Influence

February 13, 2017 by

febcollageFountainBlue’s February 10 When She Speaks meeting was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Excellence.  Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such influential, well-spoken and diverse leaders on our panel, representing a wide range of companies, roles, backgrounds and cultures. But they shared many thoughts about the power of influence.

  • Influence is essential for getting things done at work and at home. Most of the time, we don’t have that direct authority to mandate that someone does something in a certain way by a certain time. And even if we did have that authority, it’s not a great way to lead, to empower, to build trust and loyalty.
  • Everybody can have a valid perspective, idea, approach or opinion. But not everybody will voice it so that it gets heard and considered. A leader ensures that a wide range of perspectives are heard, which increases the likelihood of project success and bottom-line results.
  • We would all benefit if everyone had the confidence and ability to influence decisions and outcome.
  • The first step to having more influence is to choose to do so.
  • Listen to the inspiring and practical stories of influential people around you, for it will also help you become more influential and feel more empowered. 

Their collective advice for expanding your circle of influence is summarized below.

  1. Know and accept your talents and weaknesses. Leverage your strengths and work on your shortcomings so that you can become more influential. 
  2. Everybody has their own style of influencing others. 
  3. Build deep and trusted relationships at all levels, whether or not you need something done right away.
  4. Understand the motivations and perspectives of those with whom you work. It’s much easier to find that common ground when you’ve done this first.
  5. Make everyone around you look good, feel good for the role they played in each project. 
  6. Be open to the perspectives of other people, especially when she/he don’t think like you.
  7. Communicate in a way that the other party can understand.
  8. Create a common ground, a common understanding, a shared goal, a shared future . . . something where you and other parties can collaborate in influencing an outcome.
  9. Point to the data, the measured results which back up a perspective or strategy. This helps keep conversations around the plans and strategy, rather than on politics and games.
  10. Welcome the gift of feedback, especially when it makes you feel uncomfortable. The best feedback helps you overcome the obstacles you’re putting in front of yourself. Choosing to overcome these obstacles will help you raise the bar for yourself.
  11. Be a role model for courageously stepping up, out of your comfort zone. Seek a role model who would help you to do the same. 
  12. The fear-of-the-no and the fear-of-failure stop many from even asking and trying.
  13. The lack-of-an-expressed-wish means many don’t “cash-out” on the goodwill and positive intent due to them.
  14. Create and support an ecosystem of support within and outside your companies, and enlist that sponsorship and commitment from the top.
  15. Be patient and resilient. Take a ‘no’ as a ‘not-now’, a failure as a learning opportunity, a building block for success.
  16. Facilitate a culture of empowerment, a place where people are encouraged to speak up and contribute, to embrace diversity approaches and mind-sets, with alignment in thoughts, words and actions.
  17. There’s a difference between diversity (when you’re invited to the party) and inclusion (when you’re invited to dance). Move beyond thoughts and words and into actions and projects, to truly integrate diverse people and perspectives into outcomes.
  18. Connect with people who can help you influence outcomes. Executive sponsors, mentors, champions, advocates, partners, etc., are all part of ecosystems of stakeholders you can create and manage.

The bottom line is that influencing is about partnerships and collaboration, about working together toward a common goal, about creating a win-win which benefits all.

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Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at ASML and our panelists!
Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO FountainBlue, CMO SignKloud
Panelist Tonie Hansen, Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility, NVIDIA
Panelist Vijaya Kaza, SVP Engineering, FireEye
Panelist Ishita Majumdar, Senior Director of Products, eBay
Panelist Birte Schwarzenfeld, VP, Head of Corporate Strategy, Flex
Panelist Eileen Sullivan, Vice President Project Management Governance, UXC Eclipse

A Convergence of Technologies

February 3, 2017 by

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FountainBlue’s February 3 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘The Convergence of Technologies and Solutions’. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at TI and our executives in attendance.

This month’s roundtable executives represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Below is a compilation of their ideas on the opportunities ahead, as technologies convergence across function and across industry.

