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9 posts from April 2014

April 30, 2014

Even lawyers can achieve work life balance

RJON-ROBINS-headshot-finalWhen consultant Rjon Robins tells lawyers then can make a great living and still have lots of family time, they often don't believe him. Most believe that sacrificing their personal lives is mandatory for professional success -- until Rjon shows them otherwise.

"My biggest challenging is helping them believe it's possible," he says.

Rjon, founder of howtomanageasmalllawfirm.com, says many lawyers think if they are not being martyrs to clients, they aren't working hard enough. 

He and his staff serve as hired managing partners for small law firms around the country and help attorneys to run their practices more efficiently.

The first step to efficiency is having a business plan and ensuring your staff understands the plan and their role in it, Rjon says. Overwhelm and inefficiency are the result of not having the help you need because you don't have a plan for how to hire or make hires pay off.  "Clients can tell when you are frustrated and overwhelmed and it's harder to market the firm," he says.

Here's the big mistake that lawyers and others often make: treating a firm like a hobby and wondering why it doesn’t function like a business. They key to a profitable business is for the leader to focus on highly effective tasks, rather than busy work, he says. 

"Clients don’t’ benefit when you work on weekends. They benefit when you're smart enough to figure out how not to work on weekends so you’re fresh and smart and brilliant. Stop telling everyone how busy you are and replace it with effective!"

Mary Leslie SmithJust as law firm owners can achieve a better work life balance, so, too, can lawyers at the big firms. Leslie Smith, a partner at Foley & Lardner, says women lawyers at big firms are learning how to do business development early in their careers so they can have the security that comes with generating revenue. Without that security, they often resent the work load heaped on them, the lack of recognition, and the pressure to bring in business. They often leave when personal challenges crop up. 

"Attrition is a big issue," Smith admits.

Smith says large law firms like hers, Foley & Lardner in Miami, are re-examing when more associates are needed. "We know we need to make it easier for people to be in the legal profession and still have family life. If we don't help them, we can lose a great skill set and client relationships that have been built up over years." 

Smith sees a reality to what Robins encounters --  a belief that lawyers work long hours and make personal sacrifices. "No one comes into this profession -- especially an Am law 100 firm -- and thinks they are going to get weekends off and neverwork late. You  know you’re signing up for that and people are willing to do it. It doesn’t mean we can’t get creative about not losing talent men and women."

Rjon says the path to balance is believing it's possible. Smith believes it takes a clear plan for how you want to structure your work life.

So lawyers, I want to hear from you. Do you think concentrating on efficiency rather than volume is enough to create better work life balance? Do you think a financially successful lawyers can control expectations of clients to allow for a life outside of work?



April 28, 2014

Surviving a tyrant boss

Inside one of Miami's most interesting art museums lurked a tyrant boss whose behavior made her staff dread coming to work. The boss' behavior was so horrendous that former employees say working at the museum was akin to being trapped in a psychological torture chamber.

This is what the employees allege their tyrant boss did:

* Insult an employee in front of everyone .

* MaKe workers afraid to come to work because they were unsure of her state of mind.

* Bully workers on a personal level and call them stupid

At one point, this boss was asked to work on her people skills with a professional coach. But at some point, she stopped meeting with the coach. Some say she actually became worse.

If any of you have worked for a boss who speaks to you with a condescending tone or criticizes you publicly, you probably feel the frustration of these museum workers.

An article in yesterday's Miami Herald draws an interesting picture of what went on behind the public displays at Florida International University's Wolfsonian Museum and it reminded me how much leverage a boss holds over our professional and personal well being.

When questioned about employee accusations against her, this boss claimed that getting the Wolfsonian Museum recognized as a hip up and comer on the arts scene required long hours and sometimes stressful working conditions. Does that sound familiar to those of you whose boss claims that he or she is the only one who is keeping the business afloat? 

Must you be a tyrant to lead your business to success? Steve Jobs was tyrant. The business world is famous for its difficult bosses. But there are plenty of bosses who prove that a more colloborative style is equally as successful.

