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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Matt Lauer and paternity leave

On Wednesday morning, I watched the Today Show and saw Matt Lauer's on-air colleagues congratulating him on the birth of his new son, the couple's third child. Matt accepted the congratulations but downplayed it at the same time. I watched and wondered, "Why isn't he with his wife?"
I would love a man's perspective on this but from a women's point of view, I think paternity leave should be more than just a few hours off. (Matt took off Tuesday morning when his wife gave birth at 9:37 a.m.) But what kind of message does it send that this very public father is right back in his co-anchor chair less than 24-hours after his wife gave birth? I'm sure on Matt's $13 million annual salary, the couple has plenty of help at home. But there's nothing like a spouse for emotional support. Are men embarrassed to take paternity leave? Tell me your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tips for Holiday Sanity

Trying to stay sane with all holiday hoopla going on? Pat Morgan, a Miami life coach has some advice. Morgan graciously has offered to work with the winner of my Balance Makeover contest. She coaches many professional organizations and individuals to help bring balance and sometimes a new direction to their lives. (To enter my contest send an e-mail to and in 100 words of less tell me why you need a makeover.)
These are Pat's Top 10 Tips for Holiday Sanity:
1. Rediscover the meaning of the holiday for you personally and decide to celebrate in a way that works for you, rather than how others say you should do.
2. Be patient with yourself and do the best you can, trusting that the holiday will be perfect however it turns out.
3. Cut back on everything, including decorations, food, gifts and activities. Think creatively about alternatives.
4. Rather than begrudge another for not reciprocating with an expected gift, keep the focus on giving.
5. Consider alternatives to traditional shopping. Buy online, send baskets, order ready-made dishes for entertaining and avoid the madness.
6. Look for ways to outsource, delegate, automate or eliminate so that you have the help you need.
7. Start a new tradition such as giving to charity or watching a holiday movie.
8. Schedule time just for you.
9. Look at the blessings in your life and actively feel grateful.
10. Let go and have some fun.
To see more of Pat's advice or learn about coaching, visit .

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Working mom guilt

In my Balancing Act column tomorrow, I will have a Q & A with Tori Johnson, CEO of Women For Hire and workplace contributor to Good Morning America. Tori is originally from Miami Beach and now lives in New York. She's a mother of twin 8-year-olds. Tori has been working to help women gain control over their work/life balance. She has great tips for negotiating flexible schedules and for finding legitimate work at home jobs. One of my favorite advice columns by Tori is her advice for working mom guilt, that sinking feeling moms get when they travel and miss out on special moments. And, as the holidays approach, you just might have to miss the holiday show.
Her advice: "Sometimes it's just not possible to attend a school function. I try other backup options to avoid missing my kids in action, but I'm a firm believer that no play or performance is worth risking your job over.
Tori suggests these simple solutions for keeping your kids content:
* Talk to the teacher about attending a dress rehearsal instead of the official performance or ask a family member, friend or fellow class parent to videotape the performance for you.
* Don't show your guilt. If missing out on a school event is inevitable, I suggest not drawing too much attention to your absence. Making a big deal out of it leads the children to think there's something bad or wrong with mom not being there, which isn't true.
* Give your boss as much notice as possible to ask for a few hours off or a personal vacation day. Sometimes there are must-attend functions.
For more advice and career strategies, visit

Lack of sleep

If you are anything like me, you use the late-night hours to get things done. Indeed, most of us give up sleep (either late at night or early in the morning) to log on our computers and zip off e-mails or finish tasks. So, this new survey is a bit scary. The study, conducted by Princeton University, found that sleep deprivation can affect brain cells and take a toll on your memory and your thinking. No wonder I can't remember an appointment unless I write it on my calendar.
The Princeton study was conducted on rats. It found the stress of sleep deprivation after three days may include a temporary drop in the brain's production of new nerve cells and an increase in stress hormones. The good news is the effect disappeared after three weeks. Not much comfort though for those of us who continue to use late night or early morning to get things done.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Turkey day disaster

Like most working women, I would love to host a party Martha Stewart style. (Just to show I'm capable of being a domestic diva). I had hoped it would happen this Thanksgiving, when I invited 25 people to my Thanksgiving dinner. My table would have Martha Stewart envious. But the rest of the day would have made her cringe.
My oven broke about two hours before my family and guests arrived. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was cooking the turkey and I had only the side dishes to prepare or warm. I found a neighbor who was going out to eat and asked to borrow her oven. From there, things only got worse. After putting my side dishes in her oven, I returned to take them out but discovered I had locked myself out of her home. I had to ask my guests to help me break through her garage door. But the day got worse. I dropped the hot green bean casserole on her floor and managed to slip on it as I wiped it up.
By the time I put whatever food I had left on the dinner table, my family was starved and most of the food was cold. What I realized from the fiasco is I am no Martha Stewart but the truth is, it doesn't matter. I am thankful I have a job I love, a family I love and a sense of humor.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Holiday tips for staying sane

