Author Archive

People Not-Like-Me

June 18, 2021

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

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

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

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. 

EmotionalIntelPanel.png

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
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.

Embracing Agility

May 21, 2021
Embracing Agility

FountainBlue’s May 21 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Embracing Agility’. Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation.

Our panelists spoke in-depth about the innovation, management, and operational benefits for embracing agility. The quality of being flexible, open and nimble is becoming increasingly more important in a world where technology is complex and distributed, a world where customers are demanding and sophisticated, a world where privacy, security and access are as important as coordination and collaboration.

Below is a compilation of their best practices for embracing agility.

Building and Maintaining Relationships is Key

  • Being open and curious and developing relationships with people within and outside your team/org/ company helps people be more nimble and agile.
  • Don’t label yourself as someone in a particular role/ skill set/ title/function, but do stretch your perception of who you are, where you fit as you build more relationships, more knowledge and skills.

Communicating and Coordinating Increases the Likelihood of Success

  • Making the opportunity to co-design and co-develop products is both more fun and more likely to deliver favorable results.
  • Communicate the agile-minded strategy to key stakeholders in a language best received by the intended audience.
  • Consider the fact that executives have a high signal-to-noise level, so stay on-point, speaking in bullets, drilling down into details only on where there are questions.
  • Take a WIIFM (what’s in it for me) approach to communicating with the various stakeholders across the ecosystem. It increases the likelihood of engagement, sharing, and collaborating.

Adopting Agile Practices Helps Companies, Teams and Leaders Be More Open and Flexible

  • Agile Practices helps teams and leaders make pivots and shifts based on market, business, customer and technology trends.
  • Situational awareness helps leaders at all levels be more strategic while being more open.
  • Becoming agilely aware of new technology and market trends helps you learn new technologies and methodologies while also helping teams build smaller, more modular solutions.

Soliciting Feedback and Input Helps Us All Better Perform

  • Rather than staying in a silo or working solo, be curious about how others are solving problems and how others are looking at opportunities.
  • When you have many moving parts, many unknowns, consider collaborating on a Fail-Fast strategy so you can get more feedback, information and data to inform plans, processes, product definitions, risk assessments, etc.,
  • Clearly defining processes helps manage performance, feedback and results and helps to optimize the flow and integration across individuals, teams, and customers.

Engaging and Mobilizing Leaders at All Levels Facilitates the Visioning, Planning and Execution Process

  • Strategically communicating the value, the risks, the opportunity helps build engagement for stakeholders across the value chain.

The bottom line is that the agile mindset helps leaders at all levels and their teams and organizations be more innovative, more progressive, more successful.

Expanding Your Circle of Influence

May 14, 2021

InfluencePanel2.png

FountainBlue’s May 14 When She Speaks women in leadership series program, on the topic of ‘Expanding Your Circle of Influence’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Oracle and our esteemed panelists. 

We were fortunate to have such a fun and influential set of panelists for this afternoon’s panel discussion. They represented an assortment of companies, roles and backgrounds, but they had much in common:

  • They humbly shared their stories of how they grew their influence.
  • They ‘switched lanes’ frequently, sometimes by designed and embraced each change in role, title, function and geography as learning opportunities.
  • They cherished the opportunities both to learn and grow themselves, but also to spread the knowledge and success to others, paying it forward.

They are movers and shakers who are also easily moved and shaken as they navigate their lives and careers. Below is a compilation of their advice regarding expanding your influence.

Know Yourself

  • Be clear on what you’d like to influence and why that matters to you, to others, to the team, to the organization, to the world.
  • Be self-aware enough to know what you’re good at, where you need to grow, how you’re coming across to others.
  • Be authentic and sincere and uniquely you – embrace your personal style of influence.

Stretch Yourself

  • Dare to be influential, even if if’s not your job, not your role.
  • Be gentle with yourself when mistakes happen – they are the best learning opportunities. 
  • Be open and curious when others disagree with you, for it’s a learning opportunity.
  • Invite and learn from feedback.

Be Strategic

  • Take the opportunity to influence projects you’re targeting, but also be open to influencing projects others ask you to influence.
  • Consistently align your thinking, with your speaking and actions, and ensure that all are in alignment with the corporate/team/industry objectives.
  • Invite participation and engagement rather than commands and instructions.
  • Build bridges between people and groups and silos, and make the combined group more influential.

Be Other-Centric

  • Read the room, read the motivations and intentions of others so that you can better communicate and connect with others.
  • Facilitate a conversation around goals and intentions rather than providing prescriptive advice and orders on how things should be done.
  • How you see yourself is not necessarily how others see you, so be curious about how others see you.
  • Speak in the language most respected by your audience – whether it’s the language of data, images, stories, or bulleted summaries.

Embrace Opportunities to Learn

  • Be inquisitive and curious, and willing to work hard to make things happen. Proving yourself in these ways could make you more influential.
  • Know when to persevere and when to just let go.
  • Own your success and your path to influence and success.

In closing, each of the panelists invite us all to be more influential, and support others in doing the same.

AgTech and FoodTech Innovations

May 14, 2021

FountainBlue’s May 14 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘AgTech and FoodTech Innovations’, with our hosts at Honda. As usual, our participating executives represented a wide breadth of backgrounds and perspectives. The biggest takeaways are around the range of innovations for agtech and foodtech. Technology is weaving its way into this slow-adopting industry.

