Building Culture in the Next Normal

July 16, 2021 by

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FountainBlue’s July 16 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Culture in the Next Normal’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

Our panelists spoke eloquently about the importance of building culture and preparing for that next normal. They emphasized how the pandemic and its aftermath gave everyone a common experience and helped bring people from different backgrounds together. The other side of that experience is that the pandemic also raised the bar for everyone, and people are seeking more meaningful, more engaging, more empowering work experiences. So the question becomes – what can leaders at all levels do to facilitate engagement and empowerment at work? Below is a compilation of thoughts and suggestions from our esteemed panelists.


Lead the Way

  • Distribute the Leadership so that more voices are heard. Encourage others to weigh in with their thoughts and ideas.
  • Make communication more of a two-way interaction. Speak with others rather than just TO others. 
  • Don’t stop at hiring diverse people onto your team. Make sure that they feel included in the work and conversations, and that everyone is equally heard.
  • Make it safe for everyone to bring their full selves at work. Do this in thoughts, words and actions, and align consistently to that standard.
  • Put the safety and welfare of your people first and foremost.
  • Nurture respect and kindness, integrity and excellence.

Work on Yourself

  • Work hard at both your work tasks and also on your relationships.
  • Develop the cultural intelligence and self awareness to know how you can get better at developing yourself and others around you.
  • Choose to become uncomfortable more often, and curious about your own discomfort.
  • Be vulnerable, humble and open, authentic, curious and true.
  • Own up to any mistakes and transgressions for nobody is perfect. Transparent communicate learnings and apologies where appropriate.

Bring Others with You

  • Listen deeply with the intent to learn. Apply your learning in public and proactive ways.
  • Welcome input and feedback, and reward those who provide it.
  • Deeply and genuinely care about others and appreciate and reward others for their contributions.
  • Create win-for-all collaborations.
  • Let others shape and define that next reality, that next work environment.

The bottom line is that we are all the same, while we are all so different. So creating guardrails based on who you are as a company, as a leader, and then working with others to co-create that cultural identity will serve as all well as we co-create that next normal.

What’s Next in Hardware

July 16, 2021 by

What’s Next in Hardware

FountainBlue’s July 16 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘What’s Next in Hardware’, with our hosts at Renesas. Although our executives in attendance represented a wide range of roles, organizations and industries, they all agreed on the following:

  • Hardware innovation has been accelerating as the pendulum swings back to the need for hardware to support the rampant innovations on the software side.
  • Use cases abound for both enterprises and for consumers. The trick is to drill down on a particular use case and address a problem which the market would fund.
  • The form factor must be smaller, while the functionality must be broader and more versatile. 
  • Digital, analog and power solutions will be integrated and optimized as we continue to innovate.

A key to effective hardware innovation is balancing privacy, security and access. Just as it’s impractical to design a house without windows or doors, we can’t design solutions which are absolutely secure with the utmost protections of our privacy while providing optimized access only to the approved parties all the time, every time.
Another key is the need to focus on real problems which need to be addressed, particularly when decisions need to be made quickly, when lives are at stake. Whether we quickly get more hardware at the edge, integrating with more distributed cloud solutions, or whether we leverage hardware to be more efficient and effective at work, more immersed and involved in life, the truth is that hardware innovations in the next few years will continue to be revolutionary and transformational.
Below are some highlighted opportunities for hardware innovation mentioned by our executives in attendance.
Edge Computing

  • Optimizing hardware solutions on the edge so that processing is more efficient and effective;
  • Designing wireless solutions which provide faster end points;
  • Providing drones to collect data such as gas leaks; 

Energy Management

  • Proactively managing energy efficiency and renewables at data centers and complex end points;
  • Providing low-power, hardware-driven connectivity for enterprise and consumer usage;

Sensing

  • Leveraging hardware to sense everything from light to heat to sound;
  • Designing augmented reality solutions for enterprise and consumer usage;
  • Replicating human senses such as smell and taste;

Integration Challenges and Opportunities

  • Reducing the weight and size of hardware, so that it can be more easily integrated into solutions;
  • Utilizing AI and ML to optimize custom hardware design so we can optimize durability, usefulness and manage risk and wear and tear; 
  • Replacing human functions with hardware and prosthetics;
  • Supporting the growth of the equipment-to-equipment, equipment-to-cell-tower 5G network; 
  • Stretching the capacity in memory so that we can process more information more efficiently; 
  • Offering Confidential computing solutions, embracing hardware as part of the security strategy.