Leila Ripich of Ideal Lifestyle Concierge has put out a great newsletter for staying sane during the holidays. Ripich offers Holiday Shopping 101, tips anyone can benefit from if they are forced to squeeze shopping in with a busy work schedule.
If you can afford it, Ripich happens to offer all kinds of services to make your life easier too -- addressing your holiday cards for you, buying and wrapping gifts, even holiday shopping. But if you are going to do it all yourself, I'll share some advice and some important dates included in her newsletter: Prioritize and buy the gifts that need to be mailed first. This year Christmas falls on a Monday. Here are some ground service deadlines for your packages to arrive by Friday, December 22. USPS - Dec. 13, UPS - Dec. 14, DHL- Dec. 15, Fex-Ex - Dec. 15. Ripich's website is

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Networking or perhaps in need of a makeover?

I made a great discovery today in a blog created by Miami Attorney Brian Tannenbaum. If you're looking to mingle, Brian's blog is a wonderful place to go to find out about networking opportunities in Miami-Dade County. Click here to access his blog.
Brian kindly has posted the news of my Balance Makeover contest on his blog. Here's the scoop on the contest
If you feel your work/life balance is out of whack, enter yourself, or perhaps a friend or co-worker, in The Balancing Act's makeover contest. The winners will receive help from South Florida professional organizer Diane Hatcher, president of Time-Savers Professional Organizing Service or life coach Pat Morgan. They also will be featured in my Balancing Act column in The Miami Herald in January. I have received about a dozen entries so far. Let us know in 100 words or less why you qualify. Send your entry to I already feel more together after Hatcher gave me a few tips on organizing my clutter.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving and work

Thinking of leaving town early for Thanksgiving? Your employer might not be happy but your wallet will be. And, if you remain in town and find yourself stuck working on Friday, you may be pretty lonely.

The average cost of Thanksgiving holiday air travel has jumped to $434 – up 15% from last year, according to consulting firm Sabre Airline Solutions. However, increased costs aren’t discouraging Turkey Day flyers – Sabre says early bookings are up 42% over last year, meaning travelers are doing the advance planning needed to book a cheap seat. says employers should take heed. For workers to snag a deal, many had to get creative and book flights for less popular travels days, or even extend their vacation.
Only about 69% of employers give their workers Friday off, according to the Bureau of National Affairs, suggesting that the offices open on Black Friday might be more short-staffed than in previous years. My take: if you aren't doing a job in which it's critical to work on Friday, give your employees the day off and create some good will. They're not going to be focused much on work anyway.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Work/life tips from an expert

I'm drowning lately. My to-do list is out of control. My reading material is piling up so high on my nightstand, I can't possible make a dent if I stayed up all night reading. And, I haven't begun shopping for the Thanksgiving meal I'm supposed to be cooking for 25 people. I need professional help!
I have turned to Diane Hatcher of Time-Savers Professional Organizing Service in Fort Lauderdale. Hatcher will provide a free makeover for the winner of The Miami Herald's balance makeover contest. To submit an entry, e-mail info on why you need a makeover to
Here are some tips Hatcher gave me for clearing my nightstand: Be ruthless with your magazines. One thing you can do to alleviate some of the clutter, is to scan the table of contents for the articles you want to read, mark the pages with a sticky note, or pull out those pages and get rid of the rest of the magazine. Get rid of everything except those that arrived within the last three months.
Hatcher recognized that I feel overcommitted with my volunteer work. She suggested I try to get better at time-management before the fact. For example, she asks, "Do you need to plan things out or can you be creative off the top of your head? Figure out your style and how much time you need for each volunteer job for which you commit. Then, budget your time.
Now, that I'm already committed, she suggests finding areas in my life where I can pull back until I feel I have better control over my time. I'm pondering that one. Hatcher also suggests putting more small tasks instead of big projects on my to-do list. Working on that a cooked some mashed potatos.
Although being organized does not come natural for me, I'm working on it and I think I've improved in recent years. But I have a long way to go.
Hatcher insists there's hope: "Anyone can learn to be more organized. Not everyone will be perfect, but you can get to the next level."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More women in the boardroom

