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RESOLUTE, BUT NO RESOLUTIONS

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. And with all the messages floating out there in the first days of the year, some of you may be feeling relief that I am not urging you to make resolutions. (If you typically do so and keep them, that’s commendable)  Nevertheless I do believe in reflection and setting goals and admire commitment, determination and focus. I do urge you to be resolute.

 I readily admit that I am talking to myself as much as any of you reading this, reminding myself to stay determined and focused on the big ideas I am committed to. Planning is in my DNA and fun for me. Staying with the execution takes more effort without external deadlines (which I always make) and people to hold you accountable.

 So here’s my deal offer: Keep nudging me and support my determination and commitment, and I will be happy to do the same for you. Give me a call out once in a while to see how it’s going. Let me know when you’d like me to do the same for you.

 And if you do make resolutions, here are some apps to record, track and remind you to make them stick. Resolve to Pay Attention to Resolution Reminders.

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com 

REFLECTION, STRESS REDUCTION AND THE GENERATIONS

Earlier this month a time span of over a week was designated as a time of reflection, atonement and rededication in the Jewish calendar. Reflection is something I do a lot of – I have for many years quite regularly in my daily or weekly goings on. At that time every year I reflect on my year and perspectives at that snapshot in time: my thoughts, what’s important at the time, my relation to people in my life, my work – purpose, where I want it to go and how I contribute in the larger scheme of things.

Coincidentally, on September 4th there was a small article in the Wall Street Journal reporting on studies indicating that reflecting on the positive at the end of each day significantly reduces stress for workers, Well, that’s another persuasive reason for regular reflection. Stress reduction – what a gift!

As far as I can observe, reflection time on the part of people of all ages has decreased and stress has increased. At least a loose connection would not be surprising. Our lives have undoubtedly become more stressful, and the popularity of yoga and meditation has not made a big dent in it overall. We are besieged by: more work with less time to do it; so many choices; economic challenges; the seeming need to be connected – always on; complex relationships that don’t get adequate attention; rapid change; and my personal big stress button second to health issues (other people and mine, if I have them) – which is technology breakdowns and glitches. They all add up.

People have little time to reflect, and the younger generations (to generalize) never seemed to have developed the reflection habit or even a reflection “gene.” What they are missing are the benefits of processing in their minds and bodies the implications of what has occurred and, as much as is in their control, to devise solutions and action plans.

Reflecting on positive achievements, even small ones every day, leads to good feelings. The reflection/stress study co-author Theresa Glomb of the University of Minnesota Carlton School of Management added, “The real impact comes from writing down why those things – the good things that happened - led to good feelings.” That sounds like a positive accomplishment in itself – a stress-busting habit we need to train high school and college students to adopt.

To add one more piece of ammunition, when asked what career advice he would give to a class of graduating students, Daniel Lubetsky, chief executive of Kind Snacks, related this in an interview with Adam Bryant for his Corner Office New York Times column: “…make sure that you talk to yourself, that you think hard about what is important to you and gives you meaning. When I was 19 and walking between classes, I didn’t have a phone, so my brain would take me in all different directions… But nowadays, we’re on our iPhones all the time, and you don’t have time to talk with yourself, to analyze… It’s very important for people to know what gives them meaning. But it’s hard for people to figure out if you are not connecting with yourself and taking the time to just be introspective and daydream.”

How do you build reflection into your daily life?  Please share your tips.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

BOOMER BENEFITS FOR THE SANDWICH GENERATION

Baby Boomers are now in the position of being the "sandwich generation," often having responsibilities for both their children and their aging parents. Concerned that both professionals and staff with demanding jobs are often called upon for family emergencies, a few law firms, as well as probably a greater number of accounting and consulting firms, have expanded their family benefits to include back-up care for their parents.

New York Lawyer reported that among them are Bryan Cave, Hunton & Williams and Paul Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. For example, Bryan Cave is allowing for up to 20 days per year of adult in-home care, and their employee assistance program will research nursing homes on behalf of the employee. These firms realize that they can't expect people to be optimally productive when they have serious distractions and worry about ill or disabled parents.

One of the reasons more firms have not offered the benefit according to benefits consulting firm The Arlen Group is that there are few providers of the necessary services. The potential need is greater than the supply. (It should be expanding as the need is bound to grow, so it sounds like a  good business opportunity.)

