Tag Archives: career

Whale Done!*

*Disclaimer: the tile of this post is copyrighted by the author Ken Blanchard. This post is a book review and the author of this post does not claim copyright or creative rights in the phrase “Whale Done!” 

copyright Ken Blanchard
copyright Ken Blanchard

My husband checked out a book at the library and I did not think much about it until he told me some of the concepts in it.  So, as an example, I would say “ugh, what are we going to do, our daughter is being very difficult.”  His reply, “well, we need accentuate the positive and redirect her energy. That is what I read in this book….”  Needless to say, after several more conversations about different scenarios like this, I felt I needed to read Whale Done!  This book is not just about positive relationships at work and home but daily life.  It can help improve just about all relationships.

This book by Ken Blanchard is a quick read and explores “the power of positive relationships.”  What does this mean?  What exactly is a positive relationship and how do you go about implementing it?  The key concepts of this book are to focus on the positive in all you do and in everyone you encounter.  This really struck a chord with me because that is my resolution for this year- being more positive, and trying to stay on a more positive track- at home, in my career (all the jobs I have), and with life in general.  This book is written based on the concept of management in line with the style of training the whales at Sea World.  It addresses the basic concepts those trainers employ, and applying them to human interaction. The biggest difference between whales and people: We have the advantage because we can talk to one another.  The basic concepts are the same: “Build trust, accentuate the positive, and when mistakes occur, redirect the energy.”  (Blanchard, p.19)

One of the concepts in the book is accentuating the positive and redirecting when someone is on the wrong track.  For example, every day at home if I yelled at my husband about the dishes, or making the kids’ lunches, or dinner, or picking up his clothes off his home, will he want to be home with me?  There is a good chance that he will want to come home late, stay at work late longer, or just not want to be at home at all.  Who could blame him?  I would not want constantly want to be berated after a long day at work either.  Anyway, it is about expressing positive things about each other, in front of the kids, and to one another.  Instead of saying “this is the wrong bread- you always buy the wrong bread,”  you might try, “wow, hon, thanks for getting the groceries again- you are so kind to do so but remember, this bread is too thick for me so I generally buy X brand.  I am not clear on which brand it is and I know I never told you so I will get it tomorrow and show you the labeling for next time.”  There are essentially four kinds of responses to almost all actions:  “No response, negative response, redirection, and positive response.” (Blanchard, p.30).  Sometimes, sharing in the responsibility on why someone did something “wrong” or incorrectly helps the situation.  Also, don’t accuse, put down, or blame the person.  This would also not be a good time to bring up past issues.  Focus on the thing that was done incorrectly and move on.  The no response one is interesting- it is just ignoring the action you wish to not be repeated and a response is not really warranted.  So, when the 6 year-old throws a fit, promptly moving her to her room without a word and ignoring her whining would be one example.

Some of the examples in the book are with teenage kids, but you can apply almost all the lessons to any age.  For younger kids, you want to catch them doing something right and recognize right away.  So, when they are being quiet and reading, doing puzzles, join in and hug them and say “wow, you guys are really doing great… can mommy play too?” My 4 year-old for example does not need much to know I am accentuating the positive.  When she puts her toys away, I give her a huge hug, high five and say “OH MY look at this great job – you put your toys away!  Wow!  High five and good job!” This and a hug will make them realize that they get attention for doing the right thing.  Now, conversely when she does not put her toys away, then what?  Well, perhaps the approach would be to redirect her to the time when she did it right, instead of yelling at her which is negative.  Constantly picking on the negative and only criticizing her when she is doing something wrong accentuates that behavior and after awhile, you are just a mouth piece and no one listens anymore.  Trust is lost and the relationship suffers.

Obviously with my daughter, I do need to talk with her and address the behaviors that I want corrected, so the better approach may be to say, “hey, let’s put these toys away together so we can find them when we want them again… yeah I will help you and show you where they go, so next time, you can do it all by yourself and earn a high five and a hug.”   This response also takes responsibility for showing her in case she did not know where to put the toys back.  All of these same principles apply at work too.

Here is an example.  My boss in one of my jobs this past weekend gave me my mid-term feedback, and it was super positive, and uplifting.  He followed the book without even knowing it by providing words of encouragement, words accentuating specific examples of all the things I am doing right in the job.  With that, he also gave me some things I needed to improve on but did it in a manner to say, “maybe we can both learn together because this is a new system.”  I got it.  The next day at the job, I learned that new system inside and out.   He had motivated me and energized me so much this past weekend, it spilled over into my life, and other job too.  And, he does it every weekend I work with him- he accentuates and points out positives right when he sees them instead of waiting for a feedback.  Until I read this book I did not even realize it.  I just know that despite it being work, and being away from family, this job energizes me.  As a result, I feel needed, and indispensable to the organization.  And it’s not just me, he does it for every person in our organization.  I am not even sure he has read this book but, wow!  What an attentive boss who catches his people doing things right and saying something about it.  Now, keep in mind that one method to accentuate the positive will not always work with everyone.  Each person speaks a different language, so Whale Done! talks about finding out what motivates each individual.  What motivates employee X to do better will not be the same factor that motivates employee Y.  One employee will react better to words of affirmation, while another may need monetary recognition, while another may need you to “show them” through your actions.  Also, remember to give people specific examples of what they are doing right so it does not appear you are just being manipulative.  So, say to your teenage daughter, “when you cleaned up your room and the loft without being asked to the other day… wow, thanks so much – you saved me time and really helped me out a lot- I REALLY appreciate that – why don’t I go ahead and take your chores for Friday so you can go out with your friends that evening.”

This book goes on to to state that the traditional work environment is one in which a boss generally says nothing when things are going right [ignores you] and only talks with you when something is wrong- i.e. criticizing you, or stating the negative.  How nice would it be to get feedback early and often – at the moment you are doing something RIGHT.   How nice would it be to hear from your boss on more than the occasions in which you are doing something he or she perceives to be “wrong.”  Anyway, this book calls that system the “GOTcha” system.  In this system, all people want to do is do their jobs and not be bothered because they are afraid every time their boss speaks to them they are doing something wrong.  Wow!  Tragic.  I am so lucky to not work (in any of my jobs) in an environment like that.  That would not be fun at all.

Is all this a bit touchy feely for you?  Well, yeah, this book was a bit of that too.  But, great especially as far as my personal life is concerned because it is so important to build a healthy relationship with your spouse, a partnership rooted in love and respect, rather than one rooted in fear, anger, and discord.  The chain reaction is that when kids see a healthy, positive relationship between the parents, they themselves feel more loved, respected, and model the same respect for others and each other.  Whether you want to apply this all aspects of your life or not, I think there is a lot of value in recognizing the positives all around you and in the people in your life.  Simple concepts of accentuating the positives, recognizing that progress is a moving target, and just recalling the principles from this book when you are about to fly off the deep end with your kids and spouse can really help your relationships.  That is what the power of positive relationships is all about.

Whale Done! is a quick, good read.  Along with The Fred Factor, Lincoln on Leadership, and other self-improvement motivational books, I definitely recommend this one for all facets of your life to create positive relationships.


The Gender Gap – What Working Dads are NOT talking about

One typical day at work, Kate asked Renee, “Hey, so what do you do with your kids for the three-week winter break this year?”  Renee responds, “well, I have to fly in my parents or last year my in-laws. And now we are considering hiring someone to help out like a nanny.” Francine chimes in, “what?!  I can’t afford a nanny and have no family that can help… what am I gonna do when little sweet pea starts kindergarten next year?”  Kate responds, “is there an after or before school program? Do you think the school your kids will go to has a winter break daycare option? Or, did you consider….”  Oh my, Francine thinks, how am I going to find time to visit schools, look into all of this, and the money to hire a nanny? I work 830am to 530pm and then have to rush to pick the kids up, then go home and with my wonderful husband, help feed them, bathe them, try to read to them, and enrich them, all the while trying to stay healthy and fit myself.  Francine works two jobs (outside the home), not to mention a mom of two, a wife of one, and yet still manages to balance it all… or does she?  And if you think that the only women having this conversation at work are Kate, Renee, and Francine- well think again!  And our women in this story all have terrific husbands who do more than their share.  Imagine, how it would be without that support and without the support of friends.

It’s a nationwide phenomena and has been since the 70s and 80s – moms working full-time or multiple jobs, whether single,  or married, moms are in the workplace and what you do not know about Kate, Renee, Francine and the other moms like them is that they secretly think, almost on a daily basis, “what the hell am I doing?  THIS IS SO STINKING HARD!”

Each day, thousands upon thousands of women who are in the same boat or even in worse situations than our working moms mentioned above deal with the same questions.  Is this worth it? Can I break that glass ceiling and still raise a family?  The answer is quite simple and may sound pessimistic but the the answer is MAYBE… and if YES, with a whole heck of a lot of guilt.   And yes, I am one of the moms mentioned above.  I am the mom who thought I could do it all but here I am, wondering daily if I made the right choices- the right decisions for my career and my family and each time feeling like I am failing at all of it – not doing any one thing right but trying my best to keep it together each day.  And you are probably thinking, “well, why do you choose to work then? why not just quit and stay at home?”  It’s just not that easy. Some choose to work because of financial reasons, some for personal and professional reasons, and whatever the case may be it is a choice that is true but that does not mean that the working mom is a victim or that she is a bad person. All this article is intended to address is the blatant gender gap that nonetheless still exists in the American workplace and may likely persist for sometime.

Now, let’s look at the husbands of Renee, Kate, and Francine – it is most likely the case that none of the husbands think about this.  Very few men if any at all, would have the same conversations at work or talk with each other about how they feel like a failure or ask themselves and their friends, “what am I doing here? I should be with my kid.”  Not to generalize for all dads out there, but I am sure very few men worry about the same things that the working moms do.  And very few dads at work feel guilt almost on a daily basis – that sheer plain guilt day in and day out because they chose to have it all or because they chose to shatter the glass ceiling over caring for their kids full-time.  But wait! There is no ceiling for men, for working dads …. it is just assumed even in present day society that they will pick their career and travelling for work in lieu of their kids because that is what is expected.  In other households, the mother will “choose” to give up her career maybe because the husband’s career paid more or traditionally paid more- after all, women are still not paid the same as men in most career fields for the same work!  Or, because women chose traditional fields like nursing, teaching, or administrative support, they simply earn less than their husbands who could be in IT, Engineering, Medicine, legal profession, or the military. So, the cost-benefit analysis does not favor the woman working in those fields to pay $20K+ in daycare costs per year.

But, these days, as women try to break the glass ceiling, they are assuming less traditional roles, and bringing home more of the bacon, some working even two jobs, and thus the question becomes, what price is she paying for continuing to work?  Well, we hope none and we hope the kids will be alright but nonetheless it is hard to ignore the “gender gap” which is alive and well, and yes, I am willing to take the heat on this article but, I am confident that men are not having the same conversation that our friends, Renee, Kate, and Francine were having in the workplace, sometimes weekly or daily.  I am willing to bet that men are not sitting around at work worrying whether they made the right choice- career over stay at home dad; and I am confident they are not feeling that unavoidable guilty day-in and day-out on not being home with the kids.    The Gender Gap, in this humble working mom’s opinion is still alive and well and while we may not shatter that glass ceiling completely, I think women have made a significant difference at home, through writing, volunteering, in the workplace and the business world.  In America, this is a great time to be a woman and who knows? Very soon we may even get to elect the first female President of the United States.

I need your opinion: Do you think the gender gap is alive and well in the workplace? Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace or just sheer guilt as our characters feel above?  I would love your feedback, whether stay at home, work at home, or working outside the home mom, married or single, I would love to hear your feedback and input. 

*Please note: the characters in the above story are based on real people the author works with but the names were changed to protect the working moms.


The Cost of Shattering the Glass Ceiling

When African-Americans received the right to vote and desegregation occurred in this country, I do not think anyone thought about a negative cost of that glass ceiling breaking- in fact, except for bigots and racists, it was a win-win for the economy and the individuals who won that right. However, the same cannot be said about women entering the workplace especially entering traditional male jobs, including athletics and the military. In fact, I think across this country as women excel in all career fields to become CEOs, CFOs, Olympic gold medal winners, and Generals in the Army, there is a cost.

I initially wrote this blog as a big whine on the military and how unfair it is to women, especially those who are trying to raise kids and find work/life balance. However, someone was wise to point out to me that the cost of breaking the glass ceiling does not exist for just women in the military, it occurs across the board. From the woman who has to travel for work three to four days a week, work extra hard to get the same position on the board as the man, the athlete who cannot take her infant with her due to antiquated rules in the Olympics, to the woman who deploys for six months or more, leaving her infant child behind, it seems that everyone is making a sacrifice. In the case of women earning their place in society, the corporate world, athletics, and/or the profession of arms, there does seem to be a cost and everyone is bearing it.

It is not easy to leave behind an infant in the middle of nursing to go fight a war on foreign soil, likewise, it is tough to ask for a leave of absence from work for more than a few weeks especially if you work for a Corporation and the way to get ahead is to be seen and present. It is tough for an athlete to take a break from the sport and even after returning, to take breaks to go nurse a child. Moreover, athletics takes a toll on nursing as well – it can reduce breast milk production. Whether we choose to admit it or not, there is a glass ceiling and while we as women strive to break it, this comes at a cost to our families and ourselves. Many women decide early on to make the sacrifice – to not return to work, to give up their careers and their passion because of another equally important passion – being a full-time mother. Others cannot or choose not to do so. I am still surprised to learn of antiquated practices in the workplace- whether professional, blue collar, or otherwise. Many workplaces are family unfriendly. While our government has attempted to make strides in family-friendly practices including alternate work sites, part-time and alternative work schedules, there are those employers and corporations out there that have not- it is a traditional male work place mentality: Work here, or take vacation; work when we tell you to instead of just getting the job done; and work under the conditions provided – no lactation rooms, or private rooms for pumping. It is interesting how many more employers are family friendly and yet, the glass ceiling remains along with an equal number of employers who refuse to change with the times. Whether it is because they choose to overtly discriminate is another story but if they are not forced to change, why would they? After all, it would involve changing a culture- a mindset.

The military, for example, has regulations and laws which require a woman to be deployable (in shape, immunized, and so on), within 6 months of childbirth. It is not six months post-partum to “start getting ready” – No! The Regulations are clear: be ready to DEPLOY 6 months from the date of childbirth. After all the statistics on child bearing and nursing, why should a mom be deployed for 4 months after a mere 6 months of nursing and being with her baby? That makes no sense. There are no accommodations made either for the nursing moms in many professions. You cannot take your child along with you or let him or her stay with you. Many corporations will not pay for childcare or the child’s ticket if he or she travels with mom. Why should they when they can get away without paying for it in the case of a man travelling instead of a woman? There is no incentive for an employer to make special cases for a woman and the employer who is family friendly tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

Despite the fact that studies indicate breastfeeding and remaining with a child at least 1 year after birth improve the child’s immunity and well-being, we choose as a society to ignore medical and health science and instead of working with the mom, offer her a choice: feed your baby, remain with your baby OR excel in your career by being more like a man. Well, if it were that simple, it would be very easy. It is not. Biologically, if men could nurse a baby, then, what a different world we’d be in! Unlike the racial barrier, the gender barrier is harder to overcome. In race, there are no biological differences per se except skin tone. In gender, there are. And therefore, for better or worse, there remains this cost of our attempts at breaking the glass ceiling and no matter how far we get or what we achieve, we still face these costs – whether that cost comes in the form of our emotions, our children, our spouses, our healthcare, our social programs and … our society!


The Generation Gap

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal that my husband sent my way and I realized how true most of it was. This generation (our generation) is relying more and more on their parents to provide child care. I started thinking about this because it is a phenomenon really. When we grew up, for the average family in the 70s and 80s, one parent stayed home and took care of the kids- generally, the mom. That is how things were. Despite the cost of living, it was just understood that one parent would be at home, and somehow things would work out on one salary. More and more families lived within their means too. I saw another news story on NBC the other night that talked about how people these days (in our generation) are buying homes beyond their means. It was the norm to have a 900-1500 sq ft home in the 80s and not to exceed your means. Your entire life savings was not going into your home and a home was a place to live and on one income, a 15-year mortgage was the best because after all, you needed shelter.

Most families were able to live on one income and still save somewhat for retirement. Family came first and child care was not an option. Most moms were not professionals either – they were either teachers, secretaries or not educated enough – so, it was not worth it anyway.

Nowadays, things are different – due to the women’s liberation, equal pay and equal rights, more and more women are in the workplace. Women are in unconventional trades- military, science, and the like. More and more women are travelling further and more than their husbands. Men are actually staying at home with the kids now because the wives make more. However, more and more – both mom and dad are working and need to because lifestyles and times have changed. Thus, enter the grandparents. Grandparents are stepping in to raise the grandkids because it breaks their hearts to see them raised by strangers so, more and more of the previous generation are stepping up to do what they should not have to do – raise kids again. Well into their 60s, baby boomers appear to be taking on the burdens of child rearing because our generation cannot get it together – unlike our parents’ generations, we are not willing to make sacrifices- we want the fancy car, the house we cannot afford, and the clothes and shoes that we should not be wearing. Our parents did not go out on dates as often and sacrificed for us and they continued to do so today.

It was an interesting article and put perspective on our present situation. I am a professional and so is my hubbie and neither of us wants to or desires to give up our job to stay home and raise kids. Neither one of us can give up our lifestyle and so it seems, our children are being raised by my parents and with that comes some compromising on our part too – living with grandma at our house, listening to her advice day-in and day out and of course, the fine art of diplomacy and compromise. I do not like it but the level of care that family provides is always better than what strangers and third parties can so, we try to mend the cultural and generational gap and work with our parents. My mom, who was a housewife, does not mind – she wants to feel needed and has no hobbies of her own so once again finds herself wanting to raise a family – mine. It is quite the conundrum and this article from WSJ really sheds light on the entire situation: http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2009/06/24/grandmas-too-indulgent-grandpas-too-strict-child-rearing-disputes-with-grandparents/


The dreaded day

Returning to work after a long maternity leave is bitter sweet. It is sweet because you get to return to your world of getting things done, intelligent conversation, and of course, the proverbial feeling of worth as you accomplish what you went to school for. However, it is bitter too because by the time the three to four months of leave pass, you have become quite attached to your little one and if you are a working mom who believes in breastfeeding, then you have formed an attachment to that little guy or gal who has won over your heart with the newest smiles, laughs and cutest looks ever. It is also bitter because you are now pumping instead of nursing, and that is truly sad. The best way to make up for this is to ensure you feed the baby in the evenings on the weekends as much as possible. Of course, if you work weekends like I do, then there may be the need to take some leave or time off.

So the dreaded has come and gone and I am exhausted. The day never ends for working moms and dads. Truly, never ends. It is like a 7-11- open 24/7- you “wake up” all night long and all day spend time at work, then you come home only to have your day really begin with the kids. It is amazing that parents live longer than single women and men and it is even more amazing that on average parents live longer than dual-income no kids couples. Of course, out of those dual income no kids couples, those who have pets, live longer than those without pets. Interesting, considering I have not slept in 2.5 years or something like that and I do not see sleep anytime in my future. As far as working and raising kids though, it is a tough balance. One that each working mom has to work with and deal with and cope with. In the end though, all parties turn out okay and everyone survives but for right now… it just feels horrible. The moms that end up the happiest are the ones that have great employers who permit work from home, part-time work, or the nursery is on another floor in their building. Here’s to working moms everyone! I know- I hear you- I feel your pain. It is not the end of the world but make sure your babies are in a good home care or day care situation – it will lighten your load for sure.