I’ve decided to use Slide Share more often to share the PowerPoint slides from some of my speeches. Here is the slide deck from this week’s Jam Session for 85 Broads! Let me know if you find it helpful.
What’s one of the biggest mistakes that I see people make when they present a proposal to work more flexibly to their manager? They focus on “why” they want to work differently, when they should emphasize “how” they are going to get their job done.
Here’s a true story that a manager shared with me that perfectly illustrates the different response you will get.
A young man walks into the manager’s office. He explains that he’d like to talk about shifting his hours to come in by 11:00 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and leave later in the evening. This new schedule will help him train for a marathon, “because it’s getting too dark to run at night.” The manager confessed that his response was, “Yeah, and I’d like to ride in a hot air balloon on Wednesdays. I’m going to have to say ‘No’.”
Thankfully, the young man came back the next day and took a different approach. He never mentioned marathon training. Instead he focused on how he would get his work done with the new schedule, how he would communicate with customers and his team, and how he would come in if something important needed to get done. And he would be happy to review the flexible work plan in three months. The manager thought about it and responded, “Okay, let’s give it a shot.”
The manager telling the story said that the first time he felt like he was being asked to do an unreasonable favor. But the second time, the young man had reframed the proposal as a win-win and he felt comfortable saying “yes.” Same proposal, different response.
This is even more critical when you are asking for flexibility to address a personal issue that would be very difficult to say “no” to based on the reason alone…(For more go to Forbes.com)
I may be back in my book writing cave for the next week finishing up this round of edits, but I’ve read some great articles that have been published recently on a variety of work+life fit and flex+strategy topics. I’m honored that the authors included my thoughts. Enjoy!
The Hard-numbers Case for a Flexible Workplace by Geri Stengel for Inc.com
The Secret of Success: Needing Less Sleep? by Laura Vanderkam in CNNMoney.com
10 Tips for Landing a Flexible Job by Miriam Salpeter for USNews.com
How Changing Corporate Culture is Good for Business and Employees by Geri Stengel for Forbes.com
How Shift in Workplace Culture Can Help Small Businesses, Non-profits by Geri Stengel for Ventureneer.com
Does Your Boss E-mail You at 5:00 a.m.? by Harvey Schachter for The Globe and Mail
Also, check out my suggestions in “The Recommender” column in Fast Company’s February issue…you might be surprised!
See you in a couple of weeks!
In her recent article “Occupy (Working) Motherhood,” Deborah Siegel makes the compelling case that our society still has a long way to go to support mothers who work, especially when it comes to affordable, quality childcare.
To understand the roadblocks that stand in the way of improving the state of childcare, you have to look no further than a comment left by a reader in response to Siegel’s article. The commenter explained,
By “affordable,” I assume you mean “subsidized by others outside my family.” Thanks, I’m spending enough on my own kids (and my wife chooses not to work outside the home) without having to subsidize your parenting choices.
In other words, if you have a child and you work, then you need to shoulder the entire expense of that child’s caregiving. And if you can’t, it’s not my problem because I don’t directly benefit from a system of affordable, high-quality childcare.
While it’s understandable how someone could reach that conclusion, the truth is that people who don’t have children or don’t use high quality, affordable childcare do in fact directly benefit in ways that aren’t necessarily apparent.
We need to do a much better job of explaining these “WIIFMs” or the “what’s in it for me” impacts if we wanted to make progress in this area.
So here are the “WIIFMs” I’ve observed over my 15 years in the trenches helping hundreds of organizations develop strategies to address work+life fit challenges. Hopefully they will encourage support because everyone will understand that they do benefit in the following ways:
WIIFM #1: Your colleagues with children aren’t distracted by breakdowns in care which benefits you. A few years ago, as part of a broader work-life strategy review and update for a Fortune 500 company, we conducted an ROI study of the organization’s childcare center system. The truth was that management was getting pressure to cut this benefit that was seen as unfairly favoring parents over other employees.
As I analyzed the data from our surveys, I wasn’t surprised by how much parents said their productivity and engagement increased from having the consistent, high quality care the center offered. What shocked me was how much their coworkers said they benefited by having more focused, less distracted colleagues.