Patricia Caudel, Director of Human Resources and Employee Life Programs at Paul, Hastings said the expected need is evident by the many people who have registered for the program, though few have used it since it was instituted three months ago.

"When we think through what is needed to retain and attract top talent, the common denominator is taking care of family,'' said Caudel. "When we rolled this out, I received tons of e-mails saying 'Thank you, this has been on my mind for a long time,' " Caudel said. "Baby boomers are going to work until they drop, our parents are living longer, and reconciling that so that we take care of them is a big concern.”

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

RETIREMENT AND PRE-RETIREMENT DEPRESSION

Here is a letter I wrote in response to Sue Shellenbarger's December 13, 2007 Work & Family column in the Wall Street Journal. The issues need to be out for public discussion and not kept in the closeet.

Dear Sue:

Your article today (December 13, 2007), “Even Lawyers Get the Blues: Opening Up About Depression,” is very important, and I commend you for writing it. The statistics are disturbing.

As a long-time consultant and coach to many law firms now focusing on transitioning planning for Baby Boomer senior partners and the younger partners who will eventually step into their shoes (www.nextgeneration-nextdestination.com ), I can tell you we hear about depression on the other end as well. For example, doctors tell us that successful lawyers who have stopped practicing or had to leave their firms because of mandatory retirement age policies or related pressures on older lawyers often suffer depression. This is frequently attributed to the loss of professional identity, especially if they have made their practice the dominant component of their life. (This deterioration of mental – and sometimes physical – health has been reported in the Traditionalist generation, not just the achievement-oriented Baby Boomers.)

It is interesting that the pressures of both practicing and not practicing can have a serious impact, and it is important for lawyers  - and other professionals who have similar pressures – not to be in denial and to try to prevent the consequences. Firms and other organizations, for the sake of productivity as well as compassion, need to devote more attention to creating supportive environments.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

More Info for the Next Career/Life Phase

The 50 Plus Expo is back in New York. There will be health and fitness information, career insights, financial planning and cultural events. It takes place November 11, 2007. Click on the link for more information.

AVOID "SUMMIT SYNDROME"

"Summit Syndrome," an affliction that hits certain over-achievers, can derail careers. Management consultant George D. Parsons and Richard T. Pascale, an associate fellow at Oxford University, wrote about it in the March issue of the Harvard Business Review.

Those exhibiting the syndrome, which is difficult to spot early on, without carefully watching for signs, thrive on new challenges, and when the challenges have been overcome, they find it hard to carry on in a routine way. These talented people may suffer health problems or declining performance and may suddenly leave their organizations, not knowing how much they still have to achieve.

Some new challenges they may want to take on include: coaching and mentoring others; learning to shape a long-tern vision for their career and lives (or legacy) that their rapid rise never left time for; or learning to be better at managing conflict with others.

Retain the Brains - Think Transitioning

NO NEED TO PUT MOST OLDER WORKERS OUT TO PASTURE.

Their brains function very well, according to recent brain research.

There are changes over time, and there are pros and cons about harnessing the skills older people bring to the business table. In the professional services, advantages of retaining individuals over age 60 will often outweigh disadvantages.

At Practice Development Counsel's *Next Generation, Next Destination* division, we say "Reinvention is the New Retirement," and transitioning planning is the way to achieve outstanding results.

In addition to the working condition of their brains, the United States Census Bureau’s report (released March 9, 2006) on the aging population said today’s older Americans are markedly different from past generations. They are better educated, healthier, more prosperous – and those differences are accelerating.  Disabilities, when they occur, are happening at a considerably later age. So all in all, they have the capability to keep working longer – and not be a drag on the medical benefits plans of their employers.

For that to happen, they will have to reverse a trend perpetuated by mandatory retirement requirements, layoffs and subtle or not biases about hiring older workers who have the skills and knowledge to perform. The Wall Street Journal reported (March 10, 2006) that just 20% of men in 2003 were still working at age 65, compared with 50% in 1950. (I suspect the percentage of women might be higher, as many started later than the men or re-entered the workforce after raising children.)

The challenge is to harness this brainpower in new roles. Creative thinking is needed to enhance the success of firms and the lives of these highly educated, fit and healthy, still eager to contribute individuals.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    Practice Development Counsel

www.pdcounsel.com     [email protected]

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