Today, there are lots of employees cheering the end of the 17-year reign of this museum director. Yes, it took 17 years for her to fall from grace -- even after repeated complaints to human resources. Of course, by now, most of the employees with any sanity left have quit.

So, what if you don't have 17 years to spend with someone who makes your work life miserable? What if you don't want to dread coming to work on Monday? 

Changing jobs is always an option. When it comes to keeping your sanity and your stress levels in check, it's an important option. Now that job market is rebounding, it might be a good time to put feelers out. 

Another option might be to have a sit down with someone who has influence on your tyrant boss -- a company owner, a big customer, an investor, a managing partner. This is risky. But it can work if complaints are posed as problems with solutions and issues are posed as hurdles to the success of the company or department.


As for the tyrant boss/museum director who is now unemployed, I wonder if she has learned her lesson or still considers herself a fabulous leader.  I wonder if she will change her leadership style in her next job. I can't see it happening but I don't want to rule out the possibility for reform.

Have any of you seen a horrible boss who was able to be reformed? Do you think this woman's reputation as a tyrant will prevent her from getting another job?  How did you handle being bullied at work and did you outlast your bully boss?




April 24, 2014

Managing work and life as you move up the ladder


What if you’re the middle manager and your boss is making your staff miserable? What if his or her actions are wreaking havoc on everyone’s work life balance?  Do you confront him or her with constructive criticism? Or, do you direct your staff the way you want and ignore your boss’ behavior?

Yesterday, I got up close and personal with Leading Women in Broward, an initiative led by Laurie Sallarulo of the Leadership Broward Foundation. About 50 women were at the program and I heard some pretty interesting answers to the questions above. The discussion centered on managing up and down, taking risks, balance work and family and ascending to leadership.

 I learned that work life balance is a constant struggle for all business women at all career stages, and that being successful in most careers will require some politicking and risk taking.

Here are some things successful women shared that I found helpful:

  1. Have a mission statement. Make sure it includes what you live by now and what you aspire to live by. Stay focused on it. Keep it on your computer desktop so you can remind yourself what you should be focused on when you stray from your mission or find yourself climbing the ladder up the wrong wall?
  2. Leaders eat last – When you put your people or your team first, they become the kind of team that wants to follow you.
  3. Take risks – Have the attitude that you will try things. If a risk goes south, recognize it, get out and don’t be afraid to try again.
  4. Speak up carefully – sometimes you have to manage your boss. That means picking your battles, pausing and thinking carefully about the outcome you want to achieve.


Travisano (1)The highlight of the program was Jackie Travisano, executive vice president & COO of Nova Southeastern University. Jackie shared her amazing story of becoming a single mom at a young age,  pursuing her MBA degree, working as an accountant, remarrying, going to work in her husband’s business, landing jobs in higher education with progressively more responsibility, and making lots of tough decisions and personal sacrifices along the way. Today she manages thousands of employees and 11 departments. She also reports to NSU’s president and is accountable to all university stakeholders.

Here is her advice on managing up and down:

  1. When you’re at a crossroads, listen to your gut. Don’t let fear take over when you can achieve greatness.
  2. The key to managing lots of departments is to hire great people.  No one leader can compensate for an underperformer.
  3. Only attend meetings you need to be at. Let your people handle as much as they can.
  4. Lean In, but listen. Don’t react to those above you until you have truly listened. Find the right time to speak and do so confidently.
  5. When life doesn’t work out as planned, that’s okay. It’s great to have goals, but let life happen.
  6. There will be sacrifices that come along with leadership. Having the right ear can help make changes that make the workplace better for all.
  7. Have a sounding board, a champion, someone who will encourage you to reach for the stars.


What have been your experiences as a middle manager? How do you handle upper level management when those below you are complaining? When is it worth the risk to speak up? And, what do you think is the key to being a good leader?

April 23, 2014

Are we too busy for religion?

