Mentors

May 16, 2016 by

WSSMentors051216FountainBlue’s May 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors. 

We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives, and who so graciously shared their wisdom and experience, stories and advice. Below is their collective advice and recommendations.

Know yourself.

  • Know yourself and your value-add. What can you do better than what other people can do, and how can you leverage that for the good of the project, the good of the team.

Stretch yourself.

  • Consider becoming a mentor, for it energizes you, helps you see new perspectives and also what’s next.
  • Embrace opportunities for continuous learning.
  • Be the kind of stand-out employee who gets noticed for consistently, energetically and good-naturedly deliver quality results, no matter what you are asked to do. This way, the right people will notice you and consider you for positions that would stretch you in good ways.
  • Be open and curious and outwardly facing, and connect with people who can help you remain that way, whether they are mentors, mentee, sponsors, champions, advocates or others.
  • Look for opportunities for continuous learning, which may make you feel uncomfortable at times. Putting yourself front and center may be an initiation by bonfire, but it will tell you and others ways you can shine, and also ways you can grow.
  • If you’re interested in advancing, take the time to know the executives in your company as she/he would be in a position to recommend you for a position or a project which you might not know about, and which might stretch you in a great way.
  • Consider hiring a coach who would help you better understand your value-add, your response to group and team dynamics, your current challenges and opportunities. He or she may help you create a proactive plan for your career and your future, and also be an accountability partner for you as you execute that plan.
  • Be worthy of champions and advocates by performing well at work, delivering measurable results, and treating others with respect and support. Any number of these advocates and champions may give you the time, energy, dollars, resources, connections etc., that you may need to make something happen.
  • Consciously choose to work with people not-like-you, as a mentor, as a mentee, as a boss, as a colleague etc. She or he would help you see things in a broader and deeper and different way.
  • Invite opportunities to connect with customers and understand their current and anticipated needs, regardless of what role you have within a company.
  • Be curious about why things are not working or responding as expected. Ask the right questions of the right people and learn the whys behind it. 
  • Bring your A Game, every time, all the time. Especially when things are really challenging and you just don’t feel like it!
  • Be hungry – don’t settle for more of what you’ve got, but invite opportunities to do more, be more!
  • Keep seeking all different types of mentorship and learning opportunities.
  • If you’d like to move forward, don’t look down, look up and around, and work with people who can help you do that.

Understand the world you’re working in.

  • Do the market research and learn about what’s new and what’s next so that you can stay ahead of the curve.
  • Align corporate goals, mandates and objectives from a strategic and a tactical perspective and continue to measure results.
  • Look beyond where you are to the future of technology, the future of industry, the future needs of the customer.

Remember that it’s always about the people.

  • Relationships come first and foremost. 
  • Connect with people beyond your day-to-day circle so that you can see new perspectives and opportunities.
  • Choose to work with people who would accelerate your growth, while you are accelerating their’s.
  • Find a mentor/mentee with whom you can build a long-term, productive, win-win relationship. There are many different kinds of mentors and mentoring relationships, and many ways both sides can benefit from these relationships. Work proactively with your mentor/mentee to ensure that it’s a positive win-win relationship across roles, companies, time.
  • Take the WIIFM perspective – What’s in it for me? – Ask yourself the question how are you helping your boss and her/his boss? 
  • Pay it forward. Find every opportunity to give back.

Resources onlilne:

  • Thank you to Erna Arnesen for sharing the following: 

    • Blank form for mentee to complete 
    • A sample completed mentoring session form
    • Sample of a reverse mentorng form, courtesy of Erna Arnesen
    • Sample Mentor Mentee Agreement 
  • Thank you to Laura Owen who shared the following:

    • Polycom’s mentoring program and mentoring guide
  • 22 Quotes to Help Boost Your Mentoring Prowess, Inc. Magazine

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Please join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s May 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors as well as our gracious hosts at Polycom.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Erna Arnesen, former VP, Global Channel and Field Marketing, Plantronics
  • Panelist Jocelyn King, Sr Director, Programmable Solutions Group Marketing, Intel Corporation
  • Panelist Laura Owen, Chief Human Resources Officer, Polycom
  • Panelist Gail Rahn Frederick, Senior Director, Developer Ecosystem and Services, eBay

Recruitment and Retention Best Practices

May 6, 2016 by

Stressful people waiting for job interviewFountainBlue’s May 6 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Recruitment and Retention Best Practices in a time of Change! Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Symantec. Below are notes from the conversation.