Once all of the calculations were finished, we estimated that the ROI for the center annually was approximately 125%. Not bad. Needless to say, the centers stayed. The bottom line is that you benefit when the parents you work with have support.
This doesn’t mean that the alternative answer to try to minimize the number of parents in the workplace through discriminating hiring practices. First, people are going to keep having kids. Second, you will lose many of your best and brightest employees and coworkers. The better option is to support the creation of high quality, affordable care options either in house or in the community. It’s the gift that will keep on giving to everyone.
WIIFM#2: The parents who provide important services that you count on will be able to show up and do their jobs. You can’t get a stronger “WIIFM” than that. I was at a conference a couple of years ago where a team of researchers from Cornell presented their study of the impact of a grant in New York City that created a system of high-quality, in-home childcare providers. The grant also subsidized the cost of care for parents who were home health aides and guards in the New York City school system.
I wish I had a link to the study itself but here are a couple of the findings that stuck with me:
- By training and licensing the in-home care providers, they created well-paying jobs that in many cases allowed the providers to expand and improve the services they offered.
- The parents who had access to the affordable, high-quality care reported major improvements in a number of job performance metrics including fewer absences, less tardiness, more engagement on the job, fewer incident reports, etc.
In other words, because they had consistent, reliable care for their children, the guards in the schools were to show up more regularly and do their jobs better. This directly benefits you if your child goes to that school. He or she is safer. Home health aides were able to show up to care for you aging parents or your ailing spouse. This directly benefits you because you are able to go to work.
WIIFM #3: A high quality, affordable system of support will be there if you need it (and there’s a good chance that you or someone you love will need it.) Building a system of high-quality, affordable childcare doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years. Thankfully organizations like the United Way through its Success by Six initiative, as well as community advocacy groups like Long Island’s Early Years Institute are leading the charge even in the face of ongoing government cuts to funding. But as Siegel points out in her article, their efforts haven’t been able to make a difference for many parents.
Maybe you don’t need high quality, reliable child care today. And perhaps you never will. But that can change overnight. Over the years, I’ve met parents who, through an unexpected shift in circumstance like illness, death or divorce, find themselves needing care only to realize how hard it is to find. I’ve met grandparents who never had to access child care themselves, but now have a daughter struggling to provide for her family as a single mother without consistent, reliable support for her children.
Maybe the lack of affordable, quality care childcare doesn’t mean anything to you today, but you and those you love directly benefit from the insurance of knowing it’s there should you ever need it.
Many priorities are vying for limited resources on the local, state and federal level. However, in the debate regarding the need to create a system of high-quality, affordable childcare, the position that, “I don’t need to support it because I won’t use childcare and I won’t benefit” doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. You do benefit. We all benefit. Now, the question becomes, what are we going to to to make it better…finally? What do you think?
If you haven’t already, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost.
As I watched Meryl Streep accept the Academy Award for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady”, I reflected the following reactions I had to the movie:
- How did Meryl Streep literally transform herself into Margaret Thatcher? (It’s truly unbelievable)
- Even though I’d been in high school, college, and even lived in England briefly during Margaret Thatcher’s term as Prime Minister, I’d forgotten how tumultuous and violent that period had been. It puts today’s global economic turmoil into perspective.
- I completely understand why Margaret Thatcher would imagine that her beloved husband, Dennis, was still alive long after he’d died. I’d probably do the same.
- And finally, no matter how rich and powerful we may be at one time in our lives and careers, we all grow old. None of us will escape it. I hope the contrast between Margaret Thatcher’s ascent to power and her eventual descent into dementia finally sparks an important conversation about the truth of aging.
So, imagine my surprise when I read reviews of the film that expressed the absolute opposite response. Commentators were dismayed over the portrayal of her advancing dementia. They felt it was “unkind,” “unnecessary,” “despicable.”
While I respect the desire to focus solely on the noteworthy and sometimes controversial achievements of Prime Minister Thatcher, her aging is also part of the story.