  • Mobility and robotics solutions are doing everything from improving our supply chain to processing more efficiently, to managing the integrity of our production and manufacturing.
  • Planes and drones are collecting the images and other data we need to proactively manage the way we plant, produce, harvest, and distribute better quality crops and higher yields of crops.
  • AI and ML solutions are helping us optimize seeds, plants, crops as well as livestock.
  • Food science and agtech is helping develop quality protein from plants and even from microorganisms.
  • SaaS and digitalization solutions are helping manage things like crop health and food wastage – connecting a wide range of siloed stakeholders. 
  • End-to-end crop optimization solutions coupled with strategic partnerships in densely populated regions will help get quality food into the hands of hungry people in population-dense areas.
  • Food science solutions will help fortify the crops we produce, optimize seeds so that are more productive and nutritious, and help feed more people with fewer resources.
  • Proactively managing food production based on projected needs will help everyone across the ecosystem optimize distribution and minimize waste.
  • Understanding the taste and quality of a seed and a plant before it is reaped helps farmers plan their planting and pricing while helping markets influence availability based on preferences.

We have come a long way, but there are still innovation opportunities ahead. It’s clear that our executives in attendance will continue to excel at leveraging their diverse experience to transform industries, provide value, while collaborating to amplify impact.

Collaboration Best Practices

May 14, 2021

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FountainBlue’s May 7 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Collaboration Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation. 

Our dynamic and experienced panel of leaders spoke eloquently and provocatively on how collaboration impacts the way we innovate, the way we solve problems, the way we lead and inspire.Collaboration is integral to the idea generation process, and is a vital part of creating customized solutions for clients. Indeed, having a diverse ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders increases the likelihood of success. Below is a compilation of best practices around collaboration.

  • Err on the side of over-communicating, especially when you are working with stakeholders from all sides. Communicating transparently and regularly to help ensure that everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goal. 
  • Invite participation from a wide range of stakeholders to ensure diverse input and feedback as you ideate, create, produce, distribute, customize, and scale solutions.
  • Embrace processes to ensure wide participation, thorough vetting, increased input, but don’t be so process oriented that you’re inefficient, especially when problems are urgent and decisions must be made efficiently.
  • Prioritize the problems to be solved, the decisions to be made, and create collaborative models for maximizing input/feedback and efficient operation.
  • Embrace the available data, but make sure that you’re using the right data set to inform each collaborative decision. 
  • Be open-minded and inclusive to help ensure engagement from a larger range of people.
    • Always ask yourself ‘who else can we pull into the conversation’?
    • How can I empower those who don’t think like me to actively participate?
    • Assign roles for each group to invite input.
  • Create and perpetuate a culture where all are rewarded for their input and ideas, where it’s safe to make mistakes and learn.

It makes sense to use data and benchmarks to guide decisions which have been made before, but when you’re breaking new ground and entering areas with no precedent, try doing the following:

  • nimbly move forward with small decisions and actions, monitoring results and adjusting regularly based on results;
  • create a large assortment of options and think backwards about the consequences of each option to help decide the best direction, based on risks;
  • gather input and feedback from a wide range of stakeholders about options and implications so that you can see the options and problems with different lenses;
  • follow corporate/government/team and other policy guidelines

When done well, the Collaboration Edge makes teams and organizations more innovative, more productive, more customer-centric, more agile, more inclusive.

The Ten Ps to Look for in People

May 1, 2021
The Ten Ps to Look for in People, a FountainBlue Blog

When you’re looking to grow your network and team, you want to set a high bar and get the right people on-board. But how do you know who’s right for you for now and for the long-term? Below are ten qualities to look for when evaluating someone’s fit: 

  1. Passionate – why do anything half-heartedly? Look for someone who’s passionate about the mission and vision and can bring energy and excitement to day-to-day activities.
  2. Patient – Everything takes time. A patient person understands this and knows when to wait, and when to accelerate.
  3. People-Focused – Work with individuals who put people first. Choose people who are supportive and kind to others, even when things are not quite going as planned.
  4. Positive – Attitude is everything. A positive outlook helps build resilience and perseverance. This fortitude and positivity is contagious and positively impacts others, which is especially important when circumstances are challenging.
  5. Pragmatic – A practical person is more likely to get things done and more likely to be creative in seeking solutions. Pick someone who is pragmatic and practical for your team.
  6. Professional – A professional person knows when to focus on the business objectives and communicates in a way which is not-personal, while also enabling and empowering others. 
  7. Principled – It’s much less confusing to communicate and connect with principled leaders as they are generally aligned with values – in thoughts, words and actions.
  8. Proactive – A proactive leader takes initiative even when it’s not their job, even when it means much more work. Erring on the side of the action also improves productivity.
  9. Productive – A productive leader gets things done – no matter what’s asked of them, no matter the constraints, timelines or challenges. Generally, productive leaders are also versatile, agile and excel at multitasking.
  10. Purpose-Driven – A purpose-driven leader passionately works to deliver to their values, connects with teams, delivers to specifications, and, in general, moves the needle forward for both the business and the cause.

May you find the right people for your team – people you who will work and grow with you.

Note that all ten listed qualities start with a ‘P’ and that the list is alphabetized. It’s up to YOU to decide the weighting of each quality – what the must-haves are, the nice-to-haves, and the OK-to-skip, because nobody can have it all, right?