Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand

April 12, 2014 by




FountainBlue’s April 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand. Below are notes from the conversation.

Whether they came from technical or marketing backgrounds, or took the college path after they started their career; whether they have worked at the same company throughout their career or switched industries and roles across companies, our inspiring and talented panelists thought carefully about how they came across to others, and how to message what they do for whom, making the message appropriate for their goals and their audience.

Whether they were coaching execs and team and others to help them present who they are in the appropriate context and language for the audience, or whether they were positioning and shifting their own brand as they evolved their career, they each recognized the importance that branding has on the trajectory of their career. Below is some advice they shared about building and reinforcing your executive brand.

Be Self-Aware and Authentic

  • Know who you are, what you stand for, what your strengths are before you communicate it. Always act in alignment with same.
  • Authentic, genuine communications will take you a long way in building relationships and resolving conflict.
  • Don’t covet the educational and technical pedigree or titles and salary of others. Build success on your own strengths and terms.

Be Strategic

  • Know with whom you’re communicating and the purpose of same prior to connecting with them.
  • Be other-centric. Listen more than you speak.
  • Know where you’re going and why, and be strategic, folding in the right support, mentorship, education, and results to help get you there.

Build Relationships

  • You can’t make friends during a crisis, and it’s hard to plan the timing for a crisis, so make a network of friends and contacts prior to any crisis.
  • Collaborate with responsible parties to focus on the fixes, not complain about the problems.
  • Know the political landscape without playing politics. Don’t be threatening to people, but do tell it straight, without an agenda. Know with whom to connect when to make those fixes happen.
  • Make those around you successful and look good, as that’s good for everyone.

Make a Stand

  • Promote for yourself in a way you feel comfortable about. Being too self-deprecating and unassuming may leave you out of the running, as someone who may not be interested enough or skilled enough or passionate enough to reach higher.
  • Have the integrity and vision and fortitude to do the dirty work, be the leader, even when it’s difficult. Make a stand, without attacking anyone and be authentic to who you are.
  • Have an educated opinion, based on your experience and outlook and background. But be willing to change your stance and opinion if necessary. Speak and tweet on points that may support your stance.
  • When you stick your neck out and have an opinion, sometimes you stand out and are a target. This can’t always be comfortable. So get support, resources, network and grounding to increase your likelihood of success.

Manage Yourself

  • Manage the emotional side of you so that you come across as rational, gracious and team focused, even when things don’t quite go your way. Sometimes it’s just a test to see how you would handle a difficult situation or decision.
  • Invest in yourself and your success, while supporting that of others in your group.

The bottom line is that your executive brand is the perception others have of who you are, and needs to be actively managed. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the way you handle the brand messaging mis-haps will be also a part of your brand. So be bigger, stronger, and better with every mis-step, and connect with those who will support you in that journey.

See also Katja Gehrt’s blog about the event at

Thanks also to our hosts at eBay, who have posted a video of the event.


Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s April 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand:

Facilitator Jerri Barrett, VP of Outreach, SENS Research Foundation

Panelist Shaya Fathali, Senior Manager, Technical Communications, Altera

Panelist Katja Gagen Gehrt, VP Marketing, General Catalyst Partners, former Senior Executive Communications Manager for Cisco’s President, Development & Sales

Panelist Tamara Lucero, Director of Inside Sales, Cypress

Panelist Emily Ward, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, eBay

Thank you also to our gracious hosts at eBay.

IoE = Integration of Sensors + Big Data + Supply Chain

April 8, 2014 by


In an age of personalization, the internet of everything, with elements of sensors for data collection, big data analytics, sophisticated mobile and web applications, integrated with operational elements of customized delivery services will reign supreme. Yack, yack, yack . . . so what does this really mean for the business opportunities ahead? Here are our projections.

Sensors: Sensor technology and adoption have evolved to the point of having too many sensors, not enough standardization. Sensors range from throw-away, single-use models to MEMs and RFID solutions. They can be apps on mobile phones to gadgets that are wearable or not to sensors attached to and even inside our bodies. So what needs to be done to ensure that the sensor technology remains relevant?

  1. Integrate the sensor hardware and reports so that it is integrated with applications and analytics.
  2. Create sensors that collect only the relevant data for specific purposes, short-term and long-term.
  3. Manage the sensor development project so that each individual sensor solution is cost effective and also customized to the needs of the user.

