Archive for April, 2021

Managing Up

April 19, 2021

FountainBlue’s April 16 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Managing Up’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

ManagingUpApril16Panel.png

We were fortunate to have an experienced and passionate panel share their stories and best practices for Managing Up. Below is a summary of their thoughts.


Proactively Manage Up, as well as you would manage down and sideways

  • Manage up in a way which benefits all, ensuring that there’s alignment on objectives, clarity on progress, agreement on resources and timelines.
  • Listen to the voice of the customer and relay the needs of the customer to the executives as you manage up. 
  • Listen to the voices of your team, and translate their message to the executives as you manage up.
  • Look not just at the surface problems and challenges – look also at the root cause of the problem and address that root cause and its implications.
  • Speak in a language executives respect… Articulate the value and risk/benefits of a proposal and the return-on-investment/ implications and impact for a cause you’re supporting.

Be Strategic and Fact-Based

  • Opinions do matter, but they matter more if they are based on facts. Do trust your gut instincts, but make sure that your position is validated by information and data.
  • It’s great to be passionate about what you do, but when you’re managing up, down or sideways, be the master of your emotions. Stay professional and fact-based while you’re also passionate about a project or cause.
  • Understand the perspectives and motivations of the executives you’re approaching, so that you can plan your message and communication.
  • Be prepared to articulate the current opportunities and challenges, but also prepared to communicate the ripple effect and longer-term implications of a suggested recommendation.

Invite Opportunities to Learn and Grow

  • Take Ownership and invite initiative, even if it’s not your job, even if you weren’t asked to do so.
  • Be confident that you may know more about a potential problem or solution than the executives in charge, and be willing to speak up and step in if your data/information/perspective helps drive solutions which benefit all. 
  • Step into stretch opportunities and learn from each of them. Don’t expect to be perfect each time, every time, but do expect to learn from each experience. 
  • Adapt your strategies and skills to current challenges, especially as it’s hard to predict what will happen next through the pandemic and beyond. 
  • Where appropriate, seek executive sponsorship and resources to unite teams across common goals.
  • Be collaborative and supportive of others at all levels, and invite them also to learn and grow.

Communicate and Connect People and Teams

  • Understand the perspectives and motivations of the executives and customers you’re working with. Translate their desires and intentions to the team to help ensure that you deliver on requirements.
  • Inform executives how changes in their vision and requirements impact those who are delivering results, especially if changes in requirements impact timelines, resources, and features. 
  • Provide ongoing KPIs/data/metrics/reports to executives and customers in a way they understand. Facilitate decision-making and problem-solving based on this dashboard of information.
  • Tell a story about the problem, solution and result so that customers and executives understand.

Our panelists have raised the bar for us, inviting us to directly and authentically manage up, to better serve ourselves, our teams, our organization, And as we continue to grow in your ability to manage up, may we all evolve from direct communication of the facts to the more subtle skills art of telling a story with passion and finesse, driven by the data.

Building a Culture of Trust

April 9, 2021

FountainBlue’s April 9 When She Speaks women in leadership series program, on the topic of ‘Building a Culture of Trust’. We were fortunate to have a seasoned and varied range of panelists to speak on the very timely question of building a culture of trust.Building trust has been especially important as leaders at all levels are dealing with many uncertainties and challenges with the pandemic and its aftermath. Below is a summary of our learnings from the panel discussion.
Trust is essential for leadership and management. It is something that’s slow-to-earn, and quick-to-lose, which makes the stakes high. A team, a company, an individual can’t thrive and succeed unless he/she/they/we have the trust of the many others in their circle. Below are best practices for building trust.


Be Worthy of the Trust

  • Be credible. Work hard. Be clear on what’s required and consistently exceed expectations.
  • Be authentic, sincere, honest and true. Your character will help you build trust.
  • Own up to your mistakes, and be willing to humbly learn from them.
  • Be vulnerable about what you can and can’t do, and persistent about learning what you need to do to perform well.
  • Be courageous and bold, especially when you are uncomfortably doing what you know to be right by others.
  • Do the right thing. Do right by others. Do this consistently. Especially when it’s hard. 
  • Share a vision for what’s next, especially when so much is uncertain. 
  • Consistently walk the talk and talk the walk, building a brand worthy of the trust of others.

