Author Archive

Resolving Conflict When Stakes are High

May 20, 2022
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FountainBlue’s May 20 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘Resolving Conflict when the Stakes are High’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. Below are notes from the conversation. 

Where there are people, there will be conflict. It’s a part of life, agreed our panelists. And the stakes are often high in the conflicts we oversee, manage and navigate day-to-day. There are many causes for the increased amount of conflict and the increased stakes around the conflicts.

  • We live in a connected world and the pressure to perform and deliver is high, and the range of needs is broad.
  • There are constraints to what each party can do to address the changing needs of customers, partners, staff, etc., yet the demand for quality and efficiency remains high.
  • The interdependence between disparate parties requires coordination and active management to ensure that everything is aligned to deliver exceptional service.
  • The need to deal with a wide range of technologies and integrations makes coordinating and working complex, and more likely to lead to conflicts.

Below are some best practices offered by our esteemed panel for proactively managing conflict.
Be Strategic

  • Align on the overarching vision and goals, and be less rigid on how things should get done.
  • Be clear on roles and responsibilities and push back if you see words and actions which conflict with them. 
  • Proactively manage the expectations of all parties, and ensure alignment with common goals. 
  • Collaborate with the right niche parties to ensure that every facet of a project is addressed.
  • Take an ecosystem approach to managing projects, so you learn about all the key players and their motivations as well as the inter-dependencies between each entity in the ecosystem.

Grow the Network

  • Build relationships of trust and keep growing those networks.
  • Recruit others to your team who can complement your own personal style.
  • Create win-win agreements as you work together on conflicts. 

Be Strong, Clear and Direct to Manage through Conflicts

  • Speak courageously, transparently, and authentically when there is conflict, and exercise openness, empathy and compassion to understand the needs and motivations of others. 
  • Speak with data and without emotion to address political maneuverings, self-serving behaviors, and inflammatory communications which may damage relationships, deliverables, productivity, etc.,
  • Have the meeting before the meeting to head off conflict at meetings or one-on-one.

The bottom line is that we must accept that there will always be conflict, and with proactive management, we can all grow stronger and better if we manage it well.

Expanding Your Circle of Influence

May 13, 2022
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FountainBlue’s May 13 When She Speaks online program was on the topic of ‘Expanding Your Circle of Influence’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Texas Instruments and our esteemed panelists. 

We were fortunate to have such inspiring, accomplished and influential panelists for this month’s When She Speaks program. Although they represented a wide breadth of backgrounds and experiences, they had much in common:

  • They proactively navigated the challenges and opportunities in their personal and professional lives to continue to learn and grow, while inspiring and empowering others around them.
  • They embraced opportunities to try new things, even when it was intimidating to do so, and learned from their successes, but learned more from their failures.
  • They have the self-awareness and the strength to challenge themselves and choose to be better, to do better for themselves, and for those they touch.

Our panelists commented on how being influential can help them better:

  • Run fast, run well, and move slowly when necessary.
  • Feel heard, be heard, drive strategy and impact results.
  • Collaborate, connect, and conspire with others to move the needle forward.

Below is a compilation of their advice on how to be more influential. 
Be Strategic

  • Clearly communicate and connect on the business and social/sustainability value of what you’re doing, and empower and inspire everyone to contribute to that common goal.
  • Embrace a learning and growing mindset, and humbly empower others around you to grow and succeed.

Communicate with Influence

  • Communicate with transparency, authenticity and purpose. Listen deeply and well so that the thoughts and ideas of others can contribute to that purpose, and so that all can be engaged with that purpose.
  • Let the data inform your communications, decisions, and strategies.
  • Think, speak and act in alignment with your values and the vision, and be resilient and focused on delivering measurable results. 
  • Understand the motivations of others around you who may be resistant to a concept, technology, project or idea you’re advocating.
  • Consider the words you choose and the way you speak them, as well as the profile and interests of the audiences you’re addressing. 

