Archive for November, 2020

Welcoming the Gift of Feedback

November 20, 2020

FountainBlue’s November 6 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Welcoming the Gift of Feedback’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

  • The Gift of Feedback – Maranda Dziekonski, Swiftly
  • Explain the Why – Maranda Dziekonski, Swiftly
  • The Customer as King – Kavita Shah, Nova
  • Performance Review Feedback – Colm Lysaght, Micron
  • Facilitating Awkward Feedback Conversations – Thenu Kittappa, Nutanix
  • Best Practice for Providing Feedback as a Gift – All

Below are notes from the discussion. Our panelists agree that Feedback is not a choice, but a reality, a natural part of learning and growing. In fact, you should worry if you’re not getting feedback, as you may be getting complacent or you may be isolated or others might be afraid to provide you with input.

Thoughts on Welcoming Feedback

  • Giving or receiving feedback means that you’re invested in the success in the person or project or initiative – invested enough to provide input with the objective of improvement.
  • A good way to get positive feedback is to be proactive about managing yourself, and communicating what you’re doing, what you need to succeed, what success looks like, etc., 
  • Provide the data and information to back up the feedback you’re giving. Have the same expectation when others give feedback to you.
  • Feedback should be given continuously and productively. There should be no surprises at annual performance reviews for example.
  • Feedback is a team sport. Share feedback across teams and organizations.

Thoughts on How to Better Communicate Feedback

  • Treat feedback as a gift, an opportunity to learn and grow and level-up! Be open enough so that you can understand and integrate that feedback so that you can grow and learn.
  • Give feedback with sensitivity and humility and curiosity. Give feedback because you care about the person or project.
  • Use feedback to help your team feel empowered and engaged. A happy team makes for a happy customer!
  • When feedback is painful, be open and curious, but also give yourself time for self-reflection and integration. Keep being courageous and open, but don’t make deadlines for when feedback must be adopted.
  • Remember that feedback about the quality of work done can be a very sensitive discussion – it’s a tough conversation whether the quality is too good (not efficiently produced) or not so good…
  • Manage and communicate feedback so that the other party takes ownership, adopts strategies for improving, and invests in making a necessary change.
  • Second-hand feedback must be dealt with directly, so feedback doesn’t become gossipy and petty.
  • Provide feedback which is SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. 
  • Be clear on expectations and the metrics for success. 
  • When you’re giving feedback on somebody’s communication style, be clear whether you’re addressing the performance, the communication pattern or both. 

The Role of Customer Feedback

  • Listen to the feedback that customers provide, and leverage that feedback to drive the product roadmap.
  • With that said, understanding the market feedback and the input of multiple customers helps you in turn give insights and input to customers.
  • It’s critical to then provide feedback to the team, about the input of customers, as this would help the team implement the solutions in demand.
  • Let market and customer feedback define the time, the effort and the commitment to products and solutions.
  • Respect the transactional aspects of relationships, but focus on the partnerships developed and long-term commitments made.

The bottom line is that feedback is a critical part of the growth of an individual, a team, a product, an organization. Creating a culture of empathy and trust can lead to more productive and constructive feedback, raising the bar for all makes everyone better and stronger. 

Resources:

6 Ways To Build A Feedback Driven Culture That Inspires8 Examples of Constructive Feedback With Sample ScenariosHow to Ask Your Customers Questions to Get Feedback (Tips)

Ways to Lead

November 16, 2020
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FountainBlue’s November 13 Ways to Lead program. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Pure Storage and our esteemed panelists: 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue 
  • Panelist Niki Armstrong, Vice President, Global Employment, Compliance & Litigation, Pure Storage
  • Panelist Sheryl Chamberlain, Board Chair Empower (Coupa Woman’s Program) and Global and Regional System Integrator Alliances, Coupa Software 
  • Panelist Karthi Gopalan, Product Line Director, Mobile Power BU, Maxim
  • with opening remarks by Ellen Lail, Regional Sales Director, Commercial, Pure Storage

Our panelists represented a wide range of backgrounds, educational paths and perspectives, but here are their top ten views on ways to lead.

  1. Leadership comes from many paths, from many directions. Defining your own leadership style will take much self-reflection, vast and deep support from many sources, an inquisitive mind willing to learn continuously, as well as the willingness to grow from both successes and challenges.
  2. Sometimes leadership opportunities are ones you aggressively and strategically pursue. Sometimes they appear to fall on your lap because others around you have faith in you. Either way, when presented with that leadership opportunity, be open to learning and growing, receptive to sponsors and networks of support, curious about the importance of the task at hand, and flexible about how you work with others to accomplish these goals.
  3. Leaders tend to integrate the data from the outside – from market, customer, business, people and other data – and collaborate with others to create strategies and approaches which may transcend the traditional modus operandi. The best of these leaders sell these transformational ideas into the mainstream, providing exceptional win-win-opportunities for all.
  4. Leaders define success not just by the business results, but also by the impact on the people they touch, which often transcends today’s business metrics.
  5. Leadership development invariably involves going off a planned course. Although the role, industry, or work may vary (the HOW a leader leads), the leadership path meanders around the core values, principles and skills for each leader (the WHO a leader is).  
  6. No leader is perfect. The best leaders learn most when they have been less than perfect.
  7. Leaders get their support and inspiration from many other people, resources and networks in their lives, surrounding themselves with positive and supportive others. 
  8. Leaders are the first to pay it forward, supporting those around them to also reach higher. 
  9. Leadership takes both confidence and courage. You can gain confidence by working with others and gaining skills. But courage must come from deep inside you, and a commitment to aim for something higher, with the grit and perseverance to succeed in making it happen, the fortitude and strength to try again despite the failures.
  10. Leadership is a practice which is enhanced through diverse experiences. Embrace the opportunities in front of you, and share your learnings in CSR, public speaking, board seats and volunteering.

We will conclude by saying the people are inspired and humbled when the principled leader speaks. They challenge us to embrace and support ourselves as we are, while we also strive for our greater selves. We respond with goosebumps, feeling the truth of the message, and the energy and optimism to reach for our own small star in the sky.

Data is the New Black

November 16, 2020

FountainBlue’s November 13 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Data is the New Black’. Please join me in thanking our participating executives and our hosts at Micron for framing the discussion.

November 13, 2020 Roundtable: Data is the New Black

It’s a given that each executive from each industry is impacted by data, so all were challenged to provide a provocative perspective on how data is and will be impacting our businesses, our industries, our daily lives. Below is a summary of my discussion.

The executives agreed that the data volume, velocity and variety is constantly growing. The challenge and the opportunity is to collaboratively delivering VALUE, while focusing on the needs of our customers’ needs.

Data is plentiful and growing, but finding the relevant and true data quickly will make the difference. Indeed, solutions which lead to valid conclusions, information, and solutions with limited data will become increasingly important. This is, in fact how the human brain functions… The trick is finding the most relevant kernels of true data.

One idea was to generate ‘fast data’ using AI and ML algorithms to make quick decisions based on specific criteria – like whether someone with little credit history is at high risk for defaulting on a loan.  
Others brought up the importance of examining edge cases – double-clicking not on what’s regular and normal, but finding patterns and learnings from the exceptional and different scenarios. From these anomalies, you may at times make a broader statement or conclusion – or just identify the anomaly as a one-off, a fluke. 
What’s important is to focus on the validity, the relevance, and the immediacy of the data, for if you’re not working with this type of data, you’ll have Garbage In, which would lead to Garbage Out (commonly known as GI-GO). The executives were in violent agreement that collaborating with others to validate data sources would lead to better decisions, better applications, better solutions. 
Several executives mentioned the need to focus on HOW data can solve many problems, and the importance of leveraging data to solve the most relevant problems, and the need to customize solutions, for there is no one-size-fits-all scenario.
Additional best practices include the aggregation of data from across departments, organizations, product lines and organizations will bring larger, broader perspectives which are relevant for all involved, and the need for ongoing collaboration to ensure elegant and ongoing data integrity, especially when milliseconds of time make a huge difference. An example is validating the signature between a nurse and a patient so that prescriptions are more quickly distributed, when timing is critical.
Everyone agrees that the data generated and gathered can help organizations run more efficiently, can help customers better understand what’s working, can help predict and capitalize on new strategies, can help deliver more relevant and richer customer experiences. 
With the rising dependence on the generation, storage and management of data, and especially now as the data is integrated into everyone’s day-to-day lives, we’re finding huge volumes of data generated on the edge. Responding quickly to the data on the edge will be a challenge, and filtering out the most relevant data will make the solution more effective and more efficient.
We ended with a call for collaboration, for standardization, for policy upgrades around data generation, privacy and security. The semiconductor solutions which gave Silicon Valley its name continues to develop the chips that power servers, machines, tools and devices. Innovations in the semiconductor industry in turn can support the data collection, storage, distribution, etc., tasks normally attributed to software solutions. 
Our executives concluded that Data can’t be the new oil, for oil is organic and more predictable. Data is defined, created, standardized, used by humans, and humans have decided that data will be everywhere. So humans must decide how to use it well, to solve specific problems. The need is urgent, the need is immediate, the opportunities are vast.