The bottom line is that hardware innovation is a work in progress, with much at stake, as hardware continues to make software smarter. And it’s not just about the technology, just the hardware and software. It’s also about collaborations across organizations and policies and compliance requirements.Although the conversation this morning was eerily futuristic, it was also at the same time utterly real, and absolutely practical and prophetic, exciting and daunting at the same time. 

Next Generation Collaborations

July 9, 2021 by

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FountainBlue’s July 9 When She Speaks women in leadership program was on the topic of ‘Next Generation Collaborations’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Intel and our esteemed panelists. 

Our panelists all extolled the virtues of collaboration, having learned from a very young age that collaboration benefits everyone. They each spoke eloquently about the business results of collaboration, from improved innovation to improved quality, from improved customer satisfaction to more efficient delivery times.

Each panelists has deep experience building relationships to ensure ongoing collaboration and growth for all parties. Building deeper and broader networks also helps with the collaboration agenda, especially as projects and technologies become increasingly more complex.

The give and take of collaborative relationships within and outside the company will continue to be integral to a company’s expansion and growth as we enter the next normal. Predictions for that next normal include:

  • The world will become increasingly more connected and we will all become more interconnected.
  • There will be faster time-to-market requirements coupled with more complex, more personalized deliverables.
  • Quality standards will continue to rise while the pressure for cost reduction also increases.

Therefore to remain competitive:

  • Collaborate to innovate.
  • Include divergent thinking and ideas.
  • Build collaborations across the ecosystem.
  • Collaboration to define new niche markets.
  • Manage and lead so that more voices are heard so that the stage is shared.
  • Build a culture of trust where teams work together to meet common objectives.
  • Listen deeply to understand current and project customer and market needs.
  • Have a clear end goal and rough path with milestones, but be flexible on how you can collaborate with others to deliver.

The bottom line is that collaboration makes everything better than the sum of the parts, so make a point of making every relationship better with each interaction.

Resources:

The Need for Speed

July 5, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s July 2 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘The Need for Speed. Our thanks to our panelists for their participation – Ronald Goossens, ASML and Archana Muralidharan, Palo Alto Networks.

Our panelists generously and poignantly shared their thoughts and best practices around hot to be speedy. Below is a summary of their suggestions.

Relationships matter. 

  • Empower and inspire your team to collaborate and share so that together the team is more efficient and effective, while also being better at problem-solving.
  • Be customer-centric and take a cow’s-eye view of the world so that you can better understand and even anticipate the needs of the customer. This way you can more efficiently and effectively deliver to their needs.
  • To build trusted relationships, show up as a Competent person with the Capacity to perform assigned duties, the Transparency to candidly communicate (especially if things don’t go as planned), and the Authenticity to speak directly about your own motivations.

Be Strategic.

  • Although we must be focused on quickly delivering for our customers, we must also ensure that we are consistently in alignment with our corporate mission, vision and values. 
  • In the heat of the moment when you’re trying to do things quickly, focus as much on quality (or even more so) than you would on quantity. 
  • Agilely course-correct when the data shows that your plan is not generating intended results.
  • Balance the time you spend ‘on the dance floor’ tactically delivering and the time you spend on the balcony with a larger, more strategic view.
  • Trust Your Instincts, But Back It Up with reliable, accurate data.

Manage Your Projects and People Well.

  • Focus on the why and the what and let your team figure out the how in terms of processes, timing, format, etc., provided that you deliver quality results within reasonable timelines.
  • Welcome input and feedback and be open to the what and the why of that feedback.
  • Differentiate between the Urgent, the Important and the Must-Have and manage accordingly. 
  • When there’s an urgent matter to address, immediately 1) bring in senior people to fully understand the issues, 2) focus on dealing with the immediate and urgent issue first, 3) understand whether it’s a symptom of a more systemic issue, 4) identify and explore the root cause and the fix for that root cause, and 5) explore the implications of the problem to see if there’s a pattern to be fixed and to minimize similar problems.
  • Be known for consistently under-commit and over-deliver.

Our panelists closed by discussing how a leadership strategy should depend on how urgent and important an issue is.

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The Choice Between the Stimulus and the Response

July 1, 2021 by
The Choice Between the Stimulus and the Response

There will always be stimuli for us – whether they’re sensory, emotional, or mental. Between a stimulus and a response comes a choice. The key is how to make a choice that’s more productive, more proactive, more practical, and more prudent than other options.

