In Search of Clarity

November 23, 2016 by

Arctic landscapeWith the dramatic end to a colorful and divisive election, most of us realized that the world is not what it appears to be. Some have responded with retreat and anger, disbelief and shock. Some have celebrated in quiet disbelief, some have lamented in public outrage. To me, it’s a message that things are not as they appear, that people are not who we think they are, that feelings are deeper and closer than we once thought. It’s an invitation to double-down on understanding ourselves and the world we live in, the people we live with.

  1. Respecting people for who they are is fundamental to understanding them. Judging people based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion or anything else is not respecting them as individuals. There is no way to find clarity and understand the world we live in when these types of classifications happen.
  2. Proactively seek to understand the viewpoints of those who don’t think like you.
  3. Appreciate the time and energy it takes for someone not-like-you to share his/her viewpoint.
  4. Be curious about their reality – their background, world view and experiences are likely different than your own, in ways that are hard to imagine.
  5. Ask relevant and poignant questions and LISTEN at all levels to what is said and what is not said.
  6. Express compassion for the trials and challenges they describe.
  7. Share a connection through common experiences, common obstacles.
  8. Sit comfortably with the differences you have with others’ viewpoints, accepting without judgement.
  9. Concisely and clearly respond to questions without the ulterior motive of converting someone to your own point of view, without anger or judgement.
  10. Agree to disagree where appropriate, still embracing the thoughts above.

This Thanksgiving, I hope that we will all sit together as one, come together as one, grow together as one.

Diversity

November 14, 2016 by

nov11diversitypanel

FountainBlue’s November 11 When She Speaks event was on the topic of The Business Case for Diversity. Below are notes from the conversation.

Today, more than ever, it’s important to bring the diversity business case to the forefront of the conversation. Being open to diverse points of views and backgrounds, being truly inclusive independent of gender, age, political and cultural backgrounds, facilitates the success of individuals and teams and companies overall. Leaders who think, speak and act with open-minded and empathetic inclusiveness draw out a wider range of perspectives, ideas and input, which ultimately leads to increased innovation and an increased ability to meet the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders. (See resources below.)

The twenty years of globalization has not only led to expanded operations and increased market share, but it also to an increased pace of innovation, a more empowered, more demanding, and more diverse customer base. Successfully serving the needs of the market and customers involves increased complexity, increased partnerships, as well as a more diverse and more educated worker. 

Recruiting, retaining and developing the diverse workforce is core to success. Below is an aggregated list of best practices for embracing diverse perspectives into the workforce.

  • Create a culture that thinks, talks and walks in alignment with diversity values. From the top down, from the bottom up, with each and every conversation, work toward embracing diversity, especially when it makes you feel uncomfortable. Take specific and immediate action if the alignment falters because of specific words, actions, and events.  
  • Be curious about what others around you think and invite their perspectives at every turn, building bridges in every direction, at every opportunity.
  • Work with allies and partners to communicate directly, clearly and transparently, and follow up with clear and consistent, measurement-based actions.
  • Be curious especially when their may be an ‘unconscious bias‘, one that is so engrained that you didn’t know that it existed.
  • Be selective about the thoughts, words and actions you use, to make sure that you’re making the impression you want, whether you’re the one being evaluated, or the one that is doing the evaluating.
  • Enable managers and leaders to succeed, proactively welcoming their questions and curiosity, while also providing training and education, and even rewards specific to diversity and inclusion measurement improvements.
  • Adopting tactical practices such as blind resume reviews, interview panels  and anonymous code review may help managers more consistently address unconscious biases based on gender and other factors.
  • Offer job rotation opportunities so that people can participate in different functions and see the business from a wide range of perspectives.
  • Be emotionally intelligent, so you can recognize and read your own emotions, and that of others, so you can discern what is said and what is meant, so you can manage the labels placed and mis-placed, and ultimately so you can guide thinking and behavior – your own and that of others.
  • Be Patient for change takes time.
  • Be the Role Model you want to see.
  • Find the Role Model who will stretch you, and give you the opportunities to succeed.
  • See the promise in others, and allow them to step up, while giving them a leg-up.
  • No matter what your background, do a good job – be competent, work hard, be pure of intent. Your thoughts, words and actions will build momentum and catch attention.

Resources: 

Contact us for a list of measurement-based resources which may help you measure your diversity efforts.

——–

Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s November 11 When She Speaks event was on the topic of The Business Case for Diversity and to our gracious hosts at Symantec! 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Weiping Cai, Sales Director » Product Development & Marketing | Sales & New Account Acquisition, ASML 
  • Panelist Nolwenn Godard, Director of Pricing Product and President of Unity, Women@ PayPal
  • Panelist Andria Jones, Senior Corporate Counsel, Office of Ethics and Compliance, Symantec 
  • Panelist Chhavi Upadhya, Head of Engineering, Strategy and Operations, Nutanix

In Search of Unicorns

November 4, 2016 by

pegasusFountainBlue’s November 11 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘In Search of Unicorns’ hosted by Samsung.

The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives on what it means to be entrepreneurial, what’s hot and what’s not varied greatly. However, there’s agreement that:

  • The innovation ecosystem will include investors, entrepreneurs, executives and providers. Interactive conversations and collaborations will become increasingly more important.
  • We should all value the openness and creativity of the entrepreneurs, the resources, channels and funding of the corporate partners, as well as the funding and vision of the investors, for each has a piece of the puzzle.
  • Perhaps we should re-think whether we’re looking for ‘unicorns’. So many companies are captivated by the mythical element, or the horn, and miss the importance of the wings – wings which transcend what regular horses can do. So perhaps a winged horse, a ‘Pegasus’, will more likely lead us to that billion dollar company.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • What you’ve learned throughout your business journey may feed into your future entrepreneurial efforts. So take the time to learn about what worked and what didn’t work in terms of business models and processes and in terms of technology. The answers will lie in efficiently delivering what customers are looking for.
  • Work within the needs of the customer, the mind-sets of the players in the industry, the processes embraced over decades. But find ways to provide innovation which would fit into all these forces as well.
  • Corporates may value the technology innovation over the current adoption rate of the start-up. A company’s R&D and manufacturing centers, network of partner and channel contacts, access to funding, etc. may help that promising unicorn realize its potential.
  • Whether you’re facilitating innovation conversations between teams within an organization, encouraging customers to adopt of the latest solutions, or fostering the introduction of a new hardware, software or government standard, it’s always about getting influential people to adopt a new way of thinking or speaking or doing something, and encouraging others to do the same.
  • All industries will be transformed by the immersive, social, mobile, analytics, IOT and cloud solutions.

Below are opportunities ripe for innovation.

  • Seek opportunities to transform how we do things now, leveraging IT, big data and automation. 
  • Seek opportunities to provide integrated end-to-end solutions.
  • Voice recognition leveraging Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence will continue to be of foundational importance. 
  • Automate functions which connect vetted providers with those-in-need, UBER style. Whether it’s connecting substitute teachers to classrooms, or connecting companies with excess food to nonprofits who distribute food (like gocopia.com), automating that connection adds value to all.
  • Innovative ways to digitally vet health status of patients with certified health professionals may save people and companies time and money in spades.
  • Look inside out and outside in to find those upside-down ways of addressing existing challenges. Embrace people with diverse perspectives who can help solve problems in new ways, leveraging IT, software, and devices.
  • Look for solutions beyond our world, and into the stratosphere to address a whole new layer of solutions – above the realm of drones, and within the earth’s atmosphere.
  • Connect the digital solution to the physical world. 

We are on the cusp of innovations in all markets at an astronomical scale. The world as we know it will become much bigger than we could ever imagine, and we can all choose to participate and shape that direction, to create a bigger, brighter, more collaborative and more efficient future.

On Being Limitless

October 31, 2016 by

limitlessWhat if the world were your oyster – if you had all the energy, all the answers, all the resources you need to do whatever you’d like to do, within reason, and address specific problems and challenges? What if you knew, or could easily figure out, the answer to some of the world’s greatest challenges – from the cure to cancer to the challenge of overpopulation, from global warming to the ongoing survival and well-being of mankind, from the origin of the big bang to living outside and beyond our solar system.

In today’s quickly-changing world, powered by ground-breaking technology-based transformations that are dynamic, immersive, relevant and real, it’s hard to imagine what the next chapter will bring, and easy to see that bright minds are focused on addressing remaining challenges one by one.

Assuming that this happens, and we are all so much more powerful – limitless even – what can we do to ensure that we remain compassionate and human, ethical and logical in applying our faculties and resources?

  1. Will we be wise enough to define the right problem to solve?
  2. Will tribal knowledge be collected and also be factored in?
  3. Will we be able to collaborate with the right people to make the right near-term and long term solution?
  4. Will we be patient enough to vet solutions to make sure that they deliver intended results?
  5. Will we be able to prioritize which problems to solve first and how many resources would be allocated to which problems?
  6. Will we be able to get the buy-in from the right people to implement solutions?
  7. Will we be able to test amongst many options?
  8. Will we be able to elegantly rewind a choice already made?
  9. Will we be able to do the ‘right’ thing for all stakeholders involved?
  10. Will we be able to have sufficient oversight to prevent people from unilaterally making decisions that affect others without their permission?

If the answer is no for any of the above, how can we plan-fully prepare for this whole new world?

Innovation in SF

October 24, 2016 by

innovationsf2016FountainBlue’s October 21 When She Speaks in SF event, on the topic of Women Leading Innovation in San Francisco and Beyond. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such an energetic, forward-thinking and accomplished range of innovators on our panel. Our panel represented a wide breadth of academic and social backgrounds, upbringings, roles and companies. Their collective advice is summarized below.

Innovation is not just about technology. 

  • Encourage everyone to define innovation more broadly as opportunities to think, speak and do things differently, whether it involves technology, processes or thinking.
  • Look not just at tech innovations but also look into innovations which improve business processes, innovations which help expand into new markets, as well as business model innovations.

Challenge people around you to think, speak and act more broadly and more deeply and gravitate toward people who are doing the same for you and to you.

  • Encourage and support self awareness in everyone around you, so they can see the bigger picture and their fit into the market and business trends.
  • Encourage both girls and boys to be self-reliant and curious, and socialize them equally to enjoy and appreciate science, technology, math and sciences.
  • Create a product, team and company where quality people want to work and stay and help them to be successful.

Focus on the Needs of the Customer as you create your strategy and your plan.

  • The adoption of a technology by paying customers is much more important than the elegance of the technology.
  • Your starting point should be ‘what are the needs of the customer’ and ‘how are you solving the customer’s problems’?
  • With advances in technology such as big data and AI, make sure that the customer still has access to human interactions.
  • Customers will increasingly demand more immersive so adopt the technologies which would address their needs.
  • Be nimble and quick with your innovations and features, resetting where necessary, gathering data to ensure alignment with the needs of the customer.
  • Ensure that the customer consistently experiences exceptional results – no matter how many hats you have to wear to make that happen.

Create a culture which embraces innovation opportunities.

  • Encourage innovators who can in turns be the humble do-er as well as the grand strategist and visionary. 
  • Invite all parties to participate as the collective entity bobs and weaves in a forward motion.
  • Be clear on WHAT needs to be accomplished by WHEN, but allow people to define HOW results will be delivered.
  • Consistently and generously believe that educating and enabling others makes things better for everyone.
  • Relish all opportunities to receive feedback and insights from others, especially from people who don’t think like they do.

Predictions for the Future

  • Customer will continue to demand more real-time digital solutions that are iSMAC (immersive, social, mobile, analytics and cloud) based.
  • Digital transformation will continue to be headline news, transforming all industries.
  • Watch for innovations on the way we distribute and create content.
  • Innovation will be in our world, in our face, in ALL industries (no matter how far we think they are from tech), from virtual reality experiences to driverless cars.

The big take-away is that everyone should feel empowered and enabled to lead and participate in an innovation, and open up opportunities to collaborate with others in being part of the win-win solutions.

Resources:


Please join me in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s October 21 When She Speaks in SF event, on the topic of Women Leading Innovation in San Francisco and Beyond as well as our gracious hosts at AppDynamics!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Coach, Adviser and Consultant
  • Panelist Anne Evans, Global Head of Recruiting, Unity
  • Panelist Camila Franco, Head of Product Management – Browser Experience, StubHub
  • Panelist Balwinder Kaur, Principal Software Engineer, AppDynamics
  • Panelist Jessica Mah, CEO, inDinero
  • Panelist Katie Penn, Global Head of Platform Growth, Twitter
  • Panelist Kayti Sullivan, VP of Account Management, Yelp

Five Minds of the Future

October 20, 2016 by

5mindsforthefutureHarvard Graduation School of Education Professor of Cognition and Education Howard Gardner Hobbs is ahead of his time. His Feb 2009 ‘5 Minds of the Future‘ book made me think and be more relevant. Perhaps my thoughts are also helpful to you.

1. Choose to have a more disciplined mind, backed by logical and methodical thought in disciplines including science, math, and history.

Fact-based, logical, methodical thinking is foundational to knowledge, and filtering out distracting, non-information data will lead to understanding.

2. Choose to have a more synthesizing mind so you can organize, understand and interpret the massive amounts of information and communicate its impact on yourself and others.

We are immersed in a world inundated with data. Once we filter out only the data that is true and real, synthesizing the implications of that data will help us make informed decisions.

3. Choose to have a more creative mind and revel in unasked questions – and uncover new phenomena and insightful inquiries.

Having that creative mind set will help us deviate from the norm and solve larger problems in adjacent spaces.

4. Choose to have a more respectful mind, appreciating the differences between human beings, embracing the nuances of differences.

Embracing the diversity amongst us will help us work together to solve bigger, broader, larger problems.

5. Choose to have a more ethical mind and fulfill one’s responsibilities as both a leader, worker and contributor for today and into the future.

It is incumbent upon all of us to contribute to the greater cause even if nobody invited your participation, even if you don’t think it’s YOUR problem, even if you feel so small in a problem so vast.

I’ll conclude by referring to Howard Garner’s book on Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and the picture below created by Mark Vital. What types of intelligences do you possess? What could you/would you like to develop? How could this intelligence help you deliver any of the above?

intelligences

Women Leading Innovation in Silicon Valley and Beyond

October 14, 2016 by

women-leading-innovationFountainBlue’s October 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Women Leading Innovation in Silicon Valley and Beyond. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at FireEye and our panelists! 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Vijaya Kaza, Senior Vice President, Cloud Business, FireEye
  • Panelist Indira Joshi, Director, R&D Engineering – Memory, Samsung
  • Panelist Sunitha Kumar, Technical Leader, Software, Security & Trust Office, Cisco Systems
  • Panelist Sangeeta Relan, Sr Director, Engineering – QA, Nutanix 
  • Panelist Lucia Turpin, Sr. Director of IT Governance and Strategy, Polycom

Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such an energetic, forward-thinking and accomplished range of innovators on our panel. Although they represented a wide breadth of academic and social backgrounds, upbringings, roles and companies, they had much in common:

  • They learned early about their passion for technology and the magic that it can create.
  • They invite opportunities to learn and change and shape the technology and business landscape.
  • They embrace opportunities to lead people, products and technologies.
  • They generously share their wisdom and insights, believing that educating and enabling others makes things better for everyone.
  • Get feedback and insights from others, especially if they don’t think like you do.

Below is a compilation of their advice and recommendations.

Know yourself and your value-add

  • Have the self-awareness to know what you do well, what you like to do and how that intersects with companies, people and products.
  • Invest in yourself. Take the time to rejuvenate, to refresh, to learn and do something new.

About innovation

  • Technology continues to evolve quickly, so embrace opportunities to change and shift with it, quickly providing viable and practical solutions.
  • Embrace the opportunities to become uncomfortable. Beware those who hang on to the status quo.
  • Know what market your innovation will be entering. Confirm that there’s a valid and paying customer in that market. Collaborate with them to deliver that innovation to a larger market. 
  • Having new use cases for the same technology can be a valid innovation.
  • Hear the music, the magic by expertly filtering out the randomness, the noise.
  • Innovation is not just about technology – it’s also about the needs of the customer, the implementation hurdles and challenges, the timeline and roadmap. So don’t just ask ‘can this innovation be done’, ask also ‘is it a compelling need and is it practical to deliver what they need?’
  • In today’s world, the market will speak forcefully and quickly. There’s an innovate-to-stay-relevant mindset and leaders must embrace that mentality to stay relevant.

About Leadership

  • Be clear, transparent, trustworthy, and communicative. Truly care about the people you work with.
  • Select carefully for each role on your team. It does take a village to make something work, and everyone needs to perform and have great energy and attitude in order for the team to succeed.
  • Align everyone from the executives to peers to team members and partners on the strategic vision. Communicate clearly on goals and progress toward that shared vision. Enable all parties to succeed in achieving their part of the vision.
  • It’s unrealistic to expect innovative thinking and acting all the time, every time from everyone. Everybody has a role in the innovation pipeline, and the leader expects everyone to fulfill their role in a manner that works best for each party.

Pay it Forward

  • Develop a culture of innovation, one that encourages people to think differently and to apply practical solutions to real problems.
  • Embrace the geeks-rule mind-set for both genders, at all ages.
  • Raise the bar for all those around you.
  • Make it fun and cool and magical to innovate at all ages, in all roles.

Trends and Predictions:

  • Expect continued improvements with hardware and software so that we can better connect and communicate with each other. 
  • With that said, expect a wide range of offerings around managing privacy, security, scalability and access. Social, mobile, analytics and cloud solutions will be huge.
  • Accept that there will be breaches in security sometimes and quickly mitigate any breaches while proactively managing risk.
  • The agile method of development will continue to rise and there will be increased standardization which would make it easier for customers to plug and play hardware and software solutions from different companies.

Resources:

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Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s October 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Women Leading Innovation in Silicon Valley and Beyond and our gracious hosts at FireEye. 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Vijaya Kaza, Senior Vice President, Cloud Business, FireEye
  • Panelist Indira Joshi, Director, R&D Engineering – Memory, Samsung
  • Panelist Sunitha Kumar, Technical Leader, Software, Security & Trust Office, Cisco Systems
  • Panelist Sangeeta Relan, Sr Director, Engineering – QA, Nutanix 
  • Panelist Lucia Turpin, Sr. Director of IT Governance and Strategy, Polycom

Best Practices in Collaborative Innovation

October 8, 2016 by

innovation

FountainBlue’s October 7 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Best Practices in Collaborative Innovation. The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives on what it means to be innovative, what it takes to collaborate, how to remain relevant and provide value differed greatly, but they agreed on the following:

  • Innovation centers around having open, honest, transparent conversations between a wide range of stakeholders within and outside an organization.
  • Everyone sees innovation with a slightly different slant, and all have valid perspectives which could be integrated into solutions.
  • Everyone has a role in facilitating a culture of innovation, so that the best, the most diverse, the brightest want to remain and can succeed on their terms.
  • The pace of innovation is rapidly increasing, and convergences across teams, product lines, companies and industries will geometrically increase that pace of innovation.
  • Being aware of the larger business and technology trends will help tech leaders keep themselves and their products and companies relevant.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • Choose to be nimble and agile, tech-philic and client-centric in order to stay relevant, and move the needle forward.
  • Collaborate with customers and partners to deliver a collection of custom and/or reusable solutions which may serve other purposes. Adopting this reverse-hackathon mindset means that you start with a specific problem and a specific customer in mind – a problem painful enough so that funding and resources are allocated to address the problem.
  • Talk about applications and use cases, not just the technology for its own sake, brilliant as it may be.
  • Create opportunities for being entrepreneurial within a big company, so that you get the stability and funding of the big company, and the new ideas for R&D and innovation.
  • Balance the big company and small company mindset when managing teams through integrations. You want to make sure the technology and engineers are cutting edge, but it must also fit within the processes and requirements of the larger company as well.
  • Embrace open source options where possible, engaging the larger ecosystem and community. With that said, make sure that there’s an appropriate business model for the product line and the company so that the solution is sustainable.
  • Engage in side projects beyond your normal day-to-day scope of work. 
  • Have an agile structure for moving projects forward, a model for engagement, for rapid adoption, for prioritizing for repositioning. This is true whether it applies to software development or marketing and business model creation.
  • Combine and connect solutions to develop seamless, integrated infrastructure layers and solutions which would build value.
  • Collaborate with researchers, other tech companies, customers, partners, manufacturers,  even competitors etc., Sometimes you’ll have awkward fre-nemy-like relationships, but finding a way to collaborate for that win-win could benefit all parties. With that said, use your best judgment on whom you can trust in the short term and in the long term, what to share when, etc.
  • Develop international partnerships to deliver solutions to different global markets. Or build the expertise in-house so that you have a vetted and valid strategy for approaching different markets with specific products and solutions. 
  • Build communities of practice to foster internal collaborations and vendor forums so outside vendors can connect and communicate.
  • Develop automations so that you can efficiently create, communicate and collaborate, within and across companies.
  • Allow customers to self-select their level of interest so that you can focus on the customers you can best support, and who has the most interest and funding for your solution.
  • Provide ‘air cover’ for your most promising engineers so that they can have the time and resources to innovate/seek that executive who could provide you with that air coverage so that you can innovate.
  • Beware of the leader who keeps talking about leadership without doing anything, the innovator who keeps talking about innovating without doing anything, who keeps espousing the merits of diversity without doing anything.
  • Reward failures.
  • Consciously and methodically create and capture value while you innovate collaboratively.
  • Facilitate open and honest dialogue, especially with people who don’t think and act like you do.
  • Pay it forward, give back, without the expectation of getting something in return.

There was overwhelming agreement amongst our execs: collaborative innovation must begin and end with the needs of the customer, and delivering to those needs in an agile, iterative, replicative, personalized way, leveraging hardware, software, data, mobile and cloud solutions.

Please join us in thanking our execs who generously shared their time and insights for this conversation and to our hosts at Cisco.

Resources:

Leading Digital Transformation

September 29, 2016 by

digitaltransformation

Innovation is that buzz word, that separator between leaders, especially in tech companies. Having lived in Silicon Valley these past three decades and having seen scores of innovation leaders and wannabes, my conclusion is that independent of industry, digital transformation is key. In addition, the TRUE innovation leaders are those who have leveraged the digital to optimize people, processes and technology and THEY are the ones who are positioned to transform individuals, teams, companies and even industries. Below is a summary of thoughts and ideas I’ve compiled in working with these TRUE innovation leaders.

Digital Transformation around People

Leveraging digital solutions to transform the people and culture of an organization is no easy task. Emotions generally run high, and politics is inevitable. However, if the executives provide a vision of where the company is going and why it is a great place to be, if all stakeholders can get aligned on vision, mission and values, if everyone could park their egos and agendas for the greater cause, it is a great starting point. From there, embracing the digital means everything from assessments of people-fit, motivations, and talent mapped to current and ongoing needs, to the alignment of roles with talent and the empowerment of the next generation of leaders. Start any digital transformation with the people side of the equation. For it’s the people, the leaders at all levels who will see that need and pivot and shift to meet that meet. Leveraging digital solutions to transform the people and culture of an organization is no easy task. Emotions generally run high, and politics is inevitable. However, if the executives provide a vision of where the company is going and why it is a great place to be, if all stakeholders can get aligned on vision, mission and values, if everyone could park their egos and agendas for the greater cause, it is a great starting point. From there, embracing the digital means everything from assessments of people-fit, motivations, and talent mapped to current and ongoing needs, to the alignment of roles with talent and the empowerment of the next generation of leaders. Start any digital transformation with the people side of the equation. For it’s the people, the leaders at all levels who will see that need and pivot and shift to meet that meet. 

Digital Transformation around Process  
Once the vision is confirmed and aligned, review the processes involved in the implementation of all business operations. Know who’s involved in doing what in all parts of the business – from sales to marketing, engineering and operations, from legal to finance, HR to administration. Knowing who’s involved, how actions and items are processed, how long it takes to get things done, what the impact of processes are on development, delivery and service will position leaders to understand how to better optimize everything digital. Optimizing processes makes them more dynamic, more cross-functional, more collaborative, more interactive, more engaging, more streamlined, more scalable, more integrated and more responsive to changes. 

Digital Transformation around Technology
When the people and vision are set, when the processes are defined and mapped, then select the technologies that best support the processes and people. The tech must be agile, scalable, sustainable, secure, compliant, flexible, and accepted as an industry standard. Many times organizations and leaders start with the tech, but having the people buy-in first, and understanding the processes and needs will facilitate the adoption of the best tech solutions.

Integrating People, Process and Technology 
So it’s not so simple, right? It can’t be just about first the people, then the process, then the tech! It integrates the three vectors throughout the cycle! You have to align a wide range of stakeholders on a shared vision for the company throughout the process; get buy-in on how you can integrate people, process and technology goals; continue to deliver win-win, tangible, measurable and scalable results across people, process and tech; update goals for each through inevitable change; and respond real-time to customer and market changes as they impact people, process and tech.

This is why digital transformation leaders are so REAL and so TRUE and so RARE. This is why I glom on to every transformational leader I’ve ever met, for I learn so much and see how they impact all those around them.

Level Up Your Listening

September 28, 2016 by

listening

I was commiserating with my mentor a couple of weeks back on how one trait separates true leaders from the rest of us – the ability to listen deeply enough so that the speaker feels heard. This post builds on a March 2015 blog I wrote entitled Listen Up, and is stimulated by a exceptional September 2016 HBR article entitled What Great Listeners Actually Do, and suggests ways on how to improve listening for leaders of all levels.

Safety First:

  • A relationship must be established so that people feel comfortable speaking. What you say, what you do, and who you are helps create such an environment. And how you show up under trying circumstances is the litmus test for the type of leader you are. Remember that people are watching, especially when the waters are murky and the circumstances are complex. Act with morality and competence, exercise grace under pressure, do the right thing even when it’s painful in the short term.

Focus is Key:

  • It goes without saying that distractions such as phones, laptops and shiny objects should take second seat to someone sitting in front of you, wanting your full attention.
  • But beyond this obvious fact, remember that all your energy and focus should be on the person in front of you, so that she/he feels comfortable and safe communicating ANYTHING to you.

The Substance of the Message

  • Focusing on the speaker helps you capture the substance of the message in detail. Asking clarifying questions and restating what’s communicated will help ensure that you have heard the full message, as intended, which is a foundational platform for listening.

The Implications of the Message

  • Beyond the message itself, listen for the implications of the message for them physically, socially, emotionally, in the short term and for the long term.
  • Listen also for why the message is given to YOU and why the message is given NOW. What is the understanding and the expectations and in what timeframe?

What’s NOT Said

  • Non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, perspiration, gestures, posture, as well as verbal cues like tone, emphasis, pace, and other factors may help you understand the message beyond the verbal message.
  • Being curious and asking the deeper questions based on these non verbal cues will help you better understand the given and the intended message.

The Feelings Behind the Message

  • Often the emotions and feelings behind the message is more important than the message itself. Helping the speaker feel comfortable sharing the full and complete message along with the emotions and feelings beyond the message, even if it dredges up uncomfortable experiences and experiences, is the mark of a superior listener and an exceptional leader and friend for that matter!

Support Without Judgment

  • A true hallmark of the best listeners is the ability to help the speaker better understand all aspects of what they are communicating, especially those around the emotions, without judgment, no matter how urgent, dire, emotional, distressing, confounding, annoying . . . it can be.

Looking Beyond Yourself and Your Circumstances

  • If there is trust beyond measure, support without judgment, and experience beyond the realm of the speaker, both the listener and the speaker can see the problem or issue in a new light, see new possibilities and opportunities and open up one more path.

We all have our hot spots and bad days, but may we all have good listeners around us to help us pick ourselves up, take a deep breath, pull our shoulders back and say ‘What’s Next?’

We hope that this post helps YOU level-up to see and hear what’s next for yourself, and for all those who listen to you and speak to you.