Good news. Despite the working woman's struggle for work/life balance, women are earning spots on corporate boards.
October was a record for the number of women appointed to Boards of Directors, according to The 35 appointments, covered a wide variety of industries, including major corporations like Avis Budget Group, Brunswick, CIT, Wachovia and Walgreens.
Six women were appointed as CEO's of major companies in the month of October and eight took over as President of Divisions for major companies or as President of the companies themselves; seven women took over as CFO's at still more big name corporations. Read more on

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Women who employ their husbands

What happens when you husband feels your work is encroaching on his time with you? For Cecilia Ortiz, pictured above, the answer was bring her husband into her business. Ortiz, originally from Colombia, has built a big following selling Avon products from her home in Miami Lakes. She has a niche in the Hispanic community and has recruited more than 800 sales agents to work in her team, or as it is called in Avon talk, her downline. Juan Ortiz wasn't pleased with visitors coming by at all hours to pick up orders or Cecilia's managers calling during the dinner hour. But by setting goals and meeting them, Cecilia now earns a six-figure salary. Eye-opening for Juan? You bet. Before Cecilia started selling Avon, the couple was on the brink of bankruptcy. Now, Juan has quit his job in construction and joined her in business.
It's a trend happening more often as women start and grow businesses. The upside: Cecilia says she can spend more time with her husband and he understands the potential for income. Even better, if they want to take off and visit their son in Texas, they can since their schedule is flexible. The downside: watching out for bruised egos. The key: define your roles. Cecilia is the face of the company, traveling to other states to recruit sales agents, even using translators when necessary (Spanish is her primary language). Juan is the computer guy, keeping the records and enrolling new agents as they join. The Ortizes have been married for 35 years. And Cecilia just received recognition from Avon for empowering other women.
Says Avon manager Rosa Moya-Suarez: "They make a great time. He knows as much about Avon as she does."
To contact Cecilia:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Afterschool blues

Working parents have spoken. What will it take for their voices to be heard? Maybe a change in political leadership!
A new survey shows voters want the new Congress and their newly elected state and local officials to increase funding for afterschool programs. This should be a hot topic over the next few years.
A public opinion survey conducted on election eve and election day by Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates, Inc. for the Afterschool Alliance found that 72 percent of voters want newly elected public officials in Congress to increase funding for afterschool programs. Over the last five years, federal support for increased funding for afterschool programs has waned.
It's hard to believe a single politician wouldn't realize the huge benefit of keeping children safe and supervised. The number of kids home alone after the school bells ring is frightening. Some 14.3 million kindergarten through 12th graders in this country take care of themselves after the school day ends, including almost four million middle school students in grades six to eight. The parents of 15.3 million children say their children would participate if an afterschool program were available. Here's what the public thinks:
* Two in three voters (65 percent) say that afterschool programs “are an absolute necessity” for their community
*Support for afterschool crosses party and ideological lines.
*When asked if they’d support “increase[d] funding for afterschool programs even if it leads to a tax increase,” 69 percent of voters agreed.
Last week voters should their desire for change at the polls. Now it's up to lawmakers to hear us.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Busting myths about too much work

David Fischman wants to bust the myth held by many managers. You know, the myth that you have too much work and that the days aren't long enough.
Fischman, author of The Secret of The Seven Seeds, lives in Lima, Peru and will speak at the Miami Book Fair on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 4:30 p.m.
Fischman was a stressed out entrepreneur who had an emotional breakdown. He's turned his life around, slowly. He is big on meditation but beyond that, he offers this advice:
*Managers allow themselves to be interrupted all day long because it makes them feel important. "They become stressed out puppets manipulated by circumstances." Block out time for work tasks you enjoy -- creating presentations or just plain thinking -- and don't let anyone interrupt you during that time. You may want to give your staff a couple of your schedule.
* Delegate. People like believing that if they don't do things themselves, everything turns out wrong. Concentrate on the work you like doing, and let others do they routine things you don't need to do. This requires putting the ego aside.
Says Fischman: "Before, I wanted to be most prestigious business man, have money, be famous. Now, just want to kick back and be happy with myself.''

Can Women Have It All?

