Do you love your job?

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by Katrina on March 17, 2015

It’s easy to find examples of what companies are doing wrong—micromanaging employees, burning out workers, stifling innovation, the list goes on . . .

But now I’m looking for examples of what companies are doing right.

I’m setting up short (30 min.) phone interviews with managers at companies that

  • Foster innovation and creativity
  • Make employees happy and engaged
  • Use specific methods or management “hacks” to improve collaboration, motivation, and morale

This is all part of a project I’m involved with at my new job. (Yes, after years of being happily self-employed, I recently decided to take a full-time job. More on that in a separate post.)

To nominate your company, just leave a comment at the end of this blog post saying what you love about your workplace. Be as specific as possible. I’ll follow up with you via email to arrange a phone interview if I think your company is a good fit.

Here of the kinds of questions I’m asking managers:

  • Tell me a little about what it’s like working at your company?
  • How are management practices different from other companies where you’ve worked?
  • What methods have you used to get people collaborating across functions? Across locations?
  • In many companies, employees feel removed from the needs of the end-customer. What things do you do to foster empathy for the customer within the company?
  • Do you have any specific management “hacks” you find effective at improving collaboration, motivation, or morale?

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Funny Feminists

by Katrina on February 23, 2015

Funny 2-min scene from Portlandia to get your Monday off to a good start. An all-male group sets out to “fix feminism.” (Hat/tip to my buddy, Sean.)

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In other news…

We have 5 winners for “The Sweet Spot” book giveaway (Erin, Anna, Heidi, Angela, and Champagne). If you didn’t get an email from me, I guess that means it’s time to buy the book.

I’m speaking at Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley conference tomorrow in Santa Clara. If you are attending the conference, come say hi! Our session is at 10:00 am and I’m doing a book signing directly after in the exhibit hall/book store area.

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Book giveaway: “The Sweet Spot”

by Katrina on January 20, 2015

* We’re giving away 5 copies of Christine Carter’s new book, The Sweet Spot. *
* Enter to win by leaving a comment at the end of this blog post. *

the sweet spotWhen we don’t have the support we need from family, coworkers, and friends, (and policymakers), trying to work and raise kids can be impossible. But when we do have the support we need . . . it can still feel really hard.

That’s where Christine Carter’s new book—just released today!—comes in. What I love about The Sweet Spot is that it goes beyond the superficial self-help that seems to permeate women’s magazines, and focuses on research-based strategies that have been proven to help people live a happier life. Here’s the book description:

Learn how to achieve more by doing less! Live in that zone you’ve glimpsed but can’t seem to hold onto—the sweet spot where you have the greatest strength, but also the greatest ease.

Not long ago, Christine Carter, a happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and a speaker, writer, and mother, found herself exasperated by the busyness of modern life: too many conflicting obligations and not enough time, energy, or patience to get everything done. She tried all the standard techniques—prioritizing, multi-tasking, delegating, even napping—but none really worked. Determined to create a less stressful life for herself—without giving up her hard-won career success or happiness at home—she road-tested every research-based tactic that promised to bring more ease into her life. Drawing on her vast knowledge of the latest research related to happiness, productivity, and elite performance, she followed every strategy that promised to give her more energy—or that could make her more efficient, creative, or intelligent.

Her trials and errors are our reward. In The Sweet Spot, Carter shares the combination of practices that transformed her life from overwhelmed and exhausting to joyful, relaxed, and productive. From instituting daily “micro-habits” that save time to bigger picture shifts that convert stress into productive and creative energy, The Sweet Spot shows us how to:

  • say “no” strategically and when to say “yes” with abandon
  • make decisions about routine things once so that we can free our minds to focus on higher priorities
  • stop multitasking and gain efficiency
  • “take recess” in sync with the brain’s need for rest
  • use technology in ways that bolster—instead of sap—energy
  • increase our ratio of positive to negative emotions

Complete with practical “easiest thing” tips for instant relief, as well as stories from Carter’s own experience of putting The Sweet Spot into action, this timely and inspiring book will inoculate you against “The Overwhelm,” letting you in on the possibilities for joy and freedom that come when you stop trying to do everything right—and start doing the right things.

How to Enter

We have five free copies to give away. To enter to win, just leave a comment at the end of this post between now and February 1, 2015. Tell us one habit you’d like to change, or why you need the book, or what you ate for breakfast. Make sure you include an email address where I can reach you. (Your email will not be published, only I will see it.)

