November 25, 2015
There’s much to be thankful for this year. I originally sent this message on to those who have touched me for any one of the bullets below, but thought it might be a message that the larger community might also appreciate.
- Here’s to my own continued health and vitality, and that of those I love. It’s not until you’re sick that you appreciate the simpler things in life. It’s not until you witness the illnesses of the young, the feeble frailty and vulnerability of the old, the noble stoicism of the aging weekend warrior that you appreciate your own vigor and energy, and see fully all that life has to offer.
- A shout-out to the strangers who generously give their time and energy to lend a helping hand and later become a friend. Your altruism and generosity give me faith in the goodness of mankind.
- It’s a gift to witness the bravery and courage of those who raised the bar for themselves and insisted on making different choices, putting themselves first, and getting more of what’s rightfully theirs. You give us all hope for a better world.
- Thank you to those who have made me laugh at the folly of others, at the inconveniences of circumstances, and mostly at the way I nobly try to manage it. Yes, control is an illusion.
- For all those who gave me the resources, information and opportunity to lead, thank you so much for your faith in me, for your support of me. Life never goes as planned, but I’ve enjoyed every opportunity, every lesson and grew because you were there for me.
- To all those who have been part of our sports teams this year, your ongoing support, camaraderie, endurance, positive attitude and good hard work helped ensured the success of the team on and off the court.
- A grateful thanks to all the players and teammates from my daughter’s teams this year. The victories, losses, close-calls, connections on and off the court provide memories for a lifetime.
- To all those who joined me this year for a weekly game of mahjong, thank you for bringing camaraderie, fun, entertainment, distraction and support, but mostly for showing up and being there.
- A shout-out to all those who took the time to listen to me when I was down, and helped me see the riches at my feet, yet beyond my imagination. I am in your debt.
- To my family and closest friends who witnessed my trials and tribulations this year, I am who I am, where I am because of you.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!
November 24, 2015
I always thought that being different was a *good* thing, but we’ve all been conditioned to conform in various ways. There are many studies heralding the business advantages of diversity in the workplace, most notably Catalyst’s infographic listing 39 benefits of Diversity available at http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/diversity-matters. Below are suggestions on what to measure, to help leaders from across the organization ensure that diversity, a cornerstone of innovation, thrives within and throughout the organization.
- The most obvious thing to measure is the number of new-recruits. But measuring how these new recruits are different than current staff is also important. Consider diversity in gender, culture, orientation, age, background, and other measures as well.
- Another measure is a derivative of the above and often goes un-measured because of it. Measuring the quantity and variety of sources for new recruits helps ensure that a large range of recruits gets considered for employment.
- Some companies run programs to attract people of diverse backgrounds to an organization. Whether it’s an innovation competition, a scholarship program, or a community outreach campaign, these types of programs can successfully garner more awareness and more interest from the right people. Measuring the number and impact of corporate programs will also impact the number of job applications received.
- If we move on from attraction to retention and development measures, the first thing to consider is the process for identifying high-potentials. Who gets to decide who the high-potentials are? How many leaders are engaged in the process? What’s being measured when identifying these high-potentials? Rare is the organization that has a coordinated, concerted effort to even identify these high-potentials.
- Even those organizations who know who their high-potentials are may not have a plan for developing and retaining them! Measure how successful your organization is in developing and retaining people in general, and high-potentials in particular! How will you have a leadership pipeline if you don’t do this?
- It’s worth investing in the education of your people in general, and measuring how many of them attend classes and programs and certifications. Emphasize as well *who* gets selected to attend which program, favoring those identified as high-potential.
- A strong measure of success for any training and development program (as it is for any corporate initiative) is the engagement and commitment of senior leadership to the cause. Executive participation must go beyond the thoughts and words, but also into specific, committed and ongoing actions which provide funding and resources behind those words.
- Retention statistics are important, but look not just at the percentage of retention you have, but more carefully at who’s leaving. Attrition is part of the game when working in a fast-paced tech environment. Focus on and measure the retention of your best-performing high-potentials, even if that means that you might lose an overall volume of people on the team.
