I see, what’s my incentive to advance?”

Schawbel says companies don't realize there's big trouble ahead: The lack of interest in leadership comes at a time when 30 percent of HR executives polled said they were struggling to find candidates to fill senior leadership roles. It also comes as 10,000 boomers retire every day.

"Most companies are waiting around. This is not as big of an issue now as it will be in the next 3 to 5 years," Schawbel says. "But we see problem now and think they should start to do something about it before it's too late."

One way simple way to do this is to provide employees with more opportunities to learn new skills. The survey found one reason workers lack interest is because they feel they aren't getting proper training for top jobs.

Emily He, Chief Marketing Officer of Saba, said: “There’s more at play than the retirement of Baby Boomers; the fundamental approaches businesses take to find, develop and inspire leaders at all levels need to change.”

Schawbel said employees are looking for personal career direction and suggests employers address the aspiration gap in these ways:

* Train and engage potential leaders so they have a better chance of becoming future executives.
* Help women and young workers feel their requests for leadership development are heard
* Provide more learning opportunities at all levels, particularly for women.
* Initiate succession planning programs
* Pair new hires with mentors

"By providing training and making millennials more confident in their roles, they might be more aspirational," Schawbel says.

What are your thoughts on why young people and women don't want the top job? Do you think they need more training? Or, do you think they are put off by the time commitment required of top leaders and the lack of work life balance?

March 27, 2015

Working parents: your boss may be judging you

(Katharine Zaleski)

If people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their boss. How do you become a boss that workers refuse to leave?

The answer looks obvious from recent online discussion: Refrain from judging employees with an outside life.

In an apology letter to working mothers that set off a firestorm of online buzz, the president of an Internet startup gave a harsh account of how workers with family responsibilities are unfairly judged by their bosses.

As a manager at The Huffington Post and then The Washington Post in her mid-20s, Katharine Zaleski admits that she judged other mothers or said nothing while she saw others do the same.

“I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last-minute drinks with me and my team,” she wrote in a letter that appeared in Fortune. “I questioned her ‘commitment’ even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hungover colleagues the next day. I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she ‘got pregnant.’

In a move that goes on in many workplaces, Zaleski said she scheduled last-minute meetings at 4:30 p.m. all of the time. “It didn’t dawn on me that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare,” she said.

Zaleski said she didn’t realize how horrible she had been until she gave birth to her own daughter. She now runs PowerToFly, a company that matches women who want to work from home with jobs in the tech field.

We all know that Zaleski isn't the only boss who has harshly judged a working mother -- or father. It can be easy to dismiss a working parent as uncommitted, a worker with elder care responsibilities as distracted, or a younger employee who wants to train for a marathon as lacking work ethic. It can be easy to call super early morning or schedule evening dinners with clients that can happen during the regular workday.

But you don’t need to be in a person’s shoes to be a boss who creates a workplace where employees thrive. A good boss thinks about the bigger picture and realizes people have lives outside of work -- and that allowing them to do both well makes them more committed to their jobs!

I find myself offering encouragement almost weekly to a working mother or father who feels judged by a boss for asking for flex time or wanting to leave by 5 to make it to their son’s soccer game. Their most common complaint: my boss will penalize me.

A report from Bright Horizons Family Solutions, an employer benefit child-care and early education company, reveals many employees - male and female - feel they can’t be open with their boss about family obligations. As more fathers want to be equal partners in parenting, they still feel they can’t express that to their boss, especially non-parents. Bright Horizons found about a third of working dads have faked sick to be more involved with their family, and one in four have lied to meet a family obligation, according to the report.

That could change.

As millennials become managers, many do think differently about work/life needs. They want to be more involved in thier children's lives and may make it easier for thier staffers to balance work and family without being judged.

If you feel like your boss or co- worker is judging you for having a life outside of work, it might be time to speak up. Communicate your accomplishments and the ways you show your commitment to your job. It's unfortunate to think that some managers don't see the value that working parents bring to a workplace.

Have you felt judged by a manager for having personal responsibilities or interests outside of work? How did you handle it?

March 24, 2015

HBO''s GIRLS producer talks workplace dos and don'ts


Whether or not you are a fan of HBO's GIRLS, the hit show with Lena Dunham, I think you will enjoy this Glamour Step Into My Office Segment with executive producer Jennifer Konner. It has some great career advice from Jennifer on how to negotiate salary, demand equal pay and create a fun working environment. Jennifer also addresses whether it is okay to cry at work and discloses her workplace policies.

I would want to work for Jennifer Konner. Let me know if you feel that way, too.

March 18, 2015

Pat Pineda: How She Got to the Top at Toyota






At 63, Patricia Salas Pineda is a bundle of energy as she runs around Miami this week representing Toyota at one of the nation's largest Hispanic events, Hispanicize. This mother of three has spent 30 years at Toyota and holds a key spot as one of the highest ranking women and THE highest ranked Hispanic at the company. She is in Miami because she leads the Hispanic Business Strategy Group, which focuses on strengthening Toyota's already existing ties to the Latin community.

Pat talked with me about how she got to the top of her company and offered advice to other women.

Most important, she says, plotting a successful career path involves being open to opportunities within different areas of a company. In her case, during her 30 years at Toyota, she has held positions in the legal department, with the Toyota Foundation and now she is group vice president of Hispanic business strategy for Toyota Motor North America  “I feel fortunate to have spent my career with a company that supported my career and offered me different opportunities.”

Pineda says she became a Latina executive in an industry where there were very few women holding senior positions. Some acquaintances called her a “trailblazer.” Her family and friends used another word to describe my career choice: “crazy.”

I prodded Pat to find out just how she managed the climb at Toyota while raising three children.

This trailblazer was with Toyota a decade before having children, which she says allowed her to prove herself and become confident in her role. “I was one of the first female managers and proud to be among a group of women throughout Toyota’s companies who were moving up through the ranks.”

Having help at home and a supportive husband who worked from home helped with the work life juggle. “It made my situation much easier. But that’s not to say it was without challenges.” Her children now are 28, 27 and 22 and she’s optimistic about other women at her company successfully balancing work and family. “It is possible to enjoy a family life and have a successful career.” 

Pat sees positive changes ahead for working parents, particularly because of the mindset of young managers in her workplace. “The younger men want to be more engaged fathers. They are less reluctant about taking time to go to their son or daughter’s event. I think that’s helpful because they are more sensitive to others with demands at home.”

In her rise to leadership, Pat was guided by male mentors inside and outside of her company. She came in contact with those outside her company through board positions. “Serving on external boards gave them an opportunity to observe me in action. They were able to help me obtain other key board positions.”

Today, Pat serves on the Board of Directors for Levi Strauss & Co. and is a Corporate Advisory Board Member for National Council of La Raza and an Alumni Trustee for The Rand Corporation.

With the benefit of hindsight, Pat says she would tell young mothers not to worry about what others might think about their choices. She remembers worrying about who might see her leaving for a medical appoint or whether to work from home because it was the nanny’s day off. “I wish I had worried less because it was really unnecessary.”

By staying with Toyota, Pat has brought the company tremendous value. She was chosen as one of the 25 most powerful Latinas by People en Español in 2014: “Across the roles I have had, I've been good at developing external relationships that have been helpful to the company.” Her relationships span from the Hispanic community, to the non-profit world, to elected officials to the media. “I have shared with them the wonderful things Toyota is doing. I think that’s why the company has been so supportive.”

Often, Pat finds herself counseling young mothers who are thinking of leaving the workplace. “I tell them, 'don’t make that decision now.' ” Most women have thanked her for encouraging them to “hang in there” and have gone on to success in their jobs. “That’s not to say staying doesn’t have consequences but I think a lot of women make that decision sooner than is prudent.”


Pat Pineda’s Career Climb From present to past:

* Group vice president of Hispanic business strategy for Toyota Motor North America, Inc. She leads the Hispanic Business Strategy Group (HBSG), which focuses on strengthening Toyota's already existing ties to the Latin community

* Head of the Toyota U.S.A. Foundation, overseeing national philanthropy efforts

* Toyota Motor North America group vice president of corporate communications and general counsel.

* Vice president of human resources, government and legal affairs and corporate secretary for New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), the corporate joint venture between Toyota Motor Corporation and General Motors Corporation,


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.