I will select five winners (using random.org) and contact you in early Feb. to find out where to send your prize.

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My New Year’s Resolution

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by Katrina on January 8, 2015

Every New Year’s Eve, after the kids go to bed, Brian and I read to each other from our journals. We’ve been doing this for 13 years. It’s a way of reflecting on the past year, and thinking about what we want to do in the year ahead. (I know what you’re thinking. Your husband keeps a journal? Yup…he’s cool like that.)

Our annual ritual was cut short this year. We have teenagers now, and they go to bed late, (and we’re old, and we don’t want to stay up until midnight) but we read enough to see that 2014 was a really great year for us…

We took our first family vacation out of the country, to Costa Rica. The kids successfully transitioned schools (Ruby started middle school, Martha started high school). Brian really focused on his health this year; he lost so much weight that for a while he looked like he was playing dress-up with his dad’s clothes. Clown pants. Nothing fit, and by the end of the year he had to buy a new wardrobe.

I worked a lot in 2014, but somehow I managed to speak at 20 conferences and other events about Maxed Out. And I received my first royalty check. For a first-time author, this was huge. It means sales were strong enough to earn out my advance and it will be infinitely easier to get a publisher for the next book, (when I’m ready to write it).

We have so much to be thankful for. My only complaint is that it went by WAY TOO FAST. My life is exactly what I want it to be, and yet, I have this nagging feeling that I’m not doing it right. I should be enjoying it more. Savoring it. These are the salad days. I should be eating the salad.

I hear this complaint from other other women—but especially self-employed women—a lot. We love the autonomy, the freedom of being our own boss, and yet, we find ourselves moving too fast, pushing too hard, working too much, never slowing down.

So here’s my New Year’s resolution for 2015: Meditate 5 minutes a day.

That’s it. It’s simple, specific, and achievable—all qualities I admire in a New Year’s resolution. I can do more that 5 minutes of course, but the goal is to get at least 5 minutes, every single day, as a way of slowing down, and savoring what’s here.

And because I work in high-tech, I have found an app for that: Buddify. (Actually, my friend, Kat, found it and told me to download it. Thanks, Kat!)

What about you? Did you keep last year’s resolution? Do you have one for 2015?

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Solicited Advice

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by Katrina on October 7, 2014

You guys! I need your help.

Can you answer one question to help to me prepare for a conference I’m speaking at next week? Here’s the question:

What is the single best piece of advice you’ve received on balancing work and family?

Please leave your answer in the comments below. (Or you can tweet it to me at @kalcorn or leave your comment on my Facebook page.)

Why I’m asking you this

Months ago I was invited to speak on a panel for a series of three conferences called The Conferences for Women—together they’re the biggest women’s conference in the country, reaching more than 23,000 attendees. It was a great honor to get this invitation—keynote speakers include Hillary Clinton, Diane Keaton, and Robin Roberts. The first conference, which is sold out, will take place next week in Philadelphia.

Our session is called “Survival Strategies in a “Lean In” World: Real People, Real Stories, Real Solutions” and it’s supposed to focus on tips for managing the day-to-day chaos of life.

I was looking forward to just showing up and answering questions under the expert guidance of Lisa Belkin . . . until I found out yesterday that she had to cancel due to a work conflict. And guess who they’d like to take her place as the “thought leader” (and moderator) for our panel? No, not Hillary Clinton. Me!

Now, some of you may note (as I have) that I wrote a book about how I FAILED to balance work and family and yet, I keep getting asked to speak about . . . how to balance work and family. And if you’ve read my book or followed my blog, you already know that I had my own little library of self-help books and I even followed much of the advice, but in the end it wasn’t enough for me. What helped the most was quitting my job and going to work for myself. Which is a real story, but not a real solution.

While the other esteemed panelists are sure to have some great answers, I’d like to be extra prepared by crowd-sourcing some advice here.

What has worked for you? Any and all stories or advice are welcome. The more specific the better.

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I’m not doing a lot of writing right at the moment (yes, the blog has been extra quiet), but I am doing a lot of speaking. If you can make it to one of these events, please come say “hi.”

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Update 10/7: BLOG IS HAVING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. (Argh!) We’re trying to fix it now, but in the meantime, if you aren’t able to leave a comment here, you can leave it on my FB page or try again later. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Blog comments should be working now, thanks to Kenny at fittedwebdesign.com. (That is a shameless plug for Kenny’s IT services. He’s the best.) Phew!