As Meryl Streep explained so eloquently when she received the best actress award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for her role (link to video):
“(The goal of the film was) to look at the life of the Iron Lady inside and out and to locate something real, maybe hidden, but truthful in the life of someone we all decided we know everything about already.”
If we can’t witness the entire arc of the life of one of the most powerful leaders in modern history, how can we begin to grapple what the later stage of life will require of us personally, of our families, and of our society? To me, doing so doesn’t take away from achievement and contributions; it only makes them more human.
What do you think? How can we become more comfortable discussing all of the stages of life and work? Our own, but also of those we love? Does it matter?
Our client, the professional services firm BDO, recently produced a short video about their award-winning approach to work and life flexibility. Here are the six lessons every organization can takeaway from the clip to help better position flexible work as part of the culture, or the way the business and people operate every day:
Lesson 1: Language matters. BDO Flex is a “strategy.” It’s about getting work done, serving clients, and managing people. It’s not a program or policy. There are policies to support various aspects of the strategy (e.g. compensation, telework equipment) but “flexibility” itself is not a policy. There are programs that use BDO Flex, but “flexibility” is not a program.
Lesson 2: The employee AND the business must succeed for flexibility to work. All of the stories and key themes in the video reinforce the point of “dual” benefit and impact:
- ReThink–The possibilities are endless
- ReFresh–You work hard. Use Flex to recharge
- ReDefine–Don’t accept business as usual
- ReDiscover–Don’t lose sight of your dreams
- ReAssure–Small changes can make a big impact
Lesson 3: Take the time and invest the resources to create a shared vision of success that anchors the strategy. It took months for the firm to create the “BDO Thrives on Flexibility” vision statement, but that process changed hearts and minds and created a shared understanding which moved the culture.
Lesson 4: Flexibility is not just about formal flexible work arrangements. It’s about both formal and informal, day-to-day flexibility in how, when and where you work and manage your life. It’s not an “arrangement,” but a well thought out plan tailored to meet your unique needs and the needs of the business.
Lesson 5: Men and women want and use work flexibility. Work flexibility is not a women’s issue. It’s a strategy to help all people fit the unique pieces of their lives together in a competitive, hectic, global economy and for businesses to work smarter and better.
Lesson 6: Flexibility is not about child care only. Yes, parents absolutely need to work flexibly; however, as the video shows so do employees who have spouses who relocate, who have a passion for ballroom dancing or cartoon drawing, and who want to stay healthy. And it’s for leaders who want to reduce the level of employee burnout and service clients better.
What other lessons did you learn from watching how one organization is talking about and positioning strategic flexibility in their business? What is your organization doing?
If you haven’t already, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost!
The other day I sat with three senior leaders from three different industries. One was the CEO of an international PR and communications firm. One was a partner of a professional services firm, and the other the president of a national not-for-profit. As it often does, our discussion about work and life turned to technology. I asked them how they used their smartphones and laptops to stay connected to work after traditional business hours:
”I keep my phone on 24/7, but I don’t respond to everything, all the time.”–CEO of the PR and communications firm.
“I sometimes send emails at 4 a.m., and on the weekends just to get a jump-start on my day and week.”–president of the national not-for-profit.
“My phone goes in my briefcase when I get home and I don’t look at it again until the next morning.”–partner of a professional services firm.
Three leaders, with three very different uses of technology. So I asked them, “How many of you have sat down with all of your direct reports and explained how you prefer to connect with work, and specified what you expect of them?”
All three shook their heads and said some variation of the following statement, “No, I haven’t done that, but they all know that I don’t expect them to do what I do.” My response was, “I’ll bet that isn’t true,” and I shared what I see too often in many organizations:
Leaders fail to clarify their personal preferences for staying connected to work with technology, and don’t share their expectations of the responsiveness with their direct reports. This leads to misguided assumptions that can wreak havoc on the work/life balance of their employees. And most leaders have no idea any of this is happening.
