Saturday, March 29, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Surviving the slowing economy
My Miami Herald column today explored what employers and employees are doing. Some workers are carpooling, working harder and longer, updating their resumes and considering second jobs. Some are giving up some free time to concentrate on learning new skills. At the same time, employers are scrutinizing expenses, eliminating overtime, cutting some perks and postponing projects.
I asked Dale Carnegie's CEO Peter Handal to weigh in with his advice for coping with the financial pressure we all feel right now. Here are his tips:
For the employers:
*Do not fire top talent. Top talent is the single most important variable in innovation. When you fire experienced employees, you are not only cutting costs, you are cutting revenues.
*Re-research your customers. Successful companies do not abandon their marketing strategies in a recession; they adapt them. Instead of cutting your market research budget you need to know more than ever how consumers are redefining value and responding to the recession.
*Emphasize core values. This is the time when CEOs should go out of their way to spend more time with employees, which will effectively elevate their sense of importance to the company. Studies have proven that employees who are engaged are 43% more productive. A recession is the perfect time to pull out all the stops.
*Keep in touch with your clients. As the main source of income, keep up with your clients. Ask if you can’t help them in more arenas or offer more services. Think beyond your usual menu of offerings.
*Spend money only if it makes more money. Regardless of economic conditions, never spend a dollar unless you feel certain it will result in a sales return of $1 plus something for net profit before taxes.
*Inspect your internal operations. Conduct thorough analyses of your organization’s operational procedures to determine how to cut costs, reduce duplication of work, increase productivity and improve fiscal oversight. Money and time are always saved in reviewing operations that could be accomplished by fewer people with the same or a greater level of proficiency.
*Outsource. As a last resort, look into outsourcing some of your business processes including payroll, IT and other operational processes. If these areas can be handled on a part-time basis by a freelanced entity, you could save a bundle.
For the employees:
* Network, network, network. While networking is always important, during tough times we must raise our visibility and keep our radar wide open to be aware of as much information as possible. This is a time to differentiate ourselves by interacting with more people.
* Be a good listener to your clients. During economically challenging times, people have fears and concerns. People need someone to listen to their thoughts, ideas, concerns, and desires. If we become too focused on the near term business and are not listening to the full needs of our clients, they will begin to feel that we only want their money.
* Be prepared. Build an emergency fund. Continue contributing enough to your retirement plan to get the full employer match, but consider putting any extra savings in your emergency fund until it is sufficient.
* Do due diligence. Do homework on your company, or the company you are thinking of applying to work for, to learn how well positioned it is to survive a downturn. You can prowl the Internet, check out the business press, visit a business librarian or go talk to a stock broker. However, if you are already losing sleep over the economy, you’ll want to explore a move to an industry better able to withstand turbulence.
Are you feeling the economic pinch? How are you coping?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
A Dad's Guide to Anger Management
Anthony says after giving his son a tongue-lashing, the 4-year-old said, "Dad you're really big and scary when you yell." For days after his son's comment, Anthony says he did't feel big and scary but rather small and useless. Yet, he admits, a part of him relishes the ability to intimidate. Anthony gives these tips for helping a guy control his inner Hulk while making sure Bruce Banner never takes a long vacation. (I can't wait to pass them on to my husband!)
- Use anger as a tool, not an outlet. Personal anger usually has nothing to do with your kid and everything to do with your bad day -- deal with it among adults.
- Be consistent and predictable. When parents are consistent about what makes them mad, it's easier for kids to adapt.
- Apologize to your kid. When you lose your cool unfairly, let your child know you were wrong.
- Find temperament role models for yourself, then benchmark your anger (Fred Flintstone?)
- Be a color commentator for televised anger. When you see it on TV point it out.
I really enjoyed Anthony's truthful insight: "Managing our own male anger is complicated. Managing it through the next generation is downright terrifying."
Here are some other ideas from the article to tame your wild one without raising your voice: Leave the room, learn your trigger, plan ahead, try humor, offer limited choices.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Use 10 minutes well
Author Steve Chandler says what separates a great leader from a lousy manager is the ability to use 10 minutes well. He says you will never "find" time for anything. If you want time, you must make it. Sometimes, that item we have not found time to do will fit into that next 10-minute window -- while you are waiting for a call back or your next appointment.
I also like Chandler's suggestions to be more productive by creating a routine. He gives the example of a leader whose apartment was a mess. The man made up a routine -- Mondays, while coffee was brewing, he would do his living room. Tuesdays, his kitchen. Wednesdays the home office. After 90 days, the routine became a habit. He suggests we try this at work. Make up a routine for checking e-mail, preparing for meetings, responding to phone calls -- and follow it for 90 days. If you have a routine that's not working for you, replace it.
To read more tips from his book, click here.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
What women want...in a car
While it's not surprising that women want different things than men, I would bet money that working mothers want really different things. In my case, my SUV is telling of my lifestyle. On any given day, there's my work tote, a Starbuck's cup, magazines waiting to be read, dirty soccer socks and a dog leash. Between commuting and chauffeuring kids, if I ever sat down and added it up, I actually may spend more time in my car than in my bed.
Ford's Sheryl Connelly says, "Women want the same things as men, but they want more. For example, they want performance, package and design, but they also want safety and more features. We are taking that into consideration in all of our new products."
I have confessed to my hubby on numerous occasions that my car is what suffers from my attempts at a balancing act. There are explained dents, dings and scratches as well as unexplained carpet stains as I dash from place to place. Yes, I want more in my car than a man would want. I want rubber bumpers all the way around, lots of cup holders and storage, hands-free talking devices (for those calls on the road), scratch free paint and a garbage can. Of course, I need the DVD player, too. And did I mention a huge gas tank that burns through gas VERY slowly. I also want my vehicle built extra-tough for safety.
I agree completely with Liz Pilibosian, chief engineer for the 2008 Cadillac CTS, who said she believes "when you make a car for a woman, you are going to satisfy everybody." So, women do you agree with Liz?
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Who has time to shop around?
As most of us feel the economic pinch, comparison shopping makes sense. I'm sure I could be saving lots of money if I made the time investment. Any cell phone user knows a call to one or both of these providers could take an hour's time (on a good day, with minimal hold time) .
My latest fixation is wondering when people find the time to make personal phone calls. Perhaps some people have a phone call routine. As a working mom, when I'm at work, it's all about work. When I'm at home, it's all about the kids. Am I crazy to rely on commute time for tedious phone calls?
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Work-space induced stress.
I know Diane is talking to me. She must see the piles of mail and magazines clumped in the corner of my desk. I'm so busy most days, it's hard to take the time to declutter. But Diane insists clearing away the clutter will not get us organized. She wants us to create a system that will keep us from accumulating again. And, most important to realize being perfectly organized is unrealistic. (That's a relief!)
Here are some time-management/organization tips Diane gives in her book that I will put into action and pass on:
* Answer routine letters on the original letter.
* Stop piling -- create a place for everything except piles.
* Be ruthless about throwing things out.
* Break the habit of just laying stuff down where there's space. Put it away where it belongs.
* Purge file annually.
* Take reading materials with you to read while stuck in traffic or waiting for an appointment.
Diane's new book is Don't Agonize, Organize Your Office. Visit her website at www.timesaversusa.com. I'm convinced I'm more productive and less stressed when I take control of my work space. Do you think clutter, maybe even your co-worker's clutter, affects your stress level at work?
Monday, March 17, 2008
It's my birthday and I'm looking for wrinkles
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Companies target moms-to-be with wellness programs
*Pitney Bowes has a Great Expectations program for its pregnant workers. Once women sign up for the program, they are given a dedicated nurse who will call to check up on them throughout their pregnancies and after.
* AOL has a WellBaby program for pregnant employees. It provides pregnant employees and beneficiaries with a case manager who works to answer questions and provide support. AOL also offers a lactation program that lets employees receive lactation counseling both in-person and over the phone. The program makes sense for AOL, which has a large female population. Thirty-eight percent of benefit-eligible employees are women, and the average age at AOL is 37. Eighty-six percent of participants in the WellBaby program had high-risk pregnancies. In 2007, AOL saved an estimated $400,000 in just preterm labor prevention. Of the five sets of twins born last year, only one set was born prematurely.
With women having babies later and using fertility treatments, births and complications are more costly. The stats say it all: Maternal care services account for one out of every five dollars large employers spend on health care, according to a recent report by the National Business Group on Health.
The business case for these programs is even more pronounced for companies that cover fertility treatments under their health care plans, says Patti Freedman, a senior health care consultant at Watson Wyatt Worldwide. “If I was an employer with fertility benefits, I would tell employees that in order to get these benefits, they have to take part in the wellness program,” she says.