  1. First consider the information available from the stimulus.
    • Is this stimulus real, based on information from your senses? If so, which senses are validating this and how urgently is a response needed? See point 2.
    • If this stimulus is not validated by your senses, see points 3-10.
  2. If the stimulus is real, as validated by your senses, consider available choices before making a response. The Amygdala and the sympathetic nervous system have you covered with the flight, fight, and freeze responses. The adrenaline and cortisol plus the stress and anxiety will help you address that stimulus. Taking a moment to consider your choices, time permitting, might help you better optimize your response to this ‘real’ stimulus.
  3. If the stimulus is in your mind, take the time to examine your thoughts, stories, memories, judgments, biases, etc., to see how they might be (negatively) impacting your choices and your responses.
    • Consider making it a habit to be more measured, to take more time, and to include more choices before you respond.
    • Consider including alternative strategies and plans so that you might address the situation in different ways.
  4. Look for an opportunity for personal growth.
    • Consider how a choice might make you more open to alternative ways of thinking, speaking and acting. For example, an unexpected cancelled account or sale might lead to an unexpected new client or new industry target.
    • Consider how you can expose yourself to other people, things, ideas, and processes which stretch your comfort zone. In this same example, if a former client gives you the feedback that your current offerings no longer serve their needs, perhaps it’s an opportunity to expand your product or service offering, or expand your offering to a different client or market segment.
  5. Look for an opportunity to grow your team, product, or organization.
    • Consider the market and technology implications of your options.
    • Consider how you and your team/product/organization can become more competitive, more productive, and more innovative.
  6. Consider how you see people and things not-like-you.
    • Consider your personal feelings and views about people not-like-you, and about things that you’re not comfortable with or don’t know much about.
    • Consider how you can become more open-minded, more compassionate, more inclusive and what that would mean for you if you do so. In the iconic book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’, Sam I am does convince us to try something new and different, and it does change our perspective about not just green eyes and ham, but about other ‘strange and untried’ foods. 
  7. As you start looking more proactively at all the choices in front of you, consider how you can become less reactive as you get better at managing your thoughts, emotions, and stress.
  8. As you more habitually take a breath to evaluate how ‘real’ a stimulus is, and how to respond to a stimulus that’s more in your mind, consider how you can become more self-aware. Notice how this awareness impacts both your professional successes and your personal happiness.
  9. Notice how you can become more proactive and less reactive by more consistently inserting a choice between a stimulus and a response.
  10. Be open-minded and compassionate to others around you who may be reactive, as we all seek to better manage our choices between each stimulus and each response.

People Not-Like-Me

June 18, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s June 18 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘People Not-Like-Us’. 

Our panelists generously shared personal and professional stories about their own personality styles and how to work (and live) with people Not-Like-Them. They also talked about the personal and professional benefits of more openly interacting with people with diverse backgrounds at work and in life. Below is a summary of their thoughts and advice.
Studies show that there are many business benefits of including people with diverse backgrounds into work activities, so helping leaders welcome people-not-like-them on to their teams would benefit the organization overall. With the pandemic and its aftermath, it has become more important than ever to be open to working with people from a wide range of backgrounds in life and at work. Below are some thoughts on how to do so.

  • Make communications with others more transparent, more empathetic, more open, more regular, and more multi-channeled in order to make sure everyone feels both more included and more appreciated.
  • Build a sense of community so everyone feels more connected, more  empowered, more accepted and more welcome, despite their differences. This leads to a more open and resilient culture, and a more committed and loyal workforce.
  • Invite participation, feedback and input so the organization can continue to morph and accommodate the evolving needs of the workforce.
  • Define the boundaries around the culture and the work so that you’re compliant with requirements and in alignment with the corporate vision, but welcome input and ideas on how to shape the work experience.
  • Choose to push through perceptions and values and be more curious and open about people who are not-like-you.
  • Make it SAFE to learn, to make mistakes, to speak up. Empower and reward those who are courageous enough to do so.
  • Develop deep and genuine connections with others and listen deeply to what they say, what they mean, what they need, and what they want.
  • Practice becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable, to expand your personal comfort zone.
  • Facilitate communication between people with different backgrounds and help them come to productive agreements where possible.

The bottom line is that we are all uniquely ourselves, and being open to people not-like-us will help each of us be better versions of ourselves, thereby impacting a broader and larger swath of others in productive and positive ways.

Start-Ups Changing the World

June 11, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s June 11 When She Speaks women in leadership series program, on the topic of ‘Start-ups Changing the World’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Coupa and our esteemed panelists. 

Our panelists were passionate about start-ups and have supported them as entrepreneurs, funders, founders, advisers, and leaders. There were many reasons why they each opted to support start-ups.