Convergence may mean different things for different companies, but at its heart is the idea that we have the infrastructure to support the transference of technologies and solutions across solutions, across industries, across customers. Foundational to the convergence theme is the required infrastructure necessary to support it. This means everything must be in order: from the hardware and software needed to process information and create solutions, to the network needed to connect and communicate, to the policies and processes needed to support commerce, to the systems and solutions to support the delivery of services, and most importantly, the ability of the customer to pay for solutions, and companies to deliver to them what they need.

Each of our represented leaders and companies have solved aspects of these challenges and continue to push the envelope, not just for technology development, but also for the business processes and business model evolutions which would support the growth of the company. (See blog on ‘An Innovation Conversation‘.) There’s general agreement that convergence is happening across industries, across technologies, across companies, so our execs provided the collective advice below.

  • Encourage the transition of technologies across multiple use cases, as driven by the needs of the customer. 
  • Create a collaboration between technologists and sales engineers to partner with customers to design new solutions.
  • Create modules and solutions which make it easy for customers to leverage technologies and knowledge, and an easy way for them to communicate with staff and with each other as they design customized solutions.
  • Not all customers are created equal. Create self-service solutions which make it efficient and easy for most of your customers to help themselves, while providing additional and separate support for larger accounts.
  • Continue to focus on quality as you scale.
  • Invite the use of open source solutions and collaborations with trusted partners, creating an ecosystem that’s mutually beneficial.
  • Don’t let the management tool distract you from what needs to be done to best serve the customer.
  • Leverage modular open source solutions where it is practical. 

Below are some hot areas to watch.

  • Look for ways to bring the digital to the physical, cost-effectively bringing custom-fit solutions to eagerly awaiting customers who are well positioned to pay well for them.
  • Find ways to apply B-to-C businesses models and create B-to-B opportunities.
  • Balancing privacy, security and access will continue to be a challenge, find out how it’s also the opportunity.
  • Imagine how custom molds, CAD design, 3D printers, and small-scale manufacturing could create a growth opportunity.
  • Look at the diagnostic and screening opportunities both for disease management and optimal health. Consider also privacy issues around these solutions.
  • Consider moving from a traditional sales model to a SaaS model for standard businesses, much like what Michelin is doing with tire sales – selling by the mile rather than straight sale.
  • Robotics and drones and voice activation will be hot in most solutions created.
  • IoT will be everywhere. What needs to happen in order to standardize IoT solutions to meet privacy, security and access requirements? Who will lead the charge and what are the business opportunities as this will inevitably happen?
  • Blockchain and its ability to provide that audit trail will provide many business and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The bottom line is that convergence is already happening, and it opens up many opportunities ahead for those willing to embrace them.

Negotiating for a Win-Win in SF

January 31, 2017 by

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FountainBlue’s January 27 When She Speaks, on the topic of Negotiating for a Win-Win. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Twilio and our panelists! 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue, CMO, SignKloud
  • Panelist Angie Chang, VP Strategic Partnerships, Hackbright Academy
  • Panelist Genevieve Haldeman, Vice President, Marketing Communications, Twilio
  • Panelist Zaina Orbai, Sr. Director – Head of Global HR Operations, Yelp
  • Panelist Katie Penn, Director of Demand Marketing, Twitch

Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives on our negotiation panel. Their combined advice is summarized below.

  1. Start by understanding what all parties want out of a negotiation. Understand what drives the other party so that you can collaboratively create a win-win.
  2. Be strategic, prepared and plan-ful about how you negotiate, and practical about how to make both parties comfortable, to increase the odds of a successful negotiation. 
    • This means that you must understand your own needs and that of the other party and find that intersect, driving towards common ground.
    • Use LinkedIn and other online resources to Google the backgrounds of the people you’re negotiating with. 
    • Consider factors such as gender, ethnicity, age, language, etc., when you’re negotiating with others. It will help you better understand their background so that you can properly prepare for a negotiation. 
  3. Go beyond doing the research prior to the negotiation. Vet your strategy and findings with others who may help you think through your strategy and plan prior to the negotiation.
  4. Know your triggers and manage through them so that you don’t get too emotional throughout the negotiation process.
  5. Surround yourself with mentors, supporters, champions, managers, and advocates, who will support you and help you learn and grow.
  6. Embrace the opportunity to connect with people who don’t think like you, who don’t act like you do.
  7. Sometimes negotiating with your loved ones is harder than negotiating with your peers and partners and customers at work. These family relationships run long and deep and can be more complicated. Focus on the long-term relationship rather than the short term wins.
  8. Whether you’re negotiating a big deal, or just doing business as usual, remember that networking is the greatest indicator of your success. 
    • Build relationships and connections before you’re in desperate need of them. Make broad and deep connections. Your network is closely tied to your Net Worth.
  9. Be that ethical, authentic, trusted party who will negotiate in good faith, and be true to the relationship and the agreement.
  10. Know your value and your worth, and be confident about lobbying to make sure that you get what you earn and deserve. Center yourself so that you feel that confidence even when you’ve had a bad day.

Below is specific advice which may help you with daily and ongoing negotiations at work and play.

  • If you’re trying to get on the calendar of important people, be succinct and focus on what’s in it for them. 
  • Offer one of several options which you define. This way, you get to control what’s to be done, and the other party feels like it’s their choice as well.
  • Be curious about people’s differing viewpoints. Inviting diversity into your circle can help everyone within your circle, provided everyone is open and respectful.
  • When you have to work with someone with whom you’ve had a colorful past, try to be open-minded. Humanize the other person, and find an area of common ground as a starting point.
  • Focus conversations on the issues at hand, staying away from the personal and emotional issues which may color the conversation and lead to unproductive cycles.
  • If you and the other party are bogged down with a negotiation, try backing off and coming from a different angle. Whether it’s working with champions behind the scenes, finding an alternate path to agreement.
  • If you’re negotiating a compensation package, consider many factors and weight them all, focusing mostly on the things that are most important to you. From there, you can overlay the various options. Factors other than salary include: Working Hours, Benefits, Bonuses, Title, Role and Tasks, Parking and Commute and Public Transit Access, Leadership Team, Project Preference, Boss and Manager, Team Leadership, Industry, Technology/Customers, Advancement Opportunity, Education and Training opportunities, Presentations to management/customers . . .

The bottom line is that negotiating is a part of life, and your perspective around how to negotiate and your preparedness for any negotiation will help ensure your success.

Innovation

January 31, 2017 by

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Everybody wants to be known as the ‘Innovator’. For many, it’s better than being known as the ‘Leader’ – there are generally fewer strings attached and less pressure to perform in all these random areas.

But most people think that innovation is reserved for the geekiest of geeks, the eggheads with the novel, game-changing ideas, the brainiacs who shine brighter than the rest of us. I’m hoping that this post helps more people that they can also be part of the innovation equation.

  1. I created the matrix above to include technology as an element of innovation, but also included business models and process innovations as valid ways to improve the way we work.
  2. Each element is also divided into the status quo – what we’re doing today in each of these areas, the incremental – which makes the business model, processes, and technologies incrementally better, and the novel – a whole new way of thinking about each element.
  3. The status quo for business models, processes and technologies have taken us far, and will likely be valid for weeks/months/years to come, depending on the solution and the industry. But accept that the status quo will be passe at some point, and choose to make incremental improvements or pivot in a novel direction.
  4. I mean no disrespect for incremental changes, which can and has sustain companies and industries for decades. Look for incremental changes not just in technology, but also in business models and process improvement.
  5. If you’re seeking a novel new direction for technology, processes or business models, listen closely to what the customers are saying or not saying so that you can shape the direction based on their needs.
  6. Watch for the cross-overs between business processes, business models and technology innovations. Fixing and improving one may create an incremental or novel change for another.
  7. Be open to innovations of all flavors, coming from all directions. Unless it does not align with your overall objectives, your customer needs, your operational requirements, or your core values.
  8. Purposely push the limits innovating your internal processes and you may find new business models, or the core of an idea for a novel new technology.
  9. It’s always about the people. Find people who are smart, open, flexible and eager to do something new, make something better. Beware of people who stick with the same-old thing, no matter how brilliant and wonderful they otherwise are.
  10. Bringing it all together takes an extraordinary amount of vision, passion, competence, patience and fortitude. This is not the task meant for the ordinary person.

Are YOU extraordinary?

Negotiating

January 23, 2017 by

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FountainBlue’s January 20 When She Speaks was on the topic of Negotiating for a Win-Win. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives on our negotiation panel. Their combined advice is summarized below.

  • Build relationships deep and wide before you need to.
  • Fundamental to any successful negotiation is understanding your own personal needs and desires, and also the motivations and interests of the other people involved.
  • Emotions may run high when stakes run high in a negotiation. Accepting that this may happen and managing your own emotions – like giving yourself the time to react and respond – will help you be more successful through a negotiation.
  • Know the strength and value for yourself and for your team/product/company so that you can enter into a negotiation from a position of strength.
  • Be open and curious about the perspective of the other parties so you are better positioned to negotiate a win-win.
  • Take a chance and get noticed. Reach beyond your responsibilities and role when you’re able to.
  • Work with partners, mentors, allies and sponsors to keep stretching yourself, and to make sure others hear of your successes and impact.
  • Sometimes asking for something a bit less than you wanted may bring you closer to what you wanted in the long run.
  • Be a great listener, one who truly and authentically cares about the welfare of the other party.
  • Don’t generalize about people based on gender, ethnicity, age, etc., Everyone is different and unique.
  • Make others around you look good, feel good.
  • Make the best of what you are given. Sometimes what you dread happening may wind up being better than what you wanted in the first place.
  • Put yourself first – that’s hard when your team and family are so important.
  • Be accessible and reachable so that people will reach out to you and start that communication channel.
  • Manage the conditions for the negotiation itself – everyone should be comfortable and not feel rushed or pressured.
  • Have open communications with spouse regarding work priorities so that your own front is managed and your work demands are addressed.
  • Be proactive about spelling out your needs and dreams. Don’t judge yourself or others, or be with those who judge you for your needs and dreams.
  • Encourage and support children to take responsibility and ownership for their own problems.
  • Know your walking points and be wiling to walk under those conditions.
  • Know the top line and the bottom line going into the negotiation. Having those boundaries will help ensure a successful outcome.

Bottom line – be strategic, relationship-based, and engage with long-term, win-win results in mind. We wish you the best of luck in managing your upcoming negotiations. 

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Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Samsung and our panelists!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Coach, Adviser and Consultant
  • Panelist Charlotte Falla, Vice President and General Counsel, Samsung Research America, Inc.,
  • Panelist Jennifer Morrill, VP, Commercial Legal (Americas/EMEA), LinkedIn
  • Panelist Lucia Soares, Vice President, Healthcare Technology Strategy, Johnson & Johnson
  • Panelist Yvonne Thomson, Vice President, Culture & Employee Experience, Symantec

ISMAC is Where It’s At

January 21, 2017 by

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FountainBlue’s January 13 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘ISMAC is Where It’s At: What’s Hot in Immersive, Secure, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud Technologies for 2017. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at TCV, and our executives in attendance.

This month’s roundtable executives represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives around the what’s hot and what’s next would vary greatly. However, there’s agreement that we are on the cusp of great change in the way we adopt technology and in the way we do business.

  • Open source technologies will be integral to address technology opportunities and challenges.
  • There are an abundance of solutions in the areas of ISMAC. But integration of a wide range of disparate solutions are necessary to address the wide ranging needs of customers. 
  • Adoption of new solutions and integrations will be difficult for all companies and all industries, with different issues for each company and industry. Policy, leadership, standards and protocols, etc., will all factor in throughout the adoption and integration cycle.
  • Starting first with the adoption of Salesforce and other cloud-based solutions, there’s been an increasingly marked shift in focus to adopting cloud solutions, with less reliance on IT staff and support prior to the integration.
  • DevOps is becoming a more important target and beta market as they are 1) close to the customer, 2) open to integrating new technologies, 3) tech-savvy enough to understand options and requirements, 4) increasingly more important and empowered, 5) historically known for quick deployment, and 6) known for creating libraries, modules and protocols to support rapid implementation for new and upgraded solutions. 
  • With that said, DevOps divisions in general has not historically not had the budget or the inclination to buy enterprise-targeted solutions.
  • Therefore, business units within enterprises may be more logical targets for enterprise solutions. However, working with DevOps initially would increase likelihood of success for a project and sale.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • Create an architecture and infrastructure, and an ability to do regular updates. This would support a solution in the near term and for the long term. An example of doing this successfully is to create a security layer like a coat of armor around a solution, and then making it easy to provide modular updates based on ongoing threats and needs – much like a flu shot.
  • Collaboration between technologists and business leaders is essential for delivering to the needs of the customer.
  • Although DevOps might be a great initial partner for other technologies, security solutions may not be as interesting to DevOps members.  
  • Although selling solutions to engineers and DevOps team members might be attractive for many reasons, companies such as AppDynamics and Splunk are finding more success selling to enterprise business units. 
  • When looking at the security of medical devices, you must first consider the health and welfare of the patient. The security of an application is not of primary concern if the life of a patient is at stake.
  • When the health challenge is not critical and more ongoing and chronic, like diabetes treatment solutions, there’s more latitude to ensure the privacy of the patient data, while also collecting aggregated data for medical research and clinical application. 
  • Agencies such as the FDA are not well positioned to review and set protocols for the adoption of tech-based devices or cloud-based applications, yet this is their mandate. A wide range of stakeholders are working with these types of agencies to forge a path forward.

Below are some hot areas to watch.

  • Leveraging AI for voice recognition may help virtual assistance better serve customers, beyond what Alexa and Siri are doing today.
  • Integrators who work with the wide range of stakeholders on track the adoption of standards are well positioned to help customers integrate a wide breadth of solutions to address specific problems.
  • Modular solutions which follow standardized protocols and open source elements will be more likely to be adopted. 
  • Find ways to leverage aggregated data to generate targeted reports tailored to the needs of the customers. 
  • Find ways to monetize open source – perhaps by creating customized, dynamically-generated reports.
  • Find ways to containerize/modularize elements to ensure cleaner and more robust scalability and security.
  • IoT solutions will continue to be hot. Those that integrate well with others and fit protocols and standards will be more readily adopted.

The overarching message is that technology innovation will require more leadership, more collaboration and better coordination and better communication.

When Digital Meets Physical

December 31, 2016 by

digitalphysicalDigital will continue to be the buzz – the differentiator which makes it easier to gather, digest and interpret data, easier to send personalized solutions to a wide range of customers. There’s no question that AI, BI and the Internet of Everything will affect the amount of information we receive online through our computers and through our wide range of smart devices. But there will be a physical element to digital solutions and elegantly integrating the two will set products and solutions apart.

  1. Yes, this means that IoT in general will continue to be hot, and affecting all of us in our day to day lives in ways we can barely imagine, and much more pervasively than we expect. Companies who can create a standard for the physical devices and the digital output from these devices will help the entire industry further ride that boom.
  2. IoT in the health and fitness space will continue to produce volumes of data, but also begin exploring the implications of the data and also interpreting volumes of data for patterns, while respecting the privacy of individual users.
  3. IoT in the retail space will help companies do everything from managing inventory to tracking customers, from improving security to anticipating orders.
  4. IoT in the transportation space will go far beyond GPS and emergency services and parking support. It will soon transform everything from car upgrades to changing appearances and going driverless!
  5. IoT in the consumer at home space will be all around automation a la Google and Nest and its temperature settings, and going far beyond that into appliance automation, lawn and garden care, and automated cooking and anticipatory grocery buying.
  6. Digital Out Of the Home (DOOH) solutions provide digital experiences going beyond computers and mobile phones and devices. Think about bus stops, bill boards, airports, train stations, food courts . . . pushing information out where people congregate, without the need for a computer or mobile device.
  7. Digital solutions can extend far beyond the tech world . . . including into agriculture. Imagine if we had tools which could support the full food supply chain – from production to processing to distribution and storage. These innovations will help improve efficiencies and the physical world for millions of people.
  8. Digital solutions enable peer-to-peer platforms which will continue to explode. Whether it’s with transportation services such as UBER and Lyft or vacation rental services such as AirBnB, or funding and loan services such as Indiegogo and Lending Club, people will connect with each other to deliver physical services, leveraging the digital platform to ensure fit, efficiency, security, etc.
  9. The quantity and quality of easily-available streaming digital videos is mind-boggling. We’re rapidly reaching the point where videos are preferred over standard television. And the point where original content, even if produced in non-commercial ways a la YouTube is preferred.
  10. And the point where immersive and interactive components are mandatory requirements for a successful digital experience, leveraging AR, QVC codes, motion sensory or MAC detectors.

The list could go on from here . . . Suffice it to say that the trend is going from Online to Offline (the physical), moving the user Onward – to a richer, more fulfilled, better served future. And if there’s success, there will be a loop back to the Online option, for more information, for more connections, for additional options.

Power to the Team

December 12, 2016 by

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FountainBlue’s December 9 When She Speaks was on the topic of Power to the Team, hosted by Nutanix. Below are notes from the conversation.

This month’s panel represented a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, but they had much in common.

  • Their authentic voice and leadership style helped them connect with people across the organization and between people and teams. 
  • Their varied experience helps them work with a wide range of people and perspectives, in a broad range of functions and roles.
  • Their track record for success helps them succeed in higher-impact positions and projects, and gains them credibility across the board, and including executive suite members.

Leading teams is much more challenging today than it used to be for many reasons. 

  1. The technology is more complex. There are many more moving pieces and many more people and groups involved in development. 
  2. The pace of change has accelerated, from the technology side and from the business side.
  3. The size of the team, and the number of groups and teams involved is now greatly increased.
  4. The customers are much more discerning, much more demanding. They are also requesting customizations and personalizations. It takes a coordinated team effort to deliver these solutions at scale to this discerning customer base.
  5. Changes in corporate direction happen, and teams must deliver to new objectives mid-stream, even when the new goals are contrary to prior plans!
  6. There’s a greater need to include more diversity on the team, to represent a much larger and broader customer base.

The need for collaboration and communication is much greater because of these changes. Below are some best practices for leading teams.

  • Be authentic to your values and your goals, and ensure alignment between who you are, and what you do, working with people who share your values.
  • Be a versatile team leader who are also adept at following. 
  • Help others disagree and commit where necessary.
  • Be positive, candid, transparent and clear in all communications. It’s not always easy to ensure seamless alignment on clear, measurable goals, especially when changes and challenges take place. It takes courage to have difficult conversations, to own up to mistakes and problems, to maintain momentum and credibility, despite the changes. But it must be done to maintain energy and progress.
  • Be nimble, agile and quick. 
  • Make it about the data and the cause, not about personal or political agendas. 
  • Focus on quality and results rather than volume and quantity.
  • Build relationships that are deep and broad in the short term and for the long term. Build relationships not because you might need something from them someday, but because you can build these relationships, because you can help each other one day, because you can better understand the perspectives of others, especially when they don’t think like you, especially when change is in the works!
  • Focus on high-impact tasks which would generate measurable progress towards well-defined goals. Communicate progress to stakeholders regularly and build momentum around the cause.
  • Secure the sponsorship of key execs to help ensure your team has the resources and support it needs to succeed.
  • Pivots will happen. Be transparent and clear about why pivots happen, what it means for the team and company and individuals, etc.
  • Celebrate successes and progress.
  • Be inclusive, productive and positive.
  • Enlist the support of a Board of Directors, a group of mentors and supporters to help you identify and work around your blind spots. Play that role for others as well – whether they are execs who would value an opinion or a high-potential team member.

The overarching message from our inspiring and diverse panel is clear – be true to YOU, and keep the energy and results flowing, so you can serve your customers, support your team, and deliver for your product and company!

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Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Nutanix and our panelists for the Power to the Team Event.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Neela Deshpande, R&D Programs Director, Chief of Staff, VMware
  • Panelist Natasha Hoady, Senior Director of HR, Nutanix
  • Panelist Cheri Leonard, Senior Technical Program Manager, Samsung Research America
  • Panelist Martina Sourada, Senior Director, SWQA, ISV Certification, NVIDIA

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M&A Best Practices

December 7, 2016 by

mergersFountainBlue’s December 2 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘M&A Best Practices’,and was graciously hosted by NetApp. The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives around the planning, envisioning and execution of a success merger, acquisition and integration vary greatly. However, there’s agreement that:

  • Plan-fully envisioning and executing a successful M&A is a team effort.
  • Transparent, strategic and ongoing communication between all affected parties is critical to the success of any integration.
  • M&A deals are bigger and faster than they’ve been in the past, with the potential to transform markets and industries, with BIG companies buying each other, with companies buying new products, channels and markets, etc.
  • Some companies are more ‘acquisition-minded’ than others. Those that are generally have a complex and comprehensive process to help ensure that the integration goes well end to end and generally measure specific data points, agreed prior to the initiation of a merger, whether the data is around innovation/technology deliverables or Gartner hype curve appearance, operational cost optimization or lowered support and outreach costs, improved distribution channels or larger footprint in specific geographies.
  • The trend toward having a broader and more diverse, more demanding customer base will continue to evolve. Corporate M&A strategists will take this into account.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • When you are looking at best merger opportunities, consider not just the market landscape, customer base and technology fit, but look also at the cultural fit. Even if everything else fits well, the lack of cultural fit can immensely impact the success of a merger.
  • Seasoned M&A leaders know the cycle of response around M&A events – from the ‘shock’ to the ‘work overload’ phase, and on to the ‘disillusionment’ and then the ‘acceptance’ phase, and on from there to the ‘search-for-the-next-deal’ phase. Sharing their stories and experience will help companies retain their best people through these high-change cycles.
  • Understand their motivations and facilitate collaboration between stakeholders.
  • Plan-fully and pro-actively manage the integration from beginning to end through an Integration Playbook highlighting People, Process and Technology details. Know when it’s business as usual for the integration, and when something is urgent, who which exec needs to respond in what manner in order to get the integration on track. Make sure that happens – the success of the deal may depend on it.
  • Build relationships with all stakeholders. Know what their role is for the integration process. If possible, know also how they would respond to stress and change prior to their being subjected to it. Have a plan B if plan A may not work out.
  • With ongoing communications based on measurable results, also include self-assessments. Make sure that everyone has the time and support and resources to deliver their piece of the puzzle to help keep the integration project on-track.
  • Ensure clear and ongoing executive sponsorship throughout the M&A deal.
  • No matter how much you plan for the merger, no matter how well it’s going, no matter how quickly or elegantly it’s coming together, there will be surprises and unintended consequences. Accept that this will happen, and respond and react using your best judgment, while aligning motivations and remaining transparent and communicative.
  • Be clear on what must be done, what’s nice to be done, what doesn’t need to be done yet, and what will never happen. Negotiate with important stakeholders if you’re not in alignment on which buckets each objective or task fits in.

Below are how to best leverage mergers to grow a business.

  • Identify adjacent markets and technologies location for expansion.
  • Know the value and timing for fast organic group, for new market growth, for headcount growth, for industry consolidation, etc.,
  • Find higher-margin services and customizations for low-margin businesses.

Again, please join me in thanking our participating execs and our hosts at NetApp.

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.