Expand Your Circle of Influence

  • Collaborate to make things happen, for we all have pieces of the puzzle – independent of role, seniority, organization, gender, geography, etc.
  • Invite people with diverse backgrounds into the fold, and inspire, empower and enable them to speak their ideas and their truth, for the betterment of all.

Below are thoughts on how to expand your own influence.

  • Be other-centric rather than self-centric. It’s hard to follow and support someone who has a WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me) attitude. And it’s very clear to all who has that attitude.
  • Choose carefully who you spend time with and how you give and receive energy with every conversation and connection. 
  • Challenge yourself and others to do better, be better, while being positive and constructive at all times. 
  • Help everyone “be the change they want to see”.

It was my pleasure to facilitate such an inspiring and powerful panel of influential world-changing leaders. They challenge us all to not only be more influential, but also to inspire and empower all we touch to do the same.

Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions

May 13, 2022
FountainBlue’s May 13, 2022 VIP Roundtable: Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions

FountainBlue’s May 13 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions’, with opening remarks by GE Digital Grid. Please join me in thanking our executives in attendance for their remarks and input.

Our executives in attendance exclaimed many times about the major shift in focus toward  carbon-neutral energy solutions over the past decade. No longer do we need to make the business/social/ sustainability/practical business case about WHY we must adopt more carbon-neutral solutions.

Our executives agree that the focus will now be on WHICH options we adopt (try them all), WHAT we do collaboratively (everything) and HOW we can work better together to drive leadership and innovation to better adopt more technologies and solutions for each of us today, and for the future. Our executives are bullish about the market and technology opportunities over the next decade for carbon-neutral energy solutions. They agree that it will not be easy to implement and realize these solutions because they:

  • must leverage hardware and software designed to manage energy generation, storage, distribution, and usage. 
  • must support the reliability, sustainability, safety, sustainability, security, policy, affordability, demand goals from a wide range of customers. 
  • must collect and manage, filter and process huge volumes of data real-time in order to provide meaningful dashboards of information to stakeholders so that decisions can be made, actions can be taken.
  • must manage the integration of both traditional and renewable energy into a common grid, ensuring that customers only receive usable energy sources. 
  • must work with utilities and their customers, using the infrastructure around the electrical grid, and selectively integrating devices on the edge. 

Below are some thoughts on opportunities and innovations for carbon-neutral energy solutions:

  • Leverage digital twin technology may help utilities and organizations plan for energy management and distribution scenarios.
  • Gather data from the edge can better inform energy usage and generation patterns real-time and also make projections for future energy usage.
  • Connecting a network of disparate renewal energy generation sources so we can help better manage the energy in the grid.
  • Providing temporary power solutions to customers with utility/infrastructure challenges may be necessary if customers adopt solutions before the infrastructure/utilities are ready. 
  • Consider last-minute drone and robot solutions for providing more carbon-neutral solutions for the delivery of goods.

Below are thoughts on how we can drive innovation in this space.

  • Invite the participation of a wide breadth of scientists and technicians to collaborate on designing and implementing carbon-neutral energy solutions – from chemical engineers to data scientists, from physicists to pharmacists, from geologists to rocket engineers.
  • Technology will play a major role in creating, designing, planning, and delivering a carbon-neutral future. 
  • Create demand from the ground up, and visioning and execution from the top-down so we can drive more momentum for a carbon-neutral future. 
  • Be consistently vocal to policy-makers and influencers, and insist that they rise above the politics and support the carbon-neutral solutions which serve us all today and in the future. 

In closing, we agreed that there is no silver bullet, but we brainstormed what each of us today today to embrace and support carbon-neutral energy solutions:

  • Start now, and do something little and big every day.
  • Educate yourself on practical carbon-neutral solutions and integrate them into your day-to-day work and life.
  • Adopt electric vehicles which offer better torque/acceleration/power at lower cost.
  • Choose a role/job/activity/vision which would support a carbon-neutral future. 
  • Push for policy and legislative changes using your influence in ways big and small.
  • Push the boundaries on what’s possible.
  • Support your local utilities and policy-makers in upgrading and updating the infrastructure which will take us from here to there.
  • Be open-minded about the technology and market opportunities for carbon-neutral solutions. 
  • Collaborate with others to make commitments and sacrifices for the greater good.

It is conversations like this that give me hope for a better world – one that leverages innovation and leadership for the greater good. Please join me again in thanking our participating executives and the larger FountainBlue community for their insights and participation.

Embracing an Agile Mindset

May 6, 2022
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FountainBlue’s May 6 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘Embracing an Agile Mindset’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. Below are notes from the conversation. 

Our esteemed panelists concur that change is an inevitable part of life. They have each navigated much change:

  • in their own career paths, going from one role/function/organization/industry to another
  • in their personal lives through major life events
  • in their day-to-day lives at work, working with a diverse range of stakeholders

All this change has been amplified with the pandemic, and will continue to impact us all as the future remains uncharted and unclear. But fear not, they have some best practices and resources to share:

Be willing to lead the change.

  • Be open minded, and invite others who are not-like-you to the table, to support the inevitable decision-making/problem-solving/strategic planning/sustainable execution and other challenges in front of us.
  • Ask the ‘why’ question around change before you talk about the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of change.
  • Create psychological safety so that everyone feels empowered to participate in the change management process.
  • Accept what you must accept, and adapt where you must adapt, but keep centered on your core values and on your strategic goals as a leader, as an individual, as a team, as an organization.
  • Listen patiently and deeply from a wide range of stakeholders about the need for a change before moving to the planning and execution of a change.

Build an Engaged Network and Ecosystem

  • Build an ecosystem of trust, working with trusted parties to plan and execute on the goals for a change.
  • Be cognizant of the motivations of your team, and work with them to ensure they are empowered and engaged.
  • Build a culture and network where learning opportunities are celebrated, where collaboration and divergent thinking are encouraged and rewarded.

Grow Momentum Behind the Change

  • Be mindfully focused on the goals and objectives and ensure alignment with the values of the organization and project.
  • Override resistance to change with quick wins, win-win negotiations, strategic conversations focused on goals, and building relationships of trust.
  • Break down complex solutions into manageable achievable pieces and reasonable timelines.

Deliver Results with the Changes

  • Follow an efficient process for agilely managing change, but don’t let that process lead the change itself, as the focus should remain on the change objectives. 
  • Ensure that the data clearly reflects the need for change, and what success looks like in numbers.
  • With that said, look not just at the quantitative data, but also at the qualitative data which indicates the need for change.

Strategically Manage the Changes

  • Consider these frameworks and vectors when managing change:
    • the speed of change/execution
    • the amount of receptivity to the change
    • the level of detailed response to the change
    • the level of openness to type of change
    • the level of involvement in the change
    • the derivative impacts of a change
    • the complexity of a change
  • Provide POSITIVE, CONSTRUCTIVE, AND ONGOING feedback to help everyone feel more comfortable with change. See example below.

With that said, you can’t be all-in for any one person all the time, but if you could be all-in with some of your key people most of the time, it could make a huge impact for you both!

The bottom line is that we must all embrace changes, especially now. If we’re open and positive and proactive, we would all more successfully manage through the changes.

Play to Win!

May 1, 2022
Play to Win

We are all experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’, the ‘Great Reallocation’… 

Whatever we call it, we are all feeling the effects in the workplace. Many of us are under-staffed and losing good people. We are being challenged to do more with less when so much is unknown. We are resorting to strategies like ‘stay interviews’.

So logically, many leaders are playing the retention game – playing not to lose with additional benefits, raises, shifts in responsibilities and projects, etc.

But I propose that leaders adopt a ‘play-to-win’ mindset. Below are some thoughts on how to do so.

  1. Embrace Succession Planning to empower and engage your staff.
  2. Consistently speak with a sense of shared purpose, meaning, and commitment.
  3. Think and speak with passion, and follow up by investing deeply and consistently in people’s capabilities.
  4. Be warm and gracious to all, even if they are seeking to exit. Welcome them back with gusto if they choose to recommit.
  5. Show deep and authentic empathy for the journey of others, especially in this time of great change when the future is so uncertain. 
  6. Cultivate a culture of one-ness, where we all stand distinctly separate yet loosely conjoined for a purpose of serving our customers, where it is safe to ask questions, to be curious, to fail forward.
  7. Empower people at all levels from all backgrounds to fully participate in strategy, planning, execution (where reasonable).
  8. Have the plans and strategies and tools to address problem areas, but wait until that problem area receives enough attention and urgency before taking action.
  9. Err on the side of positivity, with a growth mindset. 
  10. Celebrate your successes as much as you relish your challenges.

Let’s ALL Play to Win by strategizing collaboratively, planning diligently, and executing religiously, while embracing challenges as opportunities.

One Dot a Point, Two Dots a Line, Three Dots a Trend

April 22, 2022

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FountainBlue’s April 15 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘One Dot a Point, Two Dots a Line, Three Dots a Trend’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. Below are notes from the conversation. Our esteemed panelists talked about the importance of data as we lead and manage our day-to-day work and communications. Data will remain the life’s blood of our work, as we all manage people, processes and technologies. We need the data to:

  • coordinate, communicate and collaborate with others
  • design and develop solutions which address the needs of the customer
  • measure and report on progress on specific goals
  • manage and optimize resources 
  • ensure privacy, security and access

Below is a compilation of best practices around the usage and management of data.
Get the Right Data

  • Make sure that you have the right data – that it is secure, relevant, up-to-date. (If you have garbage going in, you’ll have garbage going out – the GIGO principle.)
  • Strategically decide how that right data can inform problem-solving, decision-making, road-mapping, planning, etc.
  • Ensure that there is enough data from the wide range of sources so that accurate conclusions can be drawn.
  • Create filters so you collect the most relevant data.
  • Incentivize the team to collect the data so that all can better anticipate and address needs of the customer. 
  • Develop the processes which make it easy for everyone to add feedback and data to the system, with the intent of better understanding how we can all improve.

Strategically Leverage the Data

  • Use data as a framework to get buy-in for projects and programs.
  • Succinctly communicate project status with overviews and tables, with details linked to an overview report.
  • Collaborate with all parties to ensure that the data is relevant and timely, so that it can inform everyone on progress.

Protect the Data

  • Ensure that your data and network are safe and secure, especially as many of our equipment, devices and appliances are inter-connected across the network.
  • Configure layers of access to sensitive data and closely manage that access to minimize risk of data breaches.
  • Store and protect all data so that it can be efficiently and securely accessed. 

The bottom line is that it’s NOT about whether we use the data, it will be about HOW we use the RIGHT data so we have the relevant information to make the right choices for ourselves, our teams, our organizations, our customers.

Building Employee Experience as the X Factor

April 16, 2022

FountainBlue’s April 15 When She Speaks program, on the topic of ‘Leveraging Employee Experience as the X Factor’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Gigamon and our esteemed panelists. 

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Clearly, our panelists are great leaders and managers who are consistently passionate about delivering exceptional employee experiences not only because it’s good for business, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Although they represented a wide breadth of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, our panelists had much in common:

  • They humbly led by example, building trust and follower-ship through authentic, courageous, on-point connection and communication.
  • They worked with leaders at all levels to ensure that clear objectives are declared, that milestones and results are delivered, and that clear and transparent communication is maintained.
  • They each consistently think, speak and act through a lens of inclusivity and empowerment, ensuring that others have the confidence and resources to further support the vision and goals. 
  • They are each curious about the perspective of others, and open enough to learn from others.

Below is a composite of best practices for building employee engagement:

  • Lead the way, while being receptive to the input of others at all levels. 
  • Embrace diversity as a catalyst for innovation.
  • Keep building positive momentum and energy with a learning and growth mindset.
  • Consistently communicate with authenticity, openness and vulnerability. 
  • Welcome the whole person to work, and make it easy for people to fully participate at work. 
  • Just say no to inappropriate and unproductive behavior! It leads to a bad experience for everyone.

The pandemic has made us think differently about how we can keep our employees engaged and inspired. The in-person incentives like free food, ping pong tables and networking events may not be enough/right even if/when we return fully to work.

So re-thinking about how we keep our employees engaged and committed and delivering exceptional employee experience will continue to be that X Factor. It’s clear that our panelists will continue to lead the way in this regard.

Leading Industry 4.0

April 15, 2022
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FountainBlue’s April 15 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Leading Industry 4.0’, with opening remarks by Intel. Please join me in thanking our executives in attendance for their remarks and input.

Water and steam brought on Industry 1.0, which brought people and things efficiently from place to place. Electricity brought power to a large mass of people, bringing huge transformations characteristic of Industry 2.0.Electronics and IT and the underlying networking around it enabled the advances for Industry 3.0. Now connected devices and networks are bringing on the Digital Revolution foundational to Industry 4.0. This revolution will continue to enable the convergence and acceleration within and between industries, even those not traditionally in tech. Specific advancements across industries include:

  • accessibility to data
  • mobility of devices and robots
  • simulations leveraging hardware and software
  • innovations on the edge
  • advanced connectivity
  • storage on the cloud and on devices

The opportunities are great, but the risks and challenges also exist, including the need to balance privacy, security and access, the need to manage data so that the relevant data informs decision-making, the need to overcome resistance to the adoption of digital technologies, tools and processes, the need to upgrade policies and protocols, etc.,
Below are recommended best practices for leading Industry 4.0 in manufacturing:

  • Manage a ‘dark fab’ which would best leverage automation, robotics and co-botics while also ensuring that humans are actively involved in the design and oversight of the same.
  • Optimize the supply chain to proactively plan to meet manufacturing and customer goals without compromising quality and integrity, while respecting the work-life balance for team members. 
  • Use scenario-based planning to optimize the visioning, planning and execution around manufacturing goals.
  • Leverage the expertise and insights of a wider range of backgrounds and industries – including chemical engineering, data science, energy generation, material science, – to more broadly address the challenges and opportunities.
  • Collaborate to design, plan and deliver solutions which are energy-efficient, cost-efficient, resilient and sustainable, while optimizing for performance and versatility.
  • Innovate in collaboration with others so that you can more effectively design solutions which address a broader range of needs for a longer period of time.

Below are examples of cutting-edge thoughts and ideas which will drive the next level of innovation around manufacturing:

  • Carbon-neutral technology which would help more efficiently and effectively support manufacturing goals
  • AR/VR Immersion solutions leveraged by field service engineers to more efficiently serve customers with personalized solutions
  • LEAN manufacturing solutions which help develop supply chain resilience and even at times make qualified projections for future needs
  • Industrial automation solutions which are seamless and integrated
  • Proactive waste management planning across the manufacturing process
  • AI solutions which help filter and manage data, and make recommendations based on data
  • ML solutions which make projections based on past data trends 

The opportunities and challenges are mind-boggling. But core to success is the ability to: 1) bridge silos and collaborate within and across teams, organizations and industries; 2) jointly create the infrastructure to enable innovation and the platform for collaboration; 3) focus on the ARR (annual recurring revenues) for the choices made for the short-term, while ensuring long term growth; 4) work with organizations to do the right (social, environmental, political, economic) thing by and for others and 5) invest in the people and leaders who will bring it all together, including each of the executives who joined our discussion today.
The bottom line is that the customers are demanding efficient and effective manufacturing to provide the high-quality, customized solutions they need to live and work and thrive. The winners are the organizations and leaders who can collaborate with others to best serve them.

Digital Transformation

April 8, 2022

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FountainBlue’s April 8 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘Customer-Led Digital Transformation’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such an experienced and engaging set of panelists, representing a diverse range of backgrounds, roles and organizations. They had much in common:

  • They took an ecosystem-approach to digital transformation which is strategic, collaborative, and customer-oriented.
  • They addressed technical, business, operational, customer, and other challenges to create the opportunities provided by digital transformation.

Indeed, our panelists agreed that digital transformation:

  • is impacting a wide range of leaders, industries and solutions;
  • is now and will continue to be a key differentiator for adding value for customers,
  • is integral for managing the customer journey, bridging silos across an organization,

Below is a summary of best practices proposed by our esteemed panel.

Be Strategic

  • Create and communicate a vision around digital transformation and the value it provides for all parties.
  • Although nobody can see the future, make an effort to anticipate what the future trends are and how they will impact customers. 
  • Strategically decide which products or solutions would add the most value for your customers and agilely pivot as necessary as things evolve.
  • Understand the factors and weightings which impact product/solution choices made and strategically manage directions and milestones accordingly.

Be Collaborative and Bold

  • Build alignment at all levels around the transformation objectives, milestones and timing.
  • Embrace a growth opportunity rather than hanging on to how things used to work.
  • Enable your workforce to fail fast, and fail forward, so that learning takes place.

Be Efficient

  • Provide personalized solutions for your clients, but make it easy to efficiently do it. (Sometimes that involves creating modules of code around micro-services…)

Be Customer-Focused

  • Be clear on who your customers are and how best to serve them.

Communicate Clearly and Consistently

  • Ensure that the message, messenger, and metrics are clear across the customer journey, navigating multiple groups across the organization.

Our panelists concluded that digital transformation is one of those inevitable directions. Leaders at all levels need to choose how and when digital transformation is adopted. The Winners will do so efficiently and proactively, with a focus on the needs of the customer.

Building Engagement

April 1, 2022

Experience is that X-factor, but the goal of experience is Engagement. Engagement is the secret to recruiting, retaining, reskilling, developing, growing and advancing the workforce. And the workforce, our people, make-or-break an organization’s success.

Sure, you have to start with creating a product with high and growing demand, and yeah, you have to compensate fairly, providing ample opportunities for growth. Indeed, you need a culture where it’s safe for people to bring their full selves to work, an organization who cares about the community, sustainability, and social justice. So right that you need to inspire with the vision, mission, and day-to-day work…

But let’s say those foundational pieces are solidly in place, and leaders at all levels are well positioned to grow traction in many good ways. This does not mean that your work is done.

It means that you can focus on building the kind of engagement which makes your people proud to show up at work, eager to go the extra mile, excited to bring impact in ways inside and outside their job descriptions. Below are some best practices for building engagement in the workplace.

  1. Be authentic and true: Consistently think, speak and walk the talk at all levels.
  2. Build connections and community within and outside the organization: These intertwined connections and sense of community are the fabric which helps people stick together.
  3. Make it safe to show up fully: Model and reward engagement, inquiry, and commitment.
  4. Showcase successes at all levels of the organization: Celebrate wins and empower, encourage and reward all to contribute to these wins.
  5. Reward curiosity and out-of-box thinking: Stretching our view of what’s normal and what should be done will help us all be more agile and more innovative.
  6. Fearlessly model the way: Authentically communicating with vulnerability and transparency builds trust and culture as well as commitment and loyalty.
  7. Value the divergent mindset: Encourage serendipitous discovery – find the magic in coloring outside the lines, in unintended innovations.
  8. Focus on the why and the what and not the how: Inspire with the why, communicate clearly on the what, provide resources and support on how things get done.
  9. Provide ample access to resources, data and support: Enable outstanding execution through generous support.
  10. Connect people to the projects, connections, and technologies which would stretch them: Provide continued access to the people, technologies and processes which would help your people to grow and thrive.

The bottom line is that providing our engaged people with rich and fulfilling experiences will support everyone and make for a richer culture and better business results. The opposite is also true: providing enriching experiences will also lead to more engaged employees!