Women/Mothers

Simple, Universal Advice to Help Parents to Find Success, On and Off the Job

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One of the most interesting aspects of my trip to Singapore was observing the government’s active stance on work life issues.

Unlike in the U.S. where private industry often fights any attempt to legislate work life supports (e.g. paid sick leave days and parental leave), corporations and government agencies in Singapore have formed a true partnership.

Most likely, the motivation for this coordinated effort is the country’s critical labor shortage. Regardless, it was fascinating to watch.

My host, Lim Yit Siang, who is the Assistant Director of the Family Education and Promotion Division, Ministry of Social and Family Development (pictured here putting me on my 21+ hour flight back to the U.S.) asked me to answer a question frequently posed by parents (particularly mothers) about how to “do it all” and have success, on and off the job.

My response is universal and applies to anyone who has tried to fit work, kids and life together…no matter where you live!

“I am a full-time mother with 2 children in primary school. My workload in the office is rather heavy and I find it difficult to make time for myself and my family. What can I do to improve the situation? Is it really possible to “have it all” – a fulfilling career as well as an enriching personal and family life?”

When you are a mother who works at a busy job and has two young children, it can be overwhelming. Not only do I understand professionally, but I can relate personally. I am a working mother of two, as well!

That being said, my research and experience have proven that if you regularly follow a few simple steps, you can find a “fit” between your work and personal life that let’s you be your best (not perfect, but your best), on and off the job.

First, stop trying to find a perfect “balance” or to “have it all.” All you can achieve is your unique work+life fit based on your work and personal circumstances on a given day, week, month or year. This relieves some of the pressure to get it “right,” and helps you focus on the possibilities for you, your job and your family based on your realities now.

Next, harness the power of small actions to achieve your work+life fit goals. I call these small, meaningful actions “tweaks,” and in your case it sounds like the tweaks you want to make happen involve self-care and your family. Too often we think big changes are the only way to address our challenges, when really small actions, if taken consistently and deliberately, make all the difference.

Then, follow a simple weekly work+life fit practice to put your “tweaks of the week” into action. Twenty years ago, clocks and walls told us where work ended and the other parts of life began. But as technology exploded and the global economy expanded the clocks and wall disappeared. We all became much more overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do when.

I spent a number of years studying the people I’d meet in companies who seemed to effortlessly manage to fit their work and life together. I call them the work+life “fit” naturals.

I learned that they follow a few simple steps that I translated into a weekly practice found in my new book, TWEAK IT: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. The practice entails spending about twenty minutes each week:

1) Celebrating success. Give yourself credit for what you have accomplished at work, in your personal life and in your career for the week. It’s often more than you think.
2) Reviewing what you need to get done in the coming week. What you’ve already committed in at work, in your personal life and with your career development. And identify open slots in your work+life fit that you could fill with some additional, meaningful “tweaks” in areas that are important to you right now.
3) Pick the “standard tweaks,” or habits, you want to make part of your work+life fit over the next seven days, but also think about any “unique tweaks” or special, one-off actions. In your case, the standard tweaks you might pick include spending 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each of your children in the evening, or cooking a special meal together on a weekend night. A unique tweak could be celebrating a friend’s birthday one evening. For tweak inspiration, visit my website www.tweakittogether.com. Over 50 work, personal life and career experts offer their advice.
4) Record your “tweaks of the week” in your combined work and personal calendar and priority list. Try not to keep two separate calendars/ “to do” lists. Combine everything into one and create a complete picture of what you want to accomplish on and off the job.

By regularly following these simple steps, you will build a solid foundation of well-being and performance that will help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed personally and professionally. Remember, just “tweak it!”

What would you add?

I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and on Facebook to continue the conversation!

 

 

 

TODAY Show #DoingItAll Series–Links, Highlights and Gratitude

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What an exciting week!

It was an honor to participate in the #DoingItAll series on the TODAY Show in support of Maria Shriver’s important, groundbreaking, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink.

Many of you have asked for links to the segments and key takeaways…so here you go!

Tuesday: Two Amazing Women #DoingItAll

First, on Tuesday, I worked with two truly remarkable women who epitomize what it means to “do it all.”

Both of these women approach the challenges in their lives with courage, persistence, optimism and humor. They inspired me.

