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14 posts from July 2011

July 29, 2011

When your boss steals your idea

The other day, a friend of my was complaining that she was frustrated. She pitched an idea for a marketing tactic and her boss loved it. But he then, turned around and pitched it to his boss, taking full credit.

Now, there was tension at work and she didn't know how to speak up without jeopardizing her job altogether. I've heard this complaint before. If my friend says nothing the tension can build -- and spill over into her personal life. We all know our relationship with our boss can affect our work life balance.

Peter Handal 1 Peter Handal, the CEO and chairman of Dale Carnegie Training, offers advice on how to address the issue in a non-accusatory way and hopefully in the end, gain the credit that  deserve.


1)      In a group meeting situation, come up with a new idea to contribute that no one has heard before. Whether it expands upon your original idea or is entirely different, it will catch the positive attention of meeting attendees.


2)      If you choose to approach your boss about the issue, speak objectively and do not accuse him/her or complain.


3)      Tell your boss how you feel and develop a conversation with him/her that creates an understanding of how you should be recognized for your work.


4)      If you think that your boss will react poorly to being approached, it may be best to leave the issue at rest, unless it becomes a greater problem.


5) If your boss takes a significant idea of yours and claims it as his/her own, you may want to involve others in the organization, possibly at higher levels, such as human resources, to help resolve the situation.


Readers, has this ever happened to you? How did you resolve it and did it permanently affect your relationship with your boss?

July 28, 2011

Why people are relocating for new jobs

A friend of mine has been out of work for more than a year. She had been the family breadwinner. A few months ago, she told me she was determined to find a job in South Florida, where her extended family lives and where she has roots. Last week, she started browsing the job postings in other states.

People are getting pretty desperate for jobs. 

Moving The percentage of unemployed managers and executives relocating for new positions jumped to its highest level in nearly two years, according to a Challenger Gray report out today.

John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, thinks people who didn't want to take a hit on sale of their home finally are willing to do what it takes to get a job. By now, we all know that percentage of job seekers relocating had plunged in the wake of the housing market collapse.I guess people are starting to do the math and realizing that being out of work for a long period of time might be more costly than taking a hit on their home sale.

Challenger recommends casting a wider net if you've been out of work for a while and want to get back on the payroll. "Job seekers who are willing to expand their searches to other states and cities are significantly improving the chances of success by opening themselves up to a much wider number of opportunities," he says. 

If you are willing to relocate, you might want to look at Texas, California, Michigan and Minnesota. Those states are leading the way in job creation. But regardless of where you seek a job, be realistic about who will pick up the tab for relocation. 

“There have been a few examples of employers paying for the most talented candidates’ relocation costs," Challenger says. "However, those examples are few and far between, as most companies continue to keep a tight rein on costs."

There is so much to think about when deciding to relocate for work -- a least a dozen factors in the work life equation - including financial decisions.

Do you think people are getting frustrated enough to put their desperation for income before all other factors? 


July 27, 2011

Yikes! Wearing a bikini to a work function?

Your boss invites your family out on his boat. The company holds a weekend retreat at a beach-side resort. There are so many summer time scenarios where you just might have to don your swimsuit in front of co-workers.

What's a self-conscious hard working employee to do when a swimsuit is the uniform of the day?

Joanna Stiegler recently had to figure that out. Her company, Signature Consultants of Fort Lauderdale, an IT staffing firm, held a beach day for its employees. She went with a sporty two-piece swimsuit. She says many of the women wore cover-ups and the men went with loose fitting swim trunks and water shirts. 

My column this week explores a variety of summertime work life traps:

The Miami Herald

Summer in the workplace: How casual is too casual?

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Summer retreats, casual dressing and summer time-off habits can be minefields if you make missteps.
Junod / MCT
Summer retreats, casual dressing and summer time-off habits can be minefields if you make missteps.
Joanna Stiegler pondered what to wear to her company’s beach party, finally settling on a sporty bikini that wouldn’t reveal too much during the volleyball game.

“Even though it was a beach day, it was still a work day,” Stiegler says. “You just have to make sure what you’re wearing is tasteful.”

For some, wearing a bathing suit to a summer work outing is more terrifying than prying off the office lush at the holiday party. But shun the event and risk no longer being considered a team player.

Summer traditionally is a time when workplaces and attitudes become laid back. But it’s also when thorny issues arise that can impede one’s career. Everything from corporate retreats to summer vacations to casual dressing can open the door to taboo behavior.

Here are some of summer’s work/life traps and how to avoid them:

Dress code

During summer, some offices go casual or declare Friday the day to dress down. But participate with caution. Rosa Fernandez, an advertising account executive, admits to a misstep in the past. On one of her first jobs, she wore sandals and a white cotton shirt on a hot summer day. Her boss pulled her aside. “She said my shirt was see-through and that I looked like I was still in college.”

Etiquette experts say almost regardless of where you work, leave your flip flops at home. An Adecco survey shows 71 percent of Americans view them as inappropriate at work — even more so than mini-skirts or strapless tops.

The recent heat wave has made casual dressing this summer more complicated. Wearing your jacket to a business lunch and arriving soaked in sweat doesn’t come off as impressive. One South Beach banker I spoke with told me he recently arrived for a business lunch at a patio café in a suit: “My client looked at me like I was crazy and asked why I had on a heavy jacket in 100 degree heat.”

Even when casual dress is a policy, gauge your boss’s lead. Shane Soefker, senior managing director of Cushman & Wakefield of Florida, says his workplace has declared Fridays as casual. However, he doesn’t feel comfortable trading slacks for jeans and he’s not really fond of his brokers doing it either. “We have lots of clients that roll through here and we still need to come across as professional,” he says.

“Regardless of what you can wear, it’s really about what should you wear,” says business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter, author of Greet! Eat! Tweet! “Clothes need to fit, you shouldn’t overemphasize body parts and casual doesn’t mean sloppy.”

Company retreats or outings

Work events during the summer come with their own set tricky scenarios. Showing up at the company picnic in a revealing halter top or wearing a Speedo to a law partner’s palatial beach home can cost you credibility.

Of course, snubbing the event or being the sweaty nerd in jeans standing around when everyone else is splashing in the pool can brand you a loner. Stiegler, an IT staffing recruiter with Signature Consultants, recognizes the benefit of showing social skills and bonding with a boss during beach volleyball or with a client during a company clam bake. “Some people didn’t show up for the beach party and I think they lost out.”

Read more


July 26, 2011

Unlimited vacation is a scam

Have you noticed that the more vacation time a company gives, the less likely you are able to take it? And, have you heard about the trend toward open-ended time off, also known as unlimited vacation? 

It's the latest corporate scam.

Maybe that's a strong word but it's reality. This week's Work & Family column in the Wall Street Journal is about the trend. The article mentions that employees are deciding how much time they dare take off as peak summer vacation season approaches.

In workplaces that have this policy, all that the workers have to do is get time off approved and make sure things go smoothely in their absence. But workers are complaining that the lack of guidelines fuels a tendancy to work all the time. We all know that American have trouble taking time off -- tons of surveys show that U.S. workers leave vacation time on the table every year. Most of the time, people feel guilty or intimated taking their vacation because they're so darn busy and pressure is high to be productive.

Even more, we all know in today's workplaces it's almost impossible to take off more than two weeks in a row. So while unlimited vacation sounds good on paper, that's likely where it will stay. Jason Evanish of Boston told the Journal he had unlimited vacation time at a previous employer "It was really hard to walk away because staffing was so lean." He said even when he took vacation he was stressed about what he'd come back to at the office.

Readers, what do you think of this trend? Is it a scam? 


July 25, 2011

Avoid sibling struggles over elder care

I remember getting the call when my elderly aunt fell, went to the hospital. The social worker suggested (insisted) she go into a nursing home. My aunt had no kids and my sister, brother and I were the closest family members she had. The call began a series of discussions among my siblings about how to handle big decisions about her care, her finances and who takes time off to supervise. 

My brother is single. Does that mean he should be the one to do all the time-consuming tasks?

As parents age, siblings often are forced to make decisions as a team and decide which adult child will take the lead. That can get tricky when sibling rivalry exists. 

Attorney Mark Grand suggest parents do as much prep work as possible as they begin to age. The basics, he says, are to assign a power of attorney and health care surrogate. "You have a better chance that things will go well." His biggest piece of advice: "I don’t recommend putting kids to act together as power of attorney if you already know they can’t get along."

Below is my Miami Herald column with suggestions from experts.


The Miami Herald

Caring for elders a challenge for families

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Kirk Lyttle / MCT
The phone call came when Robin D’Angelo was at work. Her father had fallen and was headed to the hospital in an ambulance — again. “I had to drop everything and rush to the scene.” D’Angelo felt her temper rising. She recently had argued with her brothers who live hundreds of miles away over whether to spend money to hire a full-time caregiver. “I feel like it’s all on me. I think the money would be well spent.”

For siblings, taking care of an aging parent can be fraught with decisions and dissention. As parents grow dependent on their adult children, arguments can erupt over whose work schedule is most flexible, whether mom or dad should move to a nursing home or who has control over financial decisions. The desire to cling to old familial roles or continue a festering rivalry can surface at the precise time when siblings most need cohesiveness.

“Even if siblings didn’t get along before, it’s possible to bond over the care of a parent,” says Rona Bartelstone, senior vice president of care management at SeniorBridge, a provider of elder care at home. “Focus on the common goal. It is all about your parent.”

Parent care promises to be an increasingly big concern for adult children. About 43 million Americans look after someone 50 or older, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. Compared with five years ago, a smaller percentage — 41 percent vs. 46 percent — are hiring professional help. And more — 70 percent vs. 59 percent — are reaching out to unpaid help such as family and friends. Care giving is projected to cost those who look after their parents an estimated $3 trillion in lost wages, pensions, retirement funds and benefits, according to The MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Avoiding sibling struggles over parent care requires the ability to disagree without judgment, show each other mutual respect and communicate early and often. Experts say it’s possible to work together even if not everyone can participate in the same way and it’s possible to achieve consensus even in the most dysfunctional family. Warns Bartelstone: “There is no magic formula because every family is unique.”

Read more including some great tips.



July 20, 2011

Don't have time for social media? Three ways to break the ice online

I've heard your excuse before. You want to participate in social media but you don't have time. Even more, you don't know where to begin.

Adrian Dayton writes about social media for lawyers. He recently posted about how to go from being passive on line to becoming active. Although it is geared to lawyers, I think anyone in any profession can apply it.  Enjoy!

Dayton_adrian_2010 (Adrian Dayton)

"There are two kinds of people in this world," Bill Murray's character explains in the movie, What About Bob — "those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't." 

Online, there is a similar dichotomy between lawyers who are active users of social media and lawyers who are passive users. 

Let me explain. Click here to read more....



July 19, 2011

How Google's Sergey Brin uses his time productively

Talk about a bizarre job interview. In last weekend's Wall Street Journal, Douglas Edwards recounts his 1999 interview with co-founder Sergey Brin, then 26 years old, to become Google's first brand manager. 

Edwards writes that Sergey showed up wearing roller-hockey gear: gym shorts, a T-shirt and in-line skates. "He had obviously been playing hard. I had known better than to wear a tie, but he took office casual to a new level."

Sergey Here's the hardball Sergey threw at him: "I'm going to give you five minutes," he told me. "When I come back, I want you to explain to me something complicated that I don't already know." He then rolled out of the room toward the snack area. I looked at Cindy (McCaffrey, director of public relations). "He's very curious about everything," she told me. "You can talk about a hobby, something technical, whatever you want. Just make sure it's something you really understand well."

Edwards writes: 

Later I found out that Sergey did this with everyone he interviewed. An hour wasted with an unqualified candidate wasn't a total loss if Sergey gained insight into something he didn't already know

What an amazing way to use time productively!

Today, I spoke to the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce on the topic of distractions and using time productively. Distractions are probably the biggest impediment to work life balance. All those small distractions that interrupt our train of thought can drain hours from our work week.

Speaking of distractions, have you seen Allstate's new Mayhem campaign on distracted driving. (see below)





Allstate's point is that distracted driving could be costly. My point is that distracted living could be a detriment to your ability to be productive.

Here are a few tips for staying focused that I shared with my lunch audience today:


  • Take away temptation. When you’re working on a task, shut down everything open on your computer not related to the task at hand.
  • Limit email. Turn off the bing, set specific times for checking email. 
  • Don't let Facebook suck you in. If you don’t’ rule Facebook or other social networking sites, they will rule you. Limit yourself to 10 minutes and then completely log out. 
  • Close the door. If you want to focus, shut out all distractions. You may even want to announce to your co-workers or children that you are doing it. You don’t want to do this all the time, but when you do, it sends the signal that you’re serious about getting something done.
  • Write it down. Most of us are visual. We know our goal but unless it’s in front of us, it’s super easy to get thrown off by so-called urgent interruptions.
  • Give yourself downtime. Allot a block of time to relax and clear your head.
  • Be strong in your focus. Be like a rock, not a tree. Don't get blown around by the chaos around you.
  • Have a 2 p.m. check in each work day. Ask yourself, what do I need to focus on for the rest of the afternoon so I can leave work behind me and enjoy my evening?
  • Be a role model. Remember, young people watch your actions and emulate them. If you're distracted by email or text messaging while you're eating, shopping, spending time with family, it sends the signal that it's okay for them to do it too.