Here’s my advice:
Recognize that you have to initiate the conversation with your direct reports. They won’t because they don’t want you to misinterpret their questions as, “I don’t want to work hard.” For example, I worked with a senior leader who always caught the 5:00 a.m. bus to the office. On his ride, he did all of his emails and was so pleased that his team were “morning people, too–they get right back to me!” Imagine his surprise when I told him, “Actually, many are setting alarms for 5 a.m. to be awake and reply to you.” “What?!” he responded, “Why didn’t they say anything?” To the person, they all told me they were afraid he would question their commitment if they did.
Decide what you really expect in terms of response and connection. Part of the problem is that leaders are so busy using technology to manage their own work/life balance that they haven’t thought about what they actually expect from their team. The leader who emailed from the bus at 5:00 a.m. told everyone that if he really needed them he’d call their mobile phones. If an email was priority, he’d identify it. Otherwise feel free to respond whenever they can.
Have a meeting, state the parameters clearly, and then be consistent. People watch the behavior of leaders like a hawk. If there’s even a whiff of inconsistency between what you told them and how you actually behave, they will go back to assuming they need to follow your technology schedule. So if you state, “You don’t need to respond to emails at night, I’ll call you if anything is urgent,” don’t penalize someone who missed an important issue because they didn’t answer an email, but were never called.
Finally, keep the lines of communication open and encourage ongoing clarification. Assumptions people make about their manager’s expectations are rarely accurate, especially when it comes to connection and access to work via technology. Set the record straight. It’s an easy way to offer your people more control and consistency over the way work fits into their lives–something we all need.
If you’re a manager, have you clarified your expectations of access and connectedness with your direct reports? If you haven’t, why not? If you did, what did you learn? What difference did it make?
(This post originally appeared in Fast Company)
I am an extrovert. Give me a room full of people to meet and talk to for hours, and I’m in heaven. So why am I such a big fan of the new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown, 2012) by Susan Cain?
Like many extroverts, I was surprised to learn that anywhere from one-third to one-half of the population are introverts. In other words, a lot of people we come into contact with everyday don’t thrive on endless meetings, don’t want to solve a problem by talking about it with a group for hours, don’t enjoy jumping into a conversation and just “throwing out ideas,” and don’t want to attend lunches, conferences, and dinners all the time.
These activities are like a shot of adrenaline for extroverts. But they suck the energy right out of our more introverted counterparts. That doesn’t mean extroverts are wrong and introverts are right. Cain is a big fan of extroverts, as you will see in the book.
It’s about awareness. If extroverts better understood our more introverted friends, colleagues and family members, it would make our lives better in the following ways:
Communication with others would improve. Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re in a meeting with a group of people. Everyone is sharing their thoughts and opinions freely, except for a couple of people who are quietly listening.
Chances are the extroverts in the room assume those individuals are being quiet because they don’t have anything to add. But after the meeting, you run into one of the listeners in the hall and they comment, “You know we should really consider doing x, y, z.” And you say, “What a great idea! Why didn’t you share that in the meeting?” And they respond with a hint of frustration, “It was hard to get a word in edgewise.”
Knowing that introverts tend to like to listen, gather their thoughts, and then share their insights uninterrupted, extroverts could make it a point to pause discussions periodically, and ask, “Does anyone have something to add?” And then wait a moment for a response. This would give those who are more introverted the space they need to contribute comfortably.
If we understood how each of our “types” processed and shared information, we’d communicate better with each other at work, at home, and in our communities.
We would be better parents and partners. I may be an extrovert, but I’ve always been attracted to the strong, silent type. It’s not surprising that my wonderful husband of more than 20 years is more introverted.
After a long day at work, he just needs some space; therefore, I wait to barrage him with questions and stories of my day. Or when we spend time with my extended (and more extroverted) family and he disappears after a certain point, I know he’s gone to find some quiet place to just sit and regroup. I understand why and don’t take it personally.
In terms of parenting, it was an exchange with my older daughter six years ago that first prompted me to understand the difference between the two types.
She was in second grade and I had volunteered for playground duty. I had been stationed far away from the playground by the door into the school. Next to that door was a basketball hoop where my daughter stood shooting baskets alone. I asked her, “Don’t you want to go play with your friends?” She responded calmly, “No, that’s OK; I want to be with you. I shoot baskets here by myself all the time.”
