More Power to You

November 1, 2021 by

Our October 2021 blog talked about what we can do as individuals and as leaders to build culture when nothing’s normal. For this month’s blog, we will drill down on what individuals at all levels can do to be more powerful and more influential in building the organization’s culture.

Power is a Mindset – Those who seek power must have qualities which lend themselves to becoming powerful.

1. Be Confident, Hardworking, Ambitious and Passionate 

Be confident that you can do well and willing to work hard, so you can continue to learn and grow, doing something which you’re passionate about.  These four foundational traits in combination form the base for power. In fact, if you already have power, and you don’t retain these four traits in combination, you could very well lose that power!

2. Be Open and Curious

People who are curious about things and open to learning about them are more likely to learn more and become powerful. Indeed, it’s when you become less open and less curious that you risk falling down the power curve.

3. Be Humble and Other-Centric

It’s a fine balance between being confident enough to do something, and humble enough to question your ability to do something, or do that something right. It’s also a common mis-perception that those who are powerful are arrogant, not humble, and that they are self-centered, rather than other-centered. It’s quite the opposite. The Confident and the Humble tend to be more open and curious, more focused on the needs of others. The mindset behind the first three qualities is foundational to any base of power. 

Plan the Work – Whereas the first three qualities are more character traits or mindsets, the next three factors are strategies people often adopt when they consciously seek power.

4. Map the Ecosystem of Players, Projects, and Resources

Understanding the ecosystem of players, projects and resources is foundational for those seeking power. Gathering this information takes finesse, trust, relationships, networks, discretion, and fortitude. Some people aren’t able to get past this step. Others may decide not to proceed.

5. Explore the Opportunities and Challenges Across the Ecosystem

When the ecosystem is mapped out, strategize on the opportunities and challenges, based on projected changes in any of the people, projects, resources, and processes. This takes finesse, management, trust, and a deep understanding of how you can best add value given the circumstances. 

6. Strategize, Plan and Execute to Meet the Expectations of Key Stakeholders

Understand the motivations and success criteria for the key stakeholders and collaborate with others to clearly define goals, taking into account business, people, process, and cultural objectives. 

Work the Plan

7. Build Collaborations and Deliver Early Wins

Strategize, plan and execute to deliver early-win results based on predefined success criteria. The more often you succeed at working with teams to deliver results, the more credibility and power you will have. 

8. Gather Support, Resources and Influence with Each Success

Celebrate each success, but continue to gather resources, support, and grow influence and credibility with each success. You don’t have to aspire to lead each element of each project in order to remain associated with a project or initiative.

9. Communicate Successes and Engage the Ecosystem of Stakeholders

Continue to expand and grow the projects, people, and networks. Again, you don’t have to lead all aspects of a project in order to be associated with it.

You may also decide that you are no longer interested in the project, which is OK as well. You might find something more interesting to do, or you might decide to hunker down and remain low-profile for a while.

Iterate

10. The Road to Power and Influence is a Journey, Not a Destination

To ensure you maintain power and influence, circle back to the first objectives above – remaining open, humble, confident, hardworking and other-centric.

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Truth is the Foundation of Culture

November 1, 2021 by
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.

Never Settle

October 15, 2021 by

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.

Local Input, Global Impact

October 8, 2021 by

 

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FountainBlue’s October 8 When She Speaks online program on the topic of ‘Local Input, Global Impact’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Cisco and our esteemed panelists.

Our inspiring and outspoken panelists each had their own way of stepping up and stepping in to their full selves, whole-heartedly delivering results locally at work and at home. 

They each excelled in multiple roles, organizations and industries, morphing their skills and learnings to solve complex people, process and product issues, delivering value locally, with impact globally.

They each showed up as their full selves in their personal ways, ever pushing the envelope for themselves, their teams, their companies.

They each leveraged their values and their principles to ensure quality results are delivered, while also ensuring that others benefit from the product or service offered.

They each drive innovation, but in different ways. It might be an innovation of thought, or an innovation which helps improve processes. It might be innovations which help us better understand the problem- set, the patients served. It might be innovations which help us better grow and expand the needs of the customer, and even better anticipate risks or problems. It might be innovations on the way we treat others, the way we welcome divergent people and thinkers.

Their personal missions are as inspiring as they are practical. Indeed, we all stand on the shoulders of women like these.

Below is a compilation of advice from our esteemed panel.

  • Be fully and unapologetically yourself.
  • Create and connect communities and networks of partners, focused on collectively bringing value across the ecosystem.
  • Let the voice of the customer decide how you can serve them locally, and impact the greater cause globally.
  • Adhere to your values – always do well while doing right.
  • Collaborate to leverage technology to solve a social problem.
  • Build a support system around you which will help you be authentically, confidently, fully yourself, with clarity on the thoughts you have, the words you speak, the actions you take. 

Our panel has challenged us all to be fearlessly, relentlessly, authentically and unapologetically yourself, choosing how you act locally, so that you make that global impact.

Automation Use Cases

October 8, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s October 8 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Automation Use Cases’, with opening remarks by Automation Anywhere. We had a diverse entrepreneurial group of executives who had a wide range of perspectives and experience around automation use cases.

We agreed that automation makes it possible to deliver exceptional, high-quality technical hardware and software solutions more efficiently. It will become as pervasive and prominent as spell-checkers, something that will be ever-present and understood. The question just becomes ‘who will implement which automation use case in what way(s) which drive what results around efficiency and excellence’.

Automation Process Improvement (API) continues to provide prominent use cases as it makes sense to automate the repetitive, redundant, tasks to software bots (‘software elves’) and robots who can more efficiently and accurately perform these tasks. 

  • Although this doesn’t mean that humans will no longer be needed, it does mean that humans should get trained and experienced in tasks which aren’t as easily automated.
  • Some tasks are attended, and some unattended. Each task is managed by humans, providing reports on their work to humans. 
  • It also means that there’s a huge opportunity to delegate tasks which are redundant, hazardous or impractical to robots and software. 

Below are some thoughts on how to manage automation use cases:

  • If the bot or robot does the ‘wrong’, the program must be fixed so that the processes, the actions, the rules, must be changed so that they do the ‘right’ thing. 
  • Managers should learn about what the best workers are doing right, so that others can learn how to do work as efficiently and accurately. If it’s repetitive and redundant enough, the work might even be delegated to a bot or a robot.
  • Automation can be used to quickly identify and even filter out anomalies – products or solutions which do not fit the defined requirements. 

Below are some thoughts on some huge opportunities ahead:

  • From senior care to end-of-life care, automation in the healthcare space can ensure that regular procedures are performed to ensure a good patient experience.
  • Separately, there’s an opportunity for patients to more regularly and deeply connected with loved ones, even if it’s through online means.
  • Automation of robots and bots are currently successfully making 3D-printed robots to do specific things cheaper, faster, leaner.
  • Manufacturing centers may become smaller as the bulk of the product might be produced through automation, leaving the personalization/customization options for more specialized workers to do higher-end tasks.
  • AI is helping companies to more quickly understand the needs of the customer, and more quickly connecting customers to the support they need. 
  • Software and hardware product testing will continue to be largely automated. 

Then the conversation turned more serious. What are the ethical standards around automation? Will humans be replaced by robots? No is the resounding response. 

  • However, workers who have traditionally done the labor-intensive, low-skill, redundant work need to be skilled and trained enough to do work which can’t as easily be automated.

Humans will always be needed to 1) come up with original solutions, 2) represent multiple groups and individuals, 3) connect the dots in creative, original ways which aren’t necessarily based on logic and 4) be the ‘fall guy’, the responsible party should things go south.! See FountainBlue blog ‘Being Human in an Age That’s Digital’ https://fountainblue.blog/2016/07/12/being-human-in-an-age-thats-digital/

The bottom line is that automation will become ever more prominent, for it helps us all to more efficiently and effectively manage people, processes and products.

Be the Sherpa

October 1, 2021 by

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FountainBlue’s October 1 Front Line Managers Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Be the Sherpa’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. We were fortunate to have such a vibrant and dynamic panel for our interactive discussion on servant leadership. Below is a compilation of notes and advice for leading and empowering others.