Big Data Applications: Yes, it’s about the data, we have oodles and oodles of it, coming out of our ears, detailing everything from our web search habits to buying and texting patterns, from time spent in a room to preferred heating temperatures, from average speed on freeways to average expenditure for each trip to preferred stores, in preferred months, at preferred times of day. And sensors of every style and flavor will continue to add more and more data to be managed, overseen, and acted upon. The future must include this data though, so here are some thoughts on what you need to do with the data you have, when delivering personalized solutions for your customers:

  1. Filter out relevant data – know what data is relevant, when and why. Create customized reports on that relevant data, so that various stakeholders can monitor and act on it.
  2. Integrate all data sources into a common structure so that you can create inter-relations between the data.
  3. Recommend actions based on data profiles. Allow stakeholders to update and manage which data profiles should elicit which actions.
  4. Let the data tell the story about your customers and where they are trending.

Supply Chain Optimization: Thank you Dell for revolutionizing the supply chain process, making it on-demand. Thank you Google and Amazon for raising the bar beyond that, and aggregating the delivery of products to the door so efficiently and conveniently. The challenge and opportunity in delivering personalized products to the door is that the services must be customized to the needs of the user – not just combinations of off-the-shelf items! So how do you deliver this in a cost-effective way?

  1. Integrate sensor, application/big data information into the manufacturing and delivery process.
  2. Partner with stakeholders across the value chain, making each partner accountable for the customization before the delivery.
  3. Target highest need classes of customers first, for although each will get customizations, it would be easier to deliver customized solutions if you had higher volumes of need for specific types of customizations.

The bottom line is that sensors, big data applications and supply chain solutions will be essential elements of successful personalized solutions, but integrating each element cost-effectively while wowing the customers is the ultimate challenge and reward.

E-mail us at with your thoughts.

Underground Motivations

April 8, 2014 by


Our gut will tell us that something is not right, that someone is saying or doing something, yet meaning something else. But for many technically-trained people, where logic makes sense and one-plus-one-makes-two, it’s a mystery when something someone says isn’t what they really meant. Below are some questions which may help you think through *why* your instincts are on alert, what they are already telling you: that someone is communicating beyond what their words are saying.

Body Language

  1. Does the body language conflict with the words that they are saying? Do their eyes or hands or face or body tell you ‘no’ when they are saying ‘yes’ or vice versa?
  2. Is the energy they are projecting with their body and voice and actions in alignment with the words that they are expressing?


  1. Who do you know who knows the person you’re interacting with? Which groups and people have interacted with him/her? What is the history here, both good and bad?
  2. Having ‘history’ doesn’t mean that she/he will repeat past actions, but the past is an indicator of the future.

Organizational Structure

  1. Why might this person say what they are saying to you, and how might this be associated with the current organizational structure? What might they see is in it for them? What might they want from you? How can you collaborate with her/him to create a win-win? What can you do to help build trust with them so that you can both communicate transparently?
  2. What might be a recent occurrence or something in the near or far horizon which may cause the kind of behavior that you’re seeing?


  1. How is this person communicating with others following your conversation? Is it in alignment with your understanding about next steps?
  2. Who is she/he communicating with, and what could that mean about their intentions?

Network and Growth

  1. Could this person be asked by someone else to adopt a task which he/she doesn’t have the passion or knowledge to do?
  2. Could this person be asked by someone else to expand their network, and she/he is connecting with you to do so, and fears like doing a task he/she may not savor is fundamental to building that network, whether it is or not?

We hope that you find these questions useful the next time your gut tells you that something’s not quite right, someone isn’t who he/she appears to be. Next month, we will talk about strategies on how to build trust and transparency when this happens.

Finance Innovations

March 31, 2014 by

Golden Key Bridge Between An Idea And Dollar Coins

The internet of everything solutions involve not just big data, but also at times the sensors for the collection of the data, as well as integration into supply chain solutions. This month, we are drilling down into specific examples of big data, mobile, cloud and sensor solutions which are facilitating the emergence of the Age of Personalization one industry at a time. The profiled companies and solutions are from “World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Company in Finance” by Fast Company, and includes information from the company web sites themselves.  E-mail your input to


  1. ONEID: Single, Secure Login

Passwords are gone, forms are completed in a click, and you’re straight to checkout.

For businesses, OneID makes it easy and secure for your customers to login, complete checkout, and approve transactions using their mobile phones. With OneID Suite, you get an integrated identity system, while OneID Confirm adjoins your existing username/password system with two-factor authentication tools.  With both, OneID helps protect you and your customer from today’s threats.


  1. Estimize: Crowdsourced Platform for Earnings Forecasting

Estimize is an open financial estimates platform which facilitates the aggregation of fundamental estimates from independent, buy-side, and sell-side analysts, along with those of private investors and students. By sourcing estimates from a diverse community of individuals, Estimize provides both a more accurate and more representative view of expectations compared to sell side only data sets which suffer from several severe biases.

  1. eToro: Follow and Copy the Investment Pros

eToro is the first global market place for people to trade currencies, commodities, indices and stocks online in a simple, transparent and more enjoyable way. Today, we empower over 2.75 million users in more than 140 countries worldwide (but not currently including the US) to manage their funds through our innovative online investment platforms and active trading community, with thousands of new accounts created every day.

