How do we do it? How do we all keep up with the crazy pace in which we live our daily lives? Life seems busier and more jammed packed with more to-do’s than ever before. I find myself juggling work, family, friends, health, exercise, finances, kids’ activities, as well as the overload of digital media news that seems rather difficult to keep up with. Balancing and keeping all these plates spinning and rotating can be a challenge, to say the least. I tell my friends that I keep my life together with rubber bands and duct tape! (Not really, but it certainly can feel like it at times.) I have learned that I can’t do or be everything to everyone and I certainly have gotten better over the years with organization and priorities, but it still takes work to find some sort of balance in the fast-paced and demanding world we live in.
As a manager and leader, I try my best to offer my staff some sort of balance in juggling their work and personal lives. I often tell them to make sure they use their vacation time so they can enjoy a little downtime and relaxation. I believe it is important to have a break, get away from all the work stress, try to leave it back at the office and refresh your soul and mind. I also think it is so important to make sure your vacations are something fun and memorable that you love to do. So whether it is a beach, hiking, skiing, camping, sight-seeing, or safari, most importantly—it needs to be something that you are passionate about and will recharge those depleted batteries. A mentor of mine once told me that as a working mother you should always take two vacations a year with your kids. She advised me to make them a special, fun time and to take the opportunity to connect as a family. She also told me that to start planning your next one as a family at the end of your vacation. I have taken her advice and I highly recommend it to others! Unfortunately, I have fallen a little short this summer! Recently, I took out the calendar to plan my annual summer vacation, but ran into a bit of a challenge. The summer schedule is already so busy, plus I am a little late to the party and most of the good houses I normally rent are already booked.
This time of year is especially busy with the school year coming to an end, graduation ceremonies, end of year celebrations, start of summer, and then there’s vacations….Oh yes, vacations! So here it is, June, and I still haven’t planned my annual summer trip. For the last five years I have booked a house on Fire Island and invited family and a few friends to join me and my two children, Chase and Ashley. It is hands down my favorite week of the year. It is laid back, relaxing and there is no schedule other than to wake up and head to the beach for the day. The biggest decisions of the day are what kind of sandwich you want for lunch and if we eating in or out for dinner. If only life could be this simple all the time. Granted, I sometimes fall slave to a conference call or two, but I don’t even mind it that much because I am vacationing on one of my favorite places on earth. When I was a little girl, my parents would pack up my three sisters and I for a week or a few days where we would head to Fire Island on my grandfather’s old Chris Craft cabin cruiser. We didn’t take many vacations when I was younger, but these trips were definitely some of the highlights of my childhood. I have fabulous memories as a child of enjoying the beautiful beaches, swimming in the ocean with my dad and sisters, diving through the waves, building sand castles with moats, avoiding the occasional jelly fish or nasty green flies, and having ice cream every day. I guess as I became older, I wanted to share these incredible and precious memories with my own children. Life seemed so simple back then, which is probably why I feel Fire Island is a safe haven for me and my kids today. It gets me away from the stressful travel, job demands, demanding schedules and the constant overload of email, texting, phone and digital media that I feel obsessed to keep up with!
I actually thought that we might have to skip our annual trip, but then I started to think about missing my favorite week of the year. How could I deprive my kids and myself from enjoying what I work so hard to enjoy all year? Am I crazy? (Well, I am sure many people think I might be a little crazy, but I certainly don’t think so!) I am not going to let the summer of 2012 go by without doing what we love most. So, I am booking my week, inviting friends and family, and this year I am hoping for no distractions. I may even leave the laptop, ipad, iphone and all the work at the office. Heck…it is only a week and we all deserve some rest and relaxation. My friends and colleagues in Europe say they don’t understand how Americans don’t take their vacation or only take one week at a time. In Europe, they take 2–3 weeks at a time to rest and recharge themselves and connect with their families. Of course, we have a different culture in the U.S., but I think they are onto something! I guarantee we can clear our minds, recharge our batteries, and come back motivated to pick up where we left off. Sometimes we need to slow down or take a break from this fast pace we all run in and take some time to stop and smell the roses. I hope you and your families take some time to connect with one another, enjoy some downtime, play board games, talk and have the best summer possible! Remember, it is up to YOU to make it happen!
If “boss” isn’t in your desired career path, don’t fret — a boss’ life is not always an easy one. Here are some downsides to being “the boss”:
You may need to be the bad guy
Making unpopular decisions, giving critical feedback, telling people no, and even firing people is all part of the job when you’re the boss. This “boss” role requires a certain personality type, one that allows you to make and enforce tough decisions and deal with negative repercussions.
You may get the blame
When something — anything — goes wrong, whether it’s your fault or not, you will get the blame as a boss. Launching a bum product, making a poor decision, hiring the wrong person, etc. Even if a majority of the work or ideas came from employees, at the end of the day, only the boss is accountable for actions made on behalf of the company.
You’re always in the spotlight
Whether you like it or not, as a boss, you are a quasi-celebrity in the workplace. You may be a subject of gossip or ridicule, especially during times when you need to play the “bad guy,” as mentioned above. Even when feelings are positive in the workplace, the limelight is not for everyone — it can be distracting and quite frankly, it can get old.
This is not to say that being an executive doesn’t have it’s perks or that it’s a horrible place to be in your career, but simply pointing out that the role of “boss” is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Find out what is your cup of tea when it comes to your career, and go for it! Your career path is unique to you, and only you can pursue it — whether or not it ends in an executive corner office.
What do you want to be instead of the boss? What’s your ultimate career goal?
Whenever you get a group of people together there’s going to be chemistry, or lack thereof. Dynamics between individuals are made up of one’s personality, culture, upbringing – everything that makes you, you. The workplace is no exception. People have their own ideas, their own way of doing things, and in order to make it the best work environment it can be, learning to navigate the politics of the office is not only a lifelong skill that’s fundamental to a long-term career, it’s necessary for your own sanity.
Let alone being good at what your job actually is, you also need to master the office, its people, and their personalities. Getting bogged down in office drama, politics, and clicks can make or break a position. On May 17th, the Wall Street Journal put out a great article that took office personalities and placed them in a “meeting” situation to illustrate just how detrimental a disagreeable employee can be to a group’s goals, agendas, and participants. It is a great read and I encourage you to read the full WSJ write-up (we’re giving you the benefit of the doubt that you’re not one of those disagreeable employees who interrupt with jokes, or the naysayer who rejects every idea that someone comes up with).
Inspired by that article, here are a few pointers that I’ve picked up along the way when trying to avoid office politics:
- Don’t be a ‘Negative Nancy’
As the WSJ article points to, there’s a naysayer in nearly every dynamic – the person who, despite efforts made by others, appreciates nothing and disagrees with everything. They aren’t open to new ideas, they shoot down initiatives, and more likely than not, they don’t offer up solutions. They literally function to say “no.”Point Taken: Be open-minded to others’ points of view, and if you don’t agree with an idea, offer up an alternative.
- Rise Above
Nitpicking, overthinking, and stooping into the office muck will keep you just there – in the muck. Be the team member who doesn’t gossip about the company, management, or one another. This type of behavior will lead you nowhere. I promise. A great manager of mine once said, “there is always a place for a positive person in an organization”. Others gravitate towards that person and they make a workplace better. Be that person. Not only does it give you more job security, but you and everyone else around you will be happier for it.Point Taken: No drama-mamas get promoted.
- Lead by Fact, Not by Emotion
Be able to differentiate when you’re reacting with emotion, and when you need to take a step back, calm down, and then allow yourself to re-engage and address an issue. This critical step will save you from compulsive, irrational decisions. Leaders and those around you will appreciate level-headedness and the ability to act rationally. It is easy to get caught up in the emotions of people around you in a heated or controversial situation. The better person will be able to maintain composure as the heat is turned up.Point Taken: “Don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary feelings.”
- Empower people in making decisions
The WSJ also called attention to the “dominator.” This type of personality – not to be confused with a strong personality, which can be good when appropriately leveraged – causes belittling and bullying, and can be harmful not only to the organization at large, but also to those who they’re actually dominating. Listen openly and sanction second thoughts and new ideas – you’ll find that perhaps you don’t know it all and when others contribute it makes them feel empowered and tied into the goals and objectives of the organization.Point Taken: “Be wary of leaders who keep their followers in a state of continual dependence.” Be not a dictator, but someone who is empowering, endorsing, and helpful.
- Build Relationships
There are many types of personalities within a company – titled leadership, informal leaders, cheerleaders, detractors, etc. – learn to coordinate with all of them. The people who have been the most successful within an organization are those who learned, and at an early point, to be open-minded and approachable by everyone.Point Taken: The more universal you are, the more people will respect you, appreciate you, and want to promote you.
We don’t like to think it is, but the workplace is a lot like high school, or the sandbox in middle school, there’s a promoter, a go-getter, a bully, a prankster – and then there’s YOU. Be everyone’s friend and nobody’s best friend. Stay out of the drama because trust me; these types of politics are nothing you want to build a career around.