Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Trust Me!

June 1, 2022

Trust is the great equalizer – with trust, even the smallest teams can move mountains, without trust, whole armies will falter taking a molehill.

When there’s a breach of trust, specific expectations have been violated or mis-aligned. There might be a misunderstanding around accountability and responsibility, or a difference of opinion on values and principles. There might be different expectations on the work to be done, or how work should be done, or the quality expectations for the work to be done.

Trust is also often breached when communication is not authentic or transparent or clear or consistent. 

Executives, individuals, teams, partners and customers respond differently when there’s a breach. I use a process leveraging the thoughts below to identify causes for the breach in trust, and to facilitate conversations on how we can each do better at building a culture of trust.

In a Perfect World:

Executives Lead from the Top Down

– Culture of Accountability

– Clear Values and Behaviors

– Explicit Agreements with Partners, Customers, Executives

– Candid and Authentic Feedback for All

– Proactive Communication to Ensure Alignment and Success

Individuals Lead from the Bottom-Up

– Trustworthy Behaviors

– Alignment of Behavior with Culture and Values

– Explicit Agreements with Peers, Managers and Leaders

– Candid and Authentic Feedback for All

Teams Lead Together  

– Trustworthy Behaviors

– Alignment of Behavior with Culture and Values

– Explicit Agreements

– Candid and Authentic Feedback

Partners Lead in Collaboration

– Trustworthy Behaviors

– Alignment of Behavior with Agreements

– Candid and Authentic Feedback for All

– Commitment to Agreements and Relationship 

– Proactive Measures to Ensure Delivery

Where do your leaders, individuals, teams, partners and others show up on the trust meter?

Play to Win!

May 1, 2022
Play to Win

We are all experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’, the ‘Great Reallocation’… 

Whatever we call it, we are all feeling the effects in the workplace. Many of us are under-staffed and losing good people. We are being challenged to do more with less when so much is unknown. We are resorting to strategies like ‘stay interviews’.

So logically, many leaders are playing the retention game – playing not to lose with additional benefits, raises, shifts in responsibilities and projects, etc.

But I propose that leaders adopt a ‘play-to-win’ mindset. Below are some thoughts on how to do so.

  1. Embrace Succession Planning to empower and engage your staff.
  2. Consistently speak with a sense of shared purpose, meaning, and commitment.
  3. Think and speak with passion, and follow up by investing deeply and consistently in people’s capabilities.
  4. Be warm and gracious to all, even if they are seeking to exit. Welcome them back with gusto if they choose to recommit.
  5. Show deep and authentic empathy for the journey of others, especially in this time of great change when the future is so uncertain. 
  6. Cultivate a culture of one-ness, where we all stand distinctly separate yet loosely conjoined for a purpose of serving our customers, where it is safe to ask questions, to be curious, to fail forward.
  7. Empower people at all levels from all backgrounds to fully participate in strategy, planning, execution (where reasonable).
  8. Have the plans and strategies and tools to address problem areas, but wait until that problem area receives enough attention and urgency before taking action.
  9. Err on the side of positivity, with a growth mindset. 
  10. Celebrate your successes as much as you relish your challenges.

Let’s ALL Play to Win by strategizing collaboratively, planning diligently, and executing religiously, while embracing challenges as opportunities.

Building Engagement

April 1, 2022

Experience is that X-factor, but the goal of experience is Engagement. Engagement is the secret to recruiting, retaining, reskilling, developing, growing and advancing the workforce. And the workforce, our people, make-or-break an organization’s success.

Sure, you have to start with creating a product with high and growing demand, and yeah, you have to compensate fairly, providing ample opportunities for growth. Indeed, you need a culture where it’s safe for people to bring their full selves to work, an organization who cares about the community, sustainability, and social justice. So right that you need to inspire with the vision, mission, and day-to-day work…

But let’s say those foundational pieces are solidly in place, and leaders at all levels are well positioned to grow traction in many good ways. This does not mean that your work is done.

It means that you can focus on building the kind of engagement which makes your people proud to show up at work, eager to go the extra mile, excited to bring impact in ways inside and outside their job descriptions. Below are some best practices for building engagement in the workplace.

