Archive for the ‘Front Line Managers’ Category

Show Me the Data

June 17, 2022

FountainBlue’s June 17 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Show Me the Data’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as a People Leader – Sanchita Gupta, Samsung
  • as a Business Leader – Shari Begun, Renesas

Below are notes from the conversation.

There’s no escaping the data – it’s everywhere affecting the way we live and work. And it helps us be more efficient, more effective, more strategic. Our panelists gave us some rules of thumb on how to better manage and leverage data into our work and our lives.

Be Strategic

  • Focus on your core objectives and ensure that the data helps you to manage and align toward those objectives.
  • Filter out the noise and focus on the relevant data which would drive your business imperatives.
  • Use data to support and refine your strategy and make shifts where necessary as the data changes.
  • Focus on delivering on your highest impact projects, based on the data. 
  • Tell your story and make your ask based on the data provided.
  • Be cognizant of the agenda of others and the stories they share about the data.

Manage Your Data with Care

  • Ensure that the data generated has integrity – is valid and true.
  • Protect your data, to ensure privacy and security are maintained.

Respond to Data with Agility and Grace

  • Let data inform your decisions and respond quickly based on the data provided. With that said, make pivots and shifts as the data set changes.
  • Include a diverse range of data sources to help inform problem solving and decision making objectives. 
  • Use your best judgment and trust your gut about the validity of the data and the recommendations based on the data provided.

Use the Data to Empower and Engage

  • Use the data to better understand the needs of your people, whether they are customers or staff, so that you can better serve them.
  • Leverage the data to better address current needs and even anticipate future needs.
  • Ensure that everyone gets the right amount of data, with the right clearance, based on whether they need to be informed only, to be involved in some way, or to be partly or fully responsible for decisions around the data.

There’s every indication that there will be more data involved and more at stake around the data as everything becomes more complex, more global, more interconnected. As you make decisions and solve problems leveraging data, err on the side of action, but respond with agility as you become more informed based on the actions taken, the new data generated.

The Need for Speed

June 3, 2022
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FountainBlue’s June 3 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘The Need for Speed’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our panelists spoke eloquently about why there is so much pressure to do so many things with efficiency and with excellence. The financial, customer, business, community, operational and other pressures are immense, yet we must accept that these pressures are prevalent and choose how to proactively respond to these pressures. Below are some best practices suggested by our esteemed speakers.

Be Leader-ly

  • Build relationships of trust through ongoing, transparent and clear communications, collaborating to mitigate risks and to deliver on milestones and results. 
  • Modify and moderate expectations and collaborate with others to deliver results which meet timeline and quality standards.
  • Create a culture of agility and growth where everyone supports each other in proactively managing the pressure around delivering excellence. 
  • Connect disparate groups and teams and have them brainstorm new ways of doing things more collaboratively and more efficiently, sharing best practices, and creating new shared processes.
  • Consciously choose to go slowly, so that you can move quickly with more accuracy.
  • Challenge everyone to take an active role in managing their own operations and processes. 
  • Thread information across people, managers and groups so that you can present a collective picture of how things are working, and make proposals on how things can work more efficiently.

Be Strategic

  • Focus on doing the most important things first – serving the most important people, completing the most high-impact projects with the greatest returns, etc., Once those foundational pieces are put in, there may be more to add other important things as well.
  • Accept that some things can’t be changed and focus on making changes where you can, to ensure your team can efficiently and effectively respond to new requirements and needs.
  • Be customer-focused and design and deliver to the requirements of those customers. 
  • Make the people, process and technology changes necessary to help the team move with agility and speed.

Be Innovative

  • Learn to try new things, fail fast, pivot quickly, and continue to learn how to do things better and faster. 
  • Adopt the features not so much for their innovative value, but more for the value shown.

The bottom line is that in tech and in business, there’s a need for everyone to perform with speed. But if you work with great teams and leaders, you can embrace this truth, and be more efficient and more effective while also being more productive and more balanced.

Resolving Conflict When Stakes are High

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

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

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

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

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

Grow the Network

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

Be Strong, Clear and Direct to Manage through Conflicts

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

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

Embracing an Agile Mindset

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

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

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

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

Be willing to lead the change.

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

Build an Engaged Network and Ecosystem

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

Grow Momentum Behind the Change

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

Deliver Results with the Changes

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

Strategically Manage the Changes

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

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

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

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

April 22, 2022

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

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

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

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

Strategically Leverage the Data

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

Protect the Data

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

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

Digital Transformation

April 8, 2022

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

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

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

Indeed, our panelists agreed that digital transformation:

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

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

Be Strategic

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

Be Collaborative and Bold

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

Be Efficient

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

Be Customer-Focused

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

Communicate Clearly and Consistently

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

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

One Plus One Makes Eleven

March 25, 2022

FountainBlue’s March 25 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘One Plus One Makes Eleven’. Please join me in thanking our panelists Marla Fields, Charmy Ruparel and Prajakta Naik. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our inspiring interactive discussion was as much about team dynamics as it was about bringing out the best in individuals and in teams. We were fortunate to feature experienced and diverse team leaders who shared their strategies and best practices. Although they represented different backgrounds and experiences, they had much in common:

  • They each adopted can-do learning mindsets which helped them to manage and lead their teams through challenging projects.
  • They each successfully built relationships and networks of trust which are foundational to their ongoing success.
  • They connected and communicated with the executives who granted them the influence and resources necessary to address mission-critical projects.

Below is a compilation of their advice.

Manage Your Team Well

  • Know the strengths and needs of your team, and recruit the diverse breadth of people who can help you and your team succeed.
  • Regularly check in with your team for shorter lengths of time, to ensure that they are getting the resources they need, and that they feel connected with others. 
  • Build relationships of trust between and within teams. 
  • Be curious about conflicts within the team, and help each member connect and communicate more proactively. 
  • Recruit people who can be that multiplier for your team, but also curate the skills and influence of others who are not natural multipliers, but could become so under the right conditions.
  • Focus on the strengths of individuals and teams, and work on that rather than focusing on the negatives.

Provide Opportunities for Your Team to Collaborate and Succeed

  • Frame a conversation to positive and productive directions to increase your ability to address and solve a problem.
  • Invite collaborations between disparate groups for we all have pieces of the puzzle.
  • Teach your team to be efficient and effective, and to measure their progress.
  • Where appropriate, welcome the input of non-technical people to solve complex technical issues. Although they may not be able to solve the problem, the way they view and tackle the problem may help others to actually solve the problem.

The bottom line is that an empowered team is an effective team, and he/she who empowers that team will reap rewards.

Embracing the Creative in a Tech-Philic World

February 25, 2022
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FountainBlue’s Feb 25 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘Embracing the Creative in a Tech-Philic World’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation:  

  • as a People Leader – Tammy Sanders, Lam Research
  • as a Product and Business Leader – Mariah Manzano, Cisco

Our panelists spoke eloquently about how their earliest experiences helped them to be more divergent and creative thinkers, decision-makers and problem-solvers, and how they applied these skills to their day-to-day lives in a world with many technologists. Below is a compilation of their best practices:

Be a Leader

  • Accept that there will be mandates and milestones and diligently push through to accomplish these tasks. But also make it fun to do so, drawing on the ideas of the full community.
  • Ask probing questions which make yourself and others think more broadly and more openly so everyone is more likely to embrace new ideas and suggestions.
  • Conduct scenario planning with clear guidelines and invite creative input within those constraints.
  • Align to the core values of the individuals, teams and organization.
  • Liberally invite creativity, but ensure that the ideas are ethical, practical, and respectful.

It Takes a Community

  • Invite participation from a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Make sure that everyone feels included, empowered and involved, and make it safe for them to contribute.
  • Feel and express gratitude for everyone’s contributions. 