Be Other-Focused

  • Listen well and deeply to what the other is saying so that you can understand both the needs and the motivation.
  • Relationships matter. Be sincere, transparent and direct with your communications and act like those relationships matter.
  • Be empathetic and supportive of others. Manage and communicate with grace. We are all working and living in strange, uncertain and at times difficult circumstances. 

Be Collaborative

  • Identify and work toward that common ground, in concert with an ecosystem of others.
  • Set high expectations for yourself and others, and communicate how each stakeholder benefits from collaboratively working toward a common goal.
  • Value those who think and speak and act differently, and invite them to collaborate. 

Keeping Learning and Excelling

  • Be self-aware enough to know yourself and your own strengths and limitations. Keep reaching for stars from there.
  • Never settle – keep reaching and learning and making things better for yourself, your team, your customer, your partners.
  • Assertively make a stand for divergent viewpoints and input. Graciously invite others to do the same.
  • Embrace the opportunities to feel uncomfortable. 
  • The measure of a (wo)man is not just how they behave when they succeed but also how they learn and grow when they don’t.

Be Strategic

  • Ask the ‘why’ before the ‘what’. Make sure that the ‘what’ always aligns with the why.
  • Don’t let the ‘how’ interfere with the ‘what’. 

The bottom line throughout the conversation is to be credible – to provide a constancy amongst the change, the all-in support of others which helps all to reach confidently for what’s next.

Leading Industry 4.0

April 9, 2021

FountainBlue’s April 9 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Leading Industry 4.0’. As usual, our participating executives represented a wide breadth of backgrounds and perspectives. The conversation focused not just on the supply chain, process improvement, automation and robotics which are typical for Industry 4.0 discussion, but also focused on the data management and strategy around it.The first comments are of course about the increasingly larger volumes of data and the increased pressure to respond more quickly and more strategically based on that data. Below are some best practices on how to successfully manage that data.

  • Collect data for strategic reasons, focused around corporate goals, around customer current and anticipated needs, market trends.
  • Create and reinforce a culture where data share and best practice sharing is the norm, where everyone helps everyone else solve problems and make decisions.
  • Share your data and your learnings with other products, other divisions, other organizations, etc., but use your best judgment to ensure that you maintain a competitive advantage and are engaged in win-win collaborations.
  • Analyze the data anomalies as they may point to opportunities or current or pending challenges.
  • Move from Reactive to Proactive mode, going beyond generating and reporting on data, but looking beyond and beneath that to address questions such as
    • what are the data trends
    • what are the implications based on data
    • what are the underlying causes for the data
    • what kinds of decisions should we make based on data

Below are additional best practices for managing Industry 4.0.

  • Add value across the value chain within and across companies, products, roles and geographies. The more of the right partners and leaders participate, the more value for all. 
  • Focus on both the performance of the hardware/software/solution while also ensure that the user interface is intuitive and meets the preferences and needs of the targeted profile audience.
  • The more energy and power you can channel the better, within reason, but make sure that you’re focused on solving the problem and creating the solution which fits your corporate goals and your customers’ needs.
  • Think ahead at all the things which might impact how you can custom-design, create, distribute, manage, support, etc., your solutions to manage the ripple effect. We all learned the lesson about the well during the pandemic 
  • Look not just at the data generated real-time today, but also at the decades of data we’ve amassed to help us better manage the needs of others.
  • With that said, the need for privacy, security and access is of primary concern. No solution is complete and effective without folding in these elements.
  • Look not just at how products are manufactured, but look also at how the innovations around Industry 4.0 will help leaders from all industries better deliver exceptional value to their very demanding customers. 
  • Leverage the latest technologies to keep current, realizing the impact of Industry 4.0 advantages, including Digital Twin and 3D Printing, data analytics, robotic automation, etc.,

Industry 4.0 is in its infancy, as we work to be more efficient while being more excellent, leveraging technology and collaboration. The challenge has been how to vacillate between looking at the strategy and big picture while also focusing on the weeds of the data, the details of the process, the needs of the individual customers and each individual person involved in delivering customized solutions for these customers. 

Resource: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/americas/building-a-more-competitive-us-manufacturing-sector 

Data Trends Best Practices

April 2, 2021

FountainBlue’s April 2 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘One Dot a Point, Two Dots a Line, Three Dots a Trend’. Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation. 