Commit to Consistently and Authentically Showing Up

  • Honor your commitments, especially when it’s tough to do so.
  • Err on the side of action.
  • Listen deeply and well to the words and intents of others. 
  • Model the behaviors you seek.
  • Ensure that your involvement and participation makes things better for everyone involved and the project in general.
  • Consistently think, speak and walk your talk.

Choose to Do Work You Love for People Who Matter to You

  • Do right by others. 
  • Bring your full self to work, and welcome others to do the same.
  • Build relationships, networks and communities of trust, where everyone enjoys working with each other to make some challenging, important things happen.
  • Be happy and eager to connect with your team, and make sure that they are happy and eager to connect with you.

Focus on the Big Picture – Delivering Results

  • Communicate consistently, regularly, authentically and transparently, with a focus on delivering targeted results in collaboration with key stakeholders and partners.
  • Challenge each other to consistently deliver on stretch goals.

Honor All Stakeholders

  • Know the motivations of the sponsors, staff, customers, partners, and other interested parties and deliver to their needs.
  • Make sure that everyone feels acknowledged and heard and respected.

The bottom line is that servant leadership empowers and inspires everyone to do great things. My thanks to our panel for modeling that message well!

Raising the Bar for Morality

October 1, 2021 by
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

How to Build Culture When Nothing’s Normal

October 1, 2021 by
How to Build Culture When Nothing's Normal

I’m always impressed by the breadth of knowledge, wisdom, creativity and passion in the FountainBlue community. My thanks to those of you who were able to complete the Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal survey, reply to an email, or speak for a few minutes over the phone regarding your thoughts, strategies and best practices. Below is a compilation of all input, communicated across two charts, describing:

  • How to define and communicate a cultural norm
  • How to think, speak and walk the talk

One list shows how to manage and lead from any chair, while the other is about how to move the needle forward as an individual.

We welcome your e-mail feedback on any of our posts on ‘Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal‘ posts to date. For our November post, we will talk about Building Culture Use Cases, as framed with football analogies. Please share your thoughts and ideas by e-mailing us at info@whenshespeaks.com

Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal

As a leader at all levels, Define and Communicate a Cultural Norm

  1. Articulate a burning platform.
  2. Create a customer focus.
  3. Communicate an all-in mindset.
  4. Develop an all-one mentality.
  5. Model transparent communication.
  6. Embrace diverse perspectives.
  7. Collaborate to achieve outrageous goals.
  8. Ensure clear accountability.
  9. Facilitate friendly competition.
  10. Celebrate measurable outcomes.

As an individual, regardless of your level, Think, Speak and Walk the Talk

  1. Align personal values with choices made at work.
  2. Be respectful and positive, yet direct and clear.
  3. Embrace learning opportunities.
  4. Apply learnings to challenges and opportunities.
  5. Grow stronger with each adversity.
  6. Develop agility and flexibility.
  7. choose to be open and curious.
  8. Listen attentively to a wide range of people.
  9. Share best practices to enable the success of others. 
  10. Celebrate successes and keep raising the bar.

Climb the Mountain

September 17, 2021 by

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FountainBlue’s September 17 Front Line Managers Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Climb the Mountain’, featuring Sanchita Gupta, Amber Barber and Krista Pavlakos.

We were fortunate to have such courageous, bold, authentic and dynamic panelists who represented a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds. Below is a composite of their thoughts and recommendations about climbing the corporate ladder.

Some thoughts on relationships:

  • Build relationships and networks of trust.
  • Remember that you are not alone. Reach out and build connections and community around you. Keep speaking your truth and see who else has similar experiences.

Some thoughts on stretching yourself:

  • Leverage the feedback you receive even when it confuses and puzzles you and makes you uncomfortable. This may be your ticket to the next level. 
  • Adopt a growth mindset, and help others to do the same.
  • Be open to new experiences and thoughts.
  • Step in to leadership vacuums and collaborate with others to achieve results once you step in.
  • Be passionate about what you do and work hard to do it well. 
  • Be fully yourself and grow and advance on YOUR terms, rather than trying to follow someone’s footsteps, fit someone’s mold.

Some thoughts on how to solve problems:

  • Focus on solving problems for others on your team and helping them to succeed.
  • Be curious about the problems, motivations and needs of others and work collaboratively to address their needs.
  • Ask ‘what happened’ when something succeeds or fails, but more importantly ask ‘WHY did it happen’.

Some thoughts on communication:

  • Communicate transparently, authentically, regularly.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – so stay on top of your coordination and communication to help keep everyone on the same page, focused on the same objectives.

Some thoughts on resiliency:

  • Sometimes the people closest to you discourage you from doing what you know you can do. Choose to persevere anyway.
  • Push beyond your own comfort zones. Never settle for mediocrity and become complacent.
  • Confidently and courageously choose to persevere one step at a time, no matter who or what gets in the way.

Some thoughts on planning:

  • Plan for the unknown as best you can, and be agile and other about the problems you’ll face, and the actions required to solve the problem. 
  • Don’t plan to get it right every time all the time, but do plan to learn from both successes and failures.
  • Go broad, go deep with your impact, and proactively plan for your next steps.
  • Sometimes the path forward is not a straight line. That’s still a good thing.
  • Sometimes the path forward wasn’t even planned. That’s still a good thing.

Some thoughts about the growth process:

  • Growth is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride.
  • Sprinkle your lessons with humor and grace.

The bottom line is that if you’re confident, passionate, humble, curious, open-minded and collaborative, you can start climbing that corporate ladder too. And if you do, reach out to trusted others to support you in this worthwhile and challenging journey.

One of the Onlys

September 10, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s September 10 When She Speaks online program was on the topic of ‘One of the Onlys’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at ASML and our esteemed panelists. 

Our panelists represented a wide range of roles, backgrounds and organizations, yet they all experienced being one of the onlys.

But each found a way to be heard, to be influential, to be productive, despite the fact that they were originally less than well received. Below is advice they shared on how they navigated the challenge.

Manage Yourself

  • You are not alone, even when you feel very lonely, like you’re the only one. There are many ‘onlys’ out there, and many of them are willing to help you, and many others who are willing to be supporters, cheerleaders, and allies to you.
  • Be confident in what you do well, and consistently solve real problems well, building a brand for yourself even if it’s beyond others’ expectations of you.

Build Relationships

  • Develop relationships of trust with influential others across the ecosystem. 
  • Leverage those relationships to better understand the motivations and challenges faced by others, so that you can help address their needs.
  • Look for the common connections, the common motivations between yourself and others around you. 
  • Recruit advocates and cheerleaders, and make sure that you advocate and cheer for others as well.
  • Conduct the meetings before the meeting to best position yourself, the team and the project for success.

Seize the Opportunities

  • Always take a seat at the table when you’re invited, even when you’re not sure you belong there. 
  • When appropriate, make a seat at the table, but do this selectively – only when the topic/problem/project/challenge really needs your support and input.
  • Be bold and confident enough to share your opinion, even if you’re not sure it would be well received. But also make sure that your opinion is based on your experience, on data you’ve collected.

Be Other-Centric

  • Listen well to others as they describe their needs and their challenges. Then commit to following through and delivering solutions for them.
  • Know your audience and their challenges and motivations so that you can better serve all.

Manage Your Emotions

  • Choose to be a more vulnerable, a better version of yourself when you are faced with people who are less than respectful of your abilities.
  • Be curious about why someone else responds the way they do to something you’ve said or done.
  • Manage your own emotions well, so that you can focus on building relationships with people who may trigger something in you.
  • Accept that others might not accept you as one-of-them, and try not to let it get to you.  

Persevere

  • Respect that sometimes you have to use the back door to get things done, when certain parties are less than receptive to the support. 
  • Lean into leadership. Find the leadership gap where you can step in, solve critical problems, and connect with people.

The bottom line is that there is no silver bullet to being respected and heard when you don’t quite fit in with others in the room. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t make an impact and make a difference.