  1. Be authentic and true: Consistently think, speak and walk the talk at all levels.
  2. Build connections and community within and outside the organization: These intertwined connections and sense of community are the fabric which helps people stick together.
  3. Make it safe to show up fully: Model and reward engagement, inquiry, and commitment.
  4. Showcase successes at all levels of the organization: Celebrate wins and empower, encourage and reward all to contribute to these wins.
  5. Reward curiosity and out-of-box thinking: Stretching our view of what’s normal and what should be done will help us all be more agile and more innovative.
  6. Fearlessly model the way: Authentically communicating with vulnerability and transparency builds trust and culture as well as commitment and loyalty.
  7. Value the divergent mindset: Encourage serendipitous discovery – find the magic in coloring outside the lines, in unintended innovations.
  8. Focus on the why and the what and not the how: Inspire with the why, communicate clearly on the what, provide resources and support on how things get done.
  9. Provide ample access to resources, data and support: Enable outstanding execution through generous support.
  10. Connect people to the projects, connections, and technologies which would stretch them: Provide continued access to the people, technologies and processes which would help your people to grow and thrive.

The bottom line is that providing our engaged people with rich and fulfilling experiences will support everyone and make for a richer culture and better business results. The opposite is also true: providing enriching experiences will also lead to more engaged employees! 

The VUCA Reality – It’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous

March 11, 2022

FountainBlue’s March 11 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘The VUCA Reality – It’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous’. Please join me in thanking our panelists Roxanne Dos Santos, Nancy Moreno and Sam Gupta. Below are notes from the conversation.

Manage for Success in Times of Great Change

  • Collaborate with others to deliver on product and service milestones, based on a wide range of customer-defined requirements. 
  • Embrace the discomfort in ambiguity, and do scenario planning to mitigate and manage risks.
  • Fail fast, fail forward, and be agile about shifting to another direction, plan, or strategy.
  • Accept that there will be pitfalls, and that you will likely need additional resources, different designs, more financing, etc., as things shift.
  • Quantify the ambiguous so that you can better plan for unknowns. 
  • Define the ‘good-enough’ criteria so that everyone doesn’t overthink and overanalyze when it’s difficult to know for sure what will happen.

Empower and Engage Others to Participate

  • Create a culture of psychological safety so that people feel confident about speaking up and sharing ideas and expertise. 
  • Integrate ideas and suggestions and reward those who do speak up.
  • Seek the input of a large range of people to address problem solving, decision-making and innovation challenges.
  • Welcome the input of people not-like-you, as together the team is better.

What to Expect in the Next Normal

  • There will be more collaboration to manage more complex projects.
  • There will be more modular designs, smaller building blocks for complex solutions so that the inevitable changes can be more efficiently addressed.
  • There will be shorter delivery cycles for more complex solutions.
  • Relationships with customers will be a key to success, and creating an exceptional customer experience will help build and maintain those relationships. 

The bottom line is that nobody will ever be able to predict the future, but being able to ‘roll with it’ and agilely respond to this future and proactively plan for a future will increase your likelihood of success.

The WHY Behind FountainBlue

March 1, 2022

Facilitating innovation and leadership for tech leaders one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time is my passion, my mission, my cause through my work at FountainBlue. We’ve been doing it since January 2005. This blog is about the WHY…

Linda Holroyd, Founder and CEO, FountainBlue
I’ve always been a world-changer. I get a visceral response when I experience cruelty and injustice, especially when the under-served, the un-empowered, the majority are the victims of that injustice.
One of my earliest memories is of my five-year-old self objecting to our assigned homework by cajoling my uncle to do it for me. When asked by my teacher ‘who did your homework’, I responded truthfully that my uncle did it upon my request. The teacher sent me back to my seat, and assigned less homework to everyone. As I walked back to my seat, I saw a sea of faces saying clearly – ‘Who are you to ask this for us – you, who are 5 years old, an Asian, and a girl at that?’
I didn’t fit in. I don’t often fit in, but I can’t help but make a stand against injustice, even if it means that I didn’t have special someones to wish farewell as we journeyed from my birthplace in Hong Kong to America.
I earned scholarships and worked my way through college as an office worker – learning typing, administration and management – as a notetaker – learning communication and information synthesizing – and as a preschool teacher – the best leadership training ever. After graduating from college, I began my career as an elementary school teacher as I wanted to educate and empower others.
I taught elementary school for six years, but then realized that I wanted to make a broader impact, leveraging technology and innovation. I provided sales, marketing and operational support for three start-ups before co-founding a web consultancy alongside my techie husband. During that period, we also had our daughter, now a young adult. I learned a lot about technology, business, management and operations through that period, and applied those skills to a nonprofit cause, as I wanted to focus on doing well while doing good.
From there, I brought together my passion to make a difference, my skill for integrating technology and business imperatives, and my talent for connecting leaders and innovators into my work at management consultancy, FountainBlue.

At FountainBlue, we support innovation and leadership one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time through our on-site and now-online programs, as well as through our executive coaching, leadership consulting, and strategic advisory services.

Now you know WHY I’m passionate about doing this work day in and day out, and also HOW I wound up doing what I’m doing. What’s YOUR story? And What’s Next for you?

Fear, I see you

February 1, 2022

I see you, Fear. You have been my constant and unwanted companion, but you have also served me well. I’ve learned from you. And I’m stronger because of you. 

Now that I’m bigger and better, I’m sharing the qualities and questions which helped me combat my fears.

  1. Permanence – Are you permanent and here to stay? If so, I will find a way to change circumstances or cope. If not, I will ride your tide and weather your storm knowing it will end.
  2. Pervasiveness – Do you overwhelm me all the time? If so, I will find a way to cope or change circumstances. If not, I shall shelter where I can, and withstand you at your worst.
  3. Personal – Are you targeting me personally? If so, I will inquire into what makes this personal. If not, I will connect with others who share this fear so we can share the weight and support one another. 
  4. Perplexing – Are you too nebulous and confusing to be understood? If so, I will ask input from trusted others to shine light on this fear. If not, I will seek the data and input so that I can better understand you.
  5. Prideful – Are you threatening to embarrass me and hurt my pride? If so, I will take a dose of humility and give up my fear. If not, I recognize it is one less hurdle to overcome.
  6. Perpetual – Do you come and go? If so, I will find and manage your triggers and buff your impact. If not, I will be patient and upbeat while I persevere.
  7. Projected – Are you a fear I have on behalf of someone or something else? If so, I will recognize this, and my role in addressing someone else’s fear. If not, I will accept it as a fear of my own.
  8. Persistent – Do you keep coming back? If so, I will manage you better each time, every time. If not, I will accept fear as a one-off.
  9. Proportional – Is my response to the fear in alignment with the danger I’m facing? If so, I will get more support and plan a concerted response. If not, I will scale back my response to the fear.
  10. Preposterous – Are you so fanciful as to be un-real? If so, I will combat you with logic, and watch for the triggers which invite you to my thoughts. If not, I will arm myself with the data and support to endure.

Come walk with me, Fear. We will BE better, GET better together.

More YOU, More TRUE in 2022

December 29, 2021

It’s quiet in the workplace, not a meeting this week, not even a touch-base.

The office is full of chairs all tucked-in, wWith echoes of past comments from guffaw to chagrin.

The voicemail, when triggered, repeats with good care: “We’d love to help out, but we’re simply not there.”

Downtime and leisure were once dreams in our heads, now visions from Netflix and shared bottles of red.

Laugh full, learn much, dive deep into a book, make all the good dishes you once labored to cook.

Take a breath, sing a song, put the laptop on ice, make a friend, play a game, take my advice.

Stay centered, replenished, more YOU, more TRUE, let’s keep “making it work” in 2022.

Start with the Truth

December 1, 2021

Over the past month, there have been many questions and conversations around truth. Indeed, whether the coaching, advising or consulting questions were around decision-making or problem-solving, innovation or engagement, retention or conflict resolution, truth was the foundational step toward progress. I have therefore summarized a list of criteria to guide the search for truth. I hope that you find it useful.

  1. Validity: 
    • What is the data and how do you know that it reflects past, current and projected conditions?
  2. Usefulness: 
    • Would it be helpful to share the truth? If so, which people and groups would benefit (or not) and why?
  3. Urgency: 
    • Is there an urgent need to take action on the truth? If so, why so and which groups or people are urgently impacted?
  4. Timing: 
    • If there’s not an urgent need, when *is* the right time to share this truth and to which people or groups and why?  
  5. Impact: 
    • Who is impacted by the truth? How would you communicate the truth to the different groups of impacted people?
  6. Agendas: 
    • What are the motivations of the parties sharing information? How would their motivations taint what they portray to be true? How would the truth support them in achieving their goals?
  7. Transparency: 
    • Are all parties being transparent about what’s true? Will you be communicating the full truth to all parties? Why or why not? 
  8. Options: 
    • What are the best options for being firm but kind and fair but consistent?  
  9. Morality: 
    • What are the moral, legal and ethical issues of the dilemma, given the best options available for responding to the truth?
  10. Ripple Effect: 
    • What are the ripple effects of the actions taken on culture, brand, relationships, business, etc.,?

