Archive for the ‘Front Line Managers’ Category

Climb the Mountain

September 17, 2021

Climb the Mountain Panel.png

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. 


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.


  • Find Your WHY – Simon Sinek
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – FranklinCovey

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. 


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. 


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


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.

The Need for Speed

July 5, 2021

FountainBlue’s July 2 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘The Need for Speed. Our thanks to our panelists for their participation – Ronald Goossens, ASML and Archana Muralidharan, Palo Alto Networks.

Our panelists generously and poignantly shared their thoughts and best practices around hot to be speedy. Below is a summary of their suggestions.

Relationships matter. 

  • Empower and inspire your team to collaborate and share so that together the team is more efficient and effective, while also being better at problem-solving.
  • Be customer-centric and take a cow’s-eye view of the world so that you can better understand and even anticipate the needs of the customer. This way you can more efficiently and effectively deliver to their needs.
  • To build trusted relationships, show up as a Competent person with the Capacity to perform assigned duties, the Transparency to candidly communicate (especially if things don’t go as planned), and the Authenticity to speak directly about your own motivations.

Be Strategic.

  • Although we must be focused on quickly delivering for our customers, we must also ensure that we are consistently in alignment with our corporate mission, vision and values. 
  • In the heat of the moment when you’re trying to do things quickly, focus as much on quality (or even more so) than you would on quantity. 
  • Agilely course-correct when the data shows that your plan is not generating intended results.
  • Balance the time you spend ‘on the dance floor’ tactically delivering and the time you spend on the balcony with a larger, more strategic view.
  • Trust Your Instincts, But Back It Up with reliable, accurate data.

Manage Your Projects and People Well.

  • Focus on the why and the what and let your team figure out the how in terms of processes, timing, format, etc., provided that you deliver quality results within reasonable timelines.
  • Welcome input and feedback and be open to the what and the why of that feedback.
  • Differentiate between the Urgent, the Important and the Must-Have and manage accordingly. 
  • When there’s an urgent matter to address, immediately 1) bring in senior people to fully understand the issues, 2) focus on dealing with the immediate and urgent issue first, 3) understand whether it’s a symptom of a more systemic issue, 4) identify and explore the root cause and the fix for that root cause, and 5) explore the implications of the problem to see if there’s a pattern to be fixed and to minimize similar problems.
  • Be known for consistently under-commit and over-deliver.

Our panelists closed by discussing how a leadership strategy should depend on how urgent and important an issue is.


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. 


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


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.