Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Top 10 Traits of a Great Boss

A while ago I posted Top 10 Traits of a Bad Boss.  This is the second installment, covering the 10 Traits of a Great Boss.  This list is complied from all the things that make a great boss based on my nearly 20 years of working in Corporate America.

1.) Being clear about expectations.  Let people know what you expect of them and when.  Leave nothing open to interpretation or to the imagination.  

2.) Being honest.  Being honest in performance reviews and at all coaching opportunities is very important, even when the discussion is hard.  Talk to your staff they way you would want someone to talk to you in those situations.  Think back to times when you wished someone would have been honest with you. 

3.) Providing clear and relevant communication.  When you ask someone on your team to do something, explain the context.  When an employee feels like the work they do is contributing to a bigger effort, they feel more vested in the outcome.  

4.) Rewarding a job well done.  Even if it's a simple thank you, reward people for a job well done.  If your company permits, take your team to lunch or let them leave early on a Friday, especially if you've just worked them to the bone to meet a deadline.  

5.) Understanding what motivates people.  For some people it's money or title, for some people it's recognition for a job well done.  Play to what motivates your employees.  

6.) Listening to your employees.  I am sometimes quick to jump to conclusions on how things should be done, but I always listen if my team thinks there is a better way.  Be open to changing course and accepting feedback from your employees.

7.) Allowing your employees flexibility when needed.  This cannot apply to all jobs, but when family emergencies or other situations arise, give your employees the flexibility to deal with it.  I've worked for people who cut me some slack to deal with issues outside of work and in return I was actually a better employee in the long run for it.

8.) Be willing to pitch in.  On occasion the work load for your team may be overwhelming.  Roll up your sleeves and offer to help with some of the things you'd rather not have to do.  It shows them it's a team effort and everyone is there to help.

9.) Give feedback more frequently than an annual review.  There are opportunities on a regular basis where you can give feedback.  Give honest feedback in a very respectful manner.  Performance discussions should never be a surprise to an employee.

10.) Operate with integrity.  Play by the rules, drink the company kool-aid, stand up for your people and do the right thing.  Lead by example and not empty words, adhere to company policies and guidelines.  Be the type of boss people want to work for.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Great Fall Dessert Recipe - Caramel White Chocolate Apple Bars

I work full time so it's difficult to volunteer as much as I would in my daughter's classroom.  At the beginning of the school year I signed up for a couple of the volunteer efforts that play to my strengths.  I get to help the school in some way, a way that is fun for me.

A few weeks ago it was teacher appreciation.  My awesome neighbor and another mom head up that effort. This time around I made a fall inspired dessert that the teachers/staff could eat easily.  I scoured for a recipe that I thought would be good and then I doctored it up.

I decided to make Betty Crocker's Caramel Apple Bars.  I wanted something without nuts and something seasonal.  Rumor has it, they were liked.

(picture from Betty Crocker)

Here are the changes I made, easy ones:

1.) Added 1/2 - 3/4 cup of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips to the 2 cups of reserved oat mixture before adding that as the top layer of the bars before cooking.

2.) Increased the amount of caramels from 1 14 oz bag to 1-1/2 bags, 21 oz total.  You can never have too much caramel.

It's an easy recipe with the most difficult part being peeling and chopping the apples.  If you try the recipe, let me know what you think.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Little Friday Evening Fun

It's Friday and I am glad this week is over.  Steve travelled for work this week and got back tonight after the girls went to sleep.  Getting everyone ready in the mornings when flying solo, is a challenge.  I need to get up at 6am to get my day off to a good start.  Since I was tending to a chest cold and not getting to sleep until almost midnight, 6am wasn't my reality.  Mornings were a bit chaotic.

But, it's Friday.  We made it through the week and the girls were great.  They are usually a little off when Steve travels (which is rare).  Tonight I decided we could skip baths and play dress up.

This is what they come up with (Abby is taking an important call from Tinkerbell):

The aftermath in the hallway:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Top 10 Traits of a Bad Boss

Up and downs describes my professional experience over the course of the past couple of years.  As a result, I've had time to reflect on the type of people I am happy working for as well as those I find challenging.  I'm jotting these things down, so I can hold myself accountable and try to be the best boss I can be, most days.

I have had some pretty fabulous managers as well as some duds.  I've also managed teams for a little more than half of my career.  My list of the Top 10 Traits of a Bad Boss are based on my experiences and my own mistakes.  Here they are:

1.) Having complete disregard for people's lives outside of work.  Don't work people 80 hours a week because you are not organized.  Invest a little time up front and everyone will save time in the end.  You'll get more out of your employees if you extend them some flexibility (where possible) and show consideration for life outside of work.  Also make sure to communicate to them when you might need extra hours from them ahead of time, so they can adjust their calendars accordingly.  

2.) Starting every sentence with "What you did is wrong, I don't understand it.".  This immediately puts people on the defensive and less likely to help you figure out what you don't understand.  Perhaps instead one should try "I'm having trouble understanding this, can you help me/provide more context/add some clarification/etc..".

3.)   Yelling.  Under no terms should you yell at your employees.  I do understand the higher up the chain you go, yelling is a bit more prevalent.  I'll never get that high up the chain, so from my view in the mid priced seats, yelling is not okay.  It's disrespectful, demotivating and humiliating.

4.) Jumping to conclusions without understanding the facts.  Don't come out of the gates swinging (verbally that is) unless you understand the facts.  

5.) Throwing your people under the bus.  Take responsibility for your team.  When they fail, you fail.  When they succeed, you succeed.

6.) Taking credit for work your team has done.  Yes, you are the leader and your guidance and knowledge may have lead to an outstanding product, but if your team did a bulk of the work, let it be known.  

7.) Blaming your team for your failures.  Ultimately, what makes it up the food chain is your responsibility.  If the higher ups aren't happy, accept responsibility then take the issue up with your team in a constructive way.  

8.) Establishing rules for the team and then doing the opposite.  If you set a rule or policy with your team you need to follow it as well.  Be the example.

9.) Forgetting to say 'thank you'.  These two simple ways go a long way.  Thank your team for late nights, for an effort that was above and beyond, acknowledge a job well done.

10.) Expecting more of your team than you expect of yourself.  You are the boss.  In most cases you make more than the people on your team.  As a result, more is expected of you, deliver it.  

Top 10 Traits of a Great Boss coming soon to a blog near you.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Apple Picking - Becoming a Tradition

What am I going to do with 15 pounds of apples?  This is what happens when we do any sort of picking.  For the past 3 years we've been berry picking in June and we've started the tradition of going apple picking in September.  It's so much fun to watch my kids pick their fruit off the vine/tree and running through the fields.

I am kind of selective when it comes to what my kids eat, so we only go to organic farms..  The berry farm is close (Webb Ranch in Portola Valley) , but the apple farm was 1 1/2 hours away (Clearview Orchards in Watsonville).  Typically not a bad distance, but we got a late start and had an afternoon nap we are up against.  Abby starting yelling, screaming actually, that she wanted to go home 15 minutes from the farm.  Oh boy, that was not enjoyable.  I knew as soon as we got there, the girls would have fun.  We pulled into the parking lot and they were giddy with excitement.

Steve wasn't able to join us this time around as he was in Chicago participating in an annual 'guys weekend' trip.  Next year he'll join us.

Emily picking an apple.

Abby picking an apple.

Now I'm off to find recipes to help me get through some of the 15 pounds of apples I have sitting on my kitchen counter.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Murphy's Good Days and Bad Days...

Within the same four week period, I quit a job that I was not happy with, I was to get my two little angels started at new schools and was slated to start a new job.  When it rains it pours.  It's been a month of adjustments for sure.  Adjustments to schedules, jobs, expectations, schools, etc...

During this time of what is all good change, we got some bad news.  