Change is an inevitable part of the business world, particularly when you’re leading a tech company in Silicon Valley! Leaders from our Recruitment and Retention VIP roundtable represent companies that are at various stages of M&A activities, divestitures, rapid-growth and fundings. They are challenged with identifying, recruiting, developing and retaining their key talent and high potentials, and have provided the following pearls of wisdom.

Change creates tension and uncertainty for everyone. Communication is key to the retention and recruitment objectives for all organizations.

  • Leaders managing through change must collaborate with key stakeholders to strategically communicate what they’re doing, why it’s being done, what the process will be, what success looks like, etc., as this will help key talent make decisions to remain engaged and help others to make the same choice.
  • Change may take months to happen, and people potentially affected by the change will be uneasy, so periodic, proactive, and candid communications, delivered by charismatic, genuine and leaders will help everyone through the process.
  • When there’s an acquisition, don’t settle on just getting the bodies from the acquired companies, but seek also to sell to the minds and hearts of those people, so that they stay engaged, committed and connected.
  • Leaders need to take the high road and message what’s right for the company in the long term, (even if they feel like they’ve been wronged). This will help them leave the kind of legacy they want, after serving for so long at a company, plus it will help those who stay remain successful and committed.
  • Be purposefully inclusive in your communications, independent of roles, levels, locations, etc., This will help build that sense of teamwork and common mission during times of change.
  • Say and model an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ model of leadership, with a common, constructive, positive and productive message.

Communicating intent and direction is not enough. Leaders must also plan-fully make it easy for key talent and high potentials to navigate changes *and* remain engaged and successful. 

  • Have a clear and planned framework for governance, operations, integration etc., so that people undergoing change can be quickly productive and engaged and connected.
  • Connect people with each other and with resources so that they can be more immediately successful.
  • Provide as much sameness and stability wherever possible, especially when much is happening. 

Clear, collaborative leadership is essential for recruiting and retaining key talent.

  • Good leaders make the right strategic decision for a company in the short term and for the long term. Great leaders communicate and engage all stakeholders throughout the change process so that vision becomes reality.
  • Great leaders know it’s about getting key people on-board and engaged, and they will ensure that those people (generally starting with the customer-facing people first), get the support, encouragement, reward and confidence they need so they can represent the company well to customers. They know how to build success from that foundation of strength.

Below are some suggestions for recruiting and retaining key talent.

  • Adopt a measurement-based standard for success that’s objective – whether it’s looking at revenues or market growth or retention numbers. From those measurement-based outcomes, figure out how to change recruitment and retention strategies so that you get the results you’re seeking.
  • Improve the success of your recruitment efforts by following up with new-hires and hiring managers and proactively facilitating their success.
  • Consider hiring those who know what’s in the playbook and how to execute what’s in the playbook, but also more closely consider those who can deviate from that playbook, and customize that playbook, based on the individual circumstances.
  • Know the culture of your company and hire those people who would fit that culture, rather than focusing on that ‘top talent’ who’s not quite a cultural fit now, but who might later get integrated into that culture.
  • Consider encouraging a healthy competition with performance metrics where possible.
  • Adopt a ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ (WIIFM) attitude of the prospective employee and speak to what’s important to them.
  • Whether you’re choosing the rapid-integration or the longer term, staged integration approach, adopt a strategy that matches your culture, and provide the communication and infrastructure support so that the plan can be well implemented.
  • Hire an exceptional talent management team, and let them use their passion and abilities to find and recruit the right people for the company. This will in turn propagate the right energy, message and culture, feeding a virtuous circle so that more people want to work at the company, better products and services are delivered, thereby further growing the customer base and staff.
  • Consider using a panel discussion as part of your interview process, asking questions such as ‘why YOU’? ‘why NOW?’ and ‘why US? It’s also helpful to have each panelist evaluate on specific criteria, including cultural fit, functional fit, experience and technology. 
  • Give candidates the opportunity to think on their feet to test their intelligence, their communication ability, their comfort level with ambiguity, etc.,
  • Encourage referrals for key positions.
  • Message the merits of joining the company to the interviewees.
  • Look for four key criteria when hiring: Intelligence, Coachability, Experience and Character. You don’t necessarily have to have direct experience, provided that you’re intelligent and coach-able enough, but if you don’t have the right character, it may never work, and it’s expensive to hire the wrong person.
  • Choose to join a fast-growing company (unicorns, pre-IPO companies) in a hot space (mobile, security, platform for example) and potential hires will show up. From there, it’s a question of setting the bar high so that only the best get hired and stay.

