Archive for the ‘Front Line Managers’ Category

The WHY Before the WHAT Before the HOW

September 16, 2022

FountainBlue’s September 16 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘The Why Before the What Before the How’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as a People Leader – Ruth Radford, Lam Research
  • as a Program Leader – Sam Gupta, Pure Storage 
  • as an Engineering Leader – Pooja Agrawal, Renesas

Our spoke eloquently and passionately about their whys and provided practical and effective strategies to align everyone to a purpose, while delivering on results (the whats and the hows). Below is a compilation of their best practices.
Respect Everyone’s Contributions

  • Allow people to collaborate and deliver their portion of the deliverable, while aligning everyone to the client objectives and project purpose.
  • Welcome people from different backgrounds to contribute.
  • Resist the urge to more efficiently do a task yourself, and respect that others have different strategies which may also work.

Connect and Reframe

  • Connect people from different backgrounds, roles and mindsets with each other, aligning on the same purpose and contributing toward a common goal.
  • Help uber-technical people see the bigger picture, the larger solution.
  • Invite technical people to explain how a technology or process better serves the customer so that you can make a business case for support and resources.
  • See the WHY from all angles so that you can communicate the version of the WHY which would motivate each stakeholder. 

Overcome Resistance

  • Conversations around the Why sometimes meet resistance, especially if change is required. Objections might include problems with the what or the how, or even challenging the strategy or requesting validation that it will work. 
  • Continue to have direct conversations around the why, focusing on the corporate mission and values and direct customer requirements helps address objections.
  • Lobby for the resources and support to enable cross-functional teams to collaborate and deliver quality results.
  • Communicate the need to accelerate the pace of business, align behind core values, deliver on results, and adopt new skills and knowledge.

Plan Well, While Also Embracing Agility

  • Be clear on objectives and create plans which mitigate risks, especially risks that are likely to happen, or those which would be disastrous if they should happen.

The bottom line is that in this world of great change, leaders and companies must rally behind a ‘WHY’ and deliver WHAT customers are looking for, in a WAY which is efficient, effective and sustainable. 

Performance Review Best Practices

September 2, 2022

FountainBlue’s September 2 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘Performance Management Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as an HR Leader – Kerry Perryman, Samsung Research America
  • as a People Leader – Jennifer Exum, Gig Talent Collective
  • as a Product Leader – Sam Gupta, Pure Storage

Our passionate and seasoned panelists offered courageous, direct, and kind advice on how to better manage performance and bring out the best in people. Although they represented a wide breadth of experience and backgrounds, our panelists agreed on the following best practices:
Be Strategic

  • Align objectives across the organization, products and teams.
  • Leverage influencing skills to manage a host of stakeholders with the goal of delivering measurable results which fit performance objectives.
  • Understand the motivations of the various stakeholders and keep this in mind as you manage performance for the overall team.
  • Take a holistic view of individual, group and company performance, rather than counting on snapshots of detailed data which may be taken out of context.
  • Encourage the team to be plan-ful about their work, without being rigid; to be agile about their work while adhering to requirements, standards, processes and protocols.

Communication is Key

  • Engage in ongoing, constructive, data-based conversations around feedback.
  • Consistently communicate performance standards and execute to those standards.
  • Consistently think, speak and act in a way which inspires trust, informs transparently, and invites engagement. 
  • Make conversations direct and specific, but not personal. 

Collaborate, Connect and Inspire

  • While it’s important to oversee the performance of their own teams, it’s also important to collaborate with other stakeholders to deliver exceptional results. 
  • Look not just at where employees are, but also where they’d like to go, and support them in that journey.

Be Positive and Proactive

  • Find a positive and constructive way to manage performance, rather than adopting strategies which may (inadvertently or intentionally) pit people against each other.
  • Take the opportunities to praise and reward good performance and strategize on how to make the good behaviors and outcomes even better.
  • Invite and reward a mindset of growth and curiosity. 

As we look at the paradigm shift to a new version of normal, we must also realize that the way we manage and oversee performance must also shift, given the new realities of the workplace. 


Problem-Solving Strategies

August 23, 2022


FountainBlue’s August 19 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Problem-Solving Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

This month’s panelists spoke eloquently and passionately about the need to solve problems, and the opportunities which arise from solving problems well. They agreed that leaders need to be clear, firm, fair and consistent in communicating, in order to empower everyone to engage and participate in the problem-solving process. Collaboration is key in building team synergy, in securing a wide range of input and perspective, for  leveraging relevant experience and expertise.

There was much emphasis on the importance of having a clear, succinct, direct, metrics-based problem statement, one which is flexible enough to evolve as the program morphs. There were also recommendations for leveraging tools to facilitate collaboration tools like white-boarding, especially when staff members span the globe.

Our panelists also noted that there are also times when people need to meet face-to-face. For example, it’s important to meet in-person when you’re dealing with people issues, when you need to physically interact with a product, when you’re building relationships. 

Below is a summary of best practices for problem-solving:

  • Include a wide range of perspectives when working on a problem.
  • Simplify the problem, and even deconstruct it if appropriate so that you better understand it.
  • Invite wild ideas so you can fully brainstorm options, but also consider only the ideas which are practical.
  • Consider the cost/value of potential solutions, so that you implement solutions which are practical, sustainable, reasonable, and useful.
  • Focus on addressing the most impactful, highest-priority problems first. 
  • People-problems are generally more complex, less straight-forward than engineering or process problems. With process and engineering problems, there can be clearly defined standards and protocols.

It’s not easy to solve complex problems, but listening well and deeply is a key step forward for doing this well.

Managing Up, Down and Sideways

August 5, 2022


FountainBlue’s August 5 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Managing Up, Down and Sideways’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as an HR Leader – Kerry Perryman, Samsung Research America
  • as a Product Leader – Sondra Bollar, Oracle
  • as an Engineering Leader – Stephen McGrath, Trimble

We were fortunate to have such experienced and diverse panelists for this week’s front line managers online program. It’s been a tumultuous week with challenges and changes for many organizations, so it was a great time to learn about how to better manage up, down and sideways.Our panelists agreed on many management principles:

  • Build relationships with a wide network of people will help everyone better manage and lead. Healthy long-term relationships are built on respect and trust, developed from ongoing, proactive, authentic, transparent communication between all parties.
  • Be clear on your plan, based on the information you have to date and the objectives and goals defined for you. 
  • With that said, be nimble and agile should the direction change or if the data indicates other strategies and actions would better serve the goals.

Below is some advice for better managing up, down and sideways:
Be a Leader

  • Err on the side of action, even if your information set is incomplete and the result is uncertain.
  • Be curious about your blindspots and the blindspots of others with whom you work.
  • Manage your emotions and stay calm, even if you feel that you’ve been wronged.
  • Encourage everyone to learn from mistakes, and take advantage of teachable moments.

Be a Project Leader

  • Make specific plans for minimum deliverables, based on input from a wide range of sources.
  • Plan-fully allocate the right resources for the right talent, in alignment with overarching goals.

Empower and Engage Your Team

  • Provide exciting opportunities which challenge your team members individually and collectively.
  • Help your team manage and prioritize tasks and projects, and explain how everyone’s work fits in to the overall plan and why specific projects and tasks are more important than other ones. 

The bottom line is that management is an art and a science. 

Great managers help others feel secure and safe while also focusing on clarifying changes in goals and objectives and how they impact the organizations, teams, products, and individuals.When teams are managed well, there is deep trust and exceptional results made by productive and empowered team members. 

Embracing an Agile Mindset

July 15, 2022


FountainBlue’s July 15 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Embracing an Agile Mindset’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as a Business Leader – Louise Lamb, Coupa
  • as a Program Leader – Mona Hudak, Cisco
  • as an Engineering Leader – Pooja Agrawal, Renesas

Our Agility panelists represented a wide range of roles, organizations and backgrounds, but they have much in common:

  • They navigated their career with agility and grace.
  • They build deep networks and relationships which transcend roles, organizations and opportunities.
  • They embrace challenges as opportunities and stalwartly march forward to learn and grow, facilitating success for their teams, their products, and their organizations.
  • They are passionate and eloquent communicators who enjoy sharing their wisdom and advice.

Below is a compilation of best practices on how to embrace agility.
Be Strategic

  • Be purposeful and intentional about what you do and why you do it. 
  • Be open about the challenges in front of you and inclusive and collaborative as you address them head-on.
  • Welcome opportunities to fail quickly, and to fail forward, learning what to-do and what not-to-do along the way.

Manage Through Change 

  • Align everyone to a common purpose, but be open about HOW each person or group might implement/perform their tasks. 
  • Focus on your performance, but also on the perception others have of you, and the politics which may complicate your ability to perform well.
  • Accept that change will always happen, and be positive and constructive when facing these changes. 
  • Focus on delivering the business imperatives as you integrate changes. 

Overcome Obstacles to Change

  • Identify and address the root causes for the problems and challenges in front of you.
  • Encourage everyone to be resourceful problem-solvers and data-centered decision-makers. 
  • Break problems into smaller pieces so that you don’t boil the ocean.

Overcome Objections to Change

  • Distinguish between practical and emotional resistance to change so that you can better manage the adoption of necessary changes. 
  • Be empathetic and supportive to people who are change-resistant, and provide training, support and information so that they can better accept change. 
  • Be patient and persistent and positive as you agilely manage others through change.
  • Be positive, dynamic and proactive as you lead through change. 

Change is a constant, but agilely and resourcefully responding to the need for change will help yourself and your team deliver business results which satisfy customers. 

Growing Your Emotional Intelligence

July 1, 2022

FountainBlue’s July 1 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Growing Your Emotional Intelligence’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as a Business Leader – Sheri Simmons, Philips
  • as an HR Leader – Roxanne Dos Santos, Samsung Research America
  • as a People Leader – Susan Norton, BOLD
  • as a Product Leader – Ashwini Lahane, Freshworks

Our EQ panel represented a range of organizations and roles, but had much in common:

  • They humbly navigated their career up, down and sideways, always looking to learn and grow and become a larger and better version of themselves.
  • They are highly aware of their impact on others, and leverage their power and influence for the greater good, driving bottom line results while also developing their people.

Our panelists spoke extensively about Daniel Goleman’s five components of emotional intelligence, as profiled in his Sept 2005 book entitled Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

  • Emotional self awareness: Knowing what one is feeling at any given time and understanding the impact those moods have on others is a foundational quality of emotional intelligence. Staying attuned to your feelings and sensitive to how others are responding to what you’re thinking, saying or doing will help develop EQ.
  • Self-regulation: Putting up filters to control, redirect or otherwise manage one’s emotions supports one’s emotional intelligence. In addition, anticipating consequences before acting on impulse helps ensure smooth interactions and communications and build relationships and rapport.
  • Empathy: Awareness of and respect for the the emotions and feelings of others is another core EQ quality. This other-centeredness helps build understanding and connections between people, even when they are very different.
  • Social skills: Leveraging EQ skills can help manage relationships, inspire, empower and engage others to participate in the larger cause. 
  • Motivation: Leaders with high emotional intelligence can better achieve goals, enjoy the learning process and persevere in the face of obstacles, and mobilize those they touch to do the same.

Below is a compilation of advice on best practices for growing emotional intelligence:

Stretch Yourself

  • Embrace challenges as learning opportunities and grow from each experience.
  • Have the courage to invite and accept feedback, and the fortitude to grow and learn from it.
  • Manage your ego, which may not respond well to the thoughts, words and actions of others. 
  • Be aware and manage the triggers and buttons which may not bring out the best in yourself, and lead to less than desirable responses to others.
  • Know when to Endure, when to Engage, when to Embrace the challenging situations (and people) in front of you. 
  • Challenge yourself about your perspective, about your pace, about your areas of focus, about the processes adopted, about the scale you’re striving for.
  • Do what you need to do to keep centered and balanced, including journaling, meditating, reflection, education, etc.,

Challenge Others to Also Grow

  • Have the compassion and grace to support others as they also navigate challenges during these times of great change.
  • Help others to feel safe and supported while raising the bar for them, and providing them with the resources and support to feel engaged, empowered and successful. 
  • Be direct with your feelings, but in a non-emotional way. Try this formula when you face people not-like-you, ‘When you do X, it makes me feel Y. Could you do Z instead?’ 

Grow the Team and Organization

  • Proactively manage your own emotions so that you can optimize for a productive and constructive response and relationships with the team and the organization. 
  • Help your team tie passion to purpose and collaboratively drive toward measurable outcomes.

The bottom line is that your EQ will always be more important than your IQ, and growing your EQ will grow yourself and all you touch.

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

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

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

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.