As I was rushing my kids out the door to get haircuts one afternoon I noticed our dog Murphy was limping pretty badly.  I had noticed earlier in the day that we was hobbling a little bit after getting up from laying down.  It was pretty mild so I chalked it up to a leg that fell asleep, a cramp, something temporary.  It was a lot worse at the end of the day.  

After I got the kids in the car, the phone call to Steve went something like this:

"Steve, Murphy can barely walk, you need to come home now and take him to the vet.  I've got the girls loaded in the car for their haircuts".  

I was thinking the worst case would be a torn ACL, a sprain, something that could be fixed, easily fixed.

Murphy was on anti-inflammatory meds for a week and doing well.  After he was done with the meds, he started limping again.  Back to the vet we took him.  He had x-rays.

I don't remember if my husband called me or texted me with the diagnosis.  Bone cancer (aka osteosarcoma).  Bone cancer that is not treatable.  We could delay the spread, but it would eventually take his life.    

There are a couple treatment options available to us.  We've decided on a course of treatment that is good for Murphy and good for our family.  He has good days and bad days.  Today he had a good day and it makes me happy.  When he has bad days (lots of visible pain) it's heartbreaking.  Murphy is the best dog we could have asked for, both before and after having kids.  I'm not sure how much longer he will be with us, but we are going to spoil him as much as we can and treat every day with him as a gift..  

A couple years ago in Tahoe

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dear Abigail, oops I mean Dear Abby

(I wrote this a few weeks ago, just getting to posting it now)

Dear Abby,

No, this isn't a letter asking for advice from 'Dear Abby'.  This is a letter to my first born child the night before she starts kindergarten.  How are you almost 5?  How did the last 5 years whiz by?

On our porch before heading to school.

Walking to school, I had tears in my eyes taking this picture.

Abby, you amaze me.  You are a very sweet little girl.  You are always concerned about others, you sense when people are sad or hurt.  You are a rule follower (earlier today you told those two older girls at the pool that they were not supposed to go down the slide backwards, they were at least 3-4 years older than you, you believed in what you were doing and you weren't phased when they told you they didn't care,  I love how you shrugged it off and went back to playing).  You catch a lot of what happens around you and fight sleeping as to not miss anything.  You are at times goofy.  You love art projects and music.  Your favorite artists at the moment are Adele, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson and Madonna.

You are weary in new situations and are thoughtful before taking risks.  You are an amazing big sister to Emily.  You share her pain and her joy with her.  It's touching how supportive you are with her achieving milestones and you always keep her in your thoughts.  When I asked you earlier today if you wanted just mommy and daddy to take you to school, or if you wanted Emily there, you asked that Emily go too.  Precious!

I know you are worried about starting Kindergarten in the morning, but you are going to do great.  You love learning and I am very excited to see you learn over the next 2 decades (yes, you are going to college).

You are very decisive, are quick to make decisions and do not sway easily from the decisions you've made.  I love this about you.  One day I asked you if you wanted me to tell your teacher to call you Abigail (your given name) or Abby.  Abby it was and Abby it's been.

We will be here for you as you adjust to going to big girl school.  We want to hear about your feelings, your fears, your successes and your failures.

Abby, I am hoping your first day of Kindergarten is fantastic and isn't as scary as you think it's going to be.  We are proud of you and wish you nothing but happiness as you start your educational journey!


Monday, July 16, 2012

We Packed It All In!

Last week, Steve was at an offsite meeting in Napa from Tues-Thurs.  I thought we could combine that with a trip to my mom's (she lives in Napa)..  I put the kids in the car Thursday afternoon and drove to Napa,  We met Steve there and had a jam packed weekend.  And I mean jam packed, soo much fun!

The drive was uneventful.  I learned that Abby could be entertained for 2 hours with an iPhone.  I learned that Emily's attention span for the iPhone is waning and she really just wants to talk.  We had a 30 minute conversation about cup holders and then a variety of other topics.  I loved figuring out that Emily is my talker, she loves a good conversation.

Friday morning, my mom and I took the kids on an adventure.  We headed to Petaluma to the Mrs. Grossman's sticker store.  No tours on Friday's, but we raided their store.

Then, because the sticker store took about 20 minutes, we headed to Train Town in Sonoma,  Steve took Abby a couple years ago, now it was my turn.  We had a blast.  We rode the train, then the kids went on a couple rides.  

Emily wasn't so sure about the train ride before it started.  She smiled the whole way once we started moving.


The girls on the airplane ride:

The girls with Grandma on the carousel:

Friday afternoon, we enjoyed a little time in the pool...

Friday night Steve and I snuck in a little date night.  Our anniversary is in a couple days so we decided to take advantage of great restaurants in close proximity.  We decided on Ad Hoc and it was AMAZING!!  You can't chose what you want, they have one option for dinner and that's it.  They do do substitutions for vegetarian, gluten free, etc if that's what you need.

Saturday we all headed east and hit the Jelly Belly factory.  We went on a tour and then hit the shop.  I tried getting both girls in this picture, but Emily wanted nothing to do with it.  She had a kung foo grip on her Jelly Beans and didn't want anyone near them or her.  Abby graciously posed.

Saturday afternoon, we hit the pool again.  That night we celebrated Steve and my birthday's a little early.  I asked for champagne cake from Buttercream Bakery and was not disappointed!

Emily decided to feed Steve his cake.  I was laughing hysterically for a couple reasons while video taping.  1.) Steve's stomach was still a little upset from dinner the night before (nothing to do with Ad Hoc, we ate a lot and his stomach was in revolt) and 2.) he's not a fan of cake.  What a sweet daddy moment with Emily.  Watch Emily's face when she takes a bite herself.

Sunday we got up and were on the road by 7:45am to get back in time for Emily's first swim lesson at 9:30am and then Abby's at 11am.  

We can't forget Murphy,  His birthday was on the 15th,  Happy 8th Birthday Murphy!  He was with us too this past weekend.  Sorry for all the dog hair in your house Mom, he's a shedding mess right now!!  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Conversations With Emily

Abby and I have had some pretty interesting conversations for the past couple of years.  Emily and I are getting to that point now that she is really verbal and understanding a lot of the world going on around her.  Here are a few snippets of recent conversations...

Emily: "I have two sisters"
Me: "Really, who"
Emily: "Abby"
Me: (that was obvious, but I'm curious to see who she thinks her other sister is) - "who is the other sister"
Emily: "Murphy"
Murphy is our male dog.  Emily is really attached to him, talks to him and makes sure he is always close by. 

Me: "Emily you did such a great job at your Dr.'s appointment today, you get a sticker and a lollipop"
Emily: "Yeah, lollipop"
Me: "grab a sticker and a lollipop out of the basket"
Emily: (grabs two of each, then looks at me) - "for Abby too"
She always thinks of her sister whenever she gets something special, it warms my heart...

Stay tuned for more conversations with Emily.  This little girl has a wonderful sense of humor and is downright funny. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bumper Crops

This year is turning out to be the year of the bumper crop in our back yard.  Every year I plant a garden and I sometimes forget to water it and then it all dies.  Not very rewarding or satisfying.  We also have 3 dwarf citrus trees in our backyard that we hardly tend to and they produce very little fruit.

This year is going to be different.  We've been watering these darn things regularly and it looks like it's going to be a very prosperous year!

Our garden box, complete with a very happy zucchini plant, italian parsley, two types of heirloom tomatoes, thyme, and two kinds of bell peppers.  Everything is so happy!

Our Meyer lemon tree.  It's typically the happiest (all relative) of all our plants in prior years, only because it gets watered with our automatic sprinklers and never relies on our lazy selves to tend to it.

Limes, yeah!  We planted this tree 5+ years ago in the hopes we'd have limes for the occasional beer.  This is the first year we will have a decent amount of fruit.  Over 50 little limes on this tree, pure bliss!  I counted every single one of them.

And this gem, makes my heart flutter!  This is a blood orange tree we bought 5+ years ago.  Our goal was to make blood orange margaritas with the fruit from this little tree.  Last summer I gave up on the darn thing.  It had these little spikes all over it (very few leaves) so I hacked the thing back.  And I mean hacked.  I cut it back and asked Steve to dispose of it because it was a hazard.  Well, good thing he never deposed of it.  We are going to have these little beauties coming out of our ears this year.

Monday, June 4, 2012

More Conversations with Abby

I took Abby to her dance class this weekend, while Steve took Emily to her art class.  Saturday mornings are a bit crazy in our house trying to get everyone to their classes on time.  On our way to class, we were listening to the radio.  It prompted a spelling lesson.

Abby: "Mommy, turn up the music please"
Me: (turns up radio)
Abby: "Mommy, how do you spell Adele?"
Me: "A - D - E - L - E"
Abby: "How do you spell Madonna?"
Me: "M - A - D - O - N - N - A"
Abby repeats it back to me.  Forget trying to spell anything one might think is more age appropriate (she's 4 1/2).  I love how much Abby likes music already!  She's a fan of Lady Gaga too.

As we are listening to the California Girls song by Katy Perry...

Abby: "Who is Daisy Duke?"
Me: "It's not a person but a name for a type of shorts"
Abby: "What kind of shorts?"
Me: "Really short shorts, they sometimes show a little bit of people's bum bums"
Abby: "Shows bum bums mommy?  That's silly."
Me: "Yes, it's a little silly, some people can get away with wearing them, some people can't."
Abby: "I don't think I want to wear Daisy Duke's"
I'm going to hold her to this!

We went to the zoo recently and Abby had her own agenda for which animals we were going to see in which order.

Abby: "I want to see the giraffe's, the zebra's, the lions, the monkeys and then I want to go to the playground."
Me: "Do you want to see the kangaroos or the bears?"
Abby: "No thank you."

She had her map out and helped guide me through the zoo.  We had to alter the order just a bit (the monkey's before the lions), but it was fun to see her find the animals she wanted to see on the map and help guide me through the zoo.  I'm glad Emily is easy going and went with Abby's agenda, at least for now.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Absolute Genius!

Our poor sweet Emily had a little bit of a bacterial skin infection recently.  That likely explains the screaming she did before bath time.  I bet the water stung her little bumps.  

She went to the Dr. and received a 10 day cycle of liquid antibiotics.   In the past Steve and I have always had trouble with tracking what day she started her meds, if she had the proper doses that day, etc.  There is already a lot to keep track of in our days.  

Well, with this last dose, I remember reading somewhere on a facebook post and genius way of keeping track of when you gave/took medicine.  Thank you Maureen!!  

Check this out.  It's absolutely genius!

I have always loved sharpies, now I love them even more.

Monday, February 6, 2012

'Pipad' Intervention?

I think we have a serious need for iPad intervention in our house.  During the week, the girls get little to no TV and very little iPhone/iPad use.  The weekends can be a different story.  If Steve and I are trying to get the house picked up, trying to get dinner on the table, we sometimes need a little help.

This past weekend, I had the girls Saturday morning by myself.  Steve was in Vegas.  I had to get them fed, dressed and out the door by 8:30am to get to Abby's dance class by 9.  At one point, Emily looked at me and said 'I want pipad'.  That's her way of saying iPad.

I knew she would keep herself out of harm's way (i.e. climbing and falling off of things) with the iPad.  When I asked her to go sit on the couch and told her that I would bring her the iPad, she did the cutest little dance, with the biggest squeal of excitement.  She was twirling in circles, yelling 'pipad pipad' with a big grin on her face..

Uh oh.  We need a toddler 'pipad' intervention.  Some weening of the device, breaking the dependency.  Wish us luck!  

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Yes, I've neglected this blog.  Between gearing up then down for the holidays, leaving one job after almost 6 years and starting a new one, I've had my hands full.

I've also been working on getting a little business I've been thinking about for a while now (at least 1-2 years) up off the ground.  I've been working on inventory and will hopefully get something out there in next few months.

Thanks for reading after my little hiatus.