My uneducated, extroverted first response was, “What? Why do you do that, honey? Go up a play with your friends. I’ll be fine and it’s more fun to play with everyone.” She looked confused, “But Mom, I like to shoot baskets alone.” Yikes! I could see that I had unintentionally made her feel bad, and I realized in that moment she wasn’t like me.
Like her dad, she needed time to herself after a busy, intense morning in the classroom. I had to recognize that and support her, even though all I’d want to do is dive into a big group of screaming, laughing friends. Today she’s a super confident, happy young woman with friends whom she loves and who love her, but she still needs her breaks. That’s OK.
Cain’s book offers more extroverted parents and partners a helpful roadmap for understanding and honoring their more introverted loved ones. It has really helped me.
We could benefit from adopting more introverted behaviors, especially quiet time and listening. About twenty years ago, I started to suffer from the physical wear and tear of my high-intensity, highly extroverted, always-on-the-go existence. My mother was an introvert (I get my extroversion from my grandfather) and practiced meditation religiously. She suggested that I try to be quiet for a few minutes each day. Because I’d exhausted all of the medical options for treating my symptoms, I gave it a shot. It’s was a miracle.
Twenty minutes a day of sitting quietly, journaling, breathing, made all the difference physically, emotionally, spiritually. Introverts tend to stop and regroup naturally because they crave it. We extroverts have to be more thoughtful and deliberate about our down time, but we benefit from it just as much.
Introverts are also excellent, natural listeners. My husband can go to a party, talk to just a few people, but gather information that I hadn’t heard even though I’d talked to everyone. I’ll ask him how he does it and the answer is always the same, “I stopped talking, paid attention, and listened.”
While my natural inclination remains to say “hi” to and know as many people in a room as possible, I catch myself periodically. I try to spend more one-on-one time with fewer people and I make myself stop talking (if I remember) long enough to listen more. I’ll never be like my husband, but I enjoy experimenting with aspects of his style.
What do you think? Are you an extrovert who has benefited from understanding the gifts and behaviors of your more introverted friends, colleagues and family members? What have you done differently once you gained that awareness?
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown, 2012) is a wonderful guide to help us all understand ourselves and each other more fully. Here’s how you can learn more and connect with Susan Cain:
- Buy the book
- Read Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts” blog
- Follow Susan Cain on Twitter @susancain
- Connect with Susan Cain on Facebook
(This post originally appeared in Fast Company)
Last Friday, I had the privilege of participating as a panelist at The White House Urban Economic Forum hosted by Barnard College. The event focused on inspiring, funding and providing technical support to women entrepreneurs.
A recurring theme throughout the conference was how to start and grow a business while taking care of the other parts of your life. For example:
- Rebecca Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, explained that when women are asked why they started their businesses they’re more likely to answer, “So I have flexibility to manage my life and my kids.” In contrast, men respond, “To make a lot of money.”
- Joanne Wilson, an angel investor and Gotham Gal blogger, said she thought every woman should be an entrepreneur because it gives you the control and flexibility to do work you love and take care of the other parts of your life.
But when one of the moderators, Arianna Huffington, asked the women on her panel, “How do you balance your work and life?” everyone got so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. If issues related to work and life were so front and center throughout the day, why was “balance” such a tough topic for the group to address? And why does it matter?
There is no work/life “balance,” which is why no one can answer the question. It’s not that we don’t want to answer the question. It’s that we can’t, no matter how hard we try (here and here). This is especially true for entrepreneurs who rarely have any physical or mental division between their lives on and off the job.
The way to start a productive conversation on the subject is to ask someone, “How do you manage the way work and the other parts of your life fit together?” The conversation shifts away from limiting, unachievable, one-size-fits-all “balance,” to the possibilities of a person’s unique work+life “fit.” You leave room for the truth that there will be times when work is primary, and the other parts of life take a backseat, and vice versa. And that’s OK. We can learn from our individual “how to” stories.