On Friday's 20/20 Elizabeth Vargas asked, "Can women have it all?"
It's a question I wonder often. Most working mothers do. I thought Vargas made some great points such as this one: Families still are paying an obscene amount of money for child care. And this one: Many women still fear telling their boss they are pregnant. Regardless of your financial status, all bets are on that you, the working mom, walk around feeling guilty about not giving enough time to one of these three things --- your job, your family or yourself. I always fantasize about picking my kids up from school myself everyday or going to the gym to work out every morning. I am pretty sure Vargas does too.
Vargas pointed out something on her newscast that many other news sources have made note of: Our country is way behind others in accommodating working moms. There's still plenty of Americans who say, "You wanted to have kids, find a way to cope." They have a right to their opinion. But the truth is 71 percent of mothers work. Many need two household incomes to pay bills, some are single moms with no options but to work. And yes, there are moms who like their jobs and want to work. Yet Vargas hit it dead on when she said hospitals, schools, government agencies couldn't operate today without working mothers.
Most of the world realizes the benefits of paid maternity leave, flexible schedules and subsidized day care. It's a shame Corporate America and U.S. politicians haven't. Can women have it all? It's a question we'll be asking for years to come.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Volunteering on company time

Should companies ask workers to volunteer in the community in their off-the-clock hours? One of my co-workers said she grew tired of dedicating her own time to the United Way on behalf of the company, then watching the publisher get recognized with an award from the non-profit organization. Her comments were in reaction to an article I wrote last week wondering aloud whether corporate-urged volunteering is a form of unpaid overtime. Click here to read the article. I think companies should let workers participate in corporate sponsored volunteer programs on company time.
The reaction to my article came from both sides. Pat Morris of Hands On Miami was disappointed. She writes: "I have had the honor to have worked first hand and seen the community building efforts of literally hundreds of companies of all sizes including your Miami Herald. I think your article was focused on a negative that quite frankly is not very accurate about corporate volunteers. I find it very hard to believe that you may in any way have felt pressured to volunteer on the Miami Herald team for Hands On Miami Day. "
Laurence R. Mervis, president of Steven Adams & Associates urges caution when volunteering. His comments: "No payroll. No workers comp."
And Julie Katz writes: "The difficulty in balancing the desire to volunteer with busy work and personal lives is precisely why volunteer opportunities during work hours are the ideal solution for both businesses and employees. This balance is why New York business executive, Arthur Tannenbaum, founded EVERYBODY WINS ! in 1991 as a way to engage corporate employees as literacy volunteers without asking them to sacrifice their evenings or weekends." Katz says Everybody Wins has just launced a new affliate in South Florida.
I don't know much about Katz' program but she says the website is

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tips for motivating employees

My guest blogger today is Gloria Donovan, a professor of management at the University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio. Donovan has researched hundreds of articles on motivation and is working on a book on motivation. Here are her thoughts on how to better motivate your employees.

From my research, I have discovered many employers take the wrong approach in trying to motivate their workers. As a boss, rather than waste time motivating employees who will never fit in, find the right people.
One way to determine if you have good hires for a particular job description is to ask your employees to write a personal mission statement. Compare the company's mission statement with the employee's. If they match, the employee will be mostly self-motivated.
"They can’t wait to go to work everyday and do their job, because it’s exactly what they want to do.”
If the employee’s mission is not in line with a company’s, it may mean they need to change jobs or be transferred into the right department. Many times companies don’t allow employees to transfer departments for as much as six months. THIS IS A MISTAKE. Put the right people into the right departments as soon as possible.
For example, I had an employee say, "I don't want to be a sales person. I want to be a nurse. She quit and went to nursing school. Now everyone is happy. I was able to hire someone who wanted to sell and could produce.
It is better to let go of your miss hires than to try to motivate the wrong person. Stop trying to get plow horses to run races. Instead, hire race horses.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Add voting into the mix, a real balancing act

Okay, I get it. Having voting polls on school campuses makes it tough to control who has access to our children. So closing the schools today seemed like a good idea when I first heard about it. But the reality is completely different. Not only am I balancing work and kids, but now throw voting into the mix. I bet many working parents are struggling to figure out when to vote. I wonder if some don't just scrap voting altogether, especially if the lines are long. Unless, of course, a generous employer allows them to vote during their work day. Today's the day when we judge our employers and their flexibility. How about a longer lunch or a shorter work day? A little respect for the democratic process and our work/life balance goes a long way.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Procreation Vacations

Too busy to make a baby? Or maybe just getting frustrated from trying?
We all know how stressful it can be to hold a demanding job and struggle through the frustration of TRYING to get pregnant. I have so many friends in this situation. And then there's the people who want to schedule everything, even conception.
That's why a story in today's Miami Herald caught my eye. A new trend called Procreation Vacations has hotels around the world luring conception-minded couples by helping them relax and providing everything from on-site sex doctors to age-old fertility boosters promised to hasten the pitter-patter of little feet. A article in today's Miami Herald details this new trend and gives the names of a few hotels offering these packages. Click here for the full article. The couple pictured, Lucinda and Kemry Hughes, said they became expectant parents right after their Procreation Vacation.
The article says even some obstetricians are promoting the trend. This comment from Dr. Jason James of Miami hits it right on: "One of the most easy, therapeautic interventions is to recommend a vacation. I think the effect of stress on our physiology is truly underestimated."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Is machismo still alive?

