Author Archive

Mentorship Best Practices

November 12, 2021
MentorshipPanel2.png

FountainBlue’s November 12 When She Speaks online program on the topic of ‘Mentorship Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Pure Storage and our esteemed panelists. 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
  • with opening remarks by Niki Armstrong, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary, and Chief Compliance Officer, Pure Storage
  • Mentors:
    • Peter Holland, VP of Supply Chain, Lam Research 
    • Milissa Kubal-White, Manager, Global Sales Enablement, Coupa Software, Empower Board Member, Coupa Software
    • Ellen Lail, Regional Sales Director, Pure Storage, co-chair Women @ Pure
    • Umesh Lakshman, Head of Solutions Architecture, West, Lumen Technologies
  • Mentees:
    • Misa Crocker, Education and Training Program Manager, Pure Storage 
    • Lilian Hall, Program/Product Manager – Logistics & TMS, Lam Research
    • Andrea Rein, Lead Talent Management Consultant, Lumen Technologies
    • Aimee Stevens, Operations Coordinator, Coupa Software
  • with closing remarks by Dena Sikes, Director, National Partners, Pure Storage, co-chair, Women @ Pure

We were fortunate to have such a dynamic and diverse panel of mentors and mentees to share best practices and advice around mentorship. Their sage advice and inspiring remarks provide great food for thought as well as suggestions and ideas on how we can better support each other through mentorship and the personal and business reasons for doing so. Below is a compilation of best practices from our esteemed panel.

How to Make the Best of Mentorship Opportunities

  • Share thoughts on how things can be done and how to better collaborate and innovate.
  • Work together to transition to new challenges in different roles, for different products, teams and industries. 
  • Get support as you navigate challenging work and life circumstances.
  • Brainstorm how to stretch your vision, your goal, your direction.
  • Develop clarity on your values and stand strong to those values when times are tough.
  • Lean on each other through dark periods and help each other find the light, leveraging the learnings.

Below are some recommended best practices for growing a mentorship program.

  • Create broad and inclusive plans to include and connect a diverse range of employees at all levels.
  • Start small and make incremental changes as you grow your mentorship program. 
  • Always ask for and integrate feedback to help make yourself, your mentor/mentee, the program better.
  • Be clear on your goals and measure your progress on those goals. Align all to those goals and empower all to make progress on those goals.
  • Leverage your learnings, your scar tissue, to support the other, whether you’re the mentor or the mentee.
  • Don’t stop at mentorship. Also provide sponsorship and project/program participation.
  • Be open-minded about how to plan and implement a mentorship program.
  • Create and nourish a culture where mentorship relationships will flourish.
  • Make mentorship bi-directional, with the assumption that both mentors and mentees will benefit.
  • Ensure that those who are more reserved or more other-centric don’t get left out of the sponsorship or mentorship opportunities.

The bottom line is that both mentors and mentees can gain a broader perspective on what to do, how to do things, who to meet, and ultimately expand their view of themselves and how they fit into the world, providing personal and business benefits for all.

Data is the New Black

November 12, 2021

FountainBlue’s November 12 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Data Is the New Black’, with opening remarks by Coupa Software. As usual, our group of executives in attendance were seasoned with their experience, varied with their background, and thought-provoking with their comments. Our lively discussion was peppered with rich insights, varying responses, and diverse approaches toward the mining, management, adaptation and usage of data. Below is a compilation of thoughts and best practices.The amount of available data is overwhelming, and gathering more data is not the key challenge. The challenge instead is to ensure that the data is:

  • vetted to be correct, complete and consistent
  • collected and managed in a way which serves the product/project/corporate/customer objectives
  • filtered efficiently, especially when there’s an urgent need to have real-time data
  • leveraged to gain insights and actions which are relevant and useful
  • managed in a way which is ethical and sustainable

But with challenges come opportunities. Some of the questions raised in the conversation are listed below.

  • How do you efficiently integrate data sets to best inform and drive decisions and outcomes?
  • How do you ensure the integrity of the data, and the causality of the data?
  • How do you measure input and impact real-time?
  • How do you ensure that the connections/correlations between data are both intelligent and important?
  • How do you integrate historical data to plan for today and project for tomorrow?
  • How can you make decisions with minimal data?
  • How can you extend findings from one scenario/industry/product/customer to others?
  • How do you protect the privacy and security of customers while providing layered access to various stakeholders?

Specific examples of use cases around data include the below:

  • databases of bloodwork to document rare diseases
  • data on image insights
  • algorithms to modify facial features so we can track people while respecting privacy
  • supply chain predictions based on algorithms of past and anticipated future demand
  • leverage data to make the invisible visible so that you can gain insights and better manage health and disease

The conversation was eye-opening as well as inspirational. Clearly data is at the heart of how we as leaders, as organizations, as human beings will grow and thrive. The challenge is WHO will do WHAT to better serve us ALL with data?

Embracing Gratitude

November 5, 2021

FountainBlue’s November 5 Front Line Managers Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Embracing Gratitude’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. We are grateful for our wise and dynamic panelists for today’s Front Line Managers Online program, on the topic of ‘Embracing Gratitude’. Below is a compilation of their advice and best practices around gratitude.

Thinking, speaking and gratitude is not always easy, but there are many benefits when you do it well.

  • Acts of gratitude tend to build networks, relationships and understanding, which benefit all.
  • Gratitude positively impacts culture and therefore discretionary/volunteer activities or engagement, retention, recruitment and development.
  • Gratitude is a key ingredient of a positive, growth-driven mindset, which helps build resilience and agility. 
  • Virtuous cycles of gratitude may lead to increased respect, camaraderie and trust, as well as a groundswell of positive energy and good will.
  • Habitually embracing gratitude as a practice helps build self awareness and centeredness and appreciation for the little things.

How you show gratitude really matters.

  • Be authentic and sincere when sharing your gratitude. Platitudes and empty praise will not be seen or felt like gratitude.
  • Be specific about what you’re grateful for.
  • Be authentic, be human, feel grateful when you’re expressing your gratitude.

Our panel challenged us to see the up-sides for having a grateful mindset and challenged us to:

  • Feel grateful for the challenges you face, and make them into learning opportunities. 
  • Try keeping a gratitude journal, to document things you’re grateful for each day, and to frame the way you interact with others around you and the circumstances facing you.
  • Embrace gratitude as a way to bring joy and wisdom and perspective to yourself and others.
  • Meet unexpected and unwelcome input and feedback in an open-minded, gracious and curious way, so that you may receive deep insights and learnings. 
  • You can’t control many things which happen to you, but you can choose to more actively manage the voice-in-your-head so that it helps you be more grateful, more positive.
  • Make someone feel appreciated, rather than just going through the motions expressing gratitude. (There’s a difference between experiential vs conceptual gratitude.)

Our panel experienced their fair share of challenges in these uncertain times. But they consistently embraced any dark experiences with a lens of gratitude, and inspired us to believe that we can too.

More Power to You

November 1, 2021

Our October 2021 blog talked about what we can do as individuals and as leaders to build culture when nothing’s normal. For this month’s blog, we will drill down on what individuals at all levels can do to be more powerful and more influential in building the organization’s culture.

Power is a Mindset – Those who seek power must have qualities which lend themselves to becoming powerful.

1. Be Confident, Hardworking, Ambitious and Passionate 

Be confident that you can do well and willing to work hard, so you can continue to learn and grow, doing something which you’re passionate about.  These four foundational traits in combination form the base for power. In fact, if you already have power, and you don’t retain these four traits in combination, you could very well lose that power!

2. Be Open and Curious

People who are curious about things and open to learning about them are more likely to learn more and become powerful. Indeed, it’s when you become less open and less curious that you risk falling down the power curve.

3. Be Humble and Other-Centric

It’s a fine balance between being confident enough to do something, and humble enough to question your ability to do something, or do that something right. It’s also a common mis-perception that those who are powerful are arrogant, not humble, and that they are self-centered, rather than other-centered. It’s quite the opposite. The Confident and the Humble tend to be more open and curious, more focused on the needs of others. The mindset behind the first three qualities is foundational to any base of power. 

Plan the Work – Whereas the first three qualities are more character traits or mindsets, the next three factors are strategies people often adopt when they consciously seek power.

4. Map the Ecosystem of Players, Projects, and Resources

Understanding the ecosystem of players, projects and resources is foundational for those seeking power. Gathering this information takes finesse, trust, relationships, networks, discretion, and fortitude. Some people aren’t able to get past this step. Others may decide not to proceed.

5. Explore the Opportunities and Challenges Across the Ecosystem

When the ecosystem is mapped out, strategize on the opportunities and challenges, based on projected changes in any of the people, projects, resources, and processes. This takes finesse, management, trust, and a deep understanding of how you can best add value given the circumstances. 

6. Strategize, Plan and Execute to Meet the Expectations of Key Stakeholders

Understand the motivations and success criteria for the key stakeholders and collaborate with others to clearly define goals, taking into account business, people, process, and cultural objectives. 

Work the Plan

7. Build Collaborations and Deliver Early Wins

Strategize, plan and execute to deliver early-win results based on predefined success criteria. The more often you succeed at working with teams to deliver results, the more credibility and power you will have. 

8. Gather Support, Resources and Influence with Each Success

Celebrate each success, but continue to gather resources, support, and grow influence and credibility with each success. You don’t have to aspire to lead each element of each project in order to remain associated with a project or initiative.

9. Communicate Successes and Engage the Ecosystem of Stakeholders

Continue to expand and grow the projects, people, and networks. Again, you don’t have to lead all aspects of a project in order to be associated with it.

You may also decide that you are no longer interested in the project, which is OK as well. You might find something more interesting to do, or you might decide to hunker down and remain low-profile for a while.

Iterate

10. The Road to Power and Influence is a Journey, Not a Destination

To ensure you maintain power and influence, circle back to the first objectives above – remaining open, humble, confident, hardworking and other-centric.

PowerPostcard.png

Truth is the Foundation of Culture

November 1, 2021
What is Truth?

‘Truth is the Foundation of Culture’, I said in last month’s talk about Morality, Ethics and Civic Responsibility. But why is that the case, and HOW do we insist on getting to a valid truth?

Why is Truth the Foundation of Culture?

  • Many of the conscious thoughts, words and actions we make are based on the truth we have at the moment.
  • Understanding WHY we create these thoughts, words and actions will help us either perpetuate our ways of being or shift them entirely.
  • Focusing on the truth of a technology and its potential will help everyone be more productive, focused and innovative.
  • When we respond to mis-information, and the truth comes out, there will likely be a fall-out which negatively impacts people, processes, products, as well as brand, momentum and credibility. (On rare occasions, there will be a positive impact, but that’s generally unintentional and random, even if it’s serendipitous.)
  • Perpetuating bold mis-information which becomes widely adopted can lead to a culture that rewards additional mis-information, undermines trust, promotes the corrupt, and dis-empowers the outspoken.

What Can We Do to Validate the Truth?

  • First, respect that the truth impacts everyone and everything.Insist on a high standard of what is adopted as the truth.
  • Consider the source of the data and the validity of what’s being measured.
  • Focus on the data behind the truth, and how knowing the data and the truth would benefit others.
  • Consider the motivations of the various stakeholders and how they might influence the data or the truth.
  • Empower everyone to continuously insist on thinking, speaking, and acting on the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

The bottom line is that leaders at all levels can build a solid foundation for culture if they can align on validated statements of truth and take actions based on that truth.

Never Settle

October 15, 2021

FountainBlue’s October 15 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘Never Settle’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. We were fortunate to have such a wise and inspiring panel for our interactive discussion on the topic of ‘Never Settle’. Our panelists consistently communicated WHY we must all adhere to higher standards, WHAT to do to clearly define the goals, and HOW leaders can empower individual team members to consistently achieve exceptional results. Below is a compilation of notes and advice for creating and maintaining exceptional standards.

Work with a Purpose

  • Be clear on the mission/vision and cause and what success looks like in terms of metrics
  • Ensure that thoughts, words, and actions are in alignment with that cause

Empower and Enable People to Succeed

  • Leaders must be clear on the WHY and the WHAT, and empower and enable teams to figure out HOW something should be done. For example, the product team might work with customers to define the what, and the engineering team to figure out to how.
  • Have empathy for your people (especially in these strange times when things are so unpredictable and the line between work and life blurs) and encourage everyone to learn from their mistakes.
  • Sometimes you have to back off on an idea which is not well received, but this doesn’t mean that you have to back down from the idea, or that it might be a good idea in the future. 
  • By reading the temperature in the room, you may be able to tell who needs support and how to help them deliver quality results.
  • Work backwards from the designed final results to meet quality and infrastructure expectations especially as you scale.

Accept Change as a Given, and Manage It Well

  • Be open-minded and even-tempered to the people (and things) which introduce changes and work with others to understand why a change must be made, and how to make the best of the circumstances.
  • Be agile and open, for your perspective and attitude toward any change will greatly impact how successfully you can integrate and work with the change, and help others to do the same. 

The bottom line is that when we connect on a purpose, work and grow together as a team, and deliver exceptional results to very satisfied customers, everyone wins.

Local Input, Global Impact

October 8, 2021

 

image.png
LocalInputGlobalImpactPanel.png

FountainBlue’s October 8 When She Speaks online program on the topic of ‘Local Input, Global Impact’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Cisco and our esteemed panelists.

Our inspiring and outspoken panelists each had their own way of stepping up and stepping in to their full selves, whole-heartedly delivering results locally at work and at home. 

They each excelled in multiple roles, organizations and industries, morphing their skills and learnings to solve complex people, process and product issues, delivering value locally, with impact globally.

They each showed up as their full selves in their personal ways, ever pushing the envelope for themselves, their teams, their companies.

They each leveraged their values and their principles to ensure quality results are delivered, while also ensuring that others benefit from the product or service offered.

They each drive innovation, but in different ways. It might be an innovation of thought, or an innovation which helps improve processes. It might be innovations which help us better understand the problem- set, the patients served. It might be innovations which help us better grow and expand the needs of the customer, and even better anticipate risks or problems. It might be innovations on the way we treat others, the way we welcome divergent people and thinkers.

Their personal missions are as inspiring as they are practical. Indeed, we all stand on the shoulders of women like these.

Below is a compilation of advice from our esteemed panel.

  • Be fully and unapologetically yourself.
  • Create and connect communities and networks of partners, focused on collectively bringing value across the ecosystem.
  • Let the voice of the customer decide how you can serve them locally, and impact the greater cause globally.
  • Adhere to your values – always do well while doing right.
  • Collaborate to leverage technology to solve a social problem.
  • Build a support system around you which will help you be authentically, confidently, fully yourself, with clarity on the thoughts you have, the words you speak, the actions you take. 

Our panel has challenged us all to be fearlessly, relentlessly, authentically and unapologetically yourself, choosing how you act locally, so that you make that global impact.

Automation Use Cases

October 8, 2021

FountainBlue’s October 8 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Automation Use Cases’, with opening remarks by Automation Anywhere. We had a diverse entrepreneurial group of executives who had a wide range of perspectives and experience around automation use cases.

We agreed that automation makes it possible to deliver exceptional, high-quality technical hardware and software solutions more efficiently. It will become as pervasive and prominent as spell-checkers, something that will be ever-present and understood. The question just becomes ‘who will implement which automation use case in what way(s) which drive what results around efficiency and excellence’.

Automation Process Improvement (API) continues to provide prominent use cases as it makes sense to automate the repetitive, redundant, tasks to software bots (‘software elves’) and robots who can more efficiently and accurately perform these tasks. 

  • Although this doesn’t mean that humans will no longer be needed, it does mean that humans should get trained and experienced in tasks which aren’t as easily automated.
  • Some tasks are attended, and some unattended. Each task is managed by humans, providing reports on their work to humans. 
  • It also means that there’s a huge opportunity to delegate tasks which are redundant, hazardous or impractical to robots and software. 

Below are some thoughts on how to manage automation use cases:

  • If the bot or robot does the ‘wrong’, the program must be fixed so that the processes, the actions, the rules, must be changed so that they do the ‘right’ thing. 
  • Managers should learn about what the best workers are doing right, so that others can learn how to do work as efficiently and accurately. If it’s repetitive and redundant enough, the work might even be delegated to a bot or a robot.
  • Automation can be used to quickly identify and even filter out anomalies – products or solutions which do not fit the defined requirements. 

Below are some thoughts on some huge opportunities ahead:

  • From senior care to end-of-life care, automation in the healthcare space can ensure that regular procedures are performed to ensure a good patient experience.
  • Separately, there’s an opportunity for patients to more regularly and deeply connected with loved ones, even if it’s through online means.
  • Automation of robots and bots are currently successfully making 3D-printed robots to do specific things cheaper, faster, leaner.
  • Manufacturing centers may become smaller as the bulk of the product might be produced through automation, leaving the personalization/customization options for more specialized workers to do higher-end tasks.
  • AI is helping companies to more quickly understand the needs of the customer, and more quickly connecting customers to the support they need. 
  • Software and hardware product testing will continue to be largely automated. 

Then the conversation turned more serious. What are the ethical standards around automation? Will humans be replaced by robots? No is the resounding response. 

  • However, workers who have traditionally done the labor-intensive, low-skill, redundant work need to be skilled and trained enough to do work which can’t as easily be automated.

Humans will always be needed to 1) come up with original solutions, 2) represent multiple groups and individuals, 3) connect the dots in creative, original ways which aren’t necessarily based on logic and 4) be the ‘fall guy’, the responsible party should things go south.! See FountainBlue blog ‘Being Human in an Age That’s Digital’ https://fountainblue.blog/2016/07/12/being-human-in-an-age-thats-digital/

The bottom line is that automation will become ever more prominent, for it helps us all to more efficiently and effectively manage people, processes and products.

Be the Sherpa

October 1, 2021

SherpaPanel.png

FountainBlue’s October 1 Front Line Managers Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Be the Sherpa’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. We were fortunate to have such a vibrant and dynamic panel for our interactive discussion on servant leadership. Below is a compilation of notes and advice for leading and empowering others.

Commit to Consistently and Authentically Showing Up

  • Honor your commitments, especially when it’s tough to do so.
  • Err on the side of action.
  • Listen deeply and well to the words and intents of others. 
  • Model the behaviors you seek.
  • Ensure that your involvement and participation makes things better for everyone involved and the project in general.
  • Consistently think, speak and walk your talk.

Choose to Do Work You Love for People Who Matter to You

  • Do right by others. 
  • Bring your full self to work, and welcome others to do the same.
  • Build relationships, networks and communities of trust, where everyone enjoys working with each other to make some challenging, important things happen.
  • Be happy and eager to connect with your team, and make sure that they are happy and eager to connect with you.

Focus on the Big Picture – Delivering Results

  • Communicate consistently, regularly, authentically and transparently, with a focus on delivering targeted results in collaboration with key stakeholders and partners.
  • Challenge each other to consistently deliver on stretch goals.

Honor All Stakeholders

  • Know the motivations of the sponsors, staff, customers, partners, and other interested parties and deliver to their needs.
  • Make sure that everyone feels acknowledged and heard and respected.

The bottom line is that servant leadership empowers and inspires everyone to do great things. My thanks to our panel for modeling that message well!

Raising the Bar for Morality

October 1, 2021
Raising the Bar for Morality

This month, I will be speaking on the topic of ‘Corporate Citizenship, Ethics and Morality’ when nothing’s normal to a group of senior HR executives. This is an important topic as nobody can rely on laws and regulations for each scenario, and decision-making relies on the use of good judgment and high moral standards.

I’ll frame my remarks based on Lawrence Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development.* Although Kohlberg’s research was about how children develop their sense of morality and justice based on moral dilemmas**, I believe that it has deep implications for the corporate world.

What’s relevant are the corporate use cases around doing the right thing. Relevant use cases for today include the below:

  • Outsourcing your work
  • Taking credit for someone else’s work
  • Promotion, bonus and hiring practices
  • Resource allocation
  • Project assignment

These issues have been with leaders since we first started gathering in groups, but with today’s war for talent, with the focus on retaining, growing, and promoting the most qualified and engaged talent, with the new definition of normal, the stakes become much higher.

Laws and precedence and short-term rewards aren’t sufficient guidelines on how to make ethical, proactive choices. Below is a framework to consider as you evaluate the options for each moral dilemma.

  • Is it the truth? How do you know it’s the truth? Don’t act without knowing the truth…
  • Are all parties being transparent about what’s true? Insist on transparency in most cases…
  • Would it be helpful to share the truth? Sometimes, the truth is better not shared…
  • Is it the right time to share this truth?
  • What are the best options for being firm (but kind), fair, and consistent? You don’t have to be the person who implements the best options…
  • What is the morality/ethics of the dilemma given the best options available?
  • What is the ripple effect for decisions made on culture, brand, relationships, business, etc.,?

Making the right choices on ethics, morality and civility is the responsibility of people at all levels every day – not just the responsibility of senior executives and not just sometimes. Therefore, it’s everyone’s responsibility to step up and speak out, to err on the side of doing the right thing, for every transgression or injustice ignored is an implied approval…

What we each think, say and do has implications for others. Doing the right thing for the business, for the people, may not present the recognition and reward you’re seeking, but it may raise the bar for civility, morality, and culture. And this is a good thing.

* The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice (Essays on Moral Development, Volume 1) Hardcover – July 1, 1981 https://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Moral-Development-Stages-Justice/dp/0060647604

**Kohlberg Dilemmas http://ww3.haverford.edu/psychology/ddavis/p109g/kohlberg.dilemmas.html