Archive for the ‘Front Line Managers’ Category

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.

People Not-Like-Me

June 18, 2021

FountainBlue’s June 18 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘People Not-Like-Us’. 

Our panelists generously shared personal and professional stories about their own personality styles and how to work (and live) with people Not-Like-Them. They also talked about the personal and professional benefits of more openly interacting with people with diverse backgrounds at work and in life. Below is a summary of their thoughts and advice.
Studies show that there are many business benefits of including people with diverse backgrounds into work activities, so helping leaders welcome people-not-like-them on to their teams would benefit the organization overall. With the pandemic and its aftermath, it has become more important than ever to be open to working with people from a wide range of backgrounds in life and at work. Below are some thoughts on how to do so.

  • Make communications with others more transparent, more empathetic, more open, more regular, and more multi-channeled in order to make sure everyone feels both more included and more appreciated.
  • Build a sense of community so everyone feels more connected, more  empowered, more accepted and more welcome, despite their differences. This leads to a more open and resilient culture, and a more committed and loyal workforce.
  • Invite participation, feedback and input so the organization can continue to morph and accommodate the evolving needs of the workforce.
  • Define the boundaries around the culture and the work so that you’re compliant with requirements and in alignment with the corporate vision, but welcome input and ideas on how to shape the work experience.
  • Choose to push through perceptions and values and be more curious and open about people who are not-like-you.
  • Make it SAFE to learn, to make mistakes, to speak up. Empower and reward those who are courageous enough to do so.
  • Develop deep and genuine connections with others and listen deeply to what they say, what they mean, what they need, and what they want.
  • Practice becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable, to expand your personal comfort zone.
  • Facilitate communication between people with different backgrounds and help them come to productive agreements where possible.

The bottom line is that we are all uniquely ourselves, and being open to people not-like-us will help each of us be better versions of ourselves, thereby impacting a broader and larger swath of others in productive and positive ways.

Building Emotional Intelligence

June 7, 2021

FountainBlue’s June 4 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting on the topic of ‘Building Emotional Intelligence’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

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Our panelists were quite bullish on the need for emotional intelligence now and in the new realities of the new normal. 

Each panelist spoke passionately about the need to have a strong culture, the need to be self-aware, vulnerable and authentic in order to build your own emotional intelligence, and to help others to feel safe enough to grow their own.

They each provided poignant examples of the challenges they face day-to-day, and shared their best practices on how to best address these challenges, leveraging their emotional intelligence. A compilation of their best practices is below.

  • Don’t make it personal. Keep the discussion around the data and the business objectives.
  • Be collaborative and focus on team goals. Understanding the motivations of all parties and aligning everyone to shared goals will help keep that conversation productive.
  • Ask questions, point to resources and provide support so that others choose to become more emotionally intelligent. 
  • Help others be more successful when they choose to be more emotionally intelligent.
  • Listen with your heart as well as with your ears. Hear what is said (the data) with what is meant (the emotions under the data which may not be stated verbally).
  • Be empathetic – nobody knows the full story of the challenges and opportunities faced by others. Live as if we are ALL ONE, all on the same team, all aligned with intent and purpose.
  • Make it OK to speak on previously ‘taboo’ topics around mental health. Make it safe enough for people to open up and ask for the support and services they need to better perform, to better thrive, bringing their best selves to work.

You can leverage emotional intelligence in many ways.

  • Use your emotional intelligence to apply your learnings about how to work with people and situations to near scenarios and people.
  • Use your emotional intelligence to embrace failures as learning opportunities. Support a culture where failure is accepted, and that all who fail, fail in a forward direction, bringing learning sessions with each failure.
  • Use your emotional intelligence to learn (and teach) not just to be self-aware, but also to self-regulate. 
  • Use your emotional intelligence to pivot to what’s new, what’s next, having confidence that you will be self-aware and self-disciplined enough to embrace the opportunities in the challenge.

Here are some formulas which have worked for our panelists.

  • Vulnerability leads to trust leads to relationships leads to improved results (productivity/contracts).
  • Emotional Intelligence expands exponentially as more and more people adopt the practice.

We conclude by noting that in this next normal, change will continue wreak havoc on your work, and on your emotions – and problem in more complex and complicated ways. Choose to be emotionally intelligent and self-aware enough to embrace the change, and courageous and disciplined enough to self-regulate and help others to do the same.

Embracing Agility

May 21, 2021
Embracing Agility

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

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

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

Building and Maintaining Relationships is Key

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

Communicating and Coordinating Increases the Likelihood of Success

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

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

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

Soliciting Feedback and Input Helps Us All Better Perform

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

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

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

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

Collaboration Best Practices

May 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Up

April 19, 2021

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

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


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

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

Be Strategic and Fact-Based

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

Invite Opportunities to Learn and Grow

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

Communicate and Connect People and Teams

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

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

Data Trends Best Practices

April 2, 2021

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

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

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


Thoughts about data:

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

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

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

Thoughts on seeing the trends:

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

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

Show Me the Data

March 19, 2021

FountainBlue’s March 19 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Show Me the Data’ featuring:

  • Zane Hall, Executive Director, IT, Maxim
  • Tracy Meersman, Director Sales Enablement, Skybox Security
  • Ravindra Thadani, Sr. Director – IT Business Applications & Services, AMD

Our panelists shared their wide and deep experience around data collection, management and reporting. They commented on how we can evolved from the days of large file cabinets to an era where data is kept in the cloud, and now on the edge as well.

They consistently remarked on the volume of data and provided advice on how we can better strategically and tactically manage data.