What are your thoughts? How can focusing on the truth support yourself and your team in reaching corporate and cultural objectives?

Truth is the Foundation of Culture

November 1, 2021
What is Truth?

‘Truth is the Foundation of Culture’, I said in last month’s talk about Morality, Ethics and Civic Responsibility. But why is that the case, and HOW do we insist on getting to a valid truth?

Why is Truth the Foundation of Culture?

  • Many of the conscious thoughts, words and actions we make are based on the truth we have at the moment.
  • Understanding WHY we create these thoughts, words and actions will help us either perpetuate our ways of being or shift them entirely.
  • Focusing on the truth of a technology and its potential will help everyone be more productive, focused and innovative.
  • When we respond to mis-information, and the truth comes out, there will likely be a fall-out which negatively impacts people, processes, products, as well as brand, momentum and credibility. (On rare occasions, there will be a positive impact, but that’s generally unintentional and random, even if it’s serendipitous.)
  • Perpetuating bold mis-information which becomes widely adopted can lead to a culture that rewards additional mis-information, undermines trust, promotes the corrupt, and dis-empowers the outspoken.

What Can We Do to Validate the Truth?

  • First, respect that the truth impacts everyone and everything.Insist on a high standard of what is adopted as the truth.
  • Consider the source of the data and the validity of what’s being measured.
  • Focus on the data behind the truth, and how knowing the data and the truth would benefit others.
  • Consider the motivations of the various stakeholders and how they might influence the data or the truth.
  • Empower everyone to continuously insist on thinking, speaking, and acting on the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

The bottom line is that leaders at all levels can build a solid foundation for culture if they can align on validated statements of truth and take actions based on that truth.

Raising the Bar for Morality

October 1, 2021
Raising the Bar for Morality

This month, I will be speaking on the topic of ‘Corporate Citizenship, Ethics and Morality’ when nothing’s normal to a group of senior HR executives. This is an important topic as nobody can rely on laws and regulations for each scenario, and decision-making relies on the use of good judgment and high moral standards.

I’ll frame my remarks based on Lawrence Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development.* Although Kohlberg’s research was about how children develop their sense of morality and justice based on moral dilemmas**, I believe that it has deep implications for the corporate world.

What’s relevant are the corporate use cases around doing the right thing. Relevant use cases for today include the below:

  • Outsourcing your work
  • Taking credit for someone else’s work
  • Promotion, bonus and hiring practices
  • Resource allocation
  • Project assignment

These issues have been with leaders since we first started gathering in groups, but with today’s war for talent, with the focus on retaining, growing, and promoting the most qualified and engaged talent, with the new definition of normal, the stakes become much higher.

Laws and precedence and short-term rewards aren’t sufficient guidelines on how to make ethical, proactive choices. Below is a framework to consider as you evaluate the options for each moral dilemma.

  • Is it the truth? How do you know it’s the truth? Don’t act without knowing the truth…
  • Are all parties being transparent about what’s true? Insist on transparency in most cases…
  • Would it be helpful to share the truth? Sometimes, the truth is better not shared…
  • Is it the right time to share this truth?
  • What are the best options for being firm (but kind), fair, and consistent? You don’t have to be the person who implements the best options…
  • What is the morality/ethics of the dilemma given the best options available?
  • What is the ripple effect for decisions made on culture, brand, relationships, business, etc.,?

Making the right choices on ethics, morality and civility is the responsibility of people at all levels every day – not just the responsibility of senior executives and not just sometimes. Therefore, it’s everyone’s responsibility to step up and speak out, to err on the side of doing the right thing, for every transgression or injustice ignored is an implied approval…

What we each think, say and do has implications for others. Doing the right thing for the business, for the people, may not present the recognition and reward you’re seeking, but it may raise the bar for civility, morality, and culture. And this is a good thing.

* The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice (Essays on Moral Development, Volume 1) Hardcover – July 1, 1981 https://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Moral-Development-Stages-Justice/dp/0060647604

**Kohlberg Dilemmas http://ww3.haverford.edu/psychology/ddavis/p109g/kohlberg.dilemmas.html