Watch and listen to their stories and my advice (video links below):

How to set productive boundaries: Teleworking, independent marketing consultant and single mom of two

How to ask for help and take small, doable, intentional steps: Small business owner, and single mom of three 

 

Wednesday: #DoingItAll Help-a-thon

Then, on Wednesday, a group of finance, health, legal, career and life experts gathered in the TODAY Show studios to answer questions posted by viewers on email, Twitter and Facebook.

We were there from 7 am to 12 pm est. You have not seen a more dedicated group of people. We tried our best to answer as many of the hundreds of often very difficult, emails, tweets and posts that people sent in.

In this picture, Hoda and Kathie Lee pay us a visit in the Orange Room during their show. The experts pictured (starting from the bottom left) are Dale Atkins, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Carmen Wong Ulrich, Dr. Janet Taylor.  Then in the back row (starting on the right), Dr. Roshini Raj, Valorie Burton, Lisa Bloom, and then me.

Down in the main studio were Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Sharon Epperson and Dr. Gail Saltz.  And in Washington, D.C. with Maria Shriver, were Ellen Galinsky and Jean Chatzky.

#DoingItAll Series Gratitude

As I reflect on the experience, here are the three things I am most grateful for:

Maria Shriver: I am grateful that she used her powerful platform and voice to draw attention to the realities of millions of women (and men!) who are trying to do it all under very difficult circumstances.  If you haven’t done so already, read  The Shriver Report–A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, and take at least one or two of the “next steps” outlined in the study. (And yes, she is as smart, nice and cool in person as she appears on television.)

TODAY Show: For sharing the stories of real women who are #doingitall and then trying to connect viewers with the resources they need.

The people I met who truly care and want to make a difference: From Maria Shriver, to the TODAY Show producers, to the experts participating in the Help-a-thon, to the participants in The Atlantic’s day-long symposium streamed live yesterday, people care. Individually, we may be limited in what we can do, but together we can make a difference. And it starts with caring…I saw that in spades.

Finally, as I prepared for the segments and the Help-a-thon, I thought about what I wished everyone knew to help them manage work and life, better and smarter, in 2014.

So, stay tuned…next week I will share my “Top Ten Work+Life Fit Tips for 2014.”  And I want to hear your ideas, too!

Together, we can succeed while we’re #DoingItAll.

Want to continue the conversation between posts?  I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and to visit/like our Facebook page.

 

TODAY Show–#Doing It All, The Shriver Report

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This week is special, so you will hear from me a bit more than usual over the next few days.

On Sunday, Maria Shriver officially released the findings from her new, groundbreaking, The Shriver Report–A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink. 

In addition to the report (which I highly recommend), on Wednesday 1/15, you can tune in to the day-long symposium in Washington D.C. hosted by The Atlantic and streamed online.

But the launch events don’t stop there.

To support the study, the TODAY Show has partnered with Shriver to offer how-to advice and support to the majority of women in the U.S. who are “doing it all”, but especially the 1 in 3 who are near or at the brink of poverty.

Not everyone works for the forward-thinking organizations that ask me to consult with their leadership and share strategies with their employees; therefore, I am always looking for ways to spread the “work+life fit” message more broadly, especially to those who need it the most.

So, I was thrilled when the TODAY Show approached me to be a member of the team of experts who will appear this week to offer advice to real women struggling with the everyday overwhelm of jobs, kids and life.

While programming is always subject to last minute changes, it looks I will help two women on Tuesday. One will be in a segment we taped in December (see above) with a terrific mom in Houston, and the other will happen live in the studio with Hoda and Kathie Lee.

Then on Wednesday, I will join a team of finance, health and career experts for the TODAY Show’s first-ever LIVE “Help-a-thon”. We will answer questions live on email, Twitter and Facebook, so check it out and participate from 7 am to 12 pm est. Jump in, ask questions and offer your advice! Follow #DoingItAll.

The reason you will hear from me more frequently this week is that I’m going to kick-off the “Helpathon” on Wednesday by sharing the first five of my “Top Ten Work+Life Fit Tips for 2014.” Then, I will follow up on Thursday with the final five tips, and an insider’s recap of the Helpathon experience.

Together, we can make a difference for everyone (men and women) “doing it all”!

I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and on our Facebook page.

How to Beat the Back-to-School AND Back-to-Work Crunch!

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We know it’s coming – the dreaded back-to-school crunch – but every year we seem to be caught off guard. Plus, as we struggle with the beginning of a new school year, work projects on hold for the summer suddenly go into overdrive as fourth quarter/year-end is just around the corner.