Thoughts on Being Strategic

  • Start with the end in mind, to design a strategy for gathering and reporting on data which reports on specific objectives. Develop a consensus and understanding of what’s being measured for what purpose. 
  • Focus on the needs of the customers – whether they are internal or external.
  • Data is used across use cases, across industries. 
  • Separate measurement from ownership so that there’s less likely to be a conflict of interest, and more likely to be objectivity.
  • Embrace Data Democratization – provide the data and tools to the people, with clear policies and guidelines on how to measure, use and report on the data collected
  • Ensure there’s not an agenda around the data. 
  • You will get garbage-in->garbage-out (GIGO) if you don’t measure the right data. 
  • You can get data to make the case for just about anything – but make sure that the report/the data is valid.
  • Data doesn’t have an ROI, it has a POC so plan accordingly.
  • Understand the velocity of change around the data collected so you can have the right strategy on how to manage it.
  • What’s the so-what of data? What actions/decisions would it trigger?
  • Think through who needs to know what, when and why?

Thoughts on Improving Execution

  • Provide guidance on data usage and governance on how to use it
  • Make the conversations around data not personal, the culture data-philic.
  • Agree on metrics and how to report on these metrics
  • Develop and use a Common language around the data
  • Ensure Compliance
  • Password Management
  • Providing Security at the Data Level  
  • Proactively Manage home and work networks

In closing, we’ll conclude that data is the lifeblood of the organization. How we use it, communicate with it, manage it, work with it, says much about our culture, our leadership, our ability to get things done.

Change Management Best Practices

March 8, 2021

FountainBlue’s March 5 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Change Management Best Practices’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. Our panelists were certainly experienced prior to the pandemic, but the events of 2020 and the resulting changes have made them more adept, more courageous, more gracious in the face of change. 

They agreed that when dealing with change, be bold about what to do, courageous about how to do it, gentle with yourself as you manage through it, open-minded about how to repeat the cycle. Below is a summary of other suggestions and recommendations around change management. 

Be the Best YOU you can be

  • Be courageous, strategic and humble enough to pivot through the changes, knowledgeable and connected enough to be agile, making it up as you go (within guidelines), and practical and tactical enough to keep shifting, measuring and correcting with your adjustments.
  • Reflect on your ‘Zone of Genius’, your personal Super Power. Leverage that when appropriate. Hone it and learn from it.
  • Push through the fear with microbursts of energy, small trials with clear objectives and guidelines for success.  

Manage Your Team Through Change

  • Be more empowering, more inclusive, more supportive of your people through these changes. 
  • Remember that Change will impact people from all backgrounds at all levels, but it will impact everyone differently. Be open and curious enough to help others adjust to changes.
  • Look not just on the change that’s happening, but also at the ripple effects of the change on yourself, your team, your product, your customers and plan accordingly.
  • Get the team aligned to a common rhythm, and build engagement and connections following that team rhythm. 
  • Create many touchpoints for individual team members and the overall team.
  • Create and nurture a culture which invites trial and error, and learning from both wins and losses. 

Be Customer-Centric

  • Put your customers first with every change. 
  • Being customer-centric and developing collaborative strategies will create an ecosystem of partners which would increase the likelihood of surviving and thriving through changes. 

Embrace Technology

  • Fortunately, technology will continue to evolve to support leaders in envisioning and creating changes which better connect people, better support customers. But only companies and leaders willing to make investments in technology advances shall reap those rewards. 
    • Quote – we have God-like technology, run by Medieval institutions, and people with Paleolithic emotions. Which leaders can help rise above their more primitive emotions (including fear) and the constraints of short-sighted, inflexible organizations? 

This pandemic and its aftermath has taught us yet again that change is not easy, but it is inevitable. It also provided the bonus lesson about our shared humanity and challenged us to collaborate with others to take change by the horn, and together shift to a more gracious, more sustainable mindset benefitting more people.

The Urgent Need for Inclusivity

February 22, 2021
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FountainBlue’s February 19 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘The Urgent Need for Inclusivity’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

  • Shobhana Viswanathan, Automation Anywhere
  • Ronald Goossens, ASML
  • Tejal Thakkar, Rimini Street

We were fortunate to have experienced panelists with original and well-thought-out perspectives on the importance of inclusivity. Below is a summary of their thoughts and suggestions and attached is the deck.

Inclusivity as a Differentiator

  • There’s a difference between ‘old-tech’ companies who have been around for more than ten years, and who are not attracting Gen Z talent, ‘old tech’ companies like those who are part of FAGMA who are attracting Gen Z talent, and new companies who have mostly Gen Z talent. Watch for the companies which are in general attractive to that multi-generational workforce.
  • Progressive companies are making the question of age matter of fact, profiling senior leaders who are much older and/or much younger than the norm, and opening up discussions questioning our unconscious biases around age (and other qualities).
  • Companies that proactively invite original thinking and innovation from every part of the company, independent or role, level, background, ethnicity, geography, orientation, etc., are more likely be more original and innovative, AND also better decision-makers and problem-solvers.

Below are best practices for embracing inclusivity.

  • Make It Safe: Develop a culture of psychological safety, openness and transparency so that ideas and thoughts are welcome, errors are accepted at learning opportunities, leaders at all levels think, speak and act in alignment with personal and corporate values.
  • Embrace Your Purpose: Collectively make a difference as an organization, and as an individual, contribute to the difference you’re making as an organization. 
  • Raise the Bar for Yourself and Others: Consciously and gently call each other to a higher moral and ethical standard, while achieving business objectives. 
  • Adopt a Process which invites input from all, and ethical execution: Invite input from all, clearly, transparently and openly communicate decisions made and rationale for decision 

The bottom line is that inclusivity facilitates innovation, leadership, collaboration, and ultimately a business advantage. Moreover, it’s leads to more pleasant and productive working conditions and it’s the right thing to do.

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