Friday, November 7, 2008

Yesterday is gone and other hard learned lessons from a new manager

I should have posted this blog yesterday. That tops the list of things I should have done yesterday but now, yesterday is gone. This is the most important lesson I've learned as a new manager. I am definitely not new to this whole "stuffesional" thing. I started babysitting after school and on weekends when I was 15 years old. My next job was teaching ballet and acrobatics at 17 years old and I worked full-time during undergrad. However, I had never managed people until now. I was always responsible for me and me alone. My time, my work, my studies and stress load, my family - just me.

A few months ago I was promoted to management. Rather ironically, I manage a team of seven working professionals who are all currently in graduate school. Yesterday, one of my best but most defiant employees got mad, screamed at me, quit his job and walked that order. I was shocked. I was embarassed. I felt like a failure. It left me scrambling to redistribute his work load and rearrange the schedule. While I can never get that time back, it is important to take a step backward sometimes to reflect and learn lessons that can make me a better manager in the future. I have learned a lot of difficult lessons as a new manager and I will share a few of them with you now.

  1. Your employees are not your friends - never try to be buddies

  2. If an employee is disrespecting your authority, look closely at the situation and nip it in the bud quickly but don't ignore it

  3. New managers should always take advantage of continuing education training available to them to aid them in making the transition - don't put it off because you are busy. Just do it!

  4. Look into the possibility of promoting one of your employees to a "team leader" position and delegate some authority to that person

  5. Do the job your employees do and do it often

  6. Let them give peer feedback - ask them questions and listen carefully to their suggestions

  7. Take an hour each day and close your door to employees; this time is for scheduling and managing your own work load

  8. Keep a spreadsheet tracking employee progress by date (i.e. Sally was late on Tuesday but volunteered to take on an extra assignment on Thursday)

- Anna

Anna Rabinowitz is a public relations and information manager for George Mason University's Graduate and Professional Schools at the Arlington Campus. She has held communication and marketing positions for a United States Senator and Holland & Knight LLP. A native Floridian, Anna enjoys studying international espionage, farmer's markets and spending time with her husband of two years, Steven.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

You call this balance, what balance?

When driving half asleep to work this morning, it didn't occur to me that I could really take some time off and get over my lack of sleep from watching the elections. After working more than fifty hours each week, as well as enduring an eighty minute commute each day, being burned out is inevitable - but you see, my work has something we call 'Alternate Work Schedule'(AWS), meaning, you rest every other Friday. Some people take advantage of this, while others see it as an opportunity to close their office doors and continue where they left off without interruption. This proves true of a study that says sixty-four percent of workers feel that their work pressures are 'self-inflicted'. True? Yup!

The big 'Bank' has a work-life balance as a mandate, staff are also encouraged to go to school if they want to - so at the end of the day, I say to myself, "I earned my share of stress today, I worked very hard for it, and no one, no one, is going to take it away from me', ha ha.


Umou is from Sierra Leone, West Africa. She comes from a family of 34 brothers and sisters. She drew her calmness out of the madness of growing up with a huge family.

Earning her BA from Marymount University, she currently works at the External Affairs Communication Unit at the World Bank. She is with the training team which manages the 'strategic communication' trainings at the Bank.

She earned her BA from Marymout University.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

That One Thing and Having a Cow: Work/Life Balance Advice from the Mayo Clinic, Oprah and Stephen Covey

Last month Senator Barack Obama suspended his campaign to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii, and with the news of her passing on Monday, one may presume the purpose of the trip was to say goodbye.

The decision to put family first tipped Obama’s work/life scales in one direction. His was a dilemma in the extreme, but the principle is one that stufessionals struggle with every day: how to maintain equilibrium. They fight to keep the peace in their personal and professional relationships, but is it wasted effort?

The work/life challenge is a balancing act, a constant state of checking and correcting. Stufessionals like Shrita and Jared
work 11 hour days and then devote entire weekends to class and studying. How does one keep it all together? The experts tell us to prioritize, lean on others and keep to a schedule.

Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People,”
says simplicity is the key to prioritizing. He is not alone in that thought. Wise old Curly, as played by Jack Palance in the 1991 motion picture “City Slickers,” opined that the secret of life is finding “just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [anything].” He was talking to Billy Crystal’s character Mitch, who by the end of the movie finds the “one thing” in his wife, children and the new family pet, a baby cow. Adding livestock to the family lineup may not be the answer for everyone, but identifying the priority in one’s life brings focus and balance.

The Mayo Clinic and WebMD via agree on the importance of
leaning on others for help. Stufessionals can find assistance on the small scale by enlisting friends to babysit during study sessions, or on a larger scale by accessing their Employer’s Assistance Program (EAP), which provides limited, free confidential counseling sessions. Asking for help is not a sign of instability, but rather a way to use all resources at hand, just as one would utilize multiple media for a research project.

Keeping a schedule is also important to work/life balance. The Mayo Clinic suggests
doing housework and running errands on weekdays so the weekends are free for hobbies or spending time with family. Stufessionals do not have a lot of leisure time, so there is great value in running a load of laundry every day so Friday night can be spent relaxing.

Stufessionals should heed the advice of the experts. It is not possible, nor necessary, to be a superwoman or superman and attempt to do it all. When they identify priorities, ask for help from all available resources and make time to take time, stufessionals can succeed, with or without a pet cow.