Processing Volumes of Data

  1. Splunk: Real-Time Data to Improve Service

Splunk helps financial services clients leverage real-time data to improve service delivery and customer loyalty, enable timely payment processing and improve trade processing efficiency.

  1. Wells Fargo: $1 Billion Dollars in Deposits

Wells Fargo & Company is the first major U.S. bank to offer mobile services for corporate and commercial customers announced that businesses have made more than $1 billion in mobile deposits through its CEO Mobile® Depositservice. With the free CEO Mobile iPhone app, customers can use an iPhone or iPad to quickly scan and deposit checks and money orders conveniently and securely, enabling them to speed up their cash flow.


  1. BitCoin: Person-to-Person MicroPayments, but not as secure and accepted as PayPal

Bitcoin is an open-source peer-to-peer payment system which doesn’t involve central authority or banks to manage transactions. When you use Bitcoins to purchase something you are directly exchanging it with the merchant.

At the moment, Bitcoin is used as a payment system by a lot of online shopping, gambling, web hosting websites as well as a few local stores and coffee shops in some countries.

  1. GiveDirectly: Charitable Donations Delivered Through SMS to Needy in Kenya and Uganda

Based on performance to date we expect to put 90% of your donation into the hands of a recipient in Kenya and 87% in Uganda.

Mobile Innovation

  1. Nice Systems’ Mobile Reach: Mobile Alerts and Phone Calls Anticipating Your Cash Flow Needs

NICE Mobile Reach analyzes, in real time, a multitude of data sources from the mobile device and enterprise systems and then recommends for the customer the most suitable channel to continue the interaction when they need assistance. As the customer and agent converse over the phone, multimedia collaboration tools such as text chat, image exchange, and document transfer will be available for both parties, making the interaction effective, increasing conversion rate, and driving quick and complete resolution on first contact.

Minimize Processing Fees

  1. Dwolla: Virtual Charge Card for 25 cents a Transaction

Dwolla is a payment network that allows any business or person to send, request and accept money. We’re not like those other big payment companies that rely on plastic cards and charge hefty fees. Instead, we’ve built our own network that securely connects to your bank account and allows you to move money for just $0.25 per transaction, or free for transactions $10 or less.

10. Transferwise: Foreign-Exchange for 0.5% of Transaction

Sending money abroad is deceptively expensive, thanks to the hidden fees we’ve all been forced to pay. Now TransferWise lets expats, foreign students and businesses transfer money wherever it’s needed, at the lowest possible cost. No hidden fees, no headache.

How does our list compare to your own? Who would you add or take out?  E-mail us at with your thoughts.

Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career

March 22, 2014 by

March21PanelMarch21Panel2FountainBlue’s March 21 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our humble and accomplished panelists spoke eloquently about the career choices they made, and their leadership journey in the high tech world. They were a diverse panel, representing marketing, training, HR, and management, and they had various levels of education and background, from technical training to business degree. But they had many things in common: they embraced opportunities at every turn, and succeeded at many levels through many different kinds of work. They consciously made career choices, *and* they serendipitously accepted opportunities as they arose. Collectively, they share these kernels of wisdom to those of us seeking to be more agile with our career.

Know Yourself. Be confident and accepting of who you are.

1)    Know yourself and what’s important to you, and make strategic decisions based on what you know about yourself. Recalibrate as your needs and interests will change, but always measure opportunities based on what’s important to you.

2)    Double down on your strengths.

3)    Have the confidence to reach for stars, even if you don’t feel quite qualified and ready to do something.

4)    You don’t have to have a privileged background and the right education and money to make it to the top. You do have to do a great job and work well with others though, no matter what your background is.

5)    Don’t judge yourself and put restrictions on yourself.

6)    Question the restrictions and limitations others put on you too.

7)    Surround yourself with people who believe in you, and help you believe in yourself.

8)    Have the confidence to speak your mind, share your opinion, even if you think others around the table may be more qualified to opine.

Your career is a journey.

9)    Your career, like life, is a journey: Learn from your mistakes; fail forward; don’t walk in the same river twice.

10) Choose to be self-sufficient and in charge of your own future.

11) Be strategic if and when you’d like to facilitate a career change. Do the research, ask questions, make connections, communicate your interest to others.

12) Wherever you next find yourself, you will find your way if you persevere, work hard, work smart, and are good with people.

13) Be clear about your motivations and intentions, and welcome the universe to provide you with serendipitous opportunities, while telling everyone you know what you want to do and why.

14) If you accept an opportunity which isn’t quite what you’re looking for, you may open up a whole new world of opportunities which might better fit your sweet spot.

15) Career change is often a multi-step process. Many people get frustrated that they can’t make the change they want in one foul swoop. Consider making one change at a time – either role or industry for example, pay your dues in that interim step, and plan for the longer term success of your career.

Support others.

16) The more we support ourselves, the more that we support the others around us.

17) It’s always about the people. Know who helped you get to where you want to go and show your appreciation. Consciously help others also to succeed.

18) Believe in others around you, and offer the kind of unconditional love and acceptance which helps you yourself to succeed and change and grow.

19) Lean in, share your challenges, your power, your experience.

20) Give generously in ways that energize you yourself.

In the end, remember that your career is more a jungle gym than a ladder. You may go lateral and around in circles. It may not be plan-ful, but you can see the equipment as a way to maximize exposure, learning and growth, in order to benefit all that participate.

Recommended Resources:


Please join us in thanking our generous hosts at Altera, and our speakers for FountainBlue’s March 21 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event on the topic of Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career:

Facilitator Marsha Gastwirth, Wine Trail Escapes

Panelist Mercedes De Luca, Vice President & GM, eCommerce Sears Holdings Corporation

Panelist Jocelyn King, Head of Worldwide Corporate Marketing, Altera

Panelist Nancy Long, Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hitachi

Panelist Tracy Meersman, Manager, Global Channel Learning, McAfee

Panelist Alexandra Shapiro, Senior Director, Small Business Marketing, PayPal

The View from Under the Bus

March 7, 2014 by

School Questions

We’ve all been there – minding our own business, working a big project, all systems are go, and from out of nowhere, there’s a little shove, and you find yourself *gasp* under the bus . . . again! This time, before you pick yourself up, brush yourself off, blow off some steam, shed a tear or two, sit back and observe your surroundings…

Of course we’re not talking about a physical bus or a murder attempt. We’re talking about corporate politics, and how to proactively manage that. Consider doing the following, whether or not you’ve just been pushed under the bus, whether you were the push-er, the push-ee, the instigator or the innocent bystander.

Accept that Politics Exists

1. Accepting that politics is a way of life when you’re working with people is part of the solution. Those who resent politics and those who participate in it may be more likely to be victims of it. How do you feel about politics in the workplace in general? How will a more accepting attitude help you manage the politics around you.
2. Know the landscape. What is the political landscape like for your team, division and company? How are you currently participating in it? How do you currently respond to it when it takes place?
3. What does it look like, feel like, smell like, taste like to be under the bus?

Delineate What You Can and Can’t Change

4. How much of the current situation can be attributed to you, yourself, and what you did now or in the past?
5. How much of what happened are the result of a specific other person or people?
6. How much is related to conflict within or between teams?
7. How much is just endemic with the company you’re in?

Play the Game When You Can

8. Based on the people dynamics and the causation questions above, what can you change and what must you accept? Of the things that you can change, what’s the plan to change things and who needs to be involved?
9. Of the things that you can’t change, what can you do to manage your emotions and actions around it? Is it worth staying where you are with what you’re doing if those things can’t be changed?
10. Looking at the shorter term and longer term impact of the political games around you, who needs to get involved? Who or what needs to be managed? What can you do to be more successful?

We hope that the questions above will help you to accept the inevitability of politics and take a broader view on how to manage the navigate it. What did we miss? What shouldn’t be there? Share your stories and feedback by e-mailing us at

Web 3.0 Leaders

February 21, 2014 by


Last month, we talked about the evolution of the web, and discussed ten dimensions of how the web evolved, from the technology evolution to the role of marketing, all facets leading to the empowerment of and delivery-of-service-to the customer. This month, we are profiling ten leading companies who are taking leadership roles in the evolution of the web.

1. Amazon: From Aggregated Deliveries of Everything      

Amazon is leading the way, delivering goods to the door, leveraging the web, cloud, IT, morphing from an online bookstore to the selling of everything, expanding and addressing the needs of the customer, and the many devices they use, all delivered to their door. Sophisticated tools and algorithms track what you’ve ordered and predict what may be of interest to you as well and efficient operational processes and deep and broad relationships with a range of manufacturers and distributors assist in the aggregated delivery of products on-demand. Look for the growth of AmazonFresh for same-day deliveries, and even a partnership with USPS for Sunday deliveries.

2. Apple: Sensors and Devices   

The ‘What’s Next’ question has hung over Apple since the passing of business icon Steve Jobs, but there’s no denying that Apple products are flying off the shelves – most recently the 5s and 5c, with 9 million sold in the first weekend. Congrats also on the new light iPad design, the ultra-loyal Mac following, the proliferation of apps, etc., May I suggest that the ‘What’s Next’ question might be related to the fingerprint sensor in the 5s. What are the implications for innovations in mobile sensors?