 

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My Boss

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by Katrina on July 31, 2014

Like most people of my Generation (GenX), I’ve had a lot of different jobs.

In high school I worked as a babysitter, a housecleaner, and a box office ticket taker for a local theater. In college I waitressed at Denny’s to earn tuition money. When I spent a year abroad, I earned my keep as an English language teacher in Chile.

After college, I held jobs as a union organizer, a freelance writer, and a media specialist for a health care reform campaign. When the campaign ran out of money, I joined the fundraising team. Eventually I went to grad school, became a journalist, soon became disenchanted with the state of journalism . . . and decided to remake myself as an Internet professional, a field where lasting six months at a job makes you one of the old-timers.

According to my most recent count, I’ve had more than 25 jobs in all. As you can imagine, having all these jobs means I’ve also had a lot of bosses, good and bad.

There was the owner of the pub where I worked as a cocktail waitress, who shamed me in front of the cooks about my wine-pouring technique (or lack thereof). There was the marketing guy who bought me my very own fax machine (this was cutting edge technology in 1991) so I could work for him as a copywriter from my dorm room in college. (This seemed like a magnanimous gesture to me at the time, but now I see it was a way to hang on to cheap labor.)

There was the guy who ran the video production house in San Francisco where I thought I was being hired to work on industrial shoots and learn to operate a Betacam, but instead spent most of my working hours dubbing porn (making VHS copies) for customers. There was the startup founder at my first Internet job who hired a masseuse to rub our sore shoulders because we were exhausted from working 12-hour days.

And there was the boss I wrote about in Maxed Out who, despite our occasional differences, was a true mentor. She gave me some wonderful professional opportunities and encouraged me to try new things, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

But all those different managers just make me appreciate the boss I have today. She encourages me to work on projects I care about, and she gives me all the flexibility I need to have a family, a life, and a career. She’s the best boss I’ve ever had. I wish everyone could have a boss like her.

Read all about her in my column, published today on MarketWatch: 7 Reasons I Love My Boss.

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Making Work Work: Sliced Bread Design

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by Katrina on June 23, 2014

About six years ago, while I was busy “maxing out” at my full-time job in San Francisco, a friend of mine started freelancing for a company that sounded like a working mom nirvana.

It was a small web design firm in Silicon Valley called Sliced Bread. The owners (Julie Stanford and Ellen Siminoff) were good friends who had bought houses next door to each other. They set up a large shared office in the downstairs of Julie’s house, and because they had kids about the same age, they decided to share a nanny. Employees came into the office two days a week. The other days people could choose to come in or work from home.

A couple people at the company had babies at the time, and my friend said when she was on conference calls with coworkers, it wasn’t unusual to hear the dull groan of a breast pump in the background. No one thought this was weird. Everyone was just focused on doing great work, and doing it efficiently so they could enjoy their lives.

A few years later, after I left my job, I did a freelance project for Sliced Bread and it was just as my friend had described. (If they weren’t a 90-minute drive from my house, I would work with them more often.)

Since then, I’ve kept in touch with Julie, and I was really happy when she agreed to let me profile her business here on the blog. As you’ll see, she and her business partner have not been afraid to break social norms when they had a good reason to, and their business is thriving. What follows is edited version of our conversation:

Julie Stanford

Julie Stanford, co-owner of Sliced Bread, a web design firm in Silicon Valley.

 

Me: What made you decide to start your own business?

Julie: True story—13 years ago I was working for a startup that decided to let one of the designers on a two-person design team go. But instead of just deciding which designer to let go, they told each designer a different fictitious story about what was going to happen next at the company in the hopes that one designer would decide to stay on her own (because the future was so appealing) and the other would decide to leave on her own (because the future seemed so terrible).

This plot could have worked except for the fact that the two designers were good friends and realized they were being played. The designer who was supposed to stay quit, and the designer who was supposed to leave stayed around for a few more months being annoying. Then she quit, too.

You’ve probably figured out by now that I was one of these designers and the other designer was my business partner, Ellen.

We decided we were never going to work for anyone else under any circumstances.

Me: How did you and Ellen know you would be good business partners?

Julie: Ellen and I became great friends when we worked at the startup; it was through her that I met my husband—they were housemates at the time. Ellen and I always dreamed about having an agency together and when the crazy shenanigans at our startup happened, we were happy to leave and start Sliced Bread.

Me: Was it intentional that you bought houses next door to each other, or was that just luck? read full story

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The talk I gave at TEDx Monterey in April is now available online! “Maxed Out: Changing the Conversation About Women and Work.”

If you like it, please share it.

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I’ve written before about why I believe results-only work environments (ROWE) have the potential to transform the workplace for the better, not just for moms and dads, but for anyone who wants to be great at their job and still have a life. Now I’m excited to announce that the folks at ROWE have a new training series to make it easier for all kinds of companies—small and large—to get in on the action.

But first, for those of you who have never heard of ROWE, a quick recap:

ROWE is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, rather than arbitrary measures like the amount of time they spend at the office. Employees are empowered to make their jobs compatible with their lives, which is not only great for their health, it’s also great for business. Companies like Gap Inc. report that productivity and morale go way up after they become a ROWE.

Here’s what people who have been through ROWE training have to say about it:

If I sound like a zealot, it’s because I am.* Although I’ve never officially worked in a ROWE, as a happily self-employed person, I feel like I’ve created my own unofficial ROWE.

I’m 100% accountable to my clients which means I’m judged 100% on the quality of my work. No one is checking to see when I’m at a desk. I don’t attend meetings that waste my time. I do most of my work from home, but I prioritize in-person meetings when I’m brainstorming with a team (even if that means flying to Texas, as I’ve been doing a lot recently), because that’s usually the most effective way to get that kind of work done.

Yes, I sometimes work nights and weekends when I have to meet a deadline, but I’m just as likely to go to the gym in the middle of the day, or meet a friend for lunch, or pick up my kids early when work is slower.

Having this autonomy has made an enormous difference in my life. It’s changed me from being a maxed out mom to feeling like I can thrive in my career and in my personal life.

Obviously, not everyone is in a position to start their own business, but all businesses would benefit from creating a work culture that values people. Which is why I was so excited to see that Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, the masterminds behind ROWE, have created a do-it-yourself system for people who want to transform their workplaces into results-only environments.

Learn more about the Do-It-Yourself ROWE online training here.

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Full disclosure: I’ve recently become a ROWE affiliate, which means I make a small fee when someone clicks the link on this site and then signs up for the training program. But the fact is, I would do this for free because I believe in the concept and the women behind it. Every single day I get emails from PR people asking if I’ll accept advertising on my blog. 99.9% of the time I ignore them because the products don’t interest me, and anyway, I didn’t start this blog to make money, I started it to share ideas. But when I was invited to become a ROWE affiliate, I gladly accepted. I hope it will be a tool that helps you create the kind of workplace you deserve.

Update July 29, 2014: I’ve been doing more freelance writing (for pay) and in order to avoid a conflict of interest, I’m no longer going to be a ROWE affiliate. This way, I can write about ROWE for newspapers and magazines, I just won’t get paid if you sign up. Which is fine—I’m more interested in getting the word out than making money off of ROWE. Now go sign up!

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Mother’s Day Sale! $1 for ebook (+ TEDx)

by Katrina on May 2, 2014

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$1 for the ebook

For a limited time, my publisher is offering eight ebooks for moms (including Maxed Out) for $1 each. Buy one for yourself, and send another to a mother you love. Or buy a round of copies for everyone in your book club.

Get the Maxed Out ebook here: Kobo | iBooks | Amazon | Barnes & Noble (Nook)

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In other news…I gave a 15-minute talk at TEDx Monterey last week called “Maxed Out: Changing the Conversation About Women and Work.” (Thanks to everyone who answered my questions on Facebook about the title!)

I know that doesn’t sound very long—15 minutes—but one of the things that makes the TED talks unique is that everyone speaks without notes, so when you’re up there, 15 minutes feels like a lot of stuff to remember.

The talk went really well (as in, I didn’t blank out or lose my place, which is what I was afraid of), but I was taken aback by how emotional the whole experience was. It’s not like it was the first time I told this story or talked about the issue. I’ve done a bunch of book-related speaking events, and I’ve been interviewed a gazillion times since the fall. And yet…I found myself getting choked up a couple times while on the stage. (Hopefully you can’t tell.)

Later I talked about this with Amy Benson, who gave a beautiful talk about her upcoming film (“The Girl Who Knew Too Much”). We both agreed that there is something uniquely vulnerable about talking to a packed auditorium about something you care about, with NO PODIUM to hide behind. It’s the no podium thing that gets you. It’s less like giving a lecture, more like bearing witness at a church revival.

I’ll share the video as soon as it’s live—should be sometime this month.

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TEDx Monterey 2014 audience

 

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