Productivity Hacks

November 6, 2020

FountainBlue’s November 6 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the Productivity Hacks topic. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

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  • Email Productivity Hacks – Parshuram Zantye, Lam Research
  • Meeting Management Techniques – Nancy Moreno, Equinix
  • Leveraging IT for the Good of All – Sameer Mehdiratta, Renesas
  • Optimizing Communications – Adriane McFetridge, Netflix

Below are notes from the discussion.

The pressure to be productive in a technology company has been intensified by the global and technological evolution over the past couple of decades, and further exacerbated by the health, social, economic and political stressors introduced in 2020.

Our panel of technology professionals shared some very useful best practices which are compiled below.

  • Be strategic so that you can work efficiently. 
    • A firefighting mode takes more energy and resources and in the end might not be as effective as planning ahead strategically.
    • Focus on what’s most impactful, most important to you. (See Stephen Covey 4 Quadrants)
      • 80% of your time should focus on the 20% of things which are most important to you.
      • Although you may do some firefighting for things that are important and urgent, most of your time should focus on the important things that are not urgent.
    • Distinguish between the urgent and the important and prioritize accordingly.
    • Consciously spend less time on incidental communications and proactively manage how much time you need from others for non-essential things.
  • Manage your meetings well.
    • Be clear whether meetings are for information, discussion/debate, decision-making, brainstorming etc., and communicate the agenda accordingly.
    • Use the agenda to construct follow-up notes and actions.
    • Create value in short, iterative steps and build a predictable rhythm in the meeting and for the team.
    • Know the purpose of the meeting, the audience of the meeting, the role of each attendee and focus on the joint goals of the meeting.
  • Manage communications so that all intended recipients can be clear and productive, and everyone is clear on the task at hand, and clear on the background/status/purpose for the project.
    • Know your audience and communicate to their needs.
    • Start with the big picture communication in the first three sentences, leaving the details under that. 
    • Deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time for the right reason.
    • Understand the impact of the communication, and the implications for the recipients and plan accordingly. 
    • Describe strategic details to those who are tactically-minded and vice versa so that parties understand how the team/people work together.
  • Proactively manage your up-times and your down-times, away from your e-mail, your social media accounts, your slacks and texts.
  • Be purposeful in what you do, focused on doing it well.
    • Sometimes multi-tasking is over-valued, if a singular, concentrated focus on a high-priority task is what’s in order. (Adopt the open-one-drawer-at-a-time mindset where appropriate.)
    • Welcome input and feedback and perspectives.
    • Know yourself and what you like to do, what you do well, and find opportunities which let you do both.
  • Help others be more productive in these trying times.
    • Help them adjust to the process and technology changes which need to happen to keep up with work and market demands. 
    • There will be ‘life’ challenges which interfere with the productivity of others, including elderly care, child care, grocery shopping, house issues etc., Insisting on productivity when life hits hard could make people less productive in the end, and less committed and engaged.
  • Embrace technology to support you in efficiently managing your workload and communications.
    • Video conferencing and the associated tools including recording, breakout rooms, subtitles and translations help us better document and communicate. 
    • The pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital adoption for individuals and companies. IT teams have moved mountains to provide secure and efficient access for their staff from locations throughout the world. These solutions make it easier for everyone to remotely communicate, collaborate and connect.