- If you do all the above well, then there should be more high-performing people with diverse backgrounds in the executive and C-suites. Of course you measure how many people there are of diverse backgrounds in those senior positions, but the problem comes when companies don’t have the diverse leadership they’re looking for and hire outside talent that might not be the right culture/social/program/tech fit rather than look at how to do all the steps above better.
- Of course it’s always about the bottom line, so measure:
- The number of technologies you’re offering successfully;
- Your expansion into new markets and opportunities;
- The amount of revenues generated;
- The number of new opportunities available;
- The depth and breadth of your partnerships and client base;
- All other corporate and cultural performance indicators.
And if it doesn’t add up, how could more diverse and varied leadership and talent make it right?
November 16, 2015
FountainBlue’s November 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series was on the topic of the Business Case for Diversity. Below are notes from the conversation.
We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives around leadership, innovation and diversity. But they had much in common:
- they were all exposed to people from many cultures, languages and backgrounds and recognized the importance of having diverse viewpoints and accepting people for their differences;
- they recognized and appreciated that they themselves are different, largely because their mothers helped them be confident in being original and respecting the differences in others;
- they embraced diversity as a business advantage; and
- they generously share their perspectives with their teams, with their company, with their community.
Collectively, our shared the following pearls of wisdom:
- Do accept and respect that others have expectations about where you should fit and what you should do, but be your own person despite what they expect of you.
- Respect that we are all different but equal, and all have something to share. These differences add more varied and diverse elements to work and life.
- Find your talent, find your voice and speak your mind, while encouraging and supporting others to do the same. This takes self-awareness, patience, reflection and is part of an ongoing inner journey.
- Know what you’re good at, accept who you are, and be passionate about what you do. With that said, STRETCH all of the above, don’t just complacently go through the motions.
- As one panelist puts it, if you are a tiger, be that mover and shaker, if you are an elephant, be that reliable beasts of burden who get the job done but don’t be a hippo who swaddle in mud and occasionally raises his head.
- Be strong, especially when it’s not easy to be different and un-accepted because of the differences. You are not just making a stand for yourself, but for others who are also different.
- Develop and curate your own moral compass so that you can strike that balance between who you are, who you want to become, how you are responding to others, how others are influencing you, what you think is the right thing to do, and how to achieve the best-for-all-results. An integral part of achieving this goal is to embrace the thinking and perspectives of people not-like-you.
- Take charge and reach for what you want to achieve in life and work, overcoming restrictions and barriers, collaborating and working with others.
- In order to take charge, you need to curate the influence and support of those in charge. See what motivates them, show them why embracing your perspective and that of others who are different would provide a business advantage. Speak in a language they understand and respect to earn your credibility.
- Consider that being overly-emotional might make some people uncomfortable and impact the message you would like to deliver, and how you are viewed. Manage your communication accordingly.
- Consider that many people might be influenced by what you wear. For example, wearing skirts and jewelry might limit how others perceive you and take that into account. You could overcome these perceptions with your results and your words, but understanding how you will be perceived and making the other party comfortable and open might make it easier for you to get your message across and focus on the results, rather than gender.
- Be patient with those who are judging you, restricting you, or trying to get you to conform. Understand the influences that have brought them to this state and work with them to embrace the value of thinking and doing things differently.
Below is advice for facilitating diversity within your organization.
- Communicate the importance of diversity and its impact on products, team and solutions.
- Help teams understand that they are on the same side, but may just perceive and respond differently.
- Show management the data behind the diversity initiatives implemented.
- Put the actions behind your words – encourage out-of-the-box thinking, hire diverse people on to your team, reward different perspectives, listen to those who see things differently, encourage people from different teams to participate, etc.,
In the end, we hope that the panelists and the event encourage all to better embrace diversity as an opportunity for you to rise and shine and find a better, deeper, more complete version of yourself and others around you.
Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at TI and our panelists for FountainBlue’s When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series, on the topic of the Business Case for Diversity:
Facilitator Camille Smith, Work In Progress Coaching
Panelist Monica S Bajaj, Senior Engineering Manager, NetApp
Panelist April Greene, HR Director, Juniper
Panelist SK Lau, Product Line Engineering Operations, Texas Instruments
Panelist Shobhana Viswanathan, Product Marketing, VMWare
November 4, 2015
Wouldn’t it be great if we could logically and methodically think through the most important decisions of our lives and feel confident that we are making the right choice for the right reason, without second-guessing ourselves, without looking back? In working with dozens of professionals at all levels, making decisions big and small, I’ve come up with ten simple steps to break down the decision-making process. I hope that you also find it helpful.
- Decide to decide. There’s nothing more crippling and stressful than to know that you have to make a decision, and yet aren’t doing it for whatever reason. No matter how high the stakes, how stressed out you are, how many factors are involved, the first step to resolving the problem is to decide to decide. The worst thing you can do is to procrastinate or delay or delegate or rationalize, or whatever-else-you’re-doing that’s not-deciding! (With that said, you may decide that no decision is necessary, or it’s not your decision to make, or that the decision doesn’t have to be made right now, and that’s ok too. Just let it go then.)
- Identify 5-10 criteria for making a decision. In complex decisions, there are so many factors to consider. Identifying each of these criteria will help you break down the pieces so that you can dissect and analyze in unemotional, methodical and rational ways.
- Decide how important each of these criteria are to you personally. Assign each criteria a percentage of importance and make sure that the sum of the percentages equal 100%. It’s important to understand how you personally weigh in on the importance of each criteria before looking at the individual options, before looking at what other people think about the importance of each criteria.
- Then consider *why* each criteria is important to you, and factor in how important each criteria is to other important people in your life. Adjust the percentages based on the reasoning behind your thinking and how important the criteria is for others in your life. Also consider the short-term and long-term importance of the criteria and adjust the percentages as necessary.
- Rank your criteria based on how important each is to you. Do a gut-check to make sure that your prioritized list correctly reflects your thinking. Adjust as necessary.
- Add 2-4 options that you are considering.
- Stack-rank how well each option does compared to the other options for the 3-5 most important criteria. Do a gut-check to make sure that the information is correct.
- Add a new option that you were not considering, but could be an opportunity for you.
- Use the chart to decide what to do. Consider questions such as: Which option looks best? Which option do you prefer? What do you need to negotiate to make your favorite option also the best option?
- Make a selection and move forward based on the many factors you’ve considered. Stand strong in your decision knowing the data and thinking behind that decision is solid. But also be prepared to re-think your choice if things change.
Best of luck with your decision-making! Let us know your best practice for making decisions and/or how this process helped you make a tough decision. We are also happy to share some thoughts about common decisions people make: job selection, car selection, college selection, candidate selection, etc.,
October 12, 2015
You can make more money on the next contract or role, you can do a better job on the next project, you can have better luck with the next relationship, but your one irreplaceable resource is time. So give it the respect it deserves and be strategic about what you want to accomplish with your time.
- It doesn’t always have to be about business or professional goals, but decide whether what you’re doing is for a business or professional result and allocate the appropriate amount of time to generate the results which you want or which are required of you.
- Start by asking why you want to do something, what you want/need to do to make it happen, then figure how you are going to do it and who you need to connect with to make it happen.
- Develop and nurture relationships that will support your goals. Avoid relationships which are time-sinks and energy-sucks. (With that said, you may have personal commitments to friends or family which are not ‘productive’ uses of your time, but they are commitments that should be honored, but be realistic about what you can do with the time spent with them.)
- Plan follow-up conversations proactively, preferably by the end of the meeting. Have clear assignments, homework and expectations for next steps and postpone a meeting if these things aren’t yet accomplished, to save everyone time.
- Be reliably and predictably on-time, to show that you respect other people’s time.
- Look for patterns of occurrences and behaviors which have made you rushed for time and figure out what you can change to increase the odds that you will reliably show up on-time and well prepared.
- Be honest with yourself on how well you’ve managed your time. Then tweak the plan so that your more efficiently use your time, and that of your client, partner, prospect, colleague, etc.