As we emerge from Passover and Easter, religion was on my mind. I noticed that more of my friends saw holiday celebration as an inconvenience or something they wanted to observe festively rather than religiously. It made me think about the future of religion and wonder as a society obsessed with busyness, are we too busy for religion? 

Here's my take on the topic from my Miami Herald column:


In our hectic, time-crunched society, religion has become less of a priority


Cantor Debbi Ballard has a “virtual” synagogue and takes her religious message on the road.
Cantor Debbi Ballard has a “virtual” synagogue and takes her religious message on the road. 


As worshipers packed churches on Easter Sunday, Rodman Armas crowded into the AmericanAirlines Arena with his 6-year-old son, Anthony, to cheer for the Miami Heat as its NBA playoff series began. Armas said he and his son had been looking forward to the game all week. “Going to church is not a big deal for us. We pray in our home,” Armas says.

While the lives of many Americans today are filled with going to sporting events, running kids to activities and answering email, studies suggest we’re squeezing in religion how and when it’s convenient — if at all.

“People are very busy, but it’s a matter of what they prioritize,” says the Rev. Tim Lozier, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Jacksonville.

Clearly, in our hectic, time-crunched society, religion has become less of a priority. Study after study tells us that Americans are less religious than we used to be.

Just last week, a survey of 804 children by the Bible Society found that young people had little understanding of the true meaning of Easter, or of the Bible itself. The research triggered the Bible Society to launch a “Pass It On” campaign, challenging parents to help keep the Bible alive for future generations by telling stores each night over the Easter period.

Yet, a survey by the American Bible Society found a huge drop in the number of adults reading the Bible, most citing a lack of time.

For many of the worshipers who jammed churches on Easter Sunday, it was a rare appearance. The percentage of Americans who say they “seldom” or “never” attend religious services has risen in the past decade — to 29 percent from 25 percent a decade ago, according to Pew Research Center surveys.

Pew Research also has identified a movement toward Americans leaving religion in droves. One-fifth of all Americans — a significant number from anyone’s perspective — claim no affiliation when asked to state their religious preference. The number of people without religious affiliation has doubled in the past two decades. This is particularly true of millennials, our young generation and the nation’s future parents.

Some blame the Internet for Americans losing religion. Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, says the increase in Internet usage since 1990 has a significant correlation with the drop in religion.

Others point to factors such as the rise of working mothers, the increase of organized activities and homework, the 24/7 culture and the struggle for work/life balance.

Cristy Gutierrez says that for her family, all those factors are at play. She works full-time and has two kids on travel sports teams. She spends most weekends on the fields or courts. Although she is affiliated with a church, she rarely attends Mass: “I just don’t get enough out of it to make the time to go.”

Meanwhile, some religious institutions are trying to evolve — offering young adult services on Saturday nights, live streaming of services on the Internet, integration with social media and contemporary worship music.

“People are not too busy for religion if organized religion adapts to the way in which people are living their modern lives,” says Eric Stillman, president of the Jewish Federation of Broward County. “They don’t want the obligations that come with membership. They want to pick and choose what’s convenient and to do so in way similar to going to restaurant and ordering à la carte.”

For example, Stillman says the staying power of the Passover Seder is its informality and flexibility: “The exact time is not prescribed, and there’s no obligation for temple membership associated with it.”

Indeed, this year, to accommodate busy work and travel schedules, more American Jews held their Seders — the elaborate ritual meal at the heart of the eight-day holiday — on different nights, not only on the traditional first two nights, The Washington Post reported.

Lozier says people no longer feel compelled to build their personal schedules around attending religious services. They no longer feel “expected” to go to church on Sundays, nor compelled to go for a sense of community. Still, his Jacksonville church has a congregation of 700 families, many of them minorities, whom he continually coaxes to participate: “Even in our day to day busy-ness, we need God at some level.”

In South Florida, Cantor Debbi Ballard says she identified the change in attitude toward religion several years ago and has catered to it: “If you want people to affiliate, you have to show them how religion can fit and be balanced in their lives.”