Be Open-Minded

  • Be curious about the things that make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Be empathetic and supportive when divergent ideas are offered.
  • Believe that you too can be creative, even if you ARE an engineer.
  • Humanize the metrics.
  • Just because it’s always done like this, it should be done this way, it’s never worked before doesn’t mean that it’s not what’s needed to solve a problem, make a decision, etc.,

Speak to Your Audience

  • Adopt the voice of the user.
  • Communicate in pictures.
  • Have a basic understanding of technical concepts and the technical world.

The bottom line is that we should embrace the creatives within and around us, for they can be key business and cultural attributes for tech companies.

Negotiating for a Win-Win

February 11, 2022
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FountainBlue’s Feb 11 Front Line Managers Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Negotiating for a Win-Win’. To our panelists, negotiating is more about influence than about money, although business and financial interests are often important factors. 

Our panelists spoke eloquently about the importance of building relationships and alliances, so that everyone understands the motivations of other parties during a negotiation, and to increase the likelihood that the negotiated result would serve the long-term and short-term needs of all parties. Below is a compilation of recommended best practices.

  • Communicate in tradeoffs between resources, timelines, and features.
  • Be an open and generous listener so that you can understand the needs and motivations of the other parties.
  • Be curious as you ask about the motivations and perspectives of others, and empathetic to their needs and desires. 
  • Embrace opportunities to see options in shades of gray, delineating factors and weightings which impact available options.
  • Take the time to accept the negotiating process, engaging multiple stakeholders.
  • Enlist the support and leadership of executives and ensure alignment with corporate goals.
  • Make the relationship more important than a short-term win. 
  • Manage your tone and your emotions. Don’t make the negotiations personal. 
  • Ferret out underlying assumptions which might make it difficult to come to a consensus.
  • Look for the double-accounting or win-win – when both parties/products/teams/companies can win!
  • Focus also on delivering more engaged and more empowered people as a victory sometimes, not just the financial benefits of a negotiation. 
  • Strategically plan your negotiations by doing your homework and planning for high-impact results.
  • Sometimes negotiations take place over small nudges rather than one heavy push. 

Negotiating happens at many levels – within and between teams, within and across roles, organizations, industries, individuals. 

The bottom line is that if we look at negotiations with more positive connotations and see negotiations as opportunities to more deeply connect and collaborate, we will more likely find that win-for-all.

Choose Your Battles

January 28, 2022
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FountainBlue’s January 28 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘Choose Your Battles’.  Where there are people, there will be conflict – especially in times of great change, like we’ve all experienced with the pandemic over the past two years.! Below is a compilation of thoughts and ideas from our wise, experienced and engaging panelists.

  • Build relationships of trust which are broad and deep, and which will last for the long-term.
  • Collaborate with internal and external teams to articulate, communicate and align on mission/vision/goals.  
  • Listen deeply with emotional intelligence to understand messages and intentions so you can head off or better manage individual battles.
  • Treat everyone with respect and support, regardless of whether he/she/they will directly work/interact with you currently or in the future. 
  • Give yourself (and others) grace when there are imperfections. Focus on building the tools, communications and processes to improve the quality rather than engaging in battles over imperfections. 
  • Speak to the data and focus on the business objectives rather than making conversations personal. 
  • Be comfortable with ambiguity, and trust your team and partners to collaborate to agilely deliver results, especially when circumstances are difficult and the future is unclear.
  • Work with your teams to be more open to diverse input and perspectives so that conflicts and misunderstandings will more likely lead to innovation rather than leading to battles.
  • Know yourself and your own buttons and tendencies, and manage situations so that you can practice being curious, patient, inquisitive and open-minded, focusing on the facts in the heat of a battle. 
  • Respectfully raise questions when you don’t understand something, or when it appears to contradict vision/goals/objectives. This may be a key to avoiding a much larger battle.  
  • Have a zero tolerance policy when core values or violated, but make sure that an unacceptable communication or action actually occurred before taking action.

The bottom line is that if we each are clear on saying what we think and doing what you say, we will more likely align on the business imperatives and less likely go to battle.