  • Kristen Brastad, Lam Research
  • Claudia Galvan, Oracle
  • Shruthi Koundinya, HPE
  • Nivedita Ojha, CITRIX

Our panelists spoke eloquently and knowledgeably first about how their individual companies leveraged data to address the changing business and technology landscape with the pandemic and its aftermath, and then about the opportunities and challenges around the data itself, from the Validity and Relevance issues to the need to respect the Privacy and Security issues, while managing all the most Urgent needs. Below are some best practices around data trends and management.


Thoughts about data:

  • Not all data is created equal. Some data is more ‘sticky’, more ‘transient’, more ‘relevant’ than other data. Plan accordingly.
  • Not everybody needs to know all data, so reports must be tailored to individual audiences.
  • Look not just on the raw data, but focus on the trends of that data. 
  • Data will be relevant in all industries, so all industries must adopt and embrace the technologies and solutions which will produce the volumes of data necessary to deliver quality products and services. 

Below are some thoughts on how to best filter out the large volumes of data generated:

  • Focus on the data set which aligns best with the goals. Adjust the data generation and reporting plan as the goals change.
  • Create reports on the data which will help individuals make data-driven decisions.
  • Work closely with customers to understand their needs to ensure that the data collected maps to the objectives defined. Collaborate to regularly update those objectives.
  • Focus on the ‘Vital Few’ – the anomalies and non-conforming data set and information which might tell you about what’s broken, what needs to be fixed, how things are really going.

Thoughts on seeing the trends:

  • Consider the urgency of the need, the ‘freshness’ of the data when generating reports on data trends. 
  • The data is generated in a report, but the user needs to interpret the report to see the trend. The user must know what data is needed, which data would generate the report needed as well. 
  • Ask users frequently for their input.
  • Look not just at the data, but also at the root cause of a problem or anomaly. 
  • Look not just at the data but on the workflow and how users acquire and act on the data.
  • Look not just at the WHAT of the data, but the SO WHAT – what are the implications? what decisions can you make based on the data? how are you doing based on objectives?…

The bottom line is that brilliant and agile companies and leaders are leveraging the hardware and software to solve real-world problems, including the healthcare, operational, logistical, manufacturing, supply chain, and other problems introduced with the pandemic, and in the world which follows the pandemic.

Consultative Sales in the Next Normal

April 1, 2021
Consultative Sales in the Next Normal

Nobody knows what exactly the next normal will entail, but we do know the following:

  • The Next Normal will not be the same as what we’ve known in the past in specific ways.
  • It’s difficult to predict what will happen in the next normal.
  • Individuals and companies resilient enough to endure the inevitable changes and agile enough to embrace the differences will be the ones who thrive.

Consultative or Solution-based selling differs from more traditional transactional sales opportunities and is more suited to ‘next normal’ circumstances for the following reasons.

Being Customer-Focused When Nothing’s Normal

  1. Consultative sales is more about understanding the problem statements of the customers than it is about the vendor’s product line, business model, or quota and commission. 
  2. Consultative sales is about asking open-ended questions about current and even anticipated challenges. 
  3. The consultative sales professional is fanatically curious about the perspective and challenges of the client or prospect, regardless of whether a current conversation leads to a direct sale in the short term. 

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

  1. Consultative sales generally involves research about the prospect/customer and their needs as well as around market trends. This research is generally conducted prior to the meeting.
  2. A consultative sales approach strategically qualifies leads prior to initial conversation, to save all parties time and money. 

Navigating Troubled Waters

  1. To best work with clients to navigate uncertain and even troubled circumstances, the consultative sales professional must at times be connected to and versed enough with megatrends in the business, the economy, and the industry trends to provide relevant information to guide exploration and decision-making. 
  2. With that said, the consultative sales professional would only provide relevant background information if it benefits the client or prospect, not just because it would increase the sales volume.  
  3. Listening deeply to what is said and what is not said, and asking clarifying questions may even help consultative sales professionals to collaborate with clients to brainstorm future scenarios based on risk factors, market trends, or technology development timelines for example.

Connecting for the Long Term

  1. The consultative sales professional will work with the team to ensure a successful delivery of products and services and a deep ongoing relationship.
  2. Because of all of the above, it’s clear that the consultative sales process generally leads to broader and deeper relationships and transactions built on trust. 

And therefore, it is clear that the consultative sales model will increase the likelihood of success for professionals providing products and services in the Next Normal. 

To better support sales professionals in our network, FountainBlue will be offering a four-module workshop series for sales professionals interested in developing and improving their Consultative Selling skills. We invite your initial questions about our workshop series and consulting services.