It’s a double whammy recipe for disaster unless moms and dads take action now.

As I explain in my new book, Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day, (Center Street/Hachette), parents can get ahead of the mayhem by adding these simple “tweaks” to their weekly work+life fit check-in the last couple of weeks in August:

First, identify, breakdown and plan the back-to-school activities typically encountered every year. For example:

  • Add 2013-2014 school dates into your calendar, including extra-curricular sport and activities.
  • If your kids haven’t started school yet, review the “summer pre-work” your child may have and count back from the first day of school to set a reasonable schedule for completion. Minimize the last minute all-nighters.
  • Buy school supplies early, before the line is out the door and the shelves are picked clean (I seem to find myself in those lines every year!)
  • Take advantage of back-to-school sales to buy a couple of basic needs but count on shorts and t-shirts for the first few weeks. Saves money and unworn clothes in the closet.

Next, think about projects and responsibilities at work that will require attention after Labor Day:

  • Sit down with your boss to clearly identify projects and priorities for September and October.
  • Ask if there is anything you and the team could do to prepare and get a jump-start on. Right now, we are planning for upcoming consulting projects and speaking engagements that will gear up after Labor Day.
  • Share dates you may need to take off or have additional flexibility around back-to-school, such as first day(s) of drop off and pick up.
  • Leave the evenings and weekends the week before and two weeks after the start of school as free and uncommitted as possible.
  • If you have to schedule out of town travel or evening work activities, make sure you coordinate with your partner or friends for child care coverage well in advance. I have a trip to San Francisco the week after my kids start school, but I am already thinking about what I need to arrange before I leave.

A little bit of thoughtful planning, discussion and action now, can limit the back-to-school stress, and the fourth-quarter work frenzy later.

What do you do to beat the back-to-school AND back-to-work crunch?

If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and to “like” our Facebook page.

Marissa Mayer and Work-Life Nirvana (My Q&A w/ Reuters)

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(This article by Lauren Young appeared in Reuters.com on July 17, 2012)

The latest poster child for work-life nirvana is Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s newly appointed CEO – who is seven months pregnant.

Cali Williams Yost, a flexible work expert, says Mayer’s pregnancy is noteworthy and symbolic, but not career-defining.

Here are edited excerpts from an interview with Yost, a working mother of two daughters, based in Madison, New Jersey, and author of the forthcoming “Tweak It: Small Changes/Big Impact-Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day” (Center Street, January 2013).

Q. What does Mayer’s pregnancy mean for working women?

A. She is a powerful symbol of what people still think is impossible. The hullabaloo is that she challenges an outdated mindset. That’s why the fact that this is even happening is amazing; however, it’s not so amazing that it should be the sole focus of her tenure as the CEO of a company. It’s something to be remarked upon as what’s possible. It’s an example of how people combine work and life in a way that works for them.

My hope is that her story shows us that having a life – whatever that looks like, be it a pregnancy or an aging parent – should not keep you from doing your job. There will be women who don’t want to do what she’s doing, and there will be other women who look at her and say, “That’s me.”

Q. But most CEOs are not female.

A. Right. The only way women who are not very wealthy, in control of their schedules and in very senior positions can combine pregnancy and work is if we have all things we don’t have now. That includes affordable and reliable childcare, some kind of paid leave as well as eldercare support. For the normal, average, everyday woman, it’s much tougher.

Q. Why is “having it all” suddenly considered a failed theory? (For more, go to Reuters.com)

3 Ways to Break Out of The “All Work” Or “No Work” Death Trap

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(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com)

As I observed the debate ignited by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” article in The Atlantic from afar over the past week, I witnessed person after person, including Slaughter, fall into the classic “all work” or “no work” trap.” It’s a death trap that immediately kills any productive conversation about creative, innovative ways to work differently. And that’s the real conversation we need to have.

But we won’t until we figure out how to avoid the “all or nothing” landmine that everyone seems to run into whenever a discussion about how to manage work and life in a modern, hectic world begins. Here are three simple steps to get us started:

First, understand what it looks like when someone falls into the trap. You’ll begin to recognize what to avoid. Here are a few examples related to the Slaughter article debate:

The truth is that Slaughter did not leave her senior position in the State Department to not work. She went back to her very busy, very prestigious full-time job as a professor at Princeton. The difference was at Princeton she has more control over her schedule.

