Archive for the ‘Front Line Managers’ Category

Communicate, Connect, Engage

January 14, 2022
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FountainBlue’s January 14 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘Communicate, Connect, Engage’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation: Tammy Sanders, Shobhana Viswanathan, Louise Lamb.

We were fortunate to have such practical and inspiring leaders for this week’s panel, speaking so passionately and eloquently on how to better communicate, connect and engage with your stakeholders.Our panelists shared why engagement was so important from the people, product and business perspectives. Their success stories showed how they overcame obstacles to deliver quantifiable and qualitative results for their teams and organizations. Below is a summary of their advice for how to better communicate, connect and engage:

  • Align on values and ensure that you and everyone else can consistently think, speak, and act on those values.
  • Embrace the opportunities for contemplation and reflection to see how your own view of the world could be a little more flexible, more broad.
  • Hire, retain and develop the passionate doers who will show up and follow through, and support them in adopting others-like-them on to the team.
  • Look also at what’s-not-said/done, for reading between the lines can tell you what motivates others as well as what they meant by the words they said, the actions they took.
  • Create a safe space for people to transparently and authentically share their challenges, opportunities and successes.
  • Understand the motivations of your stakeholders and ensure that you and the team are solving problems of interest for each stakeholder.
  • View the problem from a larger lens/perspective, so that you can better communicate and better connect and engage with others.
  • Speak from a bottom-line/revenue impact perspective to get sponsor and executive buy-in.
  • If ‘snow melts on the edges’ as Andy Grove would say, invite the team to understand what the product, business and customer implications are for today’s circumstances and needs and for tomorrow’s technologies and solutions. 

People have always been a company’s greatest asset, and it’s much more important now when we are all impacted by the ‘Great Resignation’. Communicating, connecting and engaging with your people helps managers and leaders at all levels to recruit, retain, and develop their people, and encourages everyone to go that extra mile to deliver value, while contributing to a positive culture.

Open Hearts, Open Minds

December 3, 2021

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FountainBlue’s December 3 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘Open Hearts, Open Minds’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. We were fortunate to have such open-minded, open-hearted leaders for today’s program. Below is a compilation of best practices for leading and following with an open heart and an open mind.

Think Strategically and Start with the Why

  • Make sure that the change is a necessary one, and worth the effort.
  • Know what success looks like and what needs to be measured to achieve the change objectives. 
  • Accept that not everyone can make the shifts needed to embrace the opportunities around the challenges of change.
  • Manage by objectives, ensuring alignment on goals and measured, time-lined outcomes.
  • Communicate the whys behind the changes in a language which resonates with the intended audiences.

Be Authentic, Transparent and True, Making it Safe for Others to Do the Same

  • Consistently think, speak and walk the talk.
  • Be vulnerable and human, and make it safe so that others feel like they can be the same way.

Embrace Opportunities to Learn and Grow – Change is a part of life, so embrace opportunities to learn and grow from the change, or risk being left behind. 

  • Know why you (or others) are resistant to change and work with them to make it happen. 
  • Help others connect the dots for themselves.
  • Be curious and ask open ended questions.

Focus on Positive and Constructive Thoughts, Opportunities and People

  • Make the best of what you’re given.
  • Help others find that right fit, even if it’s not within your team or organization.

Collaborate and Work with Others – together we are better

  • Model and reward collaboration.
  • Create a platform where internal and external stakeholders can work together, aligned on common goals.

Our panelists challenge us to embrace that growth mindset, to collaboratively work together, with open minds and open hearts to address challenges and opportunities for a future we can’t predict.

Embracing Gratitude

November 5, 2021

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

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

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

How you show gratitude really matters.

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

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

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

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

Never Settle

October 15, 2021

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

Work with a Purpose

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

Empower and Enable People to Succeed

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

Accept Change as a Given, and Manage It Well

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

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

Be the Sherpa

October 1, 2021

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

Commit to Consistently and Authentically Showing Up

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

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

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

Focus on the Big Picture – Delivering Results

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

Honor All Stakeholders

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

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

Climb the Mountain

September 17, 2021

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FountainBlue’s September 17 Front Line Managers Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Climb the Mountain’, featuring Sanchita Gupta, Amber Barber and Krista Pavlakos.

We were fortunate to have such courageous, bold, authentic and dynamic panelists who represented a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds. Below is a composite of their thoughts and recommendations about climbing the corporate ladder.

Some thoughts on relationships:

  • Build relationships and networks of trust.
  • Remember that you are not alone. Reach out and build connections and community around you. Keep speaking your truth and see who else has similar experiences.

Some thoughts on stretching yourself:

  • Leverage the feedback you receive even when it confuses and puzzles you and makes you uncomfortable. This may be your ticket to the next level. 
  • Adopt a growth mindset, and help others to do the same.
  • Be open to new experiences and thoughts.
  • Step in to leadership vacuums and collaborate with others to achieve results once you step in.
  • Be passionate about what you do and work hard to do it well. 
  • Be fully yourself and grow and advance on YOUR terms, rather than trying to follow someone’s footsteps, fit someone’s mold.

Some thoughts on how to solve problems:

  • Focus on solving problems for others on your team and helping them to succeed.
  • Be curious about the problems, motivations and needs of others and work collaboratively to address their needs.
  • Ask ‘what happened’ when something succeeds or fails, but more importantly ask ‘WHY did it happen’.

Some thoughts on communication:

  • Communicate transparently, authentically, regularly.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – so stay on top of your coordination and communication to help keep everyone on the same page, focused on the same objectives.

Some thoughts on resiliency:

  • Sometimes the people closest to you discourage you from doing what you know you can do. Choose to persevere anyway.
  • Push beyond your own comfort zones. Never settle for mediocrity and become complacent.
  • Confidently and courageously choose to persevere one step at a time, no matter who or what gets in the way.

Some thoughts on planning:

  • Plan for the unknown as best you can, and be agile and other about the problems you’ll face, and the actions required to solve the problem. 
  • Don’t plan to get it right every time all the time, but do plan to learn from both successes and failures.
  • Go broad, go deep with your impact, and proactively plan for your next steps.
  • Sometimes the path forward is not a straight line. That’s still a good thing.
  • Sometimes the path forward wasn’t even planned. That’s still a good thing.

Some thoughts about the growth process:

  • Growth is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride.
  • Sprinkle your lessons with humor and grace.

The bottom line is that if you’re confident, passionate, humble, curious, open-minded and collaborative, you can start climbing that corporate ladder too. And if you do, reach out to trusted others to support you in this worthwhile and challenging journey.

The Why Before the What Before the How

September 3, 2021

FountainBlue’s September 3 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘The Why Before the What Before the How’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

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Our panel represented leaders and managers from a wide range of backgrounds who generously shared the whys, the whats, the hows of leadership, and their best practices for building momentum on key business initiatives, particularly when everyone and everything is experiencing so much change.

Each panelist boldly and courageously led from whichever chair they were given, to deliver information, results, communications, strategies, and processes – whatever the team and organization needed at the time.

And each panelist also did their own internal search on what works for themselves personally, serving their own ‘whys’ to ensure that their work maps to their values and their skills as well as the market opportunities.

It was impressive to see what our panelists navigated in this time of great change, and how they nobly led others through the process, leaving an indelible mark not just to the bottom line, but also to the culture and emotional wellbeing of those influenced by them.

Their humility, openness, and other-centric communication and leadership styles served them well as they listened closely and attentively to all stakeholders, and facilitated the successful collaborations which brought ongoing, tangible, measurable results.

Below is a compilation of best practices for leading and managing well:

  • Take a strategic and ecosystem-based approach so you can better understand the challenges and opportunities ahead, and better envision, plan for and execute on the vision.
  • Have the courage to step in and speak up no matter where you sit at the table for it will serve you well, but it will also serve everyone else impacted by the communication.
  • Gather information about the market, the product, the customers, the competitors will help you better understand the why, the what, the how, the who around the choices you’re making every day.
  • Build community and connection to raise the bar for yourself and others, so we can each better manage and lead.
  • Understand the motivations of the key stakeholders, and ensure that they understand the motivations of other parties.
  • Advocate for your company, product and team, so you can support everyone in building the business, regardless of your role and level.
  • Align your vision, mission and values, and ensure that your actions, your people, your tasks remain in alignment.
  • Measure and communicate progress so accountability is maintained.
  • Agilely manage, lead, plan and grow, for nothing will stay the same.

The bottom line is that we can all be more open, more humble, more empowering and more supportive of others.

Resources:

  • Find Your WHY – Simon Sinek https://simonsinek.com/find-your-why
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – FranklinCovey https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits

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!

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! 

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.