Archive for June, 2013

Top Ten Reasons for Being Customer-Centric

June 27, 2013

World partnershipThe Age of Personalization is centered on the empowerment of the customer, and the drive for companies to deliver the customized products and services they demand, leveraging technology, communities, and operational processes. Being other-centric is an essential and fundamental trait for leaders at all levels as we all aspire to deliver what-the-customer-wants, the most necessary requirement for today’s successful companies and leaders.

Strategic Impact – Focusing on the needs of the customer will impact the overall direction of the organization.

1. Making a choice for what-customers-want will transform everything about the company, in a good way: from the way it communicates to the products and services they provide, from who they partner with to whom they serve.

2. Pivoting in this direction may be a small shift for some companies, and quite a large change for others. It is essential for companies that plan on taking a leadership role in an age of personalization.

3. Having the leadership team buy into this customer-centric model is as essential as ensuring that it flows throughout the organization.

Communication Impact – Communicating the customer focus will help facilitate richer, deeper and broader networks and communities.

4. Communicating a customer-centric direction will impact how others outside the company see you, from customers to partners to channels, and also impact how people within the company view the company for whom they work.

5. The brand and message about the company has so much more potential if the foundational philosophy is focused on the customer.

6. If the fundamental precept of a company is around the customer, it will be easier to shift communication messages and corporate direction, should there be a need for a strategic shift, led by the needs-of-the-customer/market.

Technology Impact – Consciously choosing other-centric thinking and leadership will help the company and teams deliver technology-based solutions to serve the needs of individual and niche customers.

7. Having a customer-centric focus will help internal teams deliver solutions tailored to the needs of the customer, defining excellence based on standards they set. The company mind set would be more about delivering what-the-customer-wants rather than developing a technology-that-anybody-would-want.

8. Developing technology-based solutions focused on the current and anticipated needs of the customer, in partnership with the customer will help create a clear picture of success, deliver to same, and continually adjust same.

Community Impact – Creating communities of customers will help companies hear the voice and understand the needs of their niche and individual customers and empower them to actively participate in the evolution of products and services and partnerships.

9. The more a company shows that it is customer-centric, the larger the customer community it will have, and the more engaged that community will become.

10. Facilitating a deep and broad partnership with communities of empowered customers will lead to greater and deeper relationships between a company and those it serves, which would directly and indirectly correlate to bottom line results.

In summary, active participation of empowered communities of customers will be the hallmark of success in the new way-of-doing-business.


The Flexibility Tightrope

June 27, 2013

Courage And Risk

Great leaders are values-based, have their own perspectives and experience, bring their own creativity and originality to the table, yet it’s becoming ever more important for today’s leaders to be open to other perspectives, to be flexible and adaptable. So how do you have it both ways, where you can assert yourself as a leader, yet remain open and flexible? Below are ten guidelines for doing so.

Be Values-Based as You Remain Flexible.

1. Great leaders know what their values are and think and act based on their moral compass. Although flexibility is important, it should never compromise a leader’s moral compass.

2. Consider the reputation of the person/people who are introducing an idea or thought or suggestion which is against your better judgment. Do he/she/they have an agenda or ulterior motive for their position? What are the implications of their motivations?

Park the Emotions.

3. Sometimes new ideas and new ways of doing something pushes our buttons, and we might respond negatively because of that. Making flexibility a business rather than an emotional choice would better ensure you’re doing what’s-best-for-the-company, and others within the company other than yourself.

4. Sometimes the people we’re working with can push our buttons, and we might be more reticent to reject ideas and suggestions because of it. Hard as it might be, try not to make it personal. Park your emotions and history and look at just the data – ‘what are the facts and data behind the idea and its likelihood of success’ is a more important question than ‘what did he/she/they do to me in the past and what could she/he/they do to me now’?

5. Sometimes the way something is requested pushes our buttons, and we’re less likely to be open to a suggestion because of that. Look beyond the communication method and focus on the idea. Also consider being more open to new forms of communication, particularly social media cutting edge communication methods, which may reflect not just the opinions of one, but the crowd-sourced opinions of many.

Consider the Request Itself, and Its Best and Worst Case.

6. When you get beyond the values and emotions, consider the details of the request, and the potential up-sides and down-sides of maintaining the status quo, doing nothing. Sometimes the request for change doesn’t really impact anything or anybody significant, and it’s not worth standing against it, even if you’re uncomfortable with it. Conversely, sometimes a seemingly minor request for change has huge implications and should be blocked immediately, even if you wouldn’t conceptually object to it, and it doesn’t go against your values or push your buttons.

7. What is the thirty-second, thirty-minute, thirty-day, and thirty-year impact for being flexible about this request now?

8. What is the best case scenario should we go in this direction, and what is the worst case scenario?

Err Toward Flexibility, But Not Foolishly So.

9. Embrace the space just outside your comfort zone and err toward flexibility. Invite others around you to push the envelope and be brave and experimental, particularly when your flexibility invites new thinking and more collaboration.

10. With that said, good leaders know how to walk that balance, inviting ways to be flexible and ideas for doing new things, but the judgment to know when to stick with what’s already working, and to work with people who are honest, trustworthy and competent, with a pure agenda and a great track record.