Unfortunately, in many of the responses to and interviews about her article, the conversation quickly devolved into the unwinnable debate “should mothers work or stay home.” That’s not what Slaughter did or what she was talking about. And yet, that’s where we ended up.

Few were able to pull themselves out of the trap. It would have meant acknowledging that some people do choose to work all the time, or not work for pay at all, but what about everyone else? How do we take advantage of the countless possibilities in-between and do it in a way that works for us and our jobs?

Watch how Slaughter herself falls into the trap in this video from her interview at The Aspen Ideas Festival. She tries to explain how we should praise women who make work+life decisions in part to care for their families. But then assumes men can’t be guided by family concerns because they have to make money.

Actually, men could and often do make tough work choices based on family considerations as long as the default assumption isn’t that the only alternative is to “not work,” but to work differently.

Again, Slaughter did not choose to work less. She worked differently. There’s no reason a man couldn’t do the same. But in the “all work” or “no work” trap it’s impossible to stay in the grey zone of work+life possibility for all. What about the men who turn down promotions that would have required more work or take lower-paying jobs closer to home? I see it happen all the time, but because those choices don’t fit our rigid “all or nothing” work dichotomy, we don’t see or celebrate them. We should.

Very few people, men or women, can afford to not work even for a brief period of time; therefore, working smarter, better and more flexibly is the solution. Hopefully knowing what the trap looks like will help us avoid falling into it. And we can finally focus our discussion on the countless flexible ways of fitting work and life together.

Second, the issue is how to reset your unique work+life “fit” not work-life balance: If you have a few minutes, go back and re-read The Atlantic article. Everywhere you see the phrase “work life balance,” substitute “find a work+life fit that works for me and my job.” It’s almost magical what happens. All of sudden the unwinnable search to find “balance,” turns into a series of deliberate choices based on work and personal circumstances at a particular point in time. And much of the drama disappears. (For more,  click here to go to FastCompany.com)

The Top 10 Work, Life and Money Lessons from Mika Brzezinski Every Woman Should Know

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(This post originally appeared in Forbes.com)

I’m a fan of Morning Joe on MSNBC. I love the banter between the hosts and the eclectic mix of guests. I love learning about the “real story” behind politics. I love the music, and I love Mika Brzezinski. She’s a smart, experienced newsperson, but she’s also a mom and wife. And she brings all of that to the table each day.

It was a thrill to see her moderate the opening panel when I attended the White House Conference on Women and the Economy in April. Not only did she wear the most amazing pink dress, but she impressed me with her grasp of the complex issues that impact a woman’s ability to achieve her goals on and off the job.

When Senior Advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, introduced Brzezinsky as the moderator of the panel, she said her new book, Knowing Your Value (Weinstein Books, 2012) was a “must read for all women.” I decided to check it out. She was right.

Not only does Brzezinski share the often difficult lessons she’s learned over the years about work, life and money but she includes the very candid stories and insights of other successful women like Tina Brown, Sheryl Sandberg, Suze Orman, and Arianna Huffington just to name a few.

Here are ten of the key lessons from the book that every woman should know:

1) Know your “value:” What you contribute and how much that is worth in the market.

My heart broke for Brzezinski when she describes how it felt to finally sign a contract with MSNBC only to realize that both of her co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist made significantly more money than she did. Not only that, but they were assigned specifically to Morning Joe, whereas she was required to do the show and other assignments for the network. This very painful realization finally forced her to objectively and dispassionately research how much she was worth in the market and learn how to be compensated fairly.

2) Don’t wait to be noticed. Walk in and ask for what you want…because that’s what all of the guys are doing, constantly. (Click here to go to Forbes.com for more)

3 Work-Life Assumptions That Are Often Wrong (and Costly)

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Over the last two decades, work and life have transformed so radically that the language we use (e.g. “balance) and the beliefs we hold about the decisions we “should” or “can” make are often out of date.

Here are three examples of work-life assumptions that are frequently wrong…and costly:

Wrong Assumption #1: When a woman has a baby, she will want to work part-time (or not at all), and won’t want to take on more responsibility or travel. Unfortunately, some leaders, managers and colleagues of women in the workplace still make this assumption.

This bias is based on beliefs that continue to influence behavior, even though they no longer broadly apply. For example, Gayle Lemmon recently wrote an article in The Atlantic about research that showed some men in traditional marriages still unconsciously overlook women in the workplace for promotion, etc. because of their assumptions about women and the role they play. In reality, only 29% of children have a stay-at-home parent. The rest either live in a single parent home or both parents work for pay.