  • Many Start-ups focus on solving specific real-world problems and focus on getting things done.
  • Many start-up build close relationships with their teammates through the intense and exciting activities around the launching and building of companies.
  • Working at start-ups provide many opportunities to learn and grow faster.

But working at start-ups is not always a bed of roses.

  • Many start-ups can be too chaotic, inconsistent and ineffective because of lack of leadership, lack of communication, lack of process.
  • Many start-ups lack the funding to realize results.
  • It’s hard as a start-up to get customers to engage because the service and solution is unproven.

But it’s worth it to work for start-ups! Here’s some advice for selecting the right start-up.

  • Choose a start-up that’s focused on solving a problem you’re passionate about.
  • Choose a start-up that’s well funded, in a market that’s growing.
  • Choose a start-up which creates partnerships and alliances to help the start-up overcome obstacles and grow fast.
  • Choose a start-up that’s nimble enough AND stable/funded enough to succeed.
  • Choose a start-up that does well (from a business sense) and does right (from a sustainability and world-changing perspective).

Below are some hot opportunities identified by our panelists:

  • Look at the data and how the data can drive everyday business opportunities.
  • Sustainability initiatives will both support the Earth and its people and build business opportunities as well.
  • Healthcare opportunities abound, and creating successful solutions help people live better, healthier and even longer lives.

Choose to be more efficient and more effective, regardless of whether you work in a start-up or a big company.

  • Choose quality over quantity.
  • Measure what matters.
  • Focus on the north star – the WHY. Then talk about the WHAT and the HOW.
  • Keep reaching for stars.
  • Choose continuous learning. Fail often, but fail forward.
  • Make the time to do things you’re passionate about. 
  • Don’t over-think.
  • Support others of all genders and backgrounds in being confident and courageous enough to do all of the above.

The bottom line is that we need both start-ups and corporates to partner with others across the ecosystem to build innovation and leadership opportunities while solving real-world problems.

The Future of Work

June 11, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s June 11 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘The Future of Work’, with our hosts at CITRIX. As usual, our participating executives represented a wide breadth of backgrounds and perspectives. We are all in agreement on the following:

The future of work was very much impacted by the pandemic for all participating executives, and everyone is scrambling to plan-fully and proactively address the current, projected and future needs of our workers, partners and customers. We don’t know what the future will hold, but we do know that leadership and communication will help us collaboratively design solutions which benefit all, and that iterating on the adopted strategies and plans will help us more progressively serve everyone.


Companies large and small of all ilks and industries have adopted the technologies, processes, support and resources to ensure that most of us are able to work harder and more productively now than ever – even though we are restricted from interactions and travel.We don’t know what the future will hold, but we do know that the productivity levels are not sustainable in the long term, as it will lead to burn-out and attrition.

  • We are all at various levels of returning to a hybrid form of work, and are all plan-fully considering who returns to the office and how the return will most productively benefit everyone.
    • We don’t know when and where this return will happen, but we do know that we need to proactively address, manage, and communicate the logistical, policy, infrastructure, safety, and other issues introduced by the return-to-work, and get buy-in and support for any return-to-work plan.
  • We all agreed that technology has been progressively and aggressively adopted to help us all work through the pandemic. But we also agree that no technology will ever replace the need for workers.
    • We know that we will always have both workers and technologies, but we aren’t sure how to best optimize each as we return to work. The plan will morph and flow over time as the technologies and the workers both become more integrated and more sophisticated.
  • We all agreed that this year-plus of working from home helped us all better connect with ourselves, our family, with nature, with our purpose. We all know that this will forever change the way we look at our work, and the choices and sacrifices we make for our work.
    • As leaders, we need to understand the motivations of our people, and ensure that we can speak to the purpose of why we do what we do, and how we add value to our team, our company, our customers, our future, our customers. 
  • We all experienced how the pandemic made us feel both so isolated and yet so commonly human. As we return to work, we are all strategizing on how we can feel more deeply connected with each other so that we can better serve each other. 
    • Work leaders need to facilitate that communication to drive that connection between team members and company leaders at all levels.
  • The topic of privacy, security and access was prominent prior to the pandemic, and will become even more as we return to that next normal. 
    • Proactively managing that balance as we enter the next normal will remain an ongoing challenge.


Below is advice on how we can better do any of the above.

