Archive for the ‘Front Line Managers’ Category

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

April 22, 2022


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


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

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

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

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.

Communicate, Connect, Engage

January 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

Open Hearts, Open Minds

December 3, 2021


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

Think Strategically and Start with the Why

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

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

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

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

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

Focus on Positive and Constructive Thoughts, Opportunities and People

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

Collaborate and Work with Others – together we are better

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

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

Embracing Gratitude

November 5, 2021

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

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

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

How you show gratitude really matters.

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

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

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

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

Never Settle

October 15, 2021

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

Work with a Purpose

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

Empower and Enable People to Succeed

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

Accept Change as a Given, and Manage It Well

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

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