[Susan has produced over 120 events and meetings in five years, from executive summits and VIP receptions to fundraising golf tournaments and galas. Susan balances her studies with a full time job, volunteer board positions for the International Special Events Society and Starlight Midatlantic, brilliant and adorable niece and nephew, running ten milers and the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.]

Monday, November 3, 2008

Everything and Nothing Is Balance

A daughter, an aunt, a sister, a niece, a mentor, a sorority member, a communications director, a cousin, a graduate student, a teammate, a friend, a best-friend, a girlfriend; did I mention that I was a friend? With all of the roles that I play at any given moment, it is a wonder that I have time to do anything for myself – let alone pursue graduate education. My 11 hours-per-day job that combines crisis or emergency with every new task keeps me up at night, as I often contemplate my “to do’s” or a strategic way of handling “the new, most important thing.” Needless to say, sleep is a luxury in my life as a Stufessional. Everything is spinning at a dizzying pace to the point where, at times, I get off the meandering merry-go-round to do my favorite thing: nothing. That is how I rest; that is one of the ways that I achieve balance.

For me and probably for many Stufessionals, we are operating within the paradigm of great extremes: doing everything all at once. The foremost goal – and converse – for me is to strive for instances when I can do absolutely nothing. I find it cathartic and restoring. When I am doing nothing, I am actually doing something, just not a “to do.” In my “nothing” moments, I am chatting over coffee with my mother or catching up with one of my girlfriends. I could be giving myself a pedicure or sharing a laugh with my boyfriend. The point is to relax my mind, spirit and body.

It is not always easy to get to the point, where I can do “nothing.” In fact, it can be very hard when I have reporters calling me all day about a controversial vote, research to conduct, a press statement to prepare, assignments to complete for class, and errands to run for my mother – all due by the end of the day. During these stress-filled days, I pray for strength and endurance; then, I prioritize and give it my most concerted effort. I am usually content with the results of my labor; however, there are times when only more hours in the day or a total neglect of the ones I love would enable me to complete the “to do” list. The latter is not an option.

Having endured some challenges that would have caused many to quit and victories that are forever etched in my heart, the one thing that remains constant is the support of my loved ones. I am strengthened to drive through the competing deadlines, past sleep deprivation, and against adversity because I have a level of balance, which is wrapped in the support of my loved ones. I realized a few years back that there is no accomplishment or task more important than the people I hold dear. Remembering that principle helps me to consider the time and forces me to make time to do “nothing” with them or with myself. The result is peace and appreciation for the blessings in my life – the ultimate balance.

- Shrita

[With a 13 year career in political and nonprofit community relations, Shrita has organized grassroots lobbying efforts, implemented numerous social service programs, and worked on local, state and federal political campaigns. She currently works as the Communications Director for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.]

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday is "Funday"

Ah, Sunday.  Sunlight through my bedroom windows awaken me.  I stroll into the kitchen in my embroidered robe, fix a cup of tea, and ease into the couch cushions.  I reflect on my accomplishments of the passed week and, before musing about the days ahead, I focus on the next dozen plus hours.  Perhaps I'll share a nice brunch with friends, catch a movie, and zone out before a televised football game.  Yes, Sunday is Funday - an entire day devoted to the carefree exploits of yours truly.  

I wish this image were true.  In some ways I'm the odd gunslinger out of we seven stufessionals. I do not carry one full-time job from Monday to Friday, tally hours in class on Saturday, and reserve Sunday to myself.  Rather, I work several jobs every day of the week in an archaic, sleep-bamboozled schedule that keeps my head above water and arse in the classroom.

On a typical Sunday, I wake late and groggy from working the previous evening in a wine bar after a full day in class.  Yes, you are correct, I go to school from 9 a.m.-5 p.m each Saturday then work from 6:30 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Sunday finds me restoring my body through rest and infusing my brain with knowledge through study.  I am not at the dispense of whim.  I am a student who supports himself by working 40 plus hours a week.  I take what free time I can to craft quality work.

I am committed to personal and professional growth.  To accomplish this I must sacrifice a large portion of my Sunday.  I may take a cup of tea from my spot on the couch, but once that cup is empty, I've got work to do. 

- Jared

[Jared Macary supported and led communication outreach campaigns in urban and rural Togo, West Africa from 2004-2007.  As a current Master of Arts Public Communication candidate at American University in Washington, DC, Jared continues to strengthen strategic and tactical programming]

A Stu-what?

First off, it’s pronounced stew-FESH-ahn-ul. It’s a mix of the words student and professional, which is what we (the seven bloggers) all are.

We define a stufessional as any one individual of the relatively small community who are both full-time employed and engaged in the pursuit of higher education.

As stufessionals, we face several challenges; some unique to us, some more common. Here’s just a sampling of some of the hurdles we face:
• Time – Try to find time to work late, study, hang with the family and exercise. I dare you.
• Money – This education thing ain’t cheap.
• Health – Mental and physical. Stress can do amazing things to the human body.
• Family and Friends – We are social animals after all.

Of course there are many more to cover. That’s the point of this blog. We’ll talk about these issues and more as they pertain to us, the stufessionals.

We want to hear from you! Do you think you’re a stufessional? What challenges are you facing? How do you address those challenges? Do you live with, work with, or hang out with a stufessional?

- Jim

[Jim is a stufessional currently balancing the Masters in Public Communication program at American University, full-time work as a director for a professional non-profit association, and family man with a wife and two kids. So there.]