Change is afoot in Latin America. Maybe it took a while, but change definitely happening. UPS's Valeria Prado (pictured above) says her company surveyed 500 small and medium businesses in the region to find out where women stand. (UPS has surveyed various parts of the world for many years.) Prado is the communications manager for UPS Americas.
The results on Latin America are in and they're telling. Machismo is out, maybe not completely out, but heading in that direction. (Not all that different from the U.S. is it?)About 63 percent of business are adopting policies to promote women in management.
Argentina's business owners had the most favorable outlook towards promoting women in management. Brazil had the worst (40% or less of companies have interest in adopting any policies)
Where's the progess? Not surprising, women seem to be better represented in Latin America in family owned businesses - this also holds true in the U.S. where in Florida 70% of women lead businesses they started.
I asked Prado about her company's role in the region. She said UPS encourages women to hold non-traditional positions. In fact, in Mexico (one of the most important markets for UPS in the Latin American region) Griselda Hernandez, was appointed as country manager. Prado says it is important to note that in Mexico only 14% of women are able to obtain a middle manager position and only 2% are ever able to make decisions. "At UPS we are proud to say that we have a woman in that 2% in one of the most male-dominated business markets in the region," Prado said.
Prado says UPS has learned that its women managers are able to establish those key relationships in Latin America that are critical for doing business there. But they key, is helping women with work/life balance and networking.
I find UPS' strategies impressive. Women rotate in different positions so that they learn skills to help them in management company. Prado says a lot of vice presidents started as drivers or in operations and now they are managers in public affairs or communications. UPS also has a women's networking group and a policy that women to relocate to another UPS office if their partners are transferred out of their work area.
To see highlights from the UPS Latin America Business Monitor, click here. If you would like the full 21-page report, e-mail me at

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Women CEOs are generous

For those who believe the rise of female top executives is new, check out this new data: Women CEOs have been on the job longer than their male counterparts in the Massachusetts area. Out of nearly 200 businesses surveyed across the region, women CEOs on average had led their companies as the senior decision-maker for 15 years.
Even more, women CEOs are more generous, according to a joint study released on October 20 by Babson College and the Commonwealth Institute, a Boston-based non-profit support group for women business leaders.
Nearly 98 percent gave to local charities and nonprofit organizations in their community, while about a third took part in philanthropic events at least once a month, the study found. And why not give, these women are turning good profits for their business. The study shows together generating a total of $10 billion and employing more than 21,000 workers last year, the study found.
"Woman CEOs are outstanding role models for business success," Aileen Gorman, executive director of the Commonwealth Institute, said in a statement. "These CEOs value strong relationships with customers and employees and have made a key commitment to giving back to the community."
For a summary of the study, click here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Life and work after 50

I have heard from many of you about just how darn hard it is to find a job once you surpass age 60. It's not like your brain instantly turns to mush or you're ready to eat pureed food in a nursing home. But some employers just back away from hiring older workers. For those of you looking for some work/life balance (the work part is key here) here's some interesting news.
Today, I received info about a new award that will honor nonprofits and public sector agencies finding innovative ways to hire people over 50.
The MetLife Foundation, which provides funding for the award, partnered with last year to conduct the first national survey asking Americans in their 50s and 60s what type of work they aspire to in the second half of life. Half of those polled expressed interest in jobs to help improve the quality of life in their communities. No surprise though, most also said that finding such employment would not be easy.
We all know there are jobs out there for companies smart enough to figure out how to use this pool of talent. Civic Ventures, a San Francisco think tank, says its new BreakThrough Award might help by recognizing companies who make an effort. Innovative approaches could include nonprofit organizations that create new part-time jobs to attract older adults seeking meaningful, flexible work; organizations that recruit people over 50 and match them with flexible-schedule jobs in social service and government agencies; hospitals that offer seasonal-work positions with full-year benefits to recruit and retain experienced nurses; or school districts that pay stipends to experienced adults tutoring students in math and science.
For details or to make a nomination: