Archive for the ‘Front Line Managers’ Category

Managing Up

April 19, 2021

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


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

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

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

Be Strategic and Fact-Based

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

Invite Opportunities to Learn and Grow

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

Communicate and Connect People and Teams

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

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

Data Trends Best Practices

April 2, 2021

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

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

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

Thoughts about data:

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

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

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

Thoughts on seeing the trends:

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

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

Show Me the Data

March 19, 2021

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on Being Strategic

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

Thoughts on Improving Execution

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

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

Change Management Best Practices

March 8, 2021

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

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

Be the Best YOU you can be

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

Manage Your Team Through Change

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

Be Customer-Centric

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

Embrace Technology

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

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

The Urgent Need for Inclusivity

February 22, 2021

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

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

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

Inclusivity as a Differentiator

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

Below are best practices for embracing inclusivity.

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

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


Efficiency in the Next Normal

February 5, 2021

FountainBlue’s February 5 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Efficiency in the Next Normal featuring:

  • Bruce Berkoff, LCD TV Association
  • Kris Kelly, Renesas
  • Luciana Vecchi, Amazon Web Services
  • Aaron Wruthmann, ROAMSEC

Below are notes from the conversation.

Our panel this week represented a wide range of backgrounds and interests. We agreed that we were all impacted by the events of 2020, and will continue to be impacted in the next normal. Below is a summary of their advice on how to be more efficient, more effective in this next normal.

Be Strategic

  • Be Agile with your Strategy, Planning and Execution. Nobody knows what the future will hold, but we know that being agile, plan-ful and flexible will help you better succeed.
  • Adopt Collaborative, Ecosystem Approaches to optimize the ability to deliver to the needs of your customer. Having a consultative style of communication will help yourself and your team better understand the problems faced by our customer, and better partner with them to address their needs in the short term and for the long term.
  • Manage the risks involved and fund the risk mitigation strategies.
  • Do the research and gather the data, the input, but draw a line in the side and make a choice, select a direction, erring on the side of decisiveness. Nobody can predict the future, but making a calculated choice will give you feedback and more information, and can help you better understand what’s next.

Support Your Team

  • Empower your team to better communicate, better deliver on measurable goals. 
  • Help your team create healthy boundaries between work and life, supporting them to resources and services which would help them better manage their work loads. 
  • Engage your team in collaborative projects. 
  • Connect regularly with your team members.
  • Help your team members address emotional and logistical challenges of working from home. 

Provide a Secure and Efficient Infrastructure  

  • Train your team on how to keep work laptops secure and private. Provide resources, including housing so that your junior team for example has private space to perform their work tasks at home in a secure environment. 
  • Create an expectation that everyone is responsible for the security of the network and devices and data.
  • Leverage bots and devices and processes to efficiently and securely serve our hybrid workforce.

Build Long Term Relationships through Consultative Sales 

  • Build long-term relationships with your customers and collaborate with them and with other partners to continue providing exceptional service to these customers – understanding where they want to go, brainstorming how to get there, iterate on the deliverables in getting there.

The bottom line is that we must all facilitate the Thinking, the Planning and the Execution to be more efficient in the next normal.

Measuring Goals

January 25, 2021
JD Dillon, CMO, Tioga Energy: Measuring to Optimize Goals

JD Dillon prepared slides for FountainBlue’s January 8 Front Line Managers Online program, and shared some thoughts on how to optimize goals based on metrics. With his permission, we are sharing top ten best practices as well as his charts.

  1. When optimizing goals, be specific on what your metrics are, and get agreement on whether what’s being measured actually reflects the goals for the product, team and organization. In the example above, JD comes from a semiconductor manufacturing background and shared metrics around cycle times and defects and %EDI.
  2. Once you’ve decided what’s being measured, consider creating three separate goals:
    • The ‘Plan’ is the formal and official commitment, one that is signed and approved and widely understood by people throughout the organization, and by partners and even potentially across the industry.
    • The ‘Model’ is the best possible result, given current resource levels. Knowing this number may help facilitate discussions on how additional people, financial or equipment resources would impact established goals.
    • The ‘Entitlement’ is the best possible result, if everything goes well. If you commit to the ‘entitlement’ goal, the odds are high that your project will fail, for by definition, you would be committing to a ‘best possible’ result.!
  3. Commit to a Planned goal, and provide regular updates on how your actual work is mapping to these goals.
  4. Negotiate for additional specific resources so that you can deliver on planned goals in specific ways.
  5. Be clear how having specific additional resources would impact goal timelines and product/service quality.
  6. In general, aim high for an attainable goal. If you miss the target, you would have more information and can realign in specific ways.
  7. If you aim high and HIT the goal, there’s much to celebrate, and you would learn so much about how to do it right.
  8. If you aim low and miss the plan, then you would totally fail altogether. If you aim low and succeed, there’s not as much appreciation, it’s not as valuable. People may consider it a ‘sandbag’, like you’re aiming low to do something which may not be as impactful.
  9. To increase the likelihood of success, work as a team to be clear on what the goals are, what the timelines are, who has what roles, what could go wrong, etc.,
  10. The bottom line is plan well, aim high, communicate regularly and clearly, and collaborate with all parties to deliver on your committed goals. Learn from each success, each failure.

Networking to Expand Your Circle of Influence

January 22, 2021


FountainBlue’s January 22 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Networking to Expand Your Circle of Influence’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

  • Roxanne Dos Santos, Samsung
  • Linda Christensen
  • Shruti Gautam, PayPal
  • With input from Susan Norton, BOLD and Preethy Padmanabhan, Freshworks

Below are notes from the conversation.

Humans are social beings, and networking helps humans to better connect with a broader range of other people. Below are some best practices shared by our speakers on the topic.

  • Align with others in the network (team/project/group) on a purpose and a vision. Know the ‘why’ before you think about the ‘what you’ve doing’ and the ‘how it will get done’. Measure to see if you’re successful in getting it done and iterate. WHY => WHAT => HOW => MEASURE
  • Take a customers-first mindset and deliver to the needs of the customer. Be curious about what they want and need, what they think about your product or service. Build relationships, networks and ecosystems of customers to help you better inform them, and deliver value to them.
    • Seek the feedback, integrate the feedback, inform them of how the feedback is help you shift the policy, strategy, offering, support, etc.,
    • Speak in a language of platform which would work for the customers, whether they are internal staff or partners or customers. 
  • Take a Culture-First approach to networking, building on the values of the executives, ensuring that people at all levels feel that they are important, are treated as if they matter.
    • Engage and connect with people throughout the organization and drive toward common goals. Help make them feel connected to each other even when we can’t meet in person. This may involve gamifying activities, making the time to have fun and connect at a more social level, rather than just being Zoom-Zombies.

The bottom line is that Networking is about making deep ongoing connections with a wide range of others so that you can better learn and grow yourself, and support others in doing the same. Together, we are all better.

Linda’s Top Ten Truths About Networking

1. Be other centric.

2. Networking is not transactional.

3. Be courageous.

4. Be authentic and empathetic.

5. Be genuine, without an agenda.

6. Be helpful.

7. The more the merrier.

8. No ulterior motive.

9. Make a mark, be memorable. Remember the other person.

10. Leverage technology.


Goal-Setting Best Practices

January 11, 2021

FountainBlue’s January 8 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Goal-Setting Best Practices’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

Lori Kate Smith, Health Wildcatters
Shobhana Viswanathan, Automation Anywhere
JD Dillon, Tigo Energy (not pictured)
Lynn Marie Viduya, Intermedia

Below are notes from the conversation.

Goal-Setting is important all the time, every time, but especially important in times of great change. To optimize for impact, focus on the vision and mission of the organization and ensure that your team’s goals and your personal goals are in alignment with the corporate mission, vision and objectives.

Indeed measured outcomes should be mapped to these overarching goals, and when market/people/technology change happens, and goals need to be re-visited, the new goals must be checked for alignment with the organization’s strategic mission/vision/objectives.

  • Communicating regularly within and outside the team will help create collaborations and help coordinate to achieve results. 
  • Having clarity on your target audiences and the definition of success will increase the likelihood of success.
  • Being clear on metrics – what to measure, what the commitment is, what the best case scenario is – will help everyone focus on driving results.
  • Being clear on the variables which impact whether a goal is reached will help all parties coordinate and collaborate to shift configurations in order to reach identified results.
  • Understanding the motivations of all parties will help you manage toward outcomes and build engagement.
  • Create a common agenda, a common goal, and empower and engage stakeholders to contribute in specific ways towards achieving that goal.
  • Understand the market needs and focus on the markets which best sustain your products and services in the short term and for the long term.
  • Base goals on the needs of the customer.
  • Treat your people well as you help them achieve their goals. Make sure that they have the resources and support they need, and that they are realistic about what they can achieve, particularly with current work from home mandates.
  • Measure your performance through OKR frameworks (objectives through key results), QBRs, etc.,

Make sure that the goals you’re targeting are in alignment with your personal needs, those of your team, and those of your organization.

Notes from the discussion are available at  

and attached is the slide deck.


Planning for 2021

December 15, 2020

FountainBlue’s December 15 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of 2020 and Its Impact on Planning for 2021’.  Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation and insights. 

  • Amber Barber, Lam Research
  • Roxanne dos Santos, Samsung Research America
  • Maranda Dziekonski, Swiftly
  • Ronald Goossens, ASML
  • Karthi Gopalan, Maxim Integrated
  • Thenu Kittappa, Nutanix 
  • Louise Lamb, Coupa Software
  • Debbie Shotwell
  • Amanda York, Lam Research

We launched the discussion by talking not just about the social, political, economic, and cultural impact of everything that has transpired, but also discussing how we as leaders and organizations have benefited.  

The events of 2020 helped us to see how fragile, how inter-connected we are to each other. Like a house of cards, systemic issues arose in America’s economic, political, social, operational systems as a direct and indirect result of the global pandemic. Everyone has been impacted directly and indirectly.

Yet we must also exclaim at how resourceful and resilient individuals, corporations, teams and technologies have been through these challenges.

  • Technology and innovation rose to the challenge, providing solutions which keep us connected and working securely and efficiently. Indeed the adoption of digital systems has surpassed expectations because of the necessity to do so around pandemic-related circumstances.
  • Technologies and companies have actually increased their revenues and projections as a direct result of the increased need for technology and innovation. This trend just keeps growing, as demand gets bigger and broader.

Key to the success of organizations and leaders is how we treat our people.

  • Thinking, speaking and acting like your people are your primary resource builds trust and credibility as well as productivity and sustainable earnings.
  • Involving our people in identifying and solving problems builds engagement and involvement as well as commitment.
  • Work with your people to help them be more resilient, more adaptive, more receptive, more collaborative.
  • Listen with empathy, with the sincere intent to be of service and provide support, tools and resources in a format which is digestible to the people served.
  • Solicit feedback and input. Genuinely talk to others and sincerely ask for feedback and input on a wide range of topics.
  • Arm your people with dialogues, resources, skills so that they can better understand the people they manage and lead.
  • Be more open-minded, more tolerant and expand your definition of what’s acceptable and professional as the line between personal and professional further blurs.
  • Be more agile in understanding and solving problems, more inclusive on who gets involved in the process.
  • Each resource may be double-edged swords, so customizing what people get and how they receive it would serve everyone well.
  • Teaching and supporting others on how to better lead and manage is a great investment.
  • Companies and managers who have not been good to their people will see massive turnover when the economy returns and jobs become more plentiful.

The problems we face in the next normal are not known or predictable, but the learnings from this year of great change will increase the likelihood that we would together rise to the challenge.

  • There may be a hybrid model for returning to work, so management and leaders need to figure out how to deliver everyone what they need to optimally perform.
  • The decision-making process will be much more nuanced as we factor in so many more things that are important. 
  • Be deliberate and intentional on all things that matter, particularly if it directly impacts the health, safety and happiness of your people.
  • Collaboration across organizations and countries is helping companies build a more versatile, flexible and robust supply chain and deliver a wider breadth of offerings and solutions. 
  • Productivity has not waned much, despite the disruption to on-site work. But the productivity gains are not sustainable, so we must make sure that we manage for empathy and balance, and provide resources to make working from home easy, and respectful balance to support separation of work and life.
  • Companies and teams that ‘follow the money’ will see where the business opportunities are, especially if they are nimble enough to not just see the new needs of their customers, but resourceful and committed enough to deliver same.
  • Through this year of chaos and disorder, we each have plenty of time to contemplate What’s important, Who’s Important, and What We’re Going to Do About This. 

We closed the discussion looking at the upsides of the challenges we faced this year, and reflected on how we each found opportunities to be more resilient, more creative, more resourceful, more human, and even more connected through these challenges. Indeed, in the face of potential Doom and Gloom, we found and created Black Swan effect.

Investopedia: Understanding a Black Swan –

A black swan is an extremely rare event with severe consequences. It cannot be predicted beforehand, though after the fact, many falsely claim it should have been predictable.

Black swan events can cause catastrophic damage to an economy by negatively impacting markets and investments, but even the use of robust modeling cannot prevent a black swan event.

Reliance on standard forecasting tools can both fail to predict and potentially increase vulnerability to black swans by propagating risk and offering false security. ..

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a finance professor, writer, and former Wall Street trader, used the 2008 financial crisis and the idea of black swan events to argue that if a broken system is allowed to fail, it actually strengthens it against the catastrophe of future black swan events. He also argued that conversely, a system that is propped up and insulated from risk ultimately becomes more vulnerable to catastrophic loss in the face of rare, unpredictable events.

Investopedia: Understanding a Black Swan –