  • Take advantage of opportunities to have serendipitous discussions with your team, your partners and your customers. Building deeper relationships beyond work will not only help you with your work, it will also help you be more happy, more human.
  • Look for opportunities to manage beyond the silos of groups, apps or organizations. There will be many bleed-overs of each as everything becomes more integrated, more complex.
  • Choose and adopt best practices for the good work you do. Celebrate victories and successes and learn from each.
  • Be proactively protective of your mental health, your personal time, and encourage your others to do the same.
  • Build ecosystems and relationships which will support you personally as you grow and develop.
  • Be flexible about what you expect and how you and others respond to what they experience.

The bottom line is that we can all see the opportunities in the challenges, be more confident despite the fear, when we look at the future of work, if we continue to focus on leadership and innovation goals.

Building Emotional Intelligence

June 7, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s June 4 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting on the topic of ‘Building Emotional Intelligence’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

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Our panelists were quite bullish on the need for emotional intelligence now and in the new realities of the new normal. 

Each panelist spoke passionately about the need to have a strong culture, the need to be self-aware, vulnerable and authentic in order to build your own emotional intelligence, and to help others to feel safe enough to grow their own.

They each provided poignant examples of the challenges they face day-to-day, and shared their best practices on how to best address these challenges, leveraging their emotional intelligence. A compilation of their best practices is below.

  • Don’t make it personal. Keep the discussion around the data and the business objectives.
  • Be collaborative and focus on team goals. Understanding the motivations of all parties and aligning everyone to shared goals will help keep that conversation productive.
  • Ask questions, point to resources and provide support so that others choose to become more emotionally intelligent. 
  • Help others be more successful when they choose to be more emotionally intelligent.
  • Listen with your heart as well as with your ears. Hear what is said (the data) with what is meant (the emotions under the data which may not be stated verbally).
  • Be empathetic – nobody knows the full story of the challenges and opportunities faced by others. Live as if we are ALL ONE, all on the same team, all aligned with intent and purpose.
  • Make it OK to speak on previously ‘taboo’ topics around mental health. Make it safe enough for people to open up and ask for the support and services they need to better perform, to better thrive, bringing their best selves to work.

You can leverage emotional intelligence in many ways.

  • Use your emotional intelligence to apply your learnings about how to work with people and situations to near scenarios and people.
  • Use your emotional intelligence to embrace failures as learning opportunities. Support a culture where failure is accepted, and that all who fail, fail in a forward direction, bringing learning sessions with each failure.
  • Use your emotional intelligence to learn (and teach) not just to be self-aware, but also to self-regulate. 
  • Use your emotional intelligence to pivot to what’s new, what’s next, having confidence that you will be self-aware and self-disciplined enough to embrace the opportunities in the challenge.

Here are some formulas which have worked for our panelists.

  • Vulnerability leads to trust leads to relationships leads to improved results (productivity/contracts).
  • Emotional Intelligence expands exponentially as more and more people adopt the practice.

We conclude by noting that in this next normal, change will continue wreak havoc on your work, and on your emotions – and problem in more complex and complicated ways. Choose to be emotionally intelligent and self-aware enough to embrace the change, and courageous and disciplined enough to self-regulate and help others to do the same.

The Pursuit of Happiness

June 1, 2021 by
The Pursuit of Happiness

If you’re like me, your days are very full and you are very busy with the demands of work, family, friends, hobbies, obligations, and surprises.

But when you settle in for the day, do you wonder if you’re happy?

Do you ask yourself, ‘What would make you more happy’?

And are you the only one who asks yourself ‘How can I make different choices to bring more happiness into my life’?

In this blog, I share some tips for pursuing happiness.

  1. Be self-aware enough to know what makes you happy, and disciplined enough to keep checking with yourself on how you’re doing on the happiness meter, no matter how you’d like to measure it.
  2. Savor your best memories longer and deeper, without dismissing the learnings from growth opportunities.
  3. Be grateful for the little things, and make a point of enjoying the little things with the ones you love.
  4. Choose to forgive yourself and others for past transgressions, actual or perceived. 
  5. Be open and curious about people who aren’t like you. Assume that they too have good intentions.
  6. Be kind, patient, supportive, generous and gracious with others, especially if they are not acting as their best selves. 
  7. See the world with more humor and light. See other people with more tolerance and hope.
  8. Regularly do things which make your heart sing with pleasure, your head swell with knowledge, and your hands tingle from a task well done. 
  9. Enjoy the journey as an exploration, rather than feeling like ‘happiness’ is just a few steps/years/dollars/tasks/jobs/titles/ relationships down the road.
  10. Remember that happiness is a choice. Make a choice that brings you joy.

May you find the happiness you pursue, and share that gift of happiness with those you love.