Studies show that we have not lost too much productivity, despite the challenges of 2020. But in the end, we are all social beings, so working in isolation may impact our productivity in the long run. Providing the technology solution and the physical contact will be necessary in order to maintain our productivity levels.

Resources: 

2020 Mentorship Best Practices

November 6, 2020

FountainBlue’s November 6 When She Speaks program featured our Annual Mentorship Best Practices program. 

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds in our panel. Although each panelist was unique in her perspective, all speakers had much in common.

  • Their passion for mentorship, learning and growing runs wide and deep. They practice it in their thinking, speaking and in their actions, embracing opportunities for continuous learning within and outside the work environment.
  • They are each complex individuals with many dominant skills, but also open and eager to learn new and even scary things, if it’s an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to serve others.
  • They are each strategic while being tactical, team players while also very independent, open and trusting while also savvy and methodical.

Below is a compilation of best practices they shared in the panel discussion.

  • Each company, each leader has a different way of running a mentorship program. There are no right answers, but each solution keeps involving and improving, getting feedback and input from committed participants.
  • Implementing successful programs takes dedication and collaboration, to ensure that there is a process for matching mentors and mentees, a format for maintaining communications between pairs and across the program, a commitment for the funding and resources to grow a program, and an expectation to continue communicating and learning from successes and challenges, in the interest of continuous improvement.
  • Build a culture which builds people up, facilitates connections between people who work toward a common goal. 
  • Although there’s a need for structure to support the building of networks within and outside an organization, also embrace the opportunity which come from fluidity and creativity and random connections, which could lead to leadership and innovation outcomes.
  • Align the executive team to a people-first mindset, in thoughts, words and actions. 
  • Reward committed staff and volunteers putting structures and systems in place organically, to best serve the community. 
  • Serve the needs of the customers – the mentees and the mentors who want to contribute to their own growth and that of others.
  • Create a solution which is scalable and flexible, with a host of resources to support all involved across the globe.

These are the values mentors and mentees admire in others:

  • Humility
  • Trust
  • Candor
  • Humor
  • Openness
  • Vulnerability
  • Courageous/Strength

This is what our mentors and mentees would tell their 21-year-old self:

  • Don’t expect every experience to be a positive one, but do commit to persevering through the good and the bad.
  • Be the Advocate that you seek. You are in the best position to advocate for yourself.
  • Ask for More of what you’re seeking. It will greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll get it.
  • Pursue your goals – reach higher than you think you can and keep raising the bar for yourself.
  • Have patience with yourself. And with those around you. 
  • Make the goal is worthy of the journey.
  • Listen to and learn from everyone’s story. 
  • When you’re stuck, ask for help. Being independence, but being inter-dependent makes everyone better.
  • Assume that you will be evolving across roles, across companies, across geographies and keep your network and your education growing as you evolve.
  • You’re already a better leader than you think you are. You’re enough just as you are.  

Here’s a shout-out to all the mentors and mentees and coaches and sponsors out there – those who are investing in their own growth, and that of all they touch. May the energy come full circle back to you.


Please join me in thanking our hosts at Micron and our panelists for FountainBlue’s 2020 Annual Mentorship Best Practices program.

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  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
  • with opening remarks by Buffie Main, Global Executive and Leadership Development Senior Program Manager, Micron
  • Mentors:
    • Amber Barber, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Global chairperson, Women in Global Operations ERG, Lam Research
    • Nancy Mason, Supply Chain Manager, NVIDIA
    • Gayathri Radhakrishnan, Director Venture Capital – AI Fund, Micron
    • Sandy Yu, Global Director, Product Strategy and Success, Oracle
    • Mentees:
      • Megan Cibula, Industrial Engineering Supervisor, Lam Research
      • Bambi DeLaRosa, Healthcare AI Principal Investigator and OHSU collaborator, Micron
      • Priyanka Kukade, Senior Design Verification Engineer, NVIDIA
      • Madeline Walsh, Senior Program Associate, Oracle Corporate Citizenship