Below are suggestions for building a diverse team and robust leadership pipeline.

  • Consider hiring new-grads and growing them into key positions.
  • Encourage senior executives to sponsor high-potentials so that you can fill that leadership pipeline.
  • Request diversity for your candidate pool and support the HR team in delivering that diverse candidate pool for consideration.
  • Hire a qualified woman candidate where appropriate and advocate for pay equity. Retaining that female leader will increase the likelihood that more women and minorities will stay and desire leadership roles.

Below are predictions for the future of work.

  • Some entitled millennials may get that wake-up call, and learn that it will take commitment and hard work to remain successful at work. Leaders who manage them may be able to work with them from their perspective, on their terms.
  • There may be a back-firing on the work flexibility trend. Companies big and small may be expecting more in-office time to facilitate more collaboration and communication and perhaps increase productivity. 

Resources:

The bottom line is that leaders are chartered with recruiting and retaining key people despite inevitable changes. Keys to success in managing change include a standard for clear communication, an emphasis on seamless execution, a track record of measured outcomes, all delivered by a principled and collaborative leadership team. 

What It Takes to Lead

April 25, 2016 by

Group of woman

I’m one of those people who gets out there and meets a lot of people, whether it’s for the events that I run monthly or with the execs I coach or the start-ups I advise, or just at social and neighborhood gatherings, networking is part of my DNA – I like connecting people with each other, and connecting disparate ideas into something new.

So when I’m asked ‘What does it take to lead?’ I think about it from the context of meeting and knowing a wide range of leaders – at all levels of the hierarchy, representing all roles, from start-ups with a seed-of-an-idea to Fortune 10 companies. Below is my view of what the best leaders have in common.

What It Takes from the Inside – Your HEART

They say that every great leader has a vision of what’s possible, a vision she/he is passionate about.

  1. I would agree, and also add that this vision may not be specific to a business. It may be a social and community vision implemented by a Mother Theresa or a social vision implemented by a business icon through their foundation.
  2. But I would add that having that vision isn’t enough, for one must also have the energyand ability to make it happen, the attitude to persevere and succeed despite insurmountable odds, and the wisdom and patience to manage the inevitable stress which always arises when big things happen, when many people are involved.

What it takes to Execute – Your HANDS

A vision is only a dream, unless a leader knows how to make it a reality. There are four elements of execution:

  1. Financial execution which focuses on the P&L and efficient, scalable operations.
  2. Cultural execution which ensures that the right people join and grow and stay within the organization.
  3. Product execution which works with product, development and sales/marketing/customer/ops teams to ensure that customers are happy with the product or service.
  4. Growth execution which engages the right staff, customers and alliances to proactively grow the product or offering.

What It Takes to Be Smart and Strategic: Your HEAD

Assuming that you have the vision to make things happen, and the ability to execute on that vision, you will need to be strategic and smart enough to weave the pieces together.

