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Staircase Silhouette

By Kristen Prinz

Do you ever look around and wonder why people who don’t seem to work as hard as you or are not as smart as you are more successful than you? Business mentor Simon Reynolds’s recent Forbes blog post, The Strong Link Between Your Self Image And Business Success says it could be your self-image that is holding you back.  Reynolds claims that our subconscious negative self-assessments can prevent us from being bold and confident, thereby preventing us from achieving our potential.

We all know that blog posts over simplify complex issues, but Reynolds is on to something.  Daily affirmations might not get you the promotion or business deal you are seeking, but they probably won’t hurt either. Continue reading →

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By Amit Bindra

A lot of companies have created flexible work options, allowing their employees to work from the comfort of their homes.  Working from home can save time commuting and allow an employee to deal with personal errands.  An employee working remotely can still be available via phone, email, or even video.  Despite the ease that technology allows for communication, face time is still incredibly important, especially for employees that work with a team.

First, the employees that are easily accessible are typically the employees that receive important projects.  It is still easier to stop by someone’s office to discuss an important project than it is to schedule time with someone who is working remotely.

Second, face-to-face conversations lead to intangible benefits.  Conversations that develop in the break room or hallways can lead to collaboration and creative ideas.  An office setting can also maximize focus and motivation.  There could be several distractions at home that an office would minimize.  It might be easier to stay productive and motivated if there is an entire office of people working on projects.

Finally, visibility and easy accessibility can help with career advancements and promotions.  Even if two employees are working the same amount, seeing one employee doing the work at the office creates more of a lasting impression on a supervisor.

Employees should take advantage of flexible work options, especially if it improves quality of life and work balance.  However, it is important not to forget the value of face time.

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Tech Office

Amazing Office by Chris Meller // CC BY 2.0

By: Amit Bindra

Silicon Valley is known for companies like Apple and Google – and great innovations like the iPhone.  Soon, Silicon Valley might also be known for its conspiracy to keep wages low for employees.

A judge recently rejected a $324 million settlement proposed by Apple, Google, and two other tech companies finding there is “ample evidence” that the companies were involved in “an overarching conspiracy” to violate antitrust laws.  The case alleges that tech companies including Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe agreed not to hire each other’s employees.

Lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of nearly 64,000 employees arguing that the tech companies agreed not to hire engineers and programmers from each other.  These employees were building the key software that the companies profited from.  As a result of this arrangement, the employees suffered because the companies could pay them lower salaries.  This also allowed each company to keep their key programmers, preventing other companies from getting access to highly qualified individuals – and information.

The proposed settlement would have paid each employee about $4,000.00. The lawyers would have received twenty-five percent of the overall settlement.  Judge Lucy Koh rejected the settlement as too small saying that it failed to be “within the range of reasonableness.”

Judge Koh said she thought the case was strong and the evidence compelling, which includes incriminating materials from Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) and other tech executives.  In the ruling, Judge Koh wrote that there was substantial evidence indicating Mr. Jobs “was a, if not the, central figure in the alleged conspiracy.”  One example of his involvement is an email he wrote in 2005 after Google tried to hire some of Apple’s engineers.  In the email, Mr. Jobs wrote, “If you hire a single one of these people, that means war.”  Another example occurred in 2007.  After Mr. Jobs became upset that a Google recruiter approached an Apple employee, Google fired the recruiter to appease Mr. Jobs.

If a jury rules in the employees’ favor, damages could be tripled due to antitrust penalties.  While Apple, Google and other tech companies have produced great products, that does not excuse them from fairly paying their employees.

Sources: New York Times, Washington Street Journal, Reuters










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By: Amit Bindra

A 360 review offers benefits for both the company and for employees by providing – hopefully – constructive feedback. It can allow for peer-to-peer guidance so that a company and employees can improve operations, productivity, and profitability.

However, a negative review or comments can be potentially damaging to an employee’s career. Sometimes the information in the review may not even be accurate.

There are four ways to positively respond to a 360 review.

First, use a review – positive or negative – as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and to express gratitude. This can be an opportunity demonstrate that as an employee, you are willing to continue to develop strengths while minimizing weaknesses. It is an opportunity to show that you (a) are receptive to criticism and listen to feedback, and (b) are willing to improve.

Second, take time before responding. It is easy to be defensive to a negative review, especially when it can put your career at risk. It is critical to take time to formulate a strategy on how to proceed to avoid making a regretful comment in the heat of the moment.

Third, discuss negative criticisms with the appropriate individuals. If the negative reviews are from a supervisor, it is important to change the supervisor’s opinion, especially if the review is inaccurate. If the criticisms are from an individual you are managing, recognize that there might be more validity to the feedback as the individual has more to lose by providing a negative review. Using a third party to help mediate these discussions can be helpful to allow for constructive dialogue.

Finally, plan the necessary steps and share these steps with the appropriate team members. Continue to improve your strengths. Determine what the key limitations are and figure out a strategy on how to minimize these issues in the future. Develop an action plan that you can communicate to your team. Again, this will allow you to demonstrate critical leadership skills, turning a potentially negative situation into a positive one.

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Get Out Of The Building - Lean Startup Machine
DLNG5617 by Tech Yizu is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Kristen Prinz

I had the pleasure of mentoring budding entrepreneurs at Chicago’s Lean Startup Machine weekend on June 22. It was exciting to see first-hand how valuable the lean startup model can be to an entrepreneur. It was also interesting to see that, much like in the real world of business, nearly 70% of participants had given up and closed up shop by the time I started my 5 hour mentoring session.

The first step in the lean startup methodology is to figure out a problem to be solved and develop a minimum viable product (MVP) to test the market. It is a fantastic starting point because sometimes the problems we think exist are individual problems and not market problems. Solving an individual problem is a hobby. Solving a market problem is a business.

Many of the participants who dropped out found that they either only identified an individual problem or that they didn’t have a solution to the market problem. You need a solution to create an MVP.

Once you get to the MVP, the lean startup methodology asks that you validate your assumptions regarding the market. This is where you test the market and the solution. And, this is the second opportunity to learn whether your idea is a viable business. (It was also the next big drop off point).

The ultimate philosophy of the lean startup methodology is Build-Measure-Learn. Not every business idea will be successful. The point is to learn early whether you can stick it out, pivot, and create something the market needs (whether it knew it or not). Using this methodology before you invest thousands of dollars into development, employees and attorneys’ fees is a smart way to go.

There were great ideas presented over the weekend and I hope that all the participants can build their ideas, regardless of whether they find a hobby or a business.

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By Jessica Fayerman

SCA at Career Day

SCA at Career Day by SCA Svenska is licensed under CC SA 2.0

Since executives spend so much of their time making management decisions and driving revenue, it can be challenging to devote time to their own career development. If executives take even a small fraction of the time they spend strategizing on behalf of their companies to strategizing about their own futures, climbing the corporate ladder can become a much more obtainable goal. Here are three strategies that executives can use to not only determine their career goals, but to develop specific steps to reach them.

Regularly self-evaluate with feedback from trusted advisors.
Many executives do not take the time to honestly self-reflect and to determine areas for improvement. Every skill-set is different, and it is important to be able to separate out areas that are strong and areas that require improvement. When an executive is forced to make use of a skill that he or she has not yet adequately developed, it can drain the executive’s energy and make him or her less productive. Asking for assistance from a trusted advisor can assist the executive with identifying areas of strength and weakness and formulating a strategic plan for improvement.

Seek additional experience that applies to long-term goals.
Even though it may be uncomfortable to work with skills in an executive’s area of weakness, this may be the only way for genuine growth to occur. If an executive is, for example, uncomfortable with public speaking, seeking out speaking opportunities may cause short-term stress but will carry long-term rewards. The extra time expended now will certainly pay off in terms of productivity in the future.

Maintain networking activities.
Networking is an activity that leads to a double benefit – not only can the executive help improve the company’s bottom line, but he or she can also build the necessary connections for future career growth. Networking may take time and effort, but it is a high-payoff activity that any executive should try to build into his or her week.

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Only for now

There’s been a lot of media hype about some pretty overt resignations including YouTube videos and even a SuperBowl commercial.

Although you may be at a breaking point where you wish you could march through your office with a marching band to announce that you are quitting, or you’d love to have a billboard expressing the same, these are not the best choices for your long-term career. It’s important to make sure you leave with a good reputation because you never know who you might run into in the future – from the janitor to the CEO – and it is important to have a good rapport with everyone you interact with. Here are some tips if you are planning to leave your current employer:

Think about what you want.
You may want to leave your current employer because you are not happy. But, what is it that will make you happy? Make sure you don’t make a decision you will regret. Think about what you want and make a plan to make it happen.

Search for a new job while still employed.
It’s easier to find a job when you have one. Plus, you won’t have to answer why you left you last job.

Start packing slowly.
Some employers will ask you to leave the same day when you provide notice of your intent to resign. That leaves you with little time to pack up your personal belongings. At the same time, you don’t want to abruptly clean up and tip off your boss prematurely. Start to slowly take things home so that you just have a few things left when you finally provide notice.

Review your employer’s leave policies.
Generally, you will be able to be paid out for any vacation you have accrued and unused. However, the same is not true for sick time. Review your leave policy and make sure you know what will happen with your benefits and compensation when you leave.

Provide notice to your employer.
Although you may feel like up and walking off the job sometimes, it is important for your long-term reputation to provide you manager with notice of your intention to leave.

Send a note of thanks to colleagues.
With permission from your employer, send a note to your co-workers to thank them for their support and provide them with your personal contact information.

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By Jessica Fayerman

High-level executives usually rely on employment law attorneys to negotiate employment contracts, and for good reason: it’s an opportunity to clearly outline expectations and minimize future disputes. In any employment contract, compensation and benefits are key. However, there are many other factors that are essential to a productive and mutually rewarding employment relationship and should therefore be included in a contract. When we assist an executive in negotiating an employment contract, here are four of the key points we typically focus on:

Term and Termination
In the absence of a contract term that specifies otherwise, the default rule is that the employment relationship is “at-will.” This means that either the employer or the executive can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without notice, for any reason or for no reason. For executives who devote extensive time and resources to pursuing a career at a specific company, the threat of being let go at any time may be too much of a risk. For this reason, many executives negotiate terms into their contracts with specific provisions detailing the narrow circumstances in which the employment relationship can end.

Typically, the law does not require companies to pay severance to departing employees. When employers do pay out severance, they may condition it on an employee’s willingness to sign away his or her rights to bring legal claims against the company. By adding severance provisions to an employment agreement that are not tied to an employee’s agreement not to sue, an executive will be in a better position to protect the investment put into his or her career.

Restrictive Covenants
Employers may insist on including restrictive covenants in employment contracts with high-level executives. Restrictive covenants can include non-competition provisions, non-solicitation provisions, confidentiality provisions, and other items designed to help protect the employer’s investment in the employee. These covenants can significantly impact an executive’s ability to continue working in his or her chosen field after the employment relationship ends. It is essential to negotiate these provisions in order to minimize the burden on the employee to the extent possible.

Arbitration Provisions
Many employment contracts include language addressing how disputes regarding the employment relationship should be resolved. Some employers insist on requiring executives to give up the right to file a lawsuit and instead submit any dispute to arbitration. Arbitration sometimes gives executives much less legal protection that litigation in court, so it is important to recognize what an employee may be giving up when he or she signs a contract with an arbitration provision.

If you have a question about a job offer or employment agreement that you have received, please contact us.

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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects the jobs of eligible employees who take time off from work to take care of their own serious health condition, to take care of the serious health condition of an immediate family member, or to take care of a newly born or newly adopted child. When the law works as it should, employers grant eligible employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in a year, and then allow those employees to return to their same job or an equivalent job at the end of the leave.

In practice, however, this process does not always work as smoothly as it should. Sometimes employers wrongfully deny leave requests or take some other action to interfere with an employee’s right to take FMLA leave. Sometimes employers refuse to allow an employee to return to work upon the conclusion of FMLA leave, or take other steps to retaliate against the employee for asserting his or her rights under the FMLA. As an employee, there are several steps that you can take to ensure that your right to take time off and then to return to work at the end of your leave will be protected:

Make sure that your request for leave is clear.
While the law does not require an employee to specifically request “FMLA leave” by name, it does require the employee to inform the employer that: 1.) a leave-qualifying condition may be present.; and 2.) the employee is requesting leave. It is not enough for the employee simply to say, for example, that “I’m sick.” If your request for leave is clear, it will become less likely that your employer will be able to claim later on that you never made a request for leave at all.

Make sure that you follow your employer’s requests for documentation.
Your employer, within certain limits, may request you to document your need for leave before it grants your request. Typically, your employer will ask you to have your doctor (or your family member’s doctor) complete official FMLA forms that specify the nature of the leave-qualifying condition and how long it is expected to last. The law requires your employer to give you a reasonable period of time to return the form. Within certain parameters, your employer may also request a second opinion, at the employer’s expense, or even a third opinion. Even after your employer approves your request for leave, it can still – within certain limits – require you to certify or recertify your need for leave. It is important to follow your employer’s requests for documentation so as to not sacrifice your right to take leave.

Make sure that you pay any required health insurance premiums during your leave.
The law requires that your employer not cancel your health insurance or any other employee benefits while you are on leave. However, your employer can legally request you to pay the portion of your health insurance premium that your employer typically pays while you are out on leave. If your employer has such a policy, make sure that you pay the premiums in a timely manner. Especially if the reason you are taking FMLA leave is because of your own serious health condition, you do not want to risk the cancellation of your policy because you have not paid the required premium.

Make sure you communicate with your employer regarding your intended return to work.
Within certain limits, your employer can require you to check in periodically during your leave regarding the date of your intended return to work. Make sure that you inform your employer of the date that you intend to return to work so that your employer can make the necessary arrangements with your temporary replacement or other employees. If you are in sufficient communication, it will become less likely that your employer will claim that you abandoned your job or give you any problems with returning to work.

Make sure that you protect your right to be returned to your same job or to an equivalent one.
The FMLA requires that your employer reinstate you to your previous position (or to an equivalent one) upon your return to work. There is no specific bright line rule as to what constitutes an “equivalent” job, but courts will often look at whether the new job is comparable in terms of salary, duties, and rank. If your employer refuses to allow you to return to work or demotes you upon your return, you may want to consult an attorney to help your protect your right to reinstatement.

If you have any questions about your rights under the FMLA, please contact us.