  • Why it’s costly: It costs women in that it reinforces the well-documented “motherhood penalty” that affects their career advancement and earnings. It’s costly to employers because the business doesn’t have access to or develop the talent of some of its best employees.
  • Assumption Update: Don’t assume. Discuss preferences which each individual woman. After having a child, some women will want or have to work full-time. They’ll be happy to travel and welcome additional responsibilities. And even if they don’t, women who choose to scale back their career may want to only for a certain period of time. Not forever.

Wrong Assumption #2: Men don’t care about work-life issues. This is an extension of the previous inaccurate assumption. The bias is that work-life is a women’s issue, or more specifically, a mothers’ issue.

From my experience working inside companies, most men care quite a bit about how they manage their lives on and off the job and want to be invited into the conversation. In fact, research shows that men in dual-earner couples are experiencing more work+life conflict than women.

  • Why it’s costly: It costs men because they don’t feel that they have permission to get the support and flexibility they need to manage their work and life better and smarter. Employers lose the productivity and engagement from unnecessarily stressed and overwhelmed men.
  • Assumption Update: We all need to manage our work+life fit everyday if we want to see our friends and family, stay healthy, etc. That includes men and women. And all of us will experience major life transitions that will require a more formal reset of our work+life fit, whether it’s becoming a parent, caring for an aging relative, relocating with a spouse, going back to school or semi-retiring.

Wrong Assumption #3: You can’t have a life and start a successful business. Whether it’s Steve Jobs’ complete devotion to Apple at the expense of time with his family, or Tony Hsieh’s expectation that Zappos employees spend 10-20% of their time outside of work with each other, the assumed gold standard of successful entrepreneurship is 100% work to the exclusion of everything else.

  • Why it’s costly: It scares off many women and men with great business ideas but want to tuck their kids in on occassion and maintain a relationship beyond the people at work. The economy as a whole loses because jobs that are badly needed are not created. It costs potential entrepreneurs, especially women, because they don’t have access to as much capital to grow their businesses.
  • Assumption Update: No one will ever have “balance,” but you can grow a successful business and still have some life outside of work. There are plenty of examples of people doing it and doing it well. This includes the mothers leading successful entrepreneurial ventures who were featured in a recent New York Times article written by Hannah Seligson. Is it hard work? Yes. Can it be done? Yes.

The answer is to assume nothing when it comes to how we want and need to manage our lives on and off the job in a busy, flexible, hectic modern world. Not only are our assumptions often wrong, but they can be costly to both the individual and the business. Instead let’s keep talking to each other. Learn the facts and come up with unique answers that meet our personal needs and the needs of our jobs.

What are the incorrect assumptions that you see people making about work and life? What’s the cost and how can we update those beliefs to match today’s reality?

For more, be sure to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost.

3 Reasons Why Card-Carrying Capitalists Should Support Paid Family Leave

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In business school, we were taught that a solid strategy recognizes the exogenous (external) and endogenous (internal) challenges facing your business and addresses them. Employee child care and eldercare responsibilities are not only two major external business challenges, but they become internal issues the minute an employee walks in the door or signs onto his or her computer.

In the U.S., we pride ourselves on our capitalistic, profit-oriented savvy; therefore, given the growing magnitude of employee caregiving realities, you would assume that employers would support a clear, consistent uniform strategic response.  One that minimized business disruption and kept employees engaged and productive over the long-term. Unfortunately, the reality is the exact opposite.

Status of Paid Family Leave in the U.S.

Out of 178 countries worldwide, the United States is one of three that does not guarantee new mothers paid leave. The other two countries are Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. Nationwide, in March 2011, only 11% of the private sector workers and 17% of public sector workers reported having access to paid leave through their employer.

Only two states in the country, California and New Jersey, offer six weeks of paid family leave to men and women who are caregivers.  Even in the face of state budget challenges, both programs are healthy and successful. Unfortunately, the state leaves are not job-guaranteed which makes the time difficult to take. (New Jersey Paid Family Leave Fact Sheet / California Paid Family Leave Fact Sheet)

Yes, there are 12 weeks of job-guaranteed FMLA, but it is unpaid and employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt which eliminates a large percentage of workers.