The bottom line is that staying on the flexibility tightrope, involves continuous filtering of ideas, thoughts, people, strategies and execution. It is a journey for leaders at all levels.

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

Millennials In Our Midst

June 17, 2013



FountainBlue’s June 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Millennials in Our Midst. 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 panel has a breadth of experience working with the connected generation – as managers, as recruiters, as trainers, as colleagues, as reverse mentors, as advocates. From their various approaches and perspectives, they are working toward highlighting the magic of this generation, breaking down generational gaps, particularly around communication and stereotypes, sometimes in a structured way, working in alignment senior management and leadership, and sometimes in an ad-hoc way, impacting the culture, openness, and receptivity on all sides. They believe in these fundamental truths about this connected generation:

  1. The integration of this youngest generation in today’s workplace, this ‘connected generation’, into the company is imperative as it has workforce benefits, customer benefits, and leads to greater diversity overall within and outside the company.
  2. The drive and intensity and productivity of the connected generation can be mis-interpreted as ‘entitled’, but managed well, these inherent qualities of millennials can lead to productive, collaborative and creative results and fresh, near ideas.
  3. The desire of this connected generation to make an impact provides positive stimulation to the workforce in general, and raises the bar for all to find meaningful work.
  4. The education of managers about millennials and their preferred methods of doing work and communicating, particularly the need for regular feedback and check-ins, their affiliation with technology, and their phenomenal productivity, will help managers work and communicate more successfully with the millennials on their teams, and adjusts many perceptions these managers may have about the millennials on their team.
  5. Conversely, helping millennials to understand the needs and perspectives of executive leaders and managers, and communicating their desires in the context of tasks and projects to be done will greatly impact the probability of success for these projects, programs and tasks.
  6. Welcoming their input and ideas will likely lead to more creativity, more collaboration, and more adaptation of solutions.
  7. Millennials would prefer getting regular positive and constructive feedback, in a format they feel most comfortable, whether it’s face-to-face, via e-mail or text, etc.
  8. The connected generation is committed to continuous learning, and constantly stretch themselves in new ways.
  9. They do not feel a sense of entitlement that others accuse them of having. Rather, they want to earn promotion earn the respect of others, doing meaningful work and contributing greatly to a cause or project/product.

10. Titles and money play a long second place to worthwhile work which helps them grow, expand, connect and contribute.

Below is advice provided by our panel on how to work with millennials:

  1. Leverage the magic of the millennials to benefit themselves, their teams and the organization overall
    1. Collaborative
    2. Communicative
    3. Techno-philic
    4. Creative
    5. Resourceful
    6. Connected (with communities of others and to each other)
    7. Productive
  2. Ask for their input on how to reach global customers who are their age, using the latest mobile solutions, for example
  3. If you as a manager feel threatened or frustrated by millennials, consider that:
    1. They are more likely to seek self-improvement than the next rung on the corporate ladder;
    2. Their productivity is more an indication of their desire to perform rather than their desire to show up others;
    3. Their desire to do something in a different way is less likely a critique of what-worked-before, and more likely a desire to improve processes and communications and scalability so that all can benefit;
    4. Many embrace risk and view failure as a lesson learned;
    5. Their requests for continual feedback is not about lacking confidence and needing approval, but more about ensuring that they are in synch with you and others.
  4. Communicate with them using tools they feel comfortable using, including social media tools.
  5. Ask for their input on how a solution could be solved, starting with a blank slate.
  6. Give them flexibility about how and when things get done, and let them choose to do things on the side as well.
  7. This generation is wired to play outside the rules AND add value to their team and organization.
  8. Millennials are great for adding an intuitive interface and a human touch to technology – the pleases and thank yous and apologies and status reports added to current solutions will improve communications from and affinity to an organization.
  9. Proactively coach them to find their best fit, leveraging their skills, talents and passions, interwoven with the needs of the company and market overall.

10. Get their input on how to push the technology envelope and market opportunities in these and other emerging areas:

  1. Video collaboration (they grew up with YouTube)
  2. Mobility (they are inseparable from their phones and know what they want from their phones)
  3. Social Media (their online community means so much to them)
  4. User experience (they want to integrate all of the above)
  5. Crowd-sourcing (let the customer speak and define success)
  6. Real-world adaptations of technology (think Google Glass and beyond)

In conclusion, our panel made it crystal clear that the millennials in the workplace are that connected generation that can benefit any organization in a host of ways. They are working with other generations to transform the workplace, indeed, how business works, for many generations to come.



Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s June 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Millennials in Our Midst:

Facilitator Pat Cross, Consultant, Trainer, and Co-Founder of

Panelist Joanna Bloor, VP of Sales Operations, Pandora

Panelist Monique LeFors Edmondson, Manager, IT, Cisco

Panelist Jen Lamorena, Sr. Manager of University Programs and Youth Innovation, eBay

Panelist Julia McConaughy, Director, Channel Operations, Aruba

Panelist Ilene Rafii, Virtual Systems Engineer, Cisco

Please join us also thanking our gracious hosts at Aruba.