Pick a Face for Work

I learned early on that as a leader or manager, my team reacts to how I interact or don’t interact with them. No matter what is happening, I try to provide a consistent presence. I’ve been fortunate to work with a business coach, and early on he said to me, “Are you going to show up to work as a leader today?”

That resonated with me, and I took it to heart.

comedy_tragedyEach morning as I drive to work, I think about everything I need to do that day, realizing that there will be surprises. And no matter what my mood is, I think about how I’m going to show up for work. I can’t be ticked off one day and jovial the next – it’s confusing to my team.

I try to be as consistent as possible. Sometimes, though, when I have a large pile of work, I check in with my team and let them know I will be super focused but that I’m still available if they need me. I may not look up as often when they walk past my office, and I may not walk around as much. If I don’t let them know this, they may wonder what’s going on.

If I’m not feeling well – which, fortunately, is rare – I let them know in case I’m a bit grumpy.

I was reminded of it again when I overhead a colleague ask another colleague if she was annoyed at her. She wasn’t, but she was focused. Still, there was a perception problem.

How do you show up to work?

Lunches Fuel Networking Opportunities

Fork_KnifeLike many people, I frequently eat my lunch at my desk. I at least try to use that time to catch up on online reading. However, I am guaranteed at least two lunches outside the office each month.

It’s a professional goal I established for myself many years ago – namely, to connect with colleagues at my workplace and with colleagues within my profession. Each month I schedule lunch with a colleague where I work. It’s a time to take a break and to get to know each other better. We also usually share work-related information. One colleague, for example, has helped me develop a better understanding of the budget process. Another colleague and I discuss leadership and team building. Mainly it allows for the connecting to happen that often doesn’t in the office because we’ll all too busy.

I also connect with peers. It’s a great way to learn what others are doing. We share frustrations, and I find it’s always good to know I’m not alone. Even better, we work to find solutions. We also share best practices and bounce ideas around. I always return from these lunches reinvigorated.

Turns out this a great tool. In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says that social settings are a great way to reach out to colleagues and future contacts. Ferrazzi is founder and CEO of the training and consulting firm Ferrazzi Greenlight and a contributor to Inc., the Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review.

Some months I’m able to get a few extra lunches onto my schedule. And sometimes I find breakfast to be the perfect time to reconnect because it’s usually a shorter time since we’re both ready to get to the office and because it’s the start of the day, we usually have lots of ideas.

How do you connect?

Time To Schedule Time Off

Utah logo

NFPW Conferences feature tours, which make for great vacations.

Earlier this week I took a random day off. It wasn’t spontaneous because I scheduled it with my boss in advance, but it was random in that one day last week I realized I needed a day off to do nothing.

I’m able to do that because at the start of each calendar year I divide up my days off among the four quarters. I find it restorative to take some time off each quarter. Admittedly, I don’t take as many days in January, February and March because it’s just too cold. Some of the days are floaters, meaning I may change when I take them closer to the time.

The point, though, is to schedule the time off and to take the time. Many Americans, however, will leave an average of nine paid vacation days unused this year, according to a new survey reported by Marketplace.org.

Not taking the time has a cost. Marketplace.org also reports that women who don’t take vacations are two to eight times more likely to suffer from depression, while for men the risk of heart attack rises by a third.

One of my favorite times to vacation happens in late summer/early fall. I attend the National Federation of Press Women Conference and sign up for the pre- or post-tour and sometimes a day tour. Those extra days off give me time to recharge my batteries, explore America and hang out with a bunch of amazing women (and men).

If you haven’t, now is a good time to be sure you have scheduled all of your vacation days.

Staying Focused on Work-Life Balance

I don’t have to track my hours at work, but I do. If I suddenly see the hours creeping up, then I know that my work-life balance is out of order. Or, if I’m only working eight hours and I still feel overwhelmed, I take a look at all my extra activities, which includes volunteer work for several organizations. Sometimes, I simply have too many meetings after hours in the same week. If that’s the case, then that is not the week to schedule dinner with friends.

My need to balance is typical. A recent survey of more than 4,000 business executives conducted by Accenture found that work-life balance was the key factor for more than half of men and women in determining a successful career. It comes ahead of money, recognition and autonomy.

Tracking my hours each week is one way to keep my work-life balance in check. A few other tips include:

Scheduling time for projects: My calendar is filled with meetings. Also on the calendar are blocks of time dedicated to the major projects on which I’m working. If I don’t schedule those blocks of time, they quickly become filled with emails, invoices and people stopping by with other possible assignments. Scheduling time for projects keeps me focused on the critical items.

Just “Say No”: This one is tough for me, but on days when I have lots of meetings or time blocked for projects and someone asks me for five minutes, I ask if it can wait until a better time. Not only can I give the person my undivided attention at the later time, but I’m also able to stay on track.

Avoid Workplace Distractions: Sometimes it’s easy to become distracted by conversations. And when I don’t want to work on a project, I’m more likely to check emails or clean out file drawers. To avoid that, I’ll pop a CD into the computer or set the alarm on my phone for a set time. Then I work on the project for the length of the CD or until the alarm goes off. Even if I haven’t finished the project, I’ve at least made progress.

Let’s Do the Time Zone

One Sunday afternoon many years ago I called to order a pizza. I was told I would have to wait an hour because they weren’t open. “Weren’t open?” I thought incredulously. “It’s noon.” Then the person on the other end of the phone line reminded me that the clocks had fallen back an hour.


Imagine my challenge then working for an international organization and trying to schedule calls and keep time zones straight. I have two websites that I rely on to keep track of what in the world the time really is.

The first is www.timedial.net. What I like is the “Time Difference Calculator,” which is “for lazy people…who just want time conversions to be simple without having to do any in head calculations.” I simply enter the time for one location to find out the time in another.

Another great feature is a tool that displays the correct way to dial from one location to another. When I first had to place an international call, I couldn’t figure out all the numbers. For me just keeping area codes straight is a challenge. Now I also have to worry about things like country codes.

It turns out international dialing codes are split into three parts – IDD Prefix, Country Code and NDD Prefix. The IDD Prefix is the international dialing code part used to dial out to a foreign country. The Country Code – as the name implies – identifies the foreign country to connect to. The NDD Prefix is the dialing code part used when dialing a national number.

Now you know why I like to use a website to help me with my calls.

Another site I like is www.everytimezone.com. Of late I’ve been Skyping with multiple colleagues around the globe at one time. It’s hard to keep the times straight given that one person is in Japan. One is in Australia. Another is in Europe. I’m in the U.S. This website shows the time across all time zones. So now I know whether to see good morning, afternoon or evening depending on the time of the call. With one glance I know exactly the time and I don’t have to do any math calculations.

Now if I could just keep Daylight Savings Time straight.