It’s imperative that we share our judgment-free strategies for managing work and life if we want women-owned businesses to achieve their full growth potential. Since the research shows that women entrepreneurs are motivated in part by work+life considerations, then it’s critical to share strategies for managing how all of the pieces fit together. It’s the only way women are going to see the possibilities for themselves and their businesses, and expand beyond the “it can’t be done” meme that’s out there.
Personally, when I heard that my fellow panelist Margery Kraus grew her company, APCO Worldwide, to employ 700 people around the world while staying married to her husband for more than 40 years, raising three children and spending time with 10 grandchildren, I thought, “If she can do it, so can I.” Technical advice for business growth is important but so are the “how to” strategies for personal success (as you define it for yourself and your family).
We need to challenge the “all work, all the time” model that dominates entrepreneurial lore and funder expectations. In his book “Delivering Happiness—A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose,” Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh, shares his secrets to entrepreneurial success. One of his rules is that Zappos employees spend a certain percentage of their time outside of work with each other. A busy entrepreneur who has other personal responsibilities is going to look at that blueprint for growth and think, “I can’t do that.” But is it really necessary?
After more than 15 years creating work+life fit and flexibility strategies for all types of companies, I can honestly say I don’t believe that the “all work, all the time” model is the only path to business success. It’s time to identify and celebrate other examples where an entrepreneur works hard, achieves results but doesn’t completely ignore their own well-being and their important personal relationships.
Changing the narrative around the work+life fit expectations of an entrepreneur is especially critical for women.
Even Jessica Jackley, the highly successful founder of Kiva.org and now CEO of ProFounder, faced blowback when one of her VC investors discovered that she was pregnant with twins. He bravely admitted thinking, “A pregnant founder/CEO is going to fail her company.” His public honesty allowed Jackley to eloquently point out that her pregnancy shouldn’t interfere with her company’s need for funding and ability to deliver results. She will figure out how to make it all work. Success didn’t require an “all or nothing” choice. But too many entrepreneurs still think it does.
Let’s learn from each other by asking, “How does your work as a busy entrepreneur fit into the other parts of your life?” There’s no right answer or “balance,” only countless possibilities for growth and success, personally and professionally. And in the process, we can expand beyond the outdated “all work, all the time” entrepreneurial growth mindset that limits everyone—men and women.
If you’re an entrepreneur, how to you grow your business and manage the other parts of your life? What’s your work+life “fit?”
“How do I tell my boss that I’m pregnant?” When a young woman posed this question to a career panel I participated in recently, she reminded me why it’s important to review the basic work+life fit questions periodically. It’s easy to assume everyone knows the answers, when the truth is we often don’t.
So here’s a recap of the “when and how to tell” advice the panel offered:
First, tell your boss as soon as you are showing. Your boss, as well as the rest of the team, will know you’re pregnant. But they’ll be too scared to say something potentially illegal. So as soon as you are comfortable disclosing your good news, share it. The earlier they all know, the sooner everyone can plan for your time out of the office.
Second, offer no apologies when you break the news. Be happy and proud. This was great advice offered by the two senior executive women on the panel with me. Both of them had stories of taking new jobs only to find out a couple of weeks later that they were pregnant. Breaking the news to their respective new employers wasn’t easy but in both instances they received nothing but support.
Third, by the time you are ready to leave to have the baby, make sure that all of your work is covered by and transitioned to others. Trouble happens when you leave and the people you work with don’t know what’s going on with your projects, where to find information, etc. If managed the right way, maternity leaves should be an employer’s favorite work+life fit challenge. Why? Because unlike illness, a natural disaster or eldercare, pregnancy usually allows time for advanced planning.
Fourth, be clear about your expectations related to connectivity to work while you are out. Some women will want to send and answer emails on the delivery table. Others don’t want to have any interaction with work at all. Neither choice is right or wrong. It’s what works for you; however, try not to send mixed messages. If you email during your leave, work will assume that you want them to keep you in the loop. If you start one way and then change your mind, just let people know. Don’t suffer in silence.
What do you think? How do you tell your boss that you are pregnant? Obviously this is a question on the mind of many young women. How can we help them navigate this big, happy transition as smoothly as possible?
(This post originally appeared on Forbes.com)