To read more about this trend, click here.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Finding what you are meant to do in life
What's a life coach, you ask? A life coach is an objective person who over the phone or in person will help you learn more about yourself and what you are good at. Check out the CBS4 interview this morning with Bill Dueease of Coach Connection. His website is FindYourCoach.com. He mentioned his company works with coaches in 41 states.
Here's the link: http://firstname.lastname@example.org . If you have had a successful session with a life coach, tell me about it. If you think they are a waste of time, let me hear about that, too.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Eliot Spitzer where did you find the time?
As the Governor of New York, I would think Mr. Spitzer would be pretty darn busy. This man has three teenage daughters at home and runs an influential state in the free union. Really, where is he finding time for a high-priced call girl? Isn't he constantly tied to his Blackberry like most men of influence? Doesn't he have fundraisers to attend, soccer games to get to?
Now, I'm left wondering... is cheating part of the work week for politicians? Is it something they schedule on their electronic calendars? While the rest of us struggle with work/life balance, Mr. Spitzer must have mastered the art of delegation. Though he obviously knew which tasks he personally needed to handle. He even found time to hide his payments to the prostitution service. Mr. Spitzer, your time-management skills must be superb. You found time to do it all. Now, you can clear your calender and forget about work/life balance. You're going to be awfully busy with your defense.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Losing an hour stinks. So does losing a friend.
I read yesterday's newspaper and saw an obituary that shocked me. It was for a 50-year-old man named Howard Glass. As a young reporter covering real estate, Howard was one of the first sources I made. He was smart and knew a lot about the deals going on in the South Florida market. But in my pre-kids days, I was taken aback when mid-conversation about a new project underway, Howard took a phone call from his wife who was home with their newborn son. Howard insisted she put the baby on the phone and he proceeded to talk baby talk to him. I didn't know what to make of the whole scene.
Many years later, I ran into Howard again. I asked about what he was doing in his career and I asked about his son. His face lit up the same way it did that day when he spoke baby talk in front of me. He had another a few years after the first and told me all about his kids' accomplishments. I had a hard time finding out about his work life because he was so excited telling me about his kids. Howard's obituary said he died of an inspirational battle with cancer.
In my struggle for work/life balance, I gained some perspective just thinking about Howard. I am sure Howard made the most of each hour he had with his family. He may have taken naps, he may have had some unproductive hours, but overall, I know without doubt that Howard knew family was as important as work.
Some of us work extremely hard and never have time for our personal lives, and particularly, our own families. Perhaps, however, it's time to change that. What changes have you made to emphasize family over your career? I love this blog post with balance tips from freelancer Allan Branch. Let's hear your best moves.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
When a man loses his job is he still successful?
So I had to wonder when I learned of a new survey by American Express and Best Life Magazine that found men increasingly are defining success by their family's health and happiness, work/life balance, and time they spend having fun.
Are these men who never lost their jobs?
Some interesting stats from the survey of 1,000 affluent men:
* Only 10 percent of men consider themselves both happy and successful.
* Nearly all of the men (95 percent) believe that to be successful, a man must achieve work/life balance
* Only one out of four men will take a sick day to enjoy their personal interests.
Best Life Magazine also outlines the secrets of the 10 percent of men who are extremely happy and super successful. Some characteristics that set them apart: The ability to have fun, having clearly defined goals and navigating change well.
It's that last thing -- navigating change well -- that will be crucial in the upcoming months for executives who may suffer in the souring economy. Does this topic hit home for you? Do you consider success tied to your career? And, how can you keep job loss from emotionally affecting your entire family?
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Women need to network with men
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Dogs don't belong in offices
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Have you had a Pokemon moment?
Reluctantly, I sat down and played with him, just the two of us while the rest of my family, neighbors and fortunate people in town were sleeping. As we were playing this ridiculous card game, he looked at me with such joy and chatted about the cards with such enthusiasm that I began looking at the situation much differently. I call it, "my Pokemon moment." I realized it was just the kind of time together I need to savor. I can sleep late years from now when I have an empty nest and my son no longer wants to play Pokemon with me. (Though I made it clear to him, this isn't going to become a regular routine) Still, I'm all for blogger Amy Dunkin's idea of trying to get marketers to package sleep in a bottle.
So, have you ever had a Pokoman moment -- on a date, at a party, with your kids or co-workers -- when you went into the situation with a bad attitude and later realized it was a worthwhile way to spend your time after all? Should we leave ourselves open to Pokemon moments or is our off-the-clock play and sleep time too valuable?