Readers, how much time each day would you estimate that distractions cost you in lost productivity? Do you think its possible to shorten your work day by eliminating distractions?



July 18, 2011

Zestra co-owners reveal how to attract investors, build a brand and raise kids

How do you get men to buy into a female sexual enhancement medication?

How do you create national attention for a brand, and still maintain work life balance?

Rachel Braun Scherl and Mary Wallace Jaensch, co-owners of Semprae Laboratories, which makes Zestra, have built an amazing business --- and learned some tough lessons.

Call them persistent, gutsy, determined – and balanced. These working moms took Zestra, out of bankruptcy, landed investors and have put the topical female sexual enhancement product on the shelves of major retail outlets such as Wal-Mart. This huge marketing effort has required raising kids and raising funds at the same time. It also has required that the two women bring attention to a category that’s been male-dominated by products like Viagra. I had an opportunity to speak with the women candidly about their success and their work life balancing act.


Rachel-Mary 235 web

How did the two of you get involved with Zestra?

Rachel: When we bought Zestra out of bankruptcy, the product had been available for five years.  We had come out of a packaged goods background and became business partner in late 90s. We spent our careers listening to women talk through focus groups. We heard them talk around preventative health, but only recently heard conversations about sexual dissatisfaction. There’s an enormous need for Zestra - 43 percent of women across their reproductive lives have sexual concerns and difficulties.  

What has it been like to get the product a wider audience and attract funding for the company?

Zestra Mary: We had to learn about raising money and managing a company through bankruptcy so there would be assets left.  We worked 18 to 20 hour a day for three months. We targeted many investors, but interestingly, our lead investor is a female partner at a life sciences partnership. Our second investor also was a female partner at a leading institutional investor. Women get it faster and ultimately get more excited about it, so that’s where we found most of our money.

What’s your biggest challenge running the business and caring for your family?

Mary: We thought it couldn’t be harder running the business than buying it. At first, we were the only employees. We didn’t hire until 2009. Now we have 11 full time employees and three full time consultants. Initially our challenge was finding the right people. You have to have higher risk orientation to come to a venture-backed start up.  Our challenge now is getting access to channels to get our message to women.

Having a business partner can be risky. How do you two make it work?

Mary: Even though we are both co-founders and partners, we have slightly different titles. It’s important to be clear about our lines of responsibility. Rachel is outward facing. She leads the effort of getting our message to women.  I took the inward responsibility, making sure once we get to Zestra to the customer, her experience is positive.

Rachel:  In a partnership, you have to find someone you 100 percent trust and respect. Our strength is our partnership. We’re a united front. Having a the right partner is a key element to success . Building a company is hard work. When one of us slows down, the other picks up.

Mary, you’re the mother of three, and Rachel, you’re the mother of two. How do you find balance?

Mary: I think what also works for us is appreciation of the importance of our families in our lives. I would never suggest we have a balanced life, but we also have empathy and sympathy for each other’s personal lives. If someone needs more balance or has a family emergency, there’s no judgment whether it’s important or not.

What’s the most important ingredient in building a national brand?

Mary:  A balance between persistence and flexibility. You need to be focused on the outcome but flexible in how you get there.

Rachel: I would add – a sense of shamelessness. You need to be willing to call anyone and ask for anything. You have to have the confidence that nothing is out of reach. I used to be worried about asking for a nickel for my kids’ school. Now, I’m asking for millions without any reservations. You have to believe they will say yes.

What’s the vision for the future of your company?

Rachel: We’re looking at other products around sexual enhancement and health.  Initially, we are really trying to build a worldwide franchise around Zestra. Right now, a majority of sales are online, direct to consumers, while a much smaller portion is sold to consumers through brick-and-mortar retailers. We’re working on building relationships with our users to help  them find solutions for a broader range of their sexual health and wellness needs.

July 14, 2011

7 Tips for Stress-Free Vacations

I love family vacations. They are a must for work life balance. But I dislike the preparation and the return. I'm usually so crazed trying to get ready for take off that by the time my family gets on the plane, I'm exhausted. Then on the return, I pout wishing my vacation could last forever.

With the right preparation though, you can maximize the benefits of your time off before, during and after your vacation. Recently, More Magazine included some of my suggestions for a stress-free vacation in an article. 

I thought I would share some tips from the article along with a few more I came up with to help you make the most of your vacation.

1. Take your vacation. Your work life and home life will improve it you get away for a little bit.

2. Limit work time. If you feel use must check in, limit it to once a day. That may require adjustments on your smartphone to prevent email alerts all day long.

3. Sign up for international service. If you're going abroad, look into global data plans ahead of time along with prepaid international phone cards.

4. Prepare for emergencies. Instead of telling people to call you on your cell, give out your hotel information to one person in your office or your most important customers. Have them call you only in case of emergencies.

5. Give yourself time to ease back in. You might want to return a day or two before you have to go to work to take care of personal stuff before the chaos of work resumes.

6. Avoid overload. Try not to schedule meetings for your first three days back.

7. Check your attitude. Have something to look forward to when you return -- it may be a new project or a co-worker who makes you laugh.

Readers, if you have any tips, please share. We all want our get-aways to be a stress-free as possible.

July 13, 2011

Virtual assistants are win-win for all

My friend Jessica collected hundreds of business cards at a recent networking event. She started stressing about how she was going to find time to sort them and scan them into her database. But at that event, she met a virtual personal assistant and decided to hire her to do the task. She says the experience was life changing. She went on to hire the VA, Toma Rusk, to do all kinds of other to-dos.

Some days, I wish I could take all the small, pesky chores off my to-do list and give them to someone else to handle. While hiring a virtual assistant is great for busy business owners trying to do it all, it also is a great career for anyone who wants flexibility and income. 

One of the best websites I found to learn about the industry is virtualassistantassistant.com. A quick pulse of the industry shows independent VAs charge from $20 to $40 an hour. One woman I interviewed told me she charges a four-hour minimum upfront before she will take on any work.

Here's my column from today's Miami Herald with more info on the topic:


The Miami Herald

At your virtual service: a great balance solution

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Virtual assistant Amanda Haynes has clients from around the world.  Haynes picks up mail for one of her clients on Monday in Miami.
Virtual assistant Amanda Haynes has clients from around the world. Haynes picks up mail for one of her clients on Monday in Miami.
When Amanda Haynes started her Miami business four years ago, she had no idea whether she could make a living as a virtual personal assistant. “I wanted flexible hours. At the time the job situation was not good, and working from home seemed appealing.”

Haynes’ husband, a website designer, created a site for her and sent a few customers her way. Within weeks Haynes had a full schedule — making bank deposits for an attorney, scanning business cards into a database for a small business owner and uploading digital photos onto websites for an artist. “There are people who don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done so they use me,” says Haynes, owner of My Task Handler.

Today’s working professionals are busy juggling work, chores, kids and growing to-do lists, sending them on a perpetual search for better work/life balance. More often, they are turning to virtual personal assistants like Haynes to unload tasks they are pressed to complete.

Nell Merlino, founder of Count Me In, a nonprofit organization that supports the growth of women’s businesses, says virtual assistants are the behind-the scenes contributors to the success of women entrepreneurs: “I think women business owners are starting to see how much more money you generate by having someone take care of your administrative tasks.”

Indeed, according to a 2009 survey by the Alliance for Virtual Businesses, a global consortium of virtual assistant trade organizations, the profession tripled over the previous five years.

Sharon Williams, owner of the24hoursecretary.com, says the profession has attracted career changers and employees downsized during the recession: “It’s an opportunity to generate their own income on their terms.”

Most virtual assistants work from home offices and receive their instructions by phone, e-mail or text messages. The average full-time virtual assistant in the United States bills hourly ($20 to $40 an hour), by project or on retainer and grossed $45,000 in income in 2009, according to the Alliance for Virtual Businesses survey. The popularity of the concept also has lured dozens of administrative outsourcing firms such as Rent a Smile or Red Butler that provide remote assistants, most located in India or the Philippines.


Click to read more: