Author Archive

What to Do When Nothing’s Normal

September 1, 2021
What to Do When Nothing’s Normal

What do you do when nothing’s normal? How do you plan for the day-to-day, for the future, for what’s next? How do you build a culture when nobody can see the future?

In our August post, we talked about Redefining Normal and followed up by collecting more survey results through phone and online interviews. We’ve combined these findings with the data and information we’ve collected from decades of coaching, leadership development and change management experience, with an emphasis on our findings over the past 18 months. 

Indeed, the pandemic and its aftermath has made us all look at what we took for granted as normal, and wrestle with the realization that nothing will ever be normal again.

Yet the Resilient forge on despite the challenges,

and the Successful tap into shared knowledge and networks,

knowing that we are stronger together.

This month, we look more deeply at what leaders can do to build culture when nothing’s normal, exploring a model which takes an inside-out, outside-in approach. We don’t promise you answers, only more questions and updates on our findings so that together we can explore what to do when nothing’s normal.

An Inside-Out Perspective on Building Culture

Inside-Out: In this section, we look from the perspective of the individual, the leader and manager at all levels who sees directly how he/she/they can contribute individually to the culture.

In general, when individuals look through their own personal lens, there are three main motivators: 

  1. The mission-driven calling to work for a purpose, in alignment with their personal values;
  2. The burning desire for continuous learning and development which makes them better versions of themselves; 
  3. The passionate drive to do something new and bold which innovates and makes the world a better place in ways small and big.

Those who are mission-driven want to contribute in ways big and small to a cause in alignment with their values, a cause larger than one they can serve by themselves, a cause that can be addressed because they show up fully and regularly at work. They must feel like their companies, leaders, technology, and brand are in alignment with this sense of purpose.

To serve the needs of the Mission-Driven staff, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Creation of a Common Platform which matters beyond the work
  • Brand Integrity and Authenticity
  • A Culture-First Mindset
  • Alignment between the Mission, the Vision and the Execution
  • Transparency and Authenticity
  • Clarity of Purpose in Thoughts, Words and Actions

Those who are Lifelong Learners want to be presented with challenges at work, the opportunity to excel at and learn from these challenges, with a source of light pressure to drive continuous improvement, never settling for mediocrity. 

To serve the needs of the Lifelong Learners, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Access to Materials and Training
  • Accountability and Ownership
  • A Culture of Continuous Learning and Development
  • Guidance and Coaching on Educational Plan
  • Individualized Offerings
  • Rewards for Agility and Openness

Those who are Innovators are motivated by their desires to be creative, solve problems, and work on a variety of challenging tasks which make a difference. They are hungry for a fail-forward mindset and culture, as well as tangible opportunities to innovate and learn with the support of mentors, resources and the organization at large.

To serve the needs of Innovators, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Access to Mentors, Sponsors and Resources
  • Assurance that Credit is Fairly Distributed 
  • Focus on Customer-driven Innovation Projects
  • Diversity of Perspectives and Experiences on Team
  • Inspiring Examples and Success Stories
  • Rewards for Innovative Ideas and Execution

An Outside-In Perspective on Building Culture

Outside-In: In this section, we look from the perspective of the leader or manager at any level, on what managers and leaders from any chair can do to facilitate the development of an organization’s culture.

In general, when individuals look through the lens of the team, organization, or community, there are three main motivators: 

  1. The socially-minded desire to connect with and trust in others. They crave a co created history along with traditions and continued progress toward common goals and including celebrations of success;
  2. The burning desire to leverage corporate influence and resources to collectively impact larger social, political, and environmental issues; 
  3. The passionate drive to advocate and lobby for more equitable rights, resources and opportunities for those less fortunate, less empowered and less enabled to succeed.

Those who are Community-Builders are motivated by the desire to create a safe, trusted and synergistic network focused on everything from developing and supporting each other to creating deep relationships and from providing empathy, camaraderie, fun and energy  to working as a team to deliver extraordinary results. Community-Builders are looking for a sense of belonging, a trusted and supportive network, and for opportunities to share experiences, celebrations and traditions together.

To serve the needs of Community-Builders, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • A Positive and Productive Culture which Celebrates Success
  • Clear Accountability and Metrics  
  • Resources and Support to Achieve Results
  • Sense of Fit and Belonging 
  • Connections between Community Groups and Members

Those who are Social Responsibility Advocates are motivated by the desire to leverage company resources and brand to deliver impact on social, environmental, and systemic challenges, to provide services to others in need, and to provide socially responsible leadership and financial support.  The corporate platform and brand provides opportunities to make a broader impact in many ways, including by serving the needs of local nonprofits, by supporting the fundraising efforts around climate change, or by providing resources for the disadvantaged.

To serve the needs of Social Responsibility Advocates, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Partnerships and Ecosystems to Amplify Impact
  • Platform to Amplify Impact and Share Knowledge
  • Opportunities to Serve Social Causes of Interest
  • Alignment between Corporate Mission and Social Causes Supported
  • Respect and Support for the Daunting Challenges of Today  

Those who are Justice-Seekers are motivated by the desire to to witness equal opportunities around pay, recognition, and opportunity for all. Justice-Seekers would like to see open-minded leaders who respect and embrace diverse people in their thoughts, words and actions. Transparent, data-based conversations will help justice-seekers see the progress being made, and respect their leaders and organization overall.

To serve the needs of Justice-Seekers, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Alignment on Values, Policies and Communications  
  • Equal access to Support, Coaching, Education and Resources
  • Systematic Approaches to the Recruitment, Retention and Advancement of Diverse Talent
  • Training on Unconscious Biases
  • Celebrate and Reward Diverse Thinking and Ideas
  • Transparent and Regular Reporting on progress to date

Bringing it Together: 

Whether you look through the lens of what you can do as an individual to shape culture personally, or look through the lens of the organization as a whole, take ownership and focus on making a difference, through the  conscious choice to evolve the culture, consistently and relentlessly.

Next month, we will create a how-to blog around building culture. As we continue to develop our content in Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal, your input is welcome through our survey, e-mail, or an interactive conversation.

In Honor of the Heroes and Victims of 911

September 1, 2021
The Story of Hope, Despite the Events of 911,
as told by a stewardess from Delta Flight 15

In honor of the 20-year anniversary of 911, I thought I’d share this true feel-good story, as told by a stewardess of Delta Flight 15 (anonymous), which was directly impacted by the attack. It gives me hope for a better world, and positively taints my perspective about fellow humans.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic. All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.  As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces.  The captain handed me a printed message.  It was from Delta’s main  office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean.  We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly.  The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.

He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately — no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area.  A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings. We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air.  We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland, to have it checked out.

We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new!  Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM!…that’s 11:00 AM EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.

After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement:  “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have.  The reality is that we are here for another reason.”  

Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief.  The captain informed passengers that Ground Control in Gander told us to stay put. The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft.  No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts.  Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane. In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in D.C.  People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in  Canada.  Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash.  By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.  We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.

We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time.  At 6 P.M., Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.  Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing.  And they were true to their word.  Fortunately, we had no medical situations to worry about.  We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy.  We took REALLY good care of her.  The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th, a convoy of school buses showed up.  We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that, we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a  small  hotel.  We had no idea where our passengers were going.  We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander!  We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely  friendly.  They started calling us the “plane people.”  We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport.  Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.  What we found out was incredible.

Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places.  They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers.  Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.”  Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school.  If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.  Families were kept together.  All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady?  She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.  During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips.  Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors.  Some went for hikes in the local forests. Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals.  Everyone was given tokens for local laundromats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.  In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

Passengers were crying while telling us these stories.  Finally, when   they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late.  The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving.  They coordinated everything beautifully.

It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise.   Everyone knew each other by name.  They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight.  The crew just stayed out of their way.  It was mind-boggling.

Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.

And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an  announcement over the PA system.  We never, ever allow that.  But this time was different.  I said “of course” and handed him the mike.   He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days.  He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.  He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number).  The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travellers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship.  He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in their college education.

I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now.  It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them.

It reminds me how much good there is in the world.

In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward.

*This is one of those stories that needs to be shared. Please do so…

Negotiating for a Win-Win

August 20, 2021

FountainBlue’s August 20 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘Negotiating for a Win-Win’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

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Our panelists have vast experiences and perspectives on how to successfully negotiate on behalf of yourself, your team, your loved ones. Below is a compilation of best practices.

  • See negotiating as more of an opportunity to solve a problem than of a contentious, argumentative interaction with others.
  • Work together all-in, as one to find and create solutions which serve the interests of all stakeholders.
  • Embrace the opportunity to work with people not-like-you.
  • Manage your emotions so that you have the energy to manage the communications and interactions.
  • Progress a conversation, a relationship, a position to reach a desired end goal, which serves the needs of all parties.
  • Prove value through the data. Use the data to continue to secure buy-in.
  • Reframe negotiations as shared opportunities and challenges and have a conversation about what is needed, how important it is, how urgent it is, etc., so that relevant parties can make an informed decision.
  • Refrain from the blaming, the should-ing, the self-centeredness which jeopardizes relationships and progress.

Pointers for negotiating when dealing with uncertainty:

  • Embrace the unexpected.
  • Be agile and gracious, proactive and positive. 
  • Commit to the process.
  • Persevere and find a way to get a win-for-all result.
  • Find ways to work together and act as one team to overcome uncertainty together.
  • Watch out not just for your own interest, but also for the interests of others.

Below are some steps to a negotiation process:

  • Insist on respect for all parties, and listening to all participants.
  • (Those who can’t follow rule #1 will not participate in the negotiation process.)
  • Communicate leveraging data.
  • Consider multiple options.
  • If you do an ask, present also what you will give.

The bottom line is that aiming for a win-win result increases the likelihood you will get one!

What He Said, What He Meant

August 13, 2021

FountainBlue’s August 13 When She Speaks women in leadership series program was on the topic of ‘What He Said, What He Meant’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Samsung and our esteemed panelists. 

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Our panelists represented both genders and multiple companies, industries and backgrounds. They were each passionate about the need for men and women to better communicate to drive the business imperative. Whether it helps build relationships and trust, or it helps everyone better coordinate and delegate, when a mixed-gender team can better connect and communicate, business operations improve, the culture is healthier, and the people are happier in general.

Below are some areas where men and women might differ, in general.

  • Women tend to be more emotional.
  • Women tend to be more inclusive and collaborative.
  • Women might be more likely to speak in a stream of consciousness.
  • Women might be more sensitive to how something is communicated.
  • Men might come across as more confident.
  • Men might seek logical explanations more quickly.
  • Men might be less verbose.
  • Men might be more direct and confrontational, but may not intend it to be personal.

Below are some best practices for better communicating with men.

  • Assume positive intent.
  • Understand motivations and intentions.
  • Manage your own emotions, especially preventing yourself from ‘looping’ when emotions run high. Know your own trigger points and help yourself get centered.
  • Focus on getting the job done.
  • Accept that there are different communication styles, but act as one integrated team, focusing on collaborating to get the job done.
  • Be open-minded and flexible.
  • Be curious, ask questions.
  • Trust your instincts but communicate with data.
  • Don’t be intimidated.
  • Have confidence.
  • Help each other understand and succeed.

The bottom line is that if you can understand and accept gender differences in communication and work through communication challenges, you and your team will more likely deliver results.

Resource: Why Men and Women Think Differently? This Guy Nailed It https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkZvLHiaHQc

Next Generation Wireless

August 13, 2021

Next Generation Wireless

FountainBlue’s August 13 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Next Generation Wireless’, with our hosts at Samsung. Although our executives in attendance represented a wide range of roles, organizations and industries, they all agreed that impressive developments in wireless technology and in infrastructure have helped the digital-philic consumers and businesses connect with each other and provide contact-free services. Indeed, without meeting tools like Zoom and delivery options for staples and meals, the pandemic would have made day-to-day life much more difficult.


Below is advice on growing the wireless market.

  • Focus on the problems affecting niche industries including education, healthcare, transportation, automotive.
  • Create the stable technologies and infrastructures and solutions that are foundational to successful implementation, and partner with trusted others to collaboratively address industry challenges.

Below are thoughts on upcoming wireless innovations.

  • Immersive experiences will be the next generation of wireless. These experiences will leverage technology so that the experience is more three-dimensional, simulating real-life. 
  • Sensors will become smaller, less power-consuming, more powerful, and more versatile at the same time. The challenge becomes how to integrate this plethora of sophisticated devices to manage/optimize functionality while protecting privacy, security and access.
  • Hardware innovations around consumer electronics will continue to ensure that users get access to more sophisticated solutions on their phones. 
  • Power innovation and optimization will be a key to drive wireless innovation.

But challenges remain.

  • How do we help ensure that we can all benefit from technology, bridging the divide between the haves and have-nots?
  • How do we increase compute and communication across private and public sectors, delivering a breadth of customized, scalable services when it’s difficult to envision the evolving needs of the customer?
  • How do we securely connect and fuel the devices on the edge and connect them with other devices and solutions so that people and things can respond real-time, especially when lives (and revenues) are at stake?

The bottom line is that convergence is happening – across technologies, across industries, across companies, across markets. The pandemic has amplified the speed of these convergences. Successful companies and leaders are providing the technology, connectivity, infrastructure and platform so that we can create customized programmable solutions which will enable and empower the way we live and work.

Embracing the Creative in a Tech-philic World

August 6, 2021

FountainBlue’s August 6 Front Line Managers Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Embracing the Creative in a Tech-philic World’. My thanks to our panelists for their participation. 

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Our panelists represented a wide breadth of roles and organizations, but each showed how creativity helped them to better manage and lead their teams and functions. They agreed that:

  • Creativity helps teams and organizations be more innovative.
  • Creativity helps to drive a business strategy.
  • Creativity helps us be more open, more engaged.
  • Creativity helps us all be more labile, agile and relevant, which is very important in these times of great change.

Below are some ideas for inviting more creativity in your teams.

  • Make it safe to speak up and speak out, and reward people for doing so, especially if they are not comfortable doing so.
  • Be creative yourself, leading by example.
  • Be curious about the why, so that you can frame the right problem to creatively solve, and so you understand the motivations of all stakeholders.
  • Define the problem set and the solution options and have an open and broad tolerance for solutions which might address the identified problems.
  • Ask questions about how things have been done in the past, how things need to happen in the future, what resources are available and required, so you have a framework to think creatively around.
  • Be clear on what needs to be done, but open about HOW things are done.
  • Be good at understanding the story, and telling that story in different ways, depending on the audience. This takes flexibility, knowledge and creativity for sure!
  • Know the ramifications of choices made today on the future, way downstream. It takes creativity to factor the future in.
  • Transparently communicate the ‘whys’ and the ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’ and question HOW these whats and hows and whys came to be.
  • Be customer-centric, curious about the problems they’re facing, and how they are experiencing the proposed solution.

The bottom line is that many people at all levels in all roles will question whether the Creatives belongs in a tech company. If and when they do, confidently respond that the Creatives should be embraced as it benefits individuals, teams and organizations.

Let the circumstances and requirements be the guardrails, but proudly and confidently DO YOU! 

Redefining ‘Normal’

August 1, 2021
Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal

All the talk has been about the pandemic and how it has been affecting our work and personal lives, as well as how it’s impacting how we do business now and going forward. As the sands keep shifting beneath all of us, independent of gender, race, education, role, and background, we wonder when things will go back to normal and how we can survive and thrive until then.

However, the truth is that some things, including corporate culture, have fundamentally changed, and won’t return  to ‘normal’. With that said, there are things that leaders and managers at all levels can do, despite this fact.

This article will be the first chapter for a book I’m writing entitled ‘Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal’. I will release more chapters in upcoming blogs. The book outline is shown at the bottom of the chapter. 

For this article, we will pontificate on why things won’t be returning to normal.

  1. Our shared experience

Never before have we had such a common experience – one which has touched everyone everywhere so deeply, so directly, one that connects us viscerally, while also isolating us unapologetically. 

Leaders and managers at all levels must leverage this sense of shared experience to drive engagement, to promote meritocracy, to correct misperceptions, to update policies, processes and procedures, and ultimately to connect more deeply as ONE team with a common purpose.

  1. Our sense of purpose

Regardless of whether you or your loved ones were directly impacted, the pandemic caused health and welfare issues which helped us all see the fragility and preciousness of life. With that realization, it’s only natural to look at how you’re living your life and whether your day-to-day life choices are in alignment with your values and your life mission. Thus, many are looking at securing more meaningful work that’s in alignment with their values.

As managers and leaders, emphasizing the mission and vision of a company and ensuring that each employee feels like they are contributing to that purpose has become more important than ever. 

  1. Our ability to embrace change

We had to change our habits when the pandemic hit us to meet our minimum basic needs. For some, that meant working from home and ordering everything with no-contact delivery. For others, that meant embracing new technologies, processes, and people.

Leaders and managers at all levels must accept that change is inevitable, and that change will happen much more quickly now. The new standards or ‘normal’ will keep evolving, but it’s a given that rapid change will be an integral part of that evolution.

  1. Our dependence on technology

Whether we were masters of tech or mere newbies, the pandemic’s made many of us embrace technology at a new level so that we can do our jobs and carry on with our lives. With technology now more ubiquitous than ever, its adoption and advancement will only continue to accelerate. 

Managers and leaders at all levels must address the challenge of providing resources and support so that people can efficiently upgrade to more versatile, more powerful, more personalized technology solutions – those which would ideally also respect privacy, access and security protocols. 

  1. Our desire for balance

Gone are the days when we work long hours, depriving ourselves and our loved ones regularly of quality time together. We are willing to work hard, but not as a matter of course, and not exceedingly often.

Leaders and managers must recognize everyone’s need for balancing work and life and provide appropriate compensation and recognition for reasonable hours. Otherwise, they will risk losing employees who highly value a balance between life and work.

  1. Our focus on efficiency and convenience

Out of necessity, many of us found the most convenient and efficient way to stay safe while also addressing our basic needs – like food, water and safety! We adjusted well to ordering-on-demand and expecting things to be delivered to our doors efficiently.

Managers and leaders must acknowledge this mindset as it will transfer to work. How can we more efficiently provide customized, personalized goods and services to our employees  and teams so that they continue to be efficient at work?

  1. Our drive to deeply connect with others

Humans are social beings, but our desire for social connection varies. Some of us thrived in social isolation. Others of us wilted as social circles shrunk. As more and more people begin to return to in-person work, many have thought deeply about what type of social interactions they’d like to have, with whom, and how frequently.

As leaders and managers, it’s important to recognize these preferences and find ways to ensure bonding and connection within a team or company, despite the wide variance of social connection needs.

  1. Our respect for science

It’s science that has helped us move beyond the reactive response mode to the logical mode by understanding the mechanisms of the virus and how vaccination can increase our immunity. Recent pandemic-related scientific accomplishments showcased how science and technology can more quickly and effectively address challenging issues.

Managers and leaders must bridge the divide between those who are pro-science/pro-tech and those who might be vaccine hesitant, while also investing in science and technology and research. 

  1. Our interest in justice

Many of us have witnessed the injustices highlighted by the pandemic, the divide between the haves and the have-nots. It forced us to look at what’s just and how to provide more equal opportunities for all. 

As leaders and managers, equal opportunity and treatment will be a much higher priority to many.

  1. Our search for our selves

Many of us have gone on a journey of self awareness, asking ourselves what it’s all about. We have a greater understanding of what we stand for, who and what is important to us, what we need to do to ensure our loved ones feel important, and that our every thought, every word, every action is in alignment with our purpose.

As leaders and managers, we must take an inside-out, outside-in approach to ensure that we meet the needs and objectives of the people who work with and for us.

We look forward to sharing this journey with you, as we build culture and redefine normal. We welcome corporate managers and leaders at all levels to contribute to our online survey for inclusion in our upcoming blogs. 

Building Culture in the Next Normal

July 16, 2021

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FountainBlue’s July 16 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Culture in the Next Normal’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

Our panelists spoke eloquently about the importance of building culture and preparing for that next normal. They emphasized how the pandemic and its aftermath gave everyone a common experience and helped bring people from different backgrounds together. The other side of that experience is that the pandemic also raised the bar for everyone, and people are seeking more meaningful, more engaging, more empowering work experiences. So the question becomes – what can leaders at all levels do to facilitate engagement and empowerment at work? Below is a compilation of thoughts and suggestions from our esteemed panelists.


Lead the Way

  • Distribute the Leadership so that more voices are heard. Encourage others to weigh in with their thoughts and ideas.
  • Make communication more of a two-way interaction. Speak with others rather than just TO others. 
  • Don’t stop at hiring diverse people onto your team. Make sure that they feel included in the work and conversations, and that everyone is equally heard.
  • Make it safe for everyone to bring their full selves at work. Do this in thoughts, words and actions, and align consistently to that standard.
  • Put the safety and welfare of your people first and foremost.
  • Nurture respect and kindness, integrity and excellence.

Work on Yourself

  • Work hard at both your work tasks and also on your relationships.
  • Develop the cultural intelligence and self awareness to know how you can get better at developing yourself and others around you.
  • Choose to become uncomfortable more often, and curious about your own discomfort.
  • Be vulnerable, humble and open, authentic, curious and true.
  • Own up to any mistakes and transgressions for nobody is perfect. Transparent communicate learnings and apologies where appropriate.

Bring Others with You

  • Listen deeply with the intent to learn. Apply your learning in public and proactive ways.
  • Welcome input and feedback, and reward those who provide it.
  • Deeply and genuinely care about others and appreciate and reward others for their contributions.
  • Create win-for-all collaborations.
  • Let others shape and define that next reality, that next work environment.

The bottom line is that we are all the same, while we are all so different. So creating guardrails based on who you are as a company, as a leader, and then working with others to co-create that cultural identity will serve as all well as we co-create that next normal.

What’s Next in Hardware

July 16, 2021

What’s Next in Hardware

FountainBlue’s July 16 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘What’s Next in Hardware’, with our hosts at Renesas. Although our executives in attendance represented a wide range of roles, organizations and industries, they all agreed on the following:

  • Hardware innovation has been accelerating as the pendulum swings back to the need for hardware to support the rampant innovations on the software side.
  • Use cases abound for both enterprises and for consumers. The trick is to drill down on a particular use case and address a problem which the market would fund.
  • The form factor must be smaller, while the functionality must be broader and more versatile. 
  • Digital, analog and power solutions will be integrated and optimized as we continue to innovate.

A key to effective hardware innovation is balancing privacy, security and access. Just as it’s impractical to design a house without windows or doors, we can’t design solutions which are absolutely secure with the utmost protections of our privacy while providing optimized access only to the approved parties all the time, every time.
Another key is the need to focus on real problems which need to be addressed, particularly when decisions need to be made quickly, when lives are at stake. Whether we quickly get more hardware at the edge, integrating with more distributed cloud solutions, or whether we leverage hardware to be more efficient and effective at work, more immersed and involved in life, the truth is that hardware innovations in the next few years will continue to be revolutionary and transformational.
Below are some highlighted opportunities for hardware innovation mentioned by our executives in attendance.
Edge Computing

  • Optimizing hardware solutions on the edge so that processing is more efficient and effective;
  • Designing wireless solutions which provide faster end points;
  • Providing drones to collect data such as gas leaks; 

Energy Management

  • Proactively managing energy efficiency and renewables at data centers and complex end points;
  • Providing low-power, hardware-driven connectivity for enterprise and consumer usage;

Sensing

  • Leveraging hardware to sense everything from light to heat to sound;
  • Designing augmented reality solutions for enterprise and consumer usage;
  • Replicating human senses such as smell and taste;

Integration Challenges and Opportunities

  • Reducing the weight and size of hardware, so that it can be more easily integrated into solutions;
  • Utilizing AI and ML to optimize custom hardware design so we can optimize durability, usefulness and manage risk and wear and tear; 
  • Replacing human functions with hardware and prosthetics;
  • Supporting the growth of the equipment-to-equipment, equipment-to-cell-tower 5G network; 
  • Stretching the capacity in memory so that we can process more information more efficiently; 
  • Offering Confidential computing solutions, embracing hardware as part of the security strategy.

The bottom line is that hardware innovation is a work in progress, with much at stake, as hardware continues to make software smarter. And it’s not just about the technology, just the hardware and software. It’s also about collaborations across organizations and policies and compliance requirements.Although the conversation this morning was eerily futuristic, it was also at the same time utterly real, and absolutely practical and prophetic, exciting and daunting at the same time. 

Next Generation Collaborations

July 9, 2021

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FountainBlue’s July 9 When She Speaks women in leadership program was on the topic of ‘Next Generation Collaborations’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Intel and our esteemed panelists. 

Our panelists all extolled the virtues of collaboration, having learned from a very young age that collaboration benefits everyone. They each spoke eloquently about the business results of collaboration, from improved innovation to improved quality, from improved customer satisfaction to more efficient delivery times.

Each panelists has deep experience building relationships to ensure ongoing collaboration and growth for all parties. Building deeper and broader networks also helps with the collaboration agenda, especially as projects and technologies become increasingly more complex.

The give and take of collaborative relationships within and outside the company will continue to be integral to a company’s expansion and growth as we enter the next normal. Predictions for that next normal include:

  • The world will become increasingly more connected and we will all become more interconnected.
  • There will be faster time-to-market requirements coupled with more complex, more personalized deliverables.
  • Quality standards will continue to rise while the pressure for cost reduction also increases.

Therefore to remain competitive:

  • Collaborate to innovate.
  • Include divergent thinking and ideas.
  • Build collaborations across the ecosystem.
  • Collaboration to define new niche markets.
  • Manage and lead so that more voices are heard so that the stage is shared.
  • Build a culture of trust where teams work together to meet common objectives.
  • Listen deeply to understand current and project customer and market needs.
  • Have a clear end goal and rough path with milestones, but be flexible on how you can collaborate with others to deliver.

The bottom line is that collaboration makes everything better than the sum of the parts, so make a point of making every relationship better with each interaction.

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