For a decade, Ballard ( mypersonalcantor.com) has run a “virtual” synagogue, meeting at hotels or community centers for families who find it easier than a bricks-and-mortar environment. She has served almost 500 families in Broward, Aventura and Boca Raton. This fall, she will launch a mobile Hebrew School concept that she hopes will attract even more families — taking religious learning directly to those who want it.

Read more....

 What are your thoughts on religion? Are families too scheduled to make time for it? Are religious institutions too steeped in tradition to accommodate working parents and busy families? Are young people finding spirituality outside of traditional religious affliliation?

April 17, 2014

Is your paycheck stressing you out?

Our paychecks aren't big enough and that's stressing us out. 

For the fourth year in a row, American workers told Neilsen our low pay is our biggest stressor. That makes sense because most of us haven't had substantial raises in more than five years. 

When you're struggling to pay the bills, typically the padding is gone that gives you the leeway to better balance your work and family life. Who can afford a babysitter when food and gas prices are going up and our paychecks aren't. 

So what can we do about it? Fortunately, it looks like there may be some hope of raises or a better paying job in the near future. Here's what some experts shared in my Miami Herald column this week:


Low pay





Workers at all income levels are frustrated that their workloads have increased but they haven’t seen a raise or hiring of more workers. Even as revenues have improved, for the past two years pay raises at private employers have hovered at around 2.8 percent and are expected to be only about 2.9 percent in 2014, according to global services firm Towers Watson. At the same time, the cost of living has gone up with housing, gas and food prices rising.

Career experts suggest we get aggressive and creative to fatten our paychecks. For skilled workers, the best route may be a new job. “One factor has decreased: the fear of being fired or laid off,” says Wendy Cullen of Everest College. “Now that there are more jobs, people aren’t afraid to start looking, but there is still a big question as to whether it is better someplace else.”

This may be the time to find out. “Slowly, companies are starting to compete for talent again and add to their headcount,” said Matt Shore, president of Steven Douglas Associates, a South Florida executive recruiting firm specializing in finance, accounting and information technology. “People who are in stagnant jobs are starting to look around and, in some cases, the market finally is telling them they can do better.”

For those stressed by low pay because of underemployment, negotiation may be necessary. After losing his marketing position at a bank, Jorge Espinosa saw his finances fray as he spent month after month in a job search. Now in a job that pays much lower than his previous one, his credit card debt has piled up. Espinosa says he has begun a new search but notices job ads reflect far lower salaries than what he previously earned. “It’s stressful to think I may be locked into a lower salary for another few years.”

Rather than get discouraged, one CEO suggests having a conversation with your boss. Most employers still have the mindset that workers are fortunate to have a job, admits Michael Rose, CEO of Mojo Media Labs, a Dallas Marketing Agency. However, Rose says certain arguments could justify a raise: “Come to your boss armed with information. Maybe you’re doing more than what is in the scope of the job description. Maybe you just got a certification. Maybe you can work on project or learn new skill set that will allow you to start in a new role that pays better.”

Even if negotiations don’t pan out, there is hope. Recruiters say salaries in some occupations are creeping toward pre-recession levels. Terri Davis, a Miami recruiter for a global software company that specializes in IT solutions for the travel industry, said that in her industry, job offers are about 20 percent higher than two years ago. Davis says job seekers also have a little room for pay negotiation: “When an employer extends an offer, they are evaluating it, and if they don’t feel it’s competitive enough, they are questioning the potential for a bonus — and getting it.”

All of us have some control over our paychecks, depending on how much we are willing to invest in ourselves, by adding to our skills, Cullen says. “I don't think you can ever eliminate all the factors that cause workplace anxiety, but as individuals, we can definitely create a plan of action to improve our careers and change our lives.”





April 15, 2014

Foods that help you de-stress? Who knew?

It's tax day and that might have some of you stressed out. But of course, we're always stressed.