3. Cisco: The Internet of Everything        

Cisco facilitated the growth of the internet with its hardware and software offerings – from broadband internet to routers to security, sensors and software solutions. They leading the Internet of Everything efforts, connecting the data, people and processes for a more connected world. Cisco will continue to facilitate the age when physical sensors and the data they generate will help people and things better evaluate and manage resources and make data-based decisions, real-time.

4. eBay: Connecting Buyers and Sellers, Optimizing Deliveries to the Door 

eBay’s network of buyers and sellers and its processes for creating trusted connections quickly between them have made them a force to be reckoned with. The focus on local shopping and on one-hour deliveries through the eBay Now program make them a leader in the delivery-of- b-to-c, c-to-c products to-the-door.

5. General Electric: The Industrial Internet    

Known for decades to businesses as an energy, power and water company and to consumers as a lighting, appliance and home improvement company, watch what they will do, pushing the Industrial Internet – the Boundaries of Minds and Machines. See how they will support clients like railroads and airlines to proactively manage malfunctions, and how they will support our healthcare needs through devices and the cloud and our pure water needs through tech-driven filters.

6. Google: From Search to Video, Communities to Devices

From its beginnings as a search engine and even following its incredible adoption and expansion, nobody projected. It’s impressive how Google is weeding out things-that-don’t work, and making video solutions like YouTube outstanding and easy to use. Indeed Google is proactively managing the volumes of data so that they are relevant to the user, and to niche groups of users. Couple this with their solutions delivered to the door, to the home, and the device innovations from Google Glass to Chrome Dongle and they are a force to be reckoned with.”

7. IBM: Big Data Evangelist, Real-World Problem-Solver   

IBM evangelism for cities and universities also showcase its sophisticated problem-solving abilities leveraging data storage and analytics to solve real-world problems. See examples of what IBM is doing for French city Lyon to improve traffic flow, and follow what IBM is doing to introduce big data curriculum into universities. There are huge consulting contracts around big data to be had, and IBM will be in the thick of it.

8. Microsoft: Embracing SaaS and Mobile 

Give Microsoft credit for bringing personal computers and software to the masses, and for continuing to grow and expand through the evolution of the web. It also takes courage to expand into devices and phones and applications sold online, rather than shrink-wrapped. Look for Microsoft to continue to find its way as it works with partners to usher in Web 3.0.

9. Netflix: Beyond Streaming Movies, to Custom Content

Breaking the mode first with its mail-in movies on DVD, then its migration to streaming movies and shows on demand, and now custom content creation, Netflix has consistently led the way with a grand vision and exceptional execution. We have every confidence that Netflix will continue to efficiently deliver customized, quality content to an ever-demanding and widening user base.

10. Yahoo: the Future of Content

Started as a search engine like Google, Yahoo grew like wildfire, and then had an identity crisis. I see it finding its way – making the world’s daily habits (whether it’s games or groups or movies or news or weather) both inspiring and entertaining. So don’t discuss Yahoo, still (barely) a Fortune 500 company with revenues at around 5 billion. In fact, I see it as a platform for customized content, delivered to individuals and niche groups, a core Web 3.0 capability.

How does our list compare to your own? Who would you add or take out?  E-mail us at with your thoughts.

Who Floats to the Top

February 21, 2014 by


There’s a war for talent developing . . . if our budgets can only accommodate the best-performing, highest-potential staff, whom do you keep and whom must you release? As the way-we-do-work changes and as tech evolutions challenge and stimulate all of us, who will keep up and lead the way? As the work becomes more specialized and more valued, the role of the multi-tasking generalist also becomes important – how can you have it both ways?

The answer is in attracting and retaining and growing the highest potential talent you can. Below are some thoughts on ‘Who Floats to the Top’, as you evaluate and consider the A players for your team.

Character Traits

1. Integrity – It’s about doing the right thing, regardless of whether someone is looking, regardless of whether anyone would ever know, regardless of whether there’s a consequence. An integrity breach is the greatest cause of concern for any leader, for the trust connection will be broken and difficult to heal. With that said, people have different standards of what it means to do the right thing, and flexibility about what’s right and wrong might be called for.

2. Passion – Showing energy and passion around projects and people is an essential element of leadership. Nobody wants someone complacent on their team, but remember that passion may display itself as an Energizer Bunny or as a quiet storm, depending on personality and communication style. Leaders need to have the judgment to know if the bunny will spin in a productive direction or just around in circles, and whether the storm is proactively focused, or just unnecessary drama.

3. Self-Awareness – Knowing yourself for all your strengths and weaknesses, knowing your values and desires and motivations is essential for success. High-potentials are well grounded in who they are and what their value-add is, but they are also open to how they can be better at who they are and what they do! On the one extreme are those who are *too* open to feedback and input and criticism, and on the other hand are those who are closed-minded and want to only do things in ways which have worked in the past. Again, the challenge is to manage others and yourself so that you and they can find that middle ground.

4. Entrepreneurial – An entrepreneurial person is always looking for a product, service, process or solution that would help better solve a problem at hand. Having the curiosity, flexibility and open-mindedness to always ask questions and entertain other-ways-of-doing-things is generally an asset for most teams. The only caution is to include the perspectives of those consistently out-there, beyond the realm of practicality, to the point of being non-productive themselves and distracting to others.

Track Record

5. Measurable accomplishments – There’s no substitute for results, and everyone knows who’s delivering on them. But not everyone is good at communicating what their role was and what the tangible outcomes were for the team. And the opposite is also true: some people are really good at taking credit for work they did not have much participation in. Helping the good people communicate what they’ve done and tackle projects that would build themselves and their team and company would serve all well. Calling out the others would also help sift out who floats to the top.

6. Working across teams and roles and companies – Embracing the perspectives of those-who-think-and-act-differently than you facilitates collaboration and more balanced, integrated solutions. Commanding the respect and support of a wide range of stakeholders is a testament to the capabilities of leaders.

7. Credentialed training – Sometimes that’s necessary, and sometimes not so much, provided you have the foundational knowledge you need to succeed. I believe in programs which are 20% about knowledge and information and 80% about applying it into a real-life setting. When someone itemizes a long list of tech credentials for example, I would ask specific questions about how each were applied and what business results were generated.


8. Focus on Measurable Results – In business, it’s about doing the right thing and showing the measurable results that align with corporate goals and serve the customer. Promising leaders continually focus on delivering and communicating those measurable results, and continually adjust, based on the needs of the individual stakeholders.

9. Team Player – Nobody wants to work with a self-centered jerk, no matter how brilliant they are. Sometimes these jerks can be charming for short periods, but then they show their true colors. Don’t spend time trying to train them and integrate them, no matter what they are achieving for the team in the short term. In the long term, if they don’t speak and act like team players, there’s no room for them on the bus. Period.

10. Politically Astute – What I’m noticed about people who are good at what they do is that they are both politically astute, and in some measure, politically adverse. They get that where there are people, there will be politics, but they don’t want to play games for the sake of the game, especially when things get personal and sneaky.

These are our thoughts on Who Floats to the Top – the same kinds of traits that have always been important, and more so in today’s business environment. What did we miss? What shouldn’t be there? Share your feedback to

Expanding Your Circle of Influence

February 15, 2014 by


FountainBlue’s February 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence. Below are notes from the conversation. Our panelists this month represented a variety of backgrounds from product management to CSR, marketing to engineering, and a variety of educational backgrounds and experience – some technical, some not so much, but they all had successes in the business arena, influencing with or without authority. They were generous in sharing their advice and insights, which are synopsized below.

  1. All successful leaders work with people from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and motivations. They take the time to understand the mindset, perspective and motivations of the people that they work with, and build a relationship with all stakeholders at all levels. They are great leaders for a cause, great cheerleaders for their team, authentic communicators to their range of stakeholders.
  2. Listen to all communications of others – the verbal, non-verbal, the things-that-said, the things-that-others-say-about-them. Use this along with direct communications to figure out what makes someone tick, what’s important to him or her, and work with her or him to create a win-for-all.
  3. People who are great at influencing others are authentic in their communication, transparent and clear about their motivations, invested in the success of the company, humble about themselves and what-they-know, and genuinely care about the people with whom they connect.
  4. Influencers embrace change, and find a way to communicate why change is good for all the constituents they work with.
  5. Leaders who influence broadly and deeply have a track record for making things happen and delivering results for and alignment toward a corporate goal. Often, they leverage data, including market research and social media data, to help influence decision-makers and implementers to align behind a vision or goal or cause.
  6. No matter what they are feeling, influencers don’t make it personal – remaining focused on the relationships and the results. This unwavering commitment, coupled with their credibility and authenticity helps instill loyalty and commitment from the people they work with, even if there isn’t yet a deep personal relationship.
  7. Rather than trying to impress others with who you are and what you do, focus instead on solving the problems of the people with whom you’d like to connect and you will make an impact on them.
  8. Help the people you work with focus on the business objectives, rather than distractions and personal agendas and platforms.
  9. Sometimes influence occurs in the incremental changes made. Make a stand for a goal, and accept every concession toward achieving that goal, especially if you can help someone take the credit for the results.

10. Above all, build trust with all the people you work with directly and indirectly, and deliver results in the name of the higher cause, rather than for your own personal motivations. The bottom line is that you should keep a bank of influencing skills ready for use, from listening to direct confrontation, from bartering to negotiating. Remember to focus on relationships between stakeholders, and delivering results in alignment with corporate goals. The successful influencer challenges the status quo, facilitates new ways of thinking and doing, and ultimately fosters change for companies and leaders, in a good way. Resources:


Please join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s February 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Authority and our generous hosts at LifeScan:

Facilitator Lucie Newcomb, President & Chief Executive Officer, The NewComm Global Group, Inc.

Panelist Tonie Hansen, Director, CSR and Sustainability, NVIDIA

Panelist Karen Pieper, Director of Synthesis, Tabula

Panelist Dawn Torres, Project Manager, CLS PMO, Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems

Panelist Kelly Vincent, Senior Director of Product Management, eBay

The Evolution of the Web

January 28, 2014 by


Not too long ago, when the web was young and just hitting mass adoption, we were all astounded at the ability to have information at our fingertips, shifting forever the way we live and work.

The 90s featured an emphasis on community and connecting, and a fascination with how social media is transforming the way people think, communicate and act. As we look into what’s next with today’s web, we see how communities are gathering not just to connect and find each other, but also to find power in their shared voice, raising the bar for what companies will deliver, and the type of service they will receive.

These high-level shifts are happening in record time, and leaders and companies are striving to keep up with the trend, much less make predictions on how to better serve a much more empowered, more demanding customer base with high expectations for customized solutions.

We have compiled a summary of the megatrends impacting the evolution of the web, from Web 1.0 of the 1980-90+ (Mass Adoption of the Web) to Web 2.0 1990s-2010+ (Communities Rule) to Web 3.0 (Communities Raise the Bar), in the hopes that insights from this article will help drive the planning, strategy and execution for these leaders.

1. Technology Evolution: Computer Hardware, Software, Network and Devices

Y2K scare spawned a massive investment in IT, and much of the monies were devoted to the acquisition of new equipment – hardware and software, and new ways of communicating, the internet. With Web 1.0, graphics became sophisticated and complex; databases drove interactive solutions; advances in network, computer and server hardware and software and security drove mass adoption and international expansion.

With Web 2.0, software emphasis was more on groups, membership, segmentation and engagement of users. The emergence of smart phones and tablets and an abundance of apps facilitated the expansion and advancement of social media solutions, and the massive response of the millennial generation in particular shifted forever how we connect and communicate, how we think about expressing ourselves.

As we anticipate the rise of Web 3.0, we will see the evolution of wireless, sensors, geophysical and augmented reality solutions, along with the increased sophistication and integration of devices, databases and software. Together, this will allow companies to process unprecedented volumes of information, including video technology, creating actionable dashboards, with the focus on providing personalized services, leveraging aggregated data, and ultimately better serving the needs of the customer.

2. The Role of Marketing: From Getting a Web Presence to the Rise of Community to Forecasting Needs

The self-service nature of Web 1.0 enabled customers to quickly find information and compare it with other offerings, and even get better tech support about their solution. This is a distinct difference from an age where customers and prospects waited for information to be delivered to them.

Information and automation was the focus, and getting everyone within a corporation to collaboratively update and upload accurate information was no easy task. It changed the mindset of corporate employees at all levels, and also the expectations of customers – companies did not look professional unless the web site looked that way.

With Web 2.0, it was a given that companies would have a web presence. Internal marketing departments focused the integrity of the brand, the alignment of the message, and the technical and process hurdles of getting all the information out there, to the right audiences. Independent communities and those sanctioned and supported by companies began to emerge, and began to increasingly impact the adoption curve of products and services. Managing the messages around product and service options became a challenge and an opportunity for companies.

With the emergence of Web 3.0, online communities continue to impact whether a product is adopted or panned as well as which features and products are most desirable now and in the future. But with this next phase, Marketing will leverage the community data and begin to interpret the immediate and ongoing needs of the community, and works with internal departments to deliver to those needs.

3. The Access of Control: From Corporate Leaders to Empowered Communities

With Web 1.0, Corporate leaders dictated web communication strategy and timing. The company webmaster and IT department and marketing and other execs decided whether information is up and what information is put up.

With Web 2.0, IT works with marketing to create interactive communities (or not) and Marketing works with active users and other stakeholders for input and feedback.

With the emergence of Web 3.0, Self-managed communities are increasingly working independently of companies to make purchase recommendations, and corporate execs are scrambling to work with these communities to manage brands and messages and get the right information to the right people. Authentic and proactive communication will support any necessary damage control measures and the goodwill of these powerful stakeholder communities.

4. The Quest for Content, Including Managing Spam: Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff

With Web 1.0, there was little spam, as content is driven and approved by corporate contacts. But, with Web 2.0, content is created by a partnership of company and community and the messages of community members sometimes needed to be managed by the company. Filtering out quality content and leaders was sometimes a challenge. As Web 3.0 emerges, Company-approved ambassadors and influencers partner with companies to provide quality content, mostly unbiased, to growing communities, and Spam gets more anticipated and managed as these trusted ambassadors and influencers are valued, and spammers are increasingly shunned and sanctioned.

5. The Proliferation of Devices: From PCs to Smart Phones and Tablets to TV-Mobile-Computer Integration

Web 1.0 was marked by the mass adoption of the personal computer, even for those not in technology. It also included updated servers and software and security and network access which would support users having multiple computers. Web 2.0 saw the mass adoption of smart phones and tablets, and the obsession with always being online, playing apps, connecting with communities. This mass adoption and rapid advancements in device technology and integration will lead to the integration of TV, laptop, tablets, mobile, a Web 3.0 emerging trait.

6. Security Challenges: The Direct Correlation Between Expansion and Security Challenges

It was easy when Security and IT issues are managed by companies in Web 1.0. There weren’t that many security issues, viruses were existent, but only a problem for those too lax. And with Web 2.0, companies managed the security of communities they create or sponsor and independent vendors managed the security for independent communities. With the rapid adoption of computers and devices, network and software security issues increasingly became a problem, but there were also a host of solutions. As we emerge into Web 3.0, proactive security measures will be implemented, but need to be continually updated as hackers and others get more creative and resourceful.

7. Performance Hurdles: Keeping Up with Insatiable Demand

The performance hurdles of Web 1.0 were generally solved by updating equipment: corporations updating IT, network and software and users updating and purchasing computers and internet access plans. With Web 2.0, the volumes of users and variable usage, IT and performance needs to be proactively managed by corporate team and independent vendors and again, users had to upgrade their equipment – namely adopting smart phones and increased data plans. As we evolve into Web 3.0, Data will become increasingly overwhelming, especially with the rise of video and the dynamic updating and customization of data. Users need better devices and contracts to get full service and access and corporations need to have the hardware, software and bandwidth to deliver what the customers want, and the leadership to proactively manage and anticipate the messaging to the user, and serve the needs of the user and community, as they define it.

8. Serving the Customer: The Evolving Expectations of the Customer

In Web 1.0, corporations needed to have the hardware, software and bandwidth to deliver what the customers want, which was not easy, particularly for companies not in the technology space. Leaders learned to proactively manage and anticipate the messaging to the user, and serve the needs of the user and community, as they define it. They got more sophisticated about it with the rise of Web 2.0, when it was so much about eyeballs, communities, and the rapid spread of messages-that-needed-to-be-managed, sometimes community takes off, serving the needs of the members, independent what companies want their community to hear. With the emergence of Web 3.0, there is more content and larger communities serving more people, who range in their level of participation and involvement. The content and the community help members define ongoing needs and find offerings that meet their needs, raising the expectations of all customers, and therefore, the deliverables of the companies that serve them.

9. Delivery to the Door: As the Volume of Sales Increase, Operational Challenges also Grow

With Web 1.0, eCommerce solutions were brought online, increasing sales of some companies, and putting other brick-and-mortar companies out of business. Products got delivered using standard delivery methods, as customers and companies slowly adopted the eCommerce way, and delivery vendors adapt to the new ways of customers. With the communities of Web 2.0 there were more users and prospects and additional vetting of products and recommendations, generating confidence in purchase decisions, and an increase in ecommerce success stories. ‘The ‘Dell Way’ was embraced by some companies who have quantities of standard materials, preparing for custom-built solutions on demand. Standard delivery options become more efficient, serving more customers. With Web 3.0, we are anticipating an increased volume of eCommerce sales and it becomes important to efficiently deliver to that last mile – Think ‘The Dell Way’ and map with supply chain innovations to optimally deliver personalized solutions. New delivery methods leveraging standard delivery options, software-company-turned delivery-company options (like Amazon and Google) and entrepreneurial options will emerge and grow.

10. Shift in Focus and Profits

With Web 1.0, Retail goes online, E-mail and web get integrated, Messages are easily communicated and updated, and the focus is on getting the information right, and getting it out there, easily available. Money comes from Volume sales of standard offerings, new business generation as information gets to the masses cheaply, and more repeat business/better upsell, although with the expense of conversion of data, upgrades of equipment and staff, etc., profits are marginal for most companies as a result.

With Web 2.0 and the rising influence of communities and their impact on product and service offerings as well as corporate brand, the focus is on ‘eyeballs’ and advertising dollars, not necessarily on revenues.

With Web 3.0, user analytics on  products/ services/features, will continue to guide company strategy as they better understand the aggregated community/user needs. The focus is on profits based on better serving the needs of the customer and revenues will come from better serving immediate needs of customers and even anticipate upcoming needs and trends.

What are your predictions on what will happen with Web 3.0 and beyond? E-mail us at with your thoughts.


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