- Examine what happens if your professional goals are leading to more of a social outcome. Was it the right goal, the right contact? Did you do your homework beforehand? Did you manage expectations and conversation?
- Carefully manage relationships where your friends or your family are your clients and partners too. Know when you’re focusing on professional goals and when you’re just being social.
- Above all, take time for yourself, so that you’re fresh, energized and grounded and can appreciate the little things and see the bigger picture.
What are YOUR best practices for time management?
October 12, 2015
FountainBlue’s October 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Leading Innovation. Below are notes from the conversation.
We were fortunate to have such courageous and accomplished women on our panel, who come from many different educational levels, corporate and technical backgrounds, and frames of reference.
As women leading innovation in a variety of industries, technologies and roles, they provided a higher level picture of what it takes to bring something new into an organization, to change the status-quo/the way things are done, and to bring a disparate range of stakeholders to the same agenda. Their advice for moving the needle forward is summarized in the points below.
- Focus on the needs of the customer and the trends of the market. Technology’s role is as an enabler.
- With that said, it takes integration and management of the most flexible, scalable technologies in order to address the needs of the customer.
- So get the best people working with the most current technologies to ensure the viability, performance and scalability of the solution and learn to speak in a language they understand.
- Innovation must be blessed from the leaders within the organization, in both words and actions. Work with a company whose leaders walk their talk around innovation, and identify projects which lets you contribute to the company’s innovation edge, engaging a wide range of stakeholders.
- It’s never easy to embrace change and chaos and conflict, yet these are all inherent requirements for innovation. Successful innovation leaders effectively manage through the process, facilitating alignment towards common goals.
- Know first why you want to innovate, by understanding market trends and customer needs. Then know what your team and organization can do to best serve that need, and how that need is best delivered by whom, with measurable results.
- Take a long-term view on innovation. Be resilient and persistent enough to work through the ‘nos’ and the failures. Fail fast and fail forward, progressing new learnings and new and deeper relationships as you go.
- It’s a challenge to make old technology fit into our new needs, yet it’s fundamental to the success of organizations.
- Make it intuitive and easy for people to use powerful technologies, for the customers of the future make be broader, more demanding AND less tech-savvy.
- Carpe diem – seize the day. What’s blocking you from doing what you could possibly do is the lack of confidence that you will succeed the first time. Re-set your expectations – try with little incremental steps to enlarge your objectives, goals, role and contributions.
In the end, innovation is about leaders who think differently about how things are done. Leaders who focus on the needs of others and delivering scalable results, engaging a broad range of internal partners and stakeholders.
Please join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s October 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Women Leading Innovation and our gracious hosts at Aruba.
- Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO FountainBlue, Producer When She Speaks Series, Coach, Adviser and Consultant
- Panelist Jae Sook (Jun) Evans, VP Global Cloud Operations, Saba
- Panelist Sujatha Mandava, Senior Director, Aruba
- Panelist Adriane McFetridge, VP, Payment Software Services, Verifone
- Panelist Gayathri Radhakrishnan, Director Strategy & Corporate Development, Dell Software
- Panelist Shweta Saraf, SW Engineering Lead, Cisco
- Panelist Navrina Singh, Director of Product Management, Qualcomm, ImpaQt
September 17, 2015
One of the great fears holding back many high-potential women leaders is the fear that their greatest efforts are not enough, that they are the ‘Empress with no clothes’ and would be caught in faking competence. This fear holds back many from even making an effort, and the result is, of course, failure-through-lack-of-signing-up. In case you or someone you know may feel like one of the ‘Great Pretenders’, here are some tips to try, if you’re interested in overcoming this limitation.
- Fear not the fear, for that fear is what’s holding you back from succeeding.
- This is of course more easily said than done, so surround yourself with positive and supportive, good-energy people, and limit your time with people who are draining and questioning you (even if they think they are doing it for your own good).
- Assume that there will be failures small and big along the way, and embrace the learnings with every failure.
- Aim above your comfort zone, at least once in a while! Ask yourself ‘what’s the worse that could happen?’
- Let your logical, rational left-brain decide what’s good enough and tell the right-brain emotional side you *can* be good enough.
- Model your actions and behaviors based on those who have succeeded in what you’d like to do, and be unemotionally critical of who you’re measuring up.
- Secure mentors and supporters who see the promise in you, and would provide you with the feedback, contacts, resources and information you may need to succeed.
- There’s nothing wrong with the fake-it-until-you-make-it mindset. As long as you keep trying new things, learning new things, and delivering results.
- With that said, never inflate your abilities or experience but do communicate your track record, passion, and willingness to learn, while delivering incrementally positive results.
- Pay it forward – the more who succeed, the better for all!
The bottom line is that you should not see yourself as ‘A Great Pretender’, a hollow mask. See yourself for who you are, as it will help you be all that you can be!
September 1, 2015
A cow’s eyes are on the sides of their head, whereas a human’s eyes are in front, so naturally, a cow would have a different view of the world.As a human, consider viewing the world from the perspective of that other person, be that a difficult customer, a deviant coder, an aloof and disengaged boss, or a wayward partner. Indeed, adopting the point of view of someone not like you will help you and your company better serve customers in an Age of Personalization. Below are tips for adopting that other perspective.
- Pause the judgement and the emotions. It will make you more open-minded toward that other point of view.
- Try to *like* that other person, even if it’s difficult at first. Embracing viewpoints of people who are different than you will help keep you fluid and flexible.
- With that said, you don’t _have_ to like everyone and everything. But it’s important to get along.
- Be curious about why they have another perspective and why they think and act the way they do. It may help you think and act differently and more flexibly in other situations.
- Imagine if everyone else thought like this other person. How are _you_ the one a little off?
- Embrace every different point of view as a potential new learning, a potential new opportunity.
- Ask yourself how this new way of thinking helps you think differently about other things as well.
- Pay attention to your little life routines and do some of them backwards. Your actions may help you put your thoughts on its head – which could be a good thing.
- Honor the people who have touched you and helped you to think, speak and act differently – for they have helped you see and respond to the world in a different light.
- Remember that thinking differently about the same or a new problem is the heart of all innovation, so embrace every opportunity to think and act differently, and fold others into your work and life who could help you to do so.
May we all see the world a bit more from the cow’s point of view!
August 17, 2015
There are two kinds of people – those who believe in a life of abundance and those who believe in a life of scarcity. Men who open doors for women AND women who welcome these men into their networks, perspectives and career paths are of the first ilk – believing in a world of abundance.
If it follows that women who open doors to rooms of privilege themselves are looked upon as pushy, AND women who are escorted into rooms of privilege by men are looked upon with curiosity and respect, then we need to forge more partnerships between genders to facilitate leadership.
Below are some reasons and up-sides for men-who-open-doors.
- By rising above gender biases, teams, companies and industries can start focusing on embracing and encouraging leadership and results rather than gender (and other things we can’t control).
- The more women (and men) you escort into rooms of privilege, the higher the waters will rise, and the more boats will sail. This is good news for all involved.
- The more women feel empowered, the more likely they will be to empower others, which is also good for all involved.
- The more you are surrounded by people who don’t look-or-think-like you, the more perspectives and ideas will appear. And generally that’s good, for diversity matters whether you’re writing the code or running the business!
- In general, understanding and accepting people who are NOT like you helps you become more grounded and happier.
- It feels *good* to let deserving and open people into a whole new world – even if you don’t directly benefit immediately from doing so.
- Each door you open is a ‘thank-you’ to those who opened a door for *you* when you needed it. Pay it forward, perpetuate the virtuous cycle.
- Make it not about gender – create a cohesive, integrated, merit-based, collaborative team, for the good of all!
- People don’t leave their companies, they leave their managers. Give all your people the support they need to succeed so that they stay with you, and grow with the team.
- Be strategic about who you open the doors for – those who are smart, hard-working, passionate, and ethical. And be open to opening that door even if the other person doesn’t quite reach that bar.
To all those men who have opened the doors for me, I thank you and hope to continue to pay it forward. Be the kind of man who would open doors for others, because you can. Be the kind of woman who welcomes these kinds of men into their lives.