Last week, I spoke at a luncheon and asked how many people in the audience had experienced stress in the last week -- to the point where they said out loud, or in their heads, "I'm so stressed!"

Almost everyone raised their hands. Including me. We have so many things that we're balancing that most of us feel close to the breaking point on any given day. 

So, I read with interest an article in The Miami Herald this morning that said there are foods that contain nutrients that nourish the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol and adrenaline, our stress hormones. 

Nutritionist/Dietician Sheah Rarback lists a few of the many nutrients important for healthy adrenals.

•  Vitamin C. The body’s highest level of vitamin C is found in the adrenal glands. Like all nutrients, vitamin C has multiple functions. In addition to adrenal support, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, critical for wound healing and collagen production, and necessary for serotonin production. Great vitamin C foods are bell peppers, papayas, citrus foods, broccoli, pineapple and Brussels sprouts.

•  Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). This might not sound familiar, but as a structural component of Coenyme A, B5 is vital for the proper functioning of the adrenal glands. Best foods for B5 are shiitake and crimini mushrooms, avocados, sweet potatos and lentils.

•  Omega 3 fatty acids. Best known for their anti-inflammatory benefits, omega 3 fatty acids also slow down the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress. Flaxseed, walnuts, sardines, salmon and soybeans are all rich in omega 3 fatty acids.

•  Magnesium. The stress that produces cortisol also produces the adrenaline that increases heart rate, blood pressure and muscle contraction. These reactions use up magnesium. Dark greens, beans, nuts and quinoa are terrific sources for maintaining adequate magnesium intake.

Sheah says it can be tasty to support the adrenals. A spinach salad with bell peppers, orange slices, sautéed shiitakes, avocado, walnuts, quinoa and olive oil vinaigrette beautifully supplies every important nutrient.

So, if you're feeling stressed. Here's permission to eat. Just stay away from the vending machine!

April 09, 2014

Sheryl Sandberg gives great advice

Once again Sheryl Sandberg has convinced me she's one of the most interesting women alive.

She speaks her mind, speaks from experience and speaks with just the right amount of filter.

Here's her advice to college grads from this morning's Today Show. I love how she tells college grads that they can negotiate in their first job but they have to know how to do it.  I also LOVE how she believes this is the generation of young women that can achieve equality and embrace leadership.

For the full interview with "The Today Show," click here.  


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

April 08, 2014

The secret weapon behind work life balance

We all  struggle for work life balance, but most of us don’t realize that sometimes the path towards achieving might be something so simple.

Some of the most successful people I know are sharing their secret weapon for remaining strong and finding balance. 


One of them is Donna Shalala. By her own admission, Donna Shalala is a workaholic. She is the president of University of Miami and has a resume that anyone would find impressive -- accomplished scholar, teacher and administrator. Her jobs titles include a stint working for President Bill Clinton as secretary of health and human services. While Donna doesn't have kids, she does take care of her elderly mother and oversees thousands of employees. Last week, I was at a luncheon in which Donna was asked about work life balance. 
The secret weapon, she says, is a good night's sleep. "The biggest mistakes I've made in my career happened because I was overtired," she told more than 400 women at a lunch sponsored by The Commonwealth Institute South Florida.
Coincidentally, or maybe not, Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, also is on a campaign to advocate for a good night's sleep. Her personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye -- the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. She wondered, "is this really what success feels like?"
Instead of bragging about our sleep deficits or how busy we are, Arianna urges us to shut our eyes and see the big picture: We can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness — and smarter decision-making. The first step, she says, is getting 30 minutes more sleep a night.
So, there you go! Two powerful women are telling you that sleep is key to good decisions and our well being. If you're giving up sleep to get more done, it's time to change that habit. Arianna says sleep deprived women will learn the hard way the value of sleep as she did, especially when trying to see the big picture in business. 
As someone who is guilty of giving up sleep, I'm going to change my habits. I hope you will, too. 

April 02, 2014

How to become a better risk taker

Are women afraid to take as big risks as men?

Is that question even a valid one?

I have survey data that says it is a valid question and that women are more afraid of risk taking -- particularly when it comes to putting money on the line. But that can change.

All of us can become better risk takers if we change the way we think about risk -- looking at it for the opportunities rather than the repercussions.

I tackled the topic of risk taking in my Miami Herald column today and learned a lot about how to make risk taking pay off. I have edited the article to hone in on the best advice:

Many women business owners hesitant when it comes to risk taking

Mary Jo Eaton, executive managing director of CBRE, in front of the 777 Brickell Building, one of the properties the firm manages and where its Miami office is located. Eaton has taken big risks to help CBRE expand in Florida, most recently opening a Tallahassee office.
Mary Jo Eaton, executive managing director of CBRE, in front of the 777 Brickell Building, one of the properties the firm manages and where its Miami office is located. Eaton has taken big risks to help CBRE expand in Florida, most recently opening a Tallahassee office. 



Allison Sokol, CEO of Specific Beauty, needs to be a risk taker. Her marketing channel, HSN, wants her Miami multicultural skin care company to forge into new product lines. Her buyers want her to expand into Europe. Her business partner, Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, wants to showcase the science behind results through infomercials. But Sokol approaches risk taking cautiously.

“I’m not risk adverse,” she says. “I’m just not impulsive. I believe in being sure and taking educated risks.”

Sokol’s caution mimics many women who run businesses. But when big risks lead to big rewards, women leaders must shift their thought processes if they are going to increase their growth prospects. How exactly, does someone become more of a risk taker?

The first step is a mindshift. A new survey shows women business owners in Florida are struggling to find an appropriate balance between risk and caution. The survey of nearly 250 women by the Commonwealth Institute South Florida found women leaders and owners are optimistic about growth for their businesses in 2014. But while they express interest in expanding product lines and moving into new geographies, most hesitate to take a financial risk.

Most telling: More than 63 percent said they plan to fund growth in 2014 with internally generated funds. That represents a startling figure when research by the Department of Commerce shows most male owners are willing to borrow money to fund their ambition and cease growth opportunities.

“Women by nature are not gamblers,” says Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director of the Commonwealth Institute

Visualize the potential outcome to make risk taking less scary. Judy Leibovit, founder of Sweet Endings offers this advice as she looks toward national distribution for her desserts:  "It’s about doing it carefully, slowly and smartly and seeing clearly where the risk will take you.”

Size up competitors’ risk tolerance. Risk can be critical to increasing market share, the outspoken Richard Branson founder of the Virgin Group has noted. In this competitive economy, avoiding risk can be its own gamble.
Reframe risk as an opportunity to succeed. This thinking has helped men build more million dollar companies than women. Of course, some of that may be by choice. Women business owners often work harder at juggling work and family; accordingly, they often have smaller performance expectations for their businesses, according to research by the National Women’s Business Council. In assessing risk, look for long term pay off rather than short term rewards.

Think bigger and bolder. “Women are taking risk consistent with their goals but their goals aren’t big enough,” says Sharon Hadary, former and founding executive director of the Center for Women’s Business Research in Washington, D.C. “We live up to our own expectations.”  Mary Jo Eaton, executive managing director for CBRE Florida, has relocated twice and taken on difficult roles that she saw as opportunities to stand out. “I have had great male mentors who I’ve watched assess risk, take significant risk and be rewarded.”

Prepare well. The greatest rewards come from preparing for risk in advance and seeing short-term setbacks as a stepping stone to long-term success. Allison Sokol's Specific Beauty offers a case study. Sokol's initial strategy for distributing her tone-evening skincare line required an unsustainable marketing budget to support sales through retail stores. She has since begun distributing the projects through doctors’ offices, med spas, the Internet and HSN.

Still, Sokol wants big rewards for her company and factors that into every potential risk: “The bottom line is I didn’t go into business to make little bit of money. I went into it to make a lot of money. If I am taking away time from family, I want to do it in big way.”