  1. Every great leader embraces technology as a great enabler, as a great tool for serving ever more demanding customers.
  2. Every great leader is a transparent, clear, proactive communicator with the ability to influence others to make things happen. 
  3. Every great leader chooses opportunities for continuous learning, and continually raises the bar for herself/himself. No great leader does things the way it has always been done, even if they do that same thing exceptionally well.
  4. Every great leader seeks the win-for-all collaborative solution which engages all stakeholders in delivering results.

So based, on this criteria, who do you know that’s great? And what criteria would you use to define greatness?

Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand

April 25, 2016 by

AprilPanelFountainBlue’s April 22 When She Speaks in SF, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand. 

We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives who so graciously shared their wisdom and experience on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand. Below is their collective advice and recommendations.

First and foremost, our panelists encouraged us to be courageous enough to first know and then speak your mind with clarity, to be strong and open enough to learn from how others are responding to you and to coach and support others around you to do the same. This leads to meaty, authentic, transparent conversations which are healthy for the organization, for the team, and for everyone in it.

Taking the time to know yourself and how you’d like to be perceived, and also the strength and curiosity to understand how you’re showing up, how you’re perceived by others are fundamental to successfully accomplishing that goal. From there, you can manage the delta between what-you-want-your-brand-to-be and how-you-are-perceived, so that you can manage your brand, and leverage your brand to get to where-you-want-to-go.

Our panelists all encouraged us to mindfully target a position, role and company which best fits your interests and your values. Finding a culture that works for you will help you stay true to yourself, and holding the bar high in terms of culture and purpose will help you land in that right company and role.

Our panelists all talked about the power and learnings from failures and ‘bad management experiences’, remarking that there were more learnings from the negative than the positive experiences – if we have the courage and curiosity and perspective to learn and grow at each juncture.   

Our panelists recommended that we surround ourselves with a support network, a ‘board of directors’ that would help us succeed – ranging from mentors, friends and colleagues, who will support us unconditionally and help us keep true to ourselves, to advisers who can support us with specific challenges and solutions to executive sponsors who are our internal champions.

Each of our customers reflected these admirable brand traits:

  • A customer and results orientation  
  • A strong, centered, perseverance that can and have moved mountains
  • An authentic, trustworthy, passionate communicator
  • A courageous, curious, learning-agile, and humble leader-under-development
  • An other-centric mentality which makes them great listeners and communicators 

Resources:

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Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s April 22 When She Speaks in SF, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand and our gracious hosts at AppDynamics!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Coach, Adviser and Consultant
  • Panelist Steph Douglass, Vice President, People & Culture, OpenTable
  • Panelist Shannon Eis, VP Corporate Communications, Yelp
  • Panelist Nandini Ramani, VP Engineering, Twitter
  • Panelist Gwen Tillman, Head of People Development, AppDynamics

Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand

April 10, 2016 by

AprilPanel.jpg

FountainBlue’s April 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand.  We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives who so graciously shared their wisdom and experience on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand. Below is their collective advice and recommendations.

  • Know yourself – who you are, what you like, what your values are and find work and personal pursuits which are in alignment with same.
  • Do well at what you choose to do and communicate your brand based on what you do well.
  • With that said, intentionally decide what you will do, and only do what is in alignment with who you are, what you stand for, what you want to accomplish in life and work.
  • Do regular assessments to make sure that you’re in alignment, so that you don’t keep doing things that aren’t important to you, even if you do them well!
  • Know how you’d like to be perceived and how you actually are perceived with tools like 360s. Figure out how to close the gap between desired and actual perception.
  • Be curious when something doesn’t seem to feel or fit well and find a fix to get back in alignment.
  • Having a network of trusted others who are invested in your success will help you stay grounded in this regard.
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone – embrace those continuous learning opportunities and learn from your mistakes. Applying your transferable skills in new ways will help you stretch and grow yourself and your brand.
  • Doing things well and right is almost always good, but treating people well and right is always the right thing. People will remember how you made them feel more and longer than whether you were the one who got it right.
  • Develop your emotional intelligence so that you can better handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically as it will help your brand.
  • How you got here isn’t necessarily what will bring you to the next level. In other words, checking off boxes of achievements, from tackling projects and writing programs to getting your MBA and completing integrations, may not be sufficient to get that promotion or that juicy new project. Bringing out your authentic self, investing in people, and developing your soft skills will help you leave people better off, will help you be perceived and considered as a better leader.
  • Develop a reputation for being trustworthy, especially when a company is going through a lot of change.
  • To intentionally build your brand in the industry, gain expertise and perform well, then go beyond your own company. Publish and present papers, participate in panel discussions, volunteer, stand up for causes you care about, all in alignment with the bigger message you’d like to communicate.

Resources:

  • Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goldman
  • “Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than IQ or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work . . . IQ is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.” Warren Bennis
  • The Complete Guide to Running 360 Reviews by Christian Vanek 

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FountainBlue’s April 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Sandisk and our panelists!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Deepika Bajaj, Head of Marketing and Growth, Redlink Inc.
  • Panelist Hillary Barnhart, Senior Director, Business Operations, Applied Materials
  • Panelist Amy Rubin Friel, Head of Marketing and Product Management, Exciting New Stealth Business, Nokia Technologies
  • Panelist Michelle Ravn Appelqvist, Senior Director – Sales, Marketing, Product & Technology Legal, SanDisk Corporation

IT Trends and Predictions

April 1, 2016 by

Information Technology
FountainBlue’s April 1 VIP roundtable was on the topic of IT Trends and Predictions! Below are notes from the conversation.

With the decades of advances in technology – from consumer to enterprise solutions, from infrastructure and network set-up to databases and big data, from networks to cloud, from mobile apps to IoT solutions, we’re continuing to push the technology development and adoption angle. 

With that said, the obstacles to adoption are not necessarily the effectiveness and impact of the technology solutions themselves, but more process, people, access, and operational challenges. There may be traditionally slow-moving industries, companies or countries who are resistant to change, and afraid that new technologies will create more problems than they can solve. There may be operational, technology and cultural hurdles which make the adoption of IT solutions more problematic – from the difficulty of integrating with legacy systems to the difficulty of integrating established processes, to the change-resistant mind-set of leaders and staff who are so used to doing it the-way-it’s-always-been done and those who are fearful of the implications of technology adoption and the resultant change.

The challenge then is a communication and management issue – how do you articulate the value proposition to teams/ companies/partners/customers and other stakeholders so that we can all reap the rewards? Suggested strategies are below:

  • As IT leaders, pivot away from the internal/supply-chain perspective and more into the customer point of view. Understand what the customers are looking for and develop customized solutions based on their requirements. 
  • Thinking about IT solutions as case studies for industries and customers will help IT leaders and companies understand and deliver on their value-add. 
  • Think about the technology and the data as secondary to the needs and requests of your stakeholders. Frame IT and big data solutions as ‘real-world’ problems.
  • Consider how your IT solution fits within the overall ecosystem and create partnerships and alliances based on what would add the best end-to-end value for the customer.
  • Strategically and plan-fully approach integrations so that they complement current offerings and meet and anticipate the needs of current and expected customers. Make sure that the leadership team and staff on both sides of M&As are/would be receptive to an integration and have the skills to do so effectively and efficiently.

Thoughts on trends and opportunities are highlighted below.

  • There are huge opportunities around the Internet of Everything (not just things) which goes far beyond the data and beyond things and focuses on outcomes.
  • Adapting technologies and processes for existing solutions to solve current problems creates opportunities for leaders to serve new customers and markets. 
  • Leveraging existing technologies to save the waste will provide opportunities for many, and has the potential to transform industries.
  • There are huge opportunities as there will be an amplified proliferation of sensors, including Edge-of-the-Network low-cost sensors, leveraging existing technologies including BlueTooth, radio, power lines. 
  • All these sensors will continue to generate huge volumes of data, which needs to be managed and processed real-time, perhaps leveraging machine learning rather than traditional formulaic calculations. Opportunities here are immense.
  • 3D imaging and printing solutions open up a real opportunity in many industries – from customized tailoring to customized medical treatments, from rapid prototyping to construction.
  • Many industries, most notably financial services are open to sophisticated, real-time, security-oriented IT solutions personalized to the needs of their customers.
  • Healthcare is ripe for change. There are opportunities around infrastructure, from security to hospital management, around big data and analytics, from wearables to disease management, around diagnostics with imaging supporting everything from radiology to pathology for example.
  • Independent of industry, IT solutions generally include real-world, consumer-facing technologies from sensors to apps to ingestibles, cloud infrastructure to support the gathering and reporting of the data generated, analytics and reports which may trigger decisions and actions, aggregated reports based on volumes of users, etc., 
  • With that said, there will be standardization and specialization as we reach critical mass for solutions in each industry, for each problem, so there are opportunities for companies to support other companies in serving the customer – much like what IBM’s Watson is doing for the analytics side of cancer research or what RuntimeIO does to support the back-end collection of data. 

Resources, information and studies  

Please join us in thanking execs present at the roundtable as well as our gracious hosts at Dell.

Agility: The Key to a Successful Career!

March 11, 2016 by

FountainBlue’s March 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Agility: The Key to a Successful Career!

March11Panelists

We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives who so graciously shared their wisdom and experience on the topic of career agility. They had many things in common:

  • Their self-awareness helped them to contemplate what they are doing professionally and their proactiveness helped them to forge a new path when it was time to do so.
  • Their courage, curiosity and burning desire to grow and evolve drove them to become increasingly better at what they do, and to diversify into new areas of need to companies and their customers.
  • They made false steps on occasion, and always learned from their experiences, without regrets.
  • They brought their learnings and perspectives into a new and richer role which was more right for them.
  • They ever focused on developing relationships with the broad spectrum of stakeholders around each role.
  • They worked and grew their brand as competent tech leaders who knew how to solve important problems in collaboration with others.

Below is their advice on how to make career-agile choices.

  • Know what you’re good at and what you want to do, as well as what you want to be known for.
  • Navigate the discrepancy between who you want to be and how you are perceived.
  • Develop relationships with all stakeholders and be in constant communication with those around you.
  • Incremental projects for the right team and leader may need to a larger, longer-term commitment.
  • Choose COOL work, COOL people, COOL company – as you see it. (It may not be just right for others for example.)
  • Choose to be with positive and supportive people who bring out the best in you.
  • With that said, also surround yourself with people who are not like you, but could complement you.
  • When starting something new, be curious, build relationships and understand expectations and stakeholders.
  • Accept your circumstances, change them, or leave. Don’t take the grouse path.
  • Choose to be learning-agile, hungry for knowledge and proactively plan your personal and professional development path.
  • Consider the opportunities which present themselves to you even if you don’t feel quite prepared for them, for you will learn as you go.

The bottom line is GO FOR IT, Don’t Settle. Contemplate what may be blocking you for being more than you are now, more even than you thought you could be. Embrace the learning opportunities which may appear as a result.

Resources:

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Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at eBay and our panelists:

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant 
  • Panelist Serpil Bayraktar, Principal Engineer, Cisco Systems 
  • Panelist Sondra Bollar, Senior Director of Software Development and Release Management in the Oracle Public Cloud, Oracle

  • Panelist Sarah Brubacher McDonald, Senior Director B2C Engagement, eBay 
  • Panelist Laura DeBacker, Senior Director, Leadership and Talent Development, Synaptics
  • Panelist SK Lau, Product Line Engineering Operations, Texas Instruments 

Strategies for Serving a More Demanding, More Diversified Customer Base

March 4, 2016 by

The Customer Service Target Market Support Assistance ConceptFountainBlue’s March 4 VIP roundtable on the topic of Strategies for Serving a More Demanding, More Diversified Customer Base! Below are notes from the conversation.

  • Leaders from across industries, roles and sectors are impacted by a more empowered and informed customer base, and responding in many different ways. 
  • The pace of change has escalated, and the demands of the customers are elevated, which impacts the products and services offered and the processes and communications necessary to ensure smooth delivery and scale of growth and response.
  • Hardware will continue to get commoditized, and the value will be on the software and services side of the equation. 
  • Customers are becoming progressively more empowered because of their access to information, the immediacy of access to information, the wide and broad availability of mobile devices, the social online networks, etc., Hence we are evolving from an age of information to an age of the customer, and leaders and companies who acknowledge and work with this trend will be more likely to benefit from it.
  • Digitizing front end functions has gotten more standardized, but there’s still a great need to digitize the middle and back end processes, especially for non-tech industries. We need to support customers in being more agile, more flexible, and more scalable. See CBInsights March 3, 2016 report on digitization opportunities for start-ups.  DigitizationOpportunity.pngCBI Digitization Opportunities, March 3, 2016

Below is advice on how to better serve a demanding customer base.

  • Look at the data and focus on not just what the loudest customers are saying, but what the suffering majority are saying or not saying.
  • In this Age of the Customer, know what is nice-to-have, and what they need-to-have. It’s easier to sell one than the other.
  • When customers are deciding whether to engage, they are considering is it easier and cheaper to solve the problem or live with the problem, so plan your offerings and pricing accordingly.
  • The consumer is demanding quality products and services which area tailored to their needs. These customers are also in general more mindful of the earth and humanity, so organic and sustainable products and processes will be favored progressively more.
  • Technologists need to work hand-in-hand with experts in non-technical fields in collaboration to meet the personalized needs of the consumer.
  • Whereas before, business units and teams might have been isolated and siloed in working with customers, a more collaborative, coordinated communication and strategy is now necessary to better understand the current and future needs of the customer.
  • There’s a trend toward selling to business unit managers and users more, even if the product is for an extremely technical audience. In other words, the user may not be the decision-maker, and the sales person needs to talk to both the decision-maker and the user to complete a sale.
  • Data will remain important, of course. Be the type of leader who can translate what the data is saying to create a strategy and plan on how to better serve customers, better expand offerings.
  • We will continue to progress toward pay-as-you-go functionality for a wide range of functions. Communicating clearly to customers and walking them through the adoption curve will help them help themselves in maintaining, supporting and tailoring their own solutions. 

Below are some predictions for opportunities ahead.

  • There’s a push pull between the need for security, access and privacy, and there’s an opportunity for organizations to provide innovative solutions for a broad and wide audience in this space.
  • There will be a continued trend toward ‘freemium’ services as the new normal.
  • Interactive solutions which allow customers to learn by doing through simulations provides a huge opportunity to train and educate workers.
  • There will be a trend toward more collaborative, consultative selling by experienced enterprise professionals working with engaged customers to build and iterate use cases.
  • There will be a trend toward paying customers for their aggregated usage data.

Recommended Resources:

  • Pretotype Labs is a PDF ebook which helps entrepreneurs and execs really understand and focus on what the customers want http://www.pretotypelabs.com
  • AYTM (Ask Your Target Market http://www.aytm.com) allows entrepreneurs and execs to send tailored surveys to specific target audiences for small amounts of money.

Please join us in thanking our execs for their participation in our roundtable discussion and to our gracious hosts at Verifone. If you are a tech VP and interested in joining future VIP roundtables, e-mail us at info@fountainblue.biz.

Thoughts on the Future of Work

March 1, 2016 by

FutureOfWorkThere’s  been so much change in the way companies, leaders and businesses work with each other and together, so it’s difficult to plan your future, whether you’re new to the workforce, returning to the workforce or planning how to remain gainfully employed in later years. Here are my thoughts on the type of work that’s available and how to embrace these opportunities and and prepare for the challenges to come.

  1. The tech-philic worker will be favored, and those who reject or deny this fact will be much less employable. Technology will help workers to gather and interpret data and information so that they can be more productive and better serve the customer, both of which are critical to the performance of any company.
  2. The learning-agile worker will be favored. Those who are resistant to learning new ways of doing things will be left behind, especially as automation will replace the need of workers-who-perform-repetitive-tasks.
  3. The communicative worker will more likely succeed as it would be easier for them to work with all the internal and external stakeholders involved in any job – from colleague to teammate, from partner to customer.
  4. The patient, helpful, service-oriented worker will be better positioned to serve demanding customers. There will always be jobs for people who know how to make even the pickiest of customers happy.
  5. Collaboration between people and companies will more likely succeed. Leaders will be those who can envision the benefits of collaborating across roles, companies and industries, and create and facilitate those successful partnerships.
  6. If you combine the 5 traits above, you will find a worker who may be able to tailor products and services to the needs of the customer. There will always be a role for people who can succeed in doing this well.
  7. Company leaders will be more focused on data and analytics, and there will be more meritocracy-based cultures and less politics.
  8. Along those same lines, productivity of people and product/service lines will be based more on data and information, and less on politics and agendas.
  9. Company leaders will help make it easy for a diverse population of workers to succeed – whether it’s making remote work possible or providing tech tools to support an aging or disabled or other non-standard worker.
  10. The bottom line is that companies and leaders will acknowledge that they are only as good as their people, and think, speak and act accordingly.

Those are my thoughts on the Future of Work. How will these things impact YOU? What can we do to support you in planfully remaining well employed? How can we support your company in attracting, developing and retaining the best and brightest?  Your comments are welcome.

Secrets for Leveling Up

February 17, 2016 by

LevelingUpThese are not really secrets, nor do they work for everyone, nor do I claim that below is an exhaustive list of strategies. However, the advice below in aggregate can help you rise to a higher level within your organization, if you have reasonable leaders in a growing and successful company.

  1. Decide that you want to level up and rise within your organization, and consistently strive to do so. So many people apply bursts of initiative and effort here and there, which only serves to confuse others – at times you’re seen as motivated and brilliant, and at other times, you fly under the radar. Consciously deciding to level up means bringing your A game every time, all the time.
  2. This is assuming that your A game is good, that you perform well by everyone’s measure, that you are successful working on a diverse range of projects and a wide range of responsibilities, partners and staff.
  3. Clearly communicate your role in the success of projects, without taking credit for the work that others have done.
  4. Watch for people who take the credit for the work that you do and strategize on how to fix that directly or indirectly. In the wort case, the leaders and management will never give you the credit, role, resources, recognition and responsibility  you deserve, so if you’re deciding to level up, you are in the wrong company.
  5. There are more opportunities in companies that are doing well in growing markets of course. However, there are also many opportunities to help stagnating companies in declining markets make a pivot toward a more profitable product, service or market. The key is to understand the needs of the customer in your market and adjacent markets.
  6. But knowing the needs of the customers and the trends in the market is not enough. You need to know how your company can shift its products and offerings to better serve that customer.
  7. And knowing that isn’t enough either. You have to convince key stakeholders throughout the organization about this strategy and collaborate with all stakeholders with the objective of better serving the customer.
  8. Succeeding in the above will change your relationships with many people. Most will be surprised to see a new side of you. Some will not like it, and try to play games and revert the relationship to the way it used to be. Get the support you need to be strong and purposeful. Know who your friends are, and don’t trust those who are only pretending to be your friend.
  9. Doing the above well means that you will have a larger profile, a broader and deeper network, as well as more credibility, responsibility and resources. You may choose to stop ascending if the responsibilities, pressure and stress are too much, if it’s not what you want or need after all. If you decide to do that, make sure it’s the right choice for you. It would be hard to change your mind later and try again to level up, for there will be those who remember when you last tried to do so. But don’t judge yourself if you decide *not* to ‘swim with the sharks’. It’s definitely not for everyone!
  10. But if you do decide to continue leveling up, make sure that you’re emotionally, mentally, psychologically and physically up to that level of exposure and pressure, and get the support you need to stay fresh, centered and strong.

Best wishes on your journey up the corporate escalator. We welcome your comments on how *you* would level-up.


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