Archive for January, 2015

Why Do I Coach?

January 26, 2015

Executive CoachingI’ve always been the go-to person to resolve conflicts, to answer questions, to connect resources and people. Touching others and helping them see and live life from a broader perspective has always driven me, whether I was an elementary school teacher, a start-up staffer, an adviser, coach or part of the management team at a nonprofit or tech company.

So when people ask me ‘why do I coach’, I have to really think about it – it has been a part of my modus operandi since first memory. But a good question deserves a reasonable response. And I’m also leveraging the thoughts of some of my heroes to make my point.

  1. Connecting a leader with his values has rich rewards for all.
  • Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost. John Quincy Adams
  • The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value. Stephen R. Covey
  • Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker
  • The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing. Albert Einstein
  • Those who stand for nothing fall for anything. Alexander Hamilton
  • Three Rules of Life … 1. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. 2. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. 3. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Steve Jobs
  • We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right. Martin Luther King
  • Knowledge will give you power, but character (will give you) respect. Bruce Lee
  • Integrity is doing the right thing even if nobody is watching. C. S. Lewis
  • Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be. Socrates
  • Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. John Wooden
  1. Opening hearts and minds reveals possibilities for the direct recipient and for all those they touch.
  • My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. Maya Angelou
  • In the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. It’s impossible to have a meaningful life without meaningful work, done with people we love doing it with. Jim Collins
  • Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition. Abraham Lincoln
  • Technology and social media have brought power back to the people. Mark McKinnon
  • From the streets of Cairo and the Arab Spring, to Occupy Wall Street, from the busy political calendar to the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan, social media was not only sharing the news but driving it. Dan Rather
  1. Helping someone elevate from management to leadership raises the waters for all.
  • If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. John Quincy Adams
  • Leaders are people who believe so passionately that they can seduce other people into sharing their dream. Warren G. Bennis
  • You cannot get through a single day without having some impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. Jane Goodall
  • The day people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. Colin Powell
  • To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart. Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the ONLY thing. Albert Schweitzer
  • A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. Lao Tzu
  1. Helping people align thinking, speaking and acting provides a tangible shift of perspective and results.
  • There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Maya Angelou
  • The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. Amelia Earhart
  • First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Mahatma Gandhi
  • Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow. Chinese proverb
  1. Teaching others how to ask the right questions releases the potential within and around them.
  • The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life. Confucius
  • Leadership begins by asking how you can make things better. Jeffrey Fry
  • The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions. Anthony Jay
  • The best leaders are the best note takers, best askers and best learners. They are shameless thieves. Tom Peters
  1. Being the mirror for others helps others see themselves for their possibilities rather than their limitations.
  • The psychic task which a person can and must set for himself is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity. Erich Fromm
  • The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles. Mahatma Gandhi
  • Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. L.D. Marquet
  1. Understanding the past helps us forge a stronger present, a more promising future.
  • Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • For a tree to become tall, it must grow tough roots among the rocks. Friedrich Nietzche
  • Accountants are in the past, managers are in the present, and leaders are in the future. Paul Orfalea
  • What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise. Oscar Wilde
  • When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. Lao Tzu
  1. Learning from all those around you and sharing that wisdom and strength emboldens and empowers all.
  • I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
  • The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible -and achieve it, generation after generation. Pearl S Buck
  • Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. Henry Ford
  • If I could see further than others, it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants. Sir Isaac Newton
  1. Dreaming together of the future helps create a stronger, more tangible present.
  • Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. Maya Angelou
  • Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill
  • Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. General George S. Patton Jr.
  1. Releasing the magic in each of us inspires and connects all of us.
  • The great leaders are like the best conductors. They reach beyond the notes to the magic in the players. Blaine Lee
  • Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Wilfred Peterson

In the end, I conclude that to me, there is nobler act than to work with others to create a bigger, better world for us all.

For more information about Linda Holroyd and FountainBlue’s Head-Heart-Hands approach to executive coaching, visit 


In Search of Meritocracy

January 23, 2015


Don’t you hate it when bad things happen to good people, especially when good things are happening to bad people?

I’m the first to say that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are all relative things. Today’s victims may be tomorrow’s offenders and vice versa. And also that things are not always the way they appear, and things happen for a reason, etc.

However, as a coach, I hear about injustices all the time! Each time, I’m affronted and appalled at what people are doing to each other. And each time, I think about what could that person do about it, what could teams do about it, what could companies do about it, and if we all worked together, what could do all do together to tip the scales more toward meritocracy and away from political games.

With those thoughts in mind, and with the intent that we each do our small part in shaping what happens to us and those around us, here are my thoughts on what we could do about it.

  1. Intentionally not including someone who-should-be-in-a-group, in an e-mail, in an outing, in a meeting, etc., is a negative incentive or punishment and does not support a meritocracy. Instead, it’s far kinder and less work to opt for direct and transparent communication about why you or the group are leaving someone out, no matter how difficult the conversation. (And if there is no reason to intentionally leave someone out, examine why you and the group are doing so, and what the potential up-sides and down-sides are for doing so.)
  2. Not saying something directly to offenders, and rousing othersto pit against those-who-left-you-out (or whatever other wrong was done to you) is an unproductive use of time and energy. Have a direct conversation with offenders and seek to understand. (Seek help if you need it after you’ve tried the direct approach.)
  3. Intentionally withholding information and resourcesfrom others within the organization, even if they are from competing internal teams, is an unproductive use of time and resources. Find the win-win in working together collaboratively
  4. Intentionally mis-representing someone’s actions and wordsto their dis-credit, whatever the reason, is more a reflection on you than it is a reflection of them. Others will discover this quickly and be wary of all that you say and do.
  5. To do an about-face on a decisionