Archive for May, 2013

Top Ten Reasons for Choosing Collaborations

May 29, 2013

Collaboration (2)In an age where personalization rules and business moves at the speed of light, companies and leaders who choose the collaboration option give themselves a slight edge over other companies.

Strategic Impact – The focus on collaboration will have a strategic impact on both the participants as well as the whole ecosystem.

1. To facilitate strategic collaborations, consider an ecosystem approach engaging complementary partners. This would involve not just understanding the industry, technologies and trends, but also the key players and needs of the customers.
2. Having this inter-related ecosystem would help each partner better anticipate challenges and needs for themselves, the other players in the ecosystem, and their clients and partners as well as the technology and market overall.

Communication Impact – Choosing collaborative approaches benefit the communication needs of individuals, their organizations and the group as a whole.

3. Electing to participate in collaborative measures, when done strategically can help expand the brand and reach of each participating party.

4. Strategic collaborations between complementary parties can help each successfully expand into new markets and geographies.

5. Strategically collaborating with others can help each entity crystallize their value-add within the overall needs of their niche customer base, while also supporting the prospecting/business development efforts of each party.

Technology Impact – Choosing collaboration can help you and your company explore synergistic opportunities in adjacent markets.

6. Successful collaborations between parties can invite technological synergies between companies, between solutions, and facilitate cross-over thinking which may stimulate creativity and new ways of thinking for technical and all staff.

7. Successfully done, companies can collaborate to adapt existing, proven solutions to solve new and different problems, again stretching the thinking and approach of each participating party.

8. When two parties collaborate in solving a problem breakthrough innovations may take place, leveraging the successes and approaches of both parties.

Community Impact – Choosing collaborations for short-term projects and objectives can help grow a larger community and facilitate ongoing collaborations, communications and synergies.

9. Going beyond individual collaborative opportunities and extending to an ongoing community will in turn help attract more influence and participation from the right complement of players, to serve the longer-term needs of a vibrant, inter-connected community.

10. The richness and abilities of the community will lead to a stronger set of pooled resources and best practices, stronger connections and relationships, and generally great value-add for all.

E-mail us with your thoughts and stories on how choosing collaboration has amplify your strategic, communication, technology and community impact.


Thoughts on Managing the Top Ten Types of Conflicts

May 29, 2013

ConflictConflict: it’s a reality of life-working-with-others, and generally healthy for people and organizations interested in stretching and growing. But there are conflicts which are positive and productive, and conflicts which are unproductive, and conflicts that may not be resolved. You can learn from the conflicts you have with others – about yourself, and your company, about others, about your fit with your company and with others. The top ten types of conflict patterns we see are below.

Conflicts of Reality are all centered on how we gather, see and use data (or not) to proactively make choices.

1. Data is not considered

The most effective managers and leaders understand not just the bigger picture of the decisions they make, but also the facts, logic and data behind a decision – the reality of the circumstances described in measurable, quantifiable terms. If the data is not considered, and two parties are in conflict, then factors such as politics, favoritism, nepotism, and other non-merit based factors will determine which way a conflict gets resolved.

2. Data is slanted in one direction

Data is just facts, and facts can be intentionally or unintentionally slanted. In evaluating the data referred to during a conflict, ensure that the data measures the right things, that you’re comparing apples-to-apples, that the people producing the data are ethical people without ulterior motives. Take also other measures to ensure that the data is pure, impartial and informative.

Or risk that the conflict would get resolved in the wrong direction, leaning on the mis-information of tainted, slanted data.

3. Emotions cloud the data

Sometimes the most stressful types of conflicts come when one party or both (all) parties are so emotionally charged that the facts, the data are ignored, disregarded or slanted. It’s difficult to resolve this type of conflict when there are deep, long-term relationships involved. The best thing to do is to separate the emotions from the facts, difficult as it might be, particularly if *you* are the person experiencing those deep emotions. Making the conversation about the data and information in front of you is the logical approach to resolving this type of conflict. And waiting until the emotions can be managed on all sides might be the most practical thing to do.

Accept that if the emotions run deep, there may be too much resistance to resolve the conflict. If the data and information aren’t considered in making a fact-based decision, it would be difficult to resolve a conflict as there’s a danger of agreeing to something illogical, nonsensical, unfair, and/or short-sighted.

Conflict of Goals conflicts center around the thinking and objectives of two differing parties, who have different priorities and realities.

4. Abundance vs. Scarcity Mentality

When resources are scarce, and the pressure is on, many people develop a scarcity mentality and think that others are jockeying for the budget, influence, relationships, etc. that they have. There are others in the same group or organization who naturally think more collaboratively, despite the immediate circumstances. Their mentality is that of abundance: the more we cooperate and share, the larger the resource pool is for all.

Conflict naturally occurs between people with these differing schools of thought. Those with a scarcity mentality might take offence to those from the abundance mentality and vice versa. Focusing everyone on how to work collaboratively, and how to cooperatively share tight resources will help to resolve immediate conflicts, and creating circumstances where resources aren’t as scarce, and collaboration is rewarded will help resolve these types of conflicts before they start.

5. Short term vs. long term goals

Sometimes you can have a conflict of two parties who are both right – with one party focusing on the short-term needs of the person/group/organization, and the other focusing on the longer term needs of same. In these cases, consider how you can have it both ways, addressing the greatest short-term and long-term needs. Fold the perspectives and objectives of the other party into the short-term and long-term plans for all. Invest in the relationship through transparent, direct communications and collaborative long-term and short-term strategies.

6. Individual vs. Group vs. Company

Sometimes two parties put their priorities behind single individuals, individual groups, or the company as a whole. Identifying who’s out for themselves as an individual, the total needs of the group, and the overall needs of the company can help resolve these types of conflicts.

In general, parties that put individuals/themselves first are far less likely to be doing the right thing for the group or company, by definition. Spelling out the objectives of the larger group or company may be all that’s needed to shift the goals of these people. The same goes for parties that are more group than company focused in their priorities.

Second Degree Conflicts arise when one party or the other represents the position of someone else, without necessarily reflecting their own perspectives and goals.

7. One representing many

Sometimes the person in conflict share the opinion and position of the person, group or organization he/she represents, but not necessarily all the nuances of why that particular position is taken. Working with his or her to fully understand and shift their position and helping them lobby those other parties would be necessary to resolve the conflict. Identifying whether this is the case, and the nuances of the goals and tactics will increase the likelihood of conflict resolution.

8. Masked representation

Sometimes the person in conflict is not representing his or her own perspective, but that of another person or group or organization, yet doesn’t directly and communicate these motivations transparently. Their behavior and goals may be puzzling; there may appear to be a missing piece. Discovering the deeper motivations of all parties would help identify whether this is happening to one or both parties, and may lead to conflict resolution.

A Conflict of Values is difficult to resolve, and agreeing to disagree may be the only option.

9. See differently about right and wrong

For cultural, moral and other reasons, sometimes two parties may disagree on what the right and wrong thing to do is. Sometimes it’s the circumstances that split two parties; sometimes they would disappear no matter the circumstances. But if there’s a fundamental disagreement about what ‘doing the right thing’ is, and sufficient measures have been taken to enlighten both parties on the others’ perspective, it’s time to agree to disagree and move on.

10. Different perspective on what respect is

How respect is shown to someone varies greatly between individuals and cultures. Sometimes behaviors one party might find innocuous is highly offensive to the other party. And sometimes there’s no getting over that perceived lack of respect. Identifying when this happened and why is your only chance toward a positive resolution.

The bottom line is that understanding why the conflict is occurring and the underlying motivations of both parties is a big step forward to resolving them. And communicating directly and transparently will help ferret out motivations and goals on both sides and identify a win-win resolution/the best course of action.

Bringing it back to *you*: What types of conflicts often characterize your relationships with specific people, and what does it say about what you’re doing now, and what new behavior patterns would be more productive for you?

If you’d like to hear specific stories about any of the conflicts above, or share one of your own, please e-mail us at

Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors

May 14, 2013

FountainBlue’s May 10 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives on our panel, and that our panelists shared their insights, suggestions and advice with poignant humor and candor. They speak from a broad range of perspectives, learnings, trainings and experience.

Our panelists have all been mentors, had mentors, trained mentors and participated in formal and informal mentoring programs. Their mentors have helped them to navigate their professional and personal journeys and have been especially helpful during crossroads – between roles, between companies. Sometimes are mentors, both male and female, have been from the same or different companies, the same and different roles and companies or industries. What they had in common as mentors are that the were admired and respected by the mentee, and were adopted by the mentor as someone they respect in turn, and shows great promise and potential.

Our panelists point out that coaches differ from mentors in that coaches focus on asking the right questions rather than providing the answers, whereas a mentor might do both. Unlike mentors, sponsors are generally executives who are higher up in an organization, in a position to advocate internally for their charge, so they are best positioned to help their charges advance to a new level within an organization and/or move to an adjacent role or division within a company. Sponsors may initially be mentors, and then evolve into sponsors as the relationship develops and the mentee proves him/herself.

Below are pearls of wisdom shared by our esteemed panelists.

  • Successful mentor-mentee relationships always focus on the relationship between the two, and a win-win benefit from the relationship. The relationship may evolve over time and the way you work together professionally may change as well – your mentor may become your consultant, your colleague, your boss, for example.
  • The mentee needs to have a clear view of what she/he needs help with from a mentor and why, plus a good idea about who could help them get from here to there. Understanding where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you want to go can help you develop a strategy for getting there, working with your mentor.
  • The mentee is responsible for his/her results, engaging sponsors, mentors, partners, peers, coaches, to figure out what the opportunities are, what is holding you back, and how to make things happen.
  • The best mentors are approachable, credible, leads by example, is a great role model, and is generous. Strategize on how to best position yourself as a promising mentee for this person, what your short-term and long-term objectives are for the relationship, and how mentoring you would be helpful to them.
  • The best mentees are curious, open, clear on objects, results-oriented, and willing to work hard, leveraging their strengths. Work with the mentor to establish objectives, ground rules and boundaries, and keep conversations confidential.
  • The best mentors know how to leverage their connections and resources to support their mentees in achieving their goals without compromising that confidentiality agreement.
  • Sometimes mentors bring in their experience, connections and perspectives to help mentees think through a professional or personal transition between roles, companies, divisions, etc.
  • Make candid and authentic feedback an integral part of any mentor-mentee relationship.
  • If someone takes an interest in you as a prospective mentee, he or she is complimenting you and you should understand the potential he or she sees in you. If she/he is not mentoring and supporting you in the way which is best helpful to you, inquire about why he/she is taking an interest in you, how you can support her/him in return, and share what would be most helpful to you in your development path.
  • Regardless of the mentoring program, formal and informal, peer or reverse or skip-level, ensure that both parties benefit from the trust-based relationship and that both understand the long-term and short-term goals and what success looks like – what you want more of, less of and why.

In conclusion, our panelists would agree that successful leaders are self-aware, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, are strategic, focused on executing on the bigger picture objectives, and collaborative, engaging the wider network of resources, including mentors to achieve win-win results.



FountainBlue would like to thank and acknowledge our speakers for our May 10 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors:

Facilitator Ann Tardy, Founder and CEO, LifeMoxie Mentoring

Panelist Monica Bajaj, Senior Engineering Manager, NetApp

Panelist Gina Ferguson, Director, Finance IIG, EMC

Panelist Catherine Moore, Board Advisor, Teamitt and ConnectBright, former Head of HR for Nokia Research Centers

Panelist Leila Pourhashemi, Director, Technology Business Operations at PayPal, an eBay company

Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at EMC.

Getting Your Company from Here to There

May 1, 2013

This month, our marketing blog will work in conjunction with our leadership blog with the same theme: Getting from Here to There. This marketing blog will focus on the company aspects of it: Getting Your Company From Here to There while our leadership blog speaks to Who Gets From Here to There. Below is advice to help companies get from-here-to-there, integrating vision with strategy and execution.


1.  Having a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is the inspiration and the purpose behind a company. Whether it’s a company just starting out, or one who needs to pivot from one market to another, this BHAG will address why you are in business – it is the big-picture view of what you do for whom and why.

2.  Your vision should include details about your product or service offerings and the niche audiences for each must be thoroughly understood.

3.  Everyone in the company must be aligned with the vision for the company, particularly those at the highest level.


4.  Your strategy should include specific information about your differentiators and value proposition, how your service or product offerings differ from what competitors are offering.

5.  The communication strategy about the vision, the strategic direction and execution successes of the company

6.  Strategically, you should also consider how to efficiently deliver the products and services in a sustainable and scalable way.

7.  Everyone in the company must be aligned with the strategy for the company, particularly those at the highest level.


8.  Consistently delivering excellence in execution will set you apart from everyone else. Every person involved with the organization must make a personal stand for excellence, and help ensure that as an individual, team and organization overall, excellence is delivered.

9.  Company leaders who aren’t confident that excellence will be delivered in every instance may be living on borrowed time.


10.  In the end, it’s about the leaders and companies who can do more than each individual piece: vision, strategy and execution, but also be able to integrate the three and weave back and forth between elements with ease.

Companies need to create momentum, preferably in a positive direction. The integration of a grand vision, a customer- and market- based strategy, and excellent execution will help great companies to get from-here-to-there. Company leaders who chose the status quo and embedded complacency, are headed for imminent extinction.

Who Gets from Here to There

May 1, 2013

Building-thought-bridgeWho Gets From Here to There

This month, our leadership blog will work in conjunction with our marketing blog with the same theme: Getting from Here to There. This leadership blog will focus more on the people aspects of it: Who Gets From Here to There, and the marketing blog will focus on the company aspects of it: Getting Your Company From Here to There.

The best leaders have a high level of self-awareness and embrace and understand their strengths and shortcomings. But they also understand the skills and talents of others around them, and are relied upon to accurately and quickly discern who on their team or in their network can help the team/product organization from here to there. Below are some guidelines to help make astute assessments about who can get from here to there.


1.  The first filter is always about the ethics and values of the people you’re working with. If someone does not fit within the cultural and moral expectations of a group overall, or doesn’t fit within the overarching direction defined by the group leaders, he or she will never get from here to there, despite the best efforts on everyone’s behalf.

2.  Even if the skills and passion are there, sometimes the fit-within-the-team is not. Team dynamics should be in alignment with the leaders expressed goals, and proactively managed to ensure successful execution at a team level, and personal and professional accomplishments at the individual level. And sometimes the best performers may not perform well even in the best teams.

Skills and Abilities

3.  A hallmark trait of a good manager is someone who hires and develops people with the skills and abilities to get the job done, and even to grow with the job. Each manager has his or her unique combination of quantitative and qualitative evaluation tools to select for those who can get the job done well the first time, and no effective manager would hire someone without the confidence that she/he is qualified to perform the job.

4.  Even if you are certain that the skills are present, hire for someone who is teachable and open to learning new approaches, technologies and processes. This is particularly true as technology changes, business model evolutions, and the way business is done keeps evolving and changing.

5.  But what if he or she is hiring someone with adjacent, but not direct experience in a specific role? In these instances, it is important to rely more heavily on qualitative evaluations, and the recommendations of trusted others. Consider also having a probation period or a consulting project prior to hiring someone full time into this role.

6.  And what if she or he is hiring for a new role, where there are few people with the background skills and abilities to perform the job well from day one? In these instances, consider prerequisite qualifications in terms of experience and training. Brainstorm with others about what technical, leadership and process skills would be good indicators of success in a newly defined role or area. Clearly define what success looks like.

Drive, Passion and Purpose

7.  Successful people have an intrinsic desire and drive to succeed. They approach projects with energy and are persistent and successful in achieving measurable goals. Watch out for those who are only seeking external rewards for specific tasks performed, particularly if you are not sure of the values they stand for.

8.  With that said, people express drive and passion in different ways. Just because someone does not appear as energetic as someone else doesn’t mean that the less passionate is less driven. Indeed, the focus should be on the results, not the fanfare and the noise.

9.  Beyond the skills and abilities and values, look also at the passion and fit between someone and the role he/she currently has.

10.  Providing stretch goals in alignment with her/his passion and purpose is one way to help ensure engagement and success.

It’s no easy task to decide for yourself who can get from here to there. But continually reviewing values, skills and passion will help you, as a leader, to get a high level view of the people who will take the team and organization forward.