In terms of private paid leave offered directly to employees by employers, 58% of mothers who gave birth and were offered leave by their employer received some form of maternity disability pay, but only 14% of men on paternity leave received any replacement income (2012 National Study of Employers). That means 42% of mothers and 86% of fathers with employer supported leave received no income at all.

A Brief History

Historically, a coalition of labor, women’s, child and health advocates have promoted paid family leave. They’ve emphasized the well-documented public health benefits, the peace of mind of employees, benefits for children and eldercare cost savings. While valuable and important, these rationales haven’t withstood the “job killer and “anti-business” arguments used by groups like the Chamber of Commerce to fight approval. (Note: at the end of the post, you will find new information that could indicate the Chamber’s position on caregiving as an important business challenge is evolving, at least in their organization.)

Why?

There are workplace and public policies that plan for time off and income replacement in case of illness or injury. There are 401Ks and social security for when you retire and can no longer work. Why isn’t there a coordinated, uniform workplace and public policy that offers time off and at least partial income replacement when people, inevitably, have babies or an aging parent needs care? Why?

I wanted the question “why” answered when I attended last month’s Paid Family Leave Forum at the Ford Foundation sponsored by the National Center for Children in Poverty, New York State Paid Leave Coalition and A Better Balance. What I learned reinforced my long-held belief that every card-carrying capitalist should support paid family leave public policy because:

  • Paid family leave acknowledges and addresses a reality that directly impacts every business and, therefore, should be planned for strategically, uniformly and deliberately;
  • Paid family leave is NOT a tax, but income replacement insurance program funded by employees at minimal cost and
  • We are paying for a cost for caregiving already, albeit indirectly and inefficiently.

But, First, Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Before we dig deeper into each of the reasons listed above, I have to establish my business credibility, or “cred.” Too often when someone tries to engage the business community on issues that they consider “soft” or societal in nature, the messenger is dismissed as “not understanding business.” This, in turn, dismisses the message. I’m a messenger who can’t be easily dismissed with that argument because I do “get” business.

I was a banker for seven years, specializing in lending to closely held companies and I graduated, with honors, from Columbia Business School. I can rock a balance sheet and cash flow statement with the best of them, and I’ve even been known to find a strange joy in deciphering the “story” within the notes at the back of an annual report. I am a flexible work strategy consultant who works inside of organizations regularly, and I believe that both people and the business must benefit if flexible work is going to succeed.

As advocates for paid family leave found in California, I am not alone. Many business people support a uniform, public policy to address this challenge, but their voices were drowned out by the groups lobbying against it.

3 Reasons Every Card-Carrying Capitalist Should Support Paid Family Leave

My knowledge of and respect for business is why I think every card-carrying, profit-oriented capitalist should support paid family leave policy (or at least not stand in its way):

Reason #1: Paid Family Leave acknowledges and addresses a reality that directly impacts every business and, therefore, should be planned for strategically and deliberately.

The truth is that we are all potential caregivers. We may not end up having children, but all of us have parents and aging relatives who will very likely at some point require care.

Most mothers and fathers have to work and will be in the workforce when they have children. According to studies by the Center for American Progress, “in 2010, among families with children, 49% were headed by two working parents and 26% by single parents.” In 2009, employed wives of dual-earner families contributed 47% of total family earnings. In most cases, the income of both parents is critical to a family’s financial well-being.

With regard to eldercare, in 2010, 45% of employees surveyed said they had eldercare responsibilities over the past five years, and 49% expect to have responsibilities in the next five years. As the population ages, the eldercare challenges are expected to grow and many of those caregivers—men and women–will be in the workforce.

Paid family leave as public policy acknowledges the reality of caregiving by creating a uniform, clear response. Disruption is minimized because everyone knows the rules of the road. Business can plan in advance how the work will get done should an employee take leave for the prescribed six week period of time. This is especially true for maternity leave where, usually, you have months to plan. For example, perhaps the business can use the wages not paid to the employee on leave to hire a temporary worker, or to pay exist staff to take on the extra work during the leave.

It’s worth noting that a follow-up study of employers in California found that a majority felt paid family leave had either a positive or neutral impact on their business.

Reason #2: In the case of California and New Jersey, Paid Family Leave is NOT a tax, but an income replacement insurance program funded by employees.  In fact, some advocates feel a more accurate name is Family Leave Insurance. (Click HERE to go to Forbes.com for more)

Focus on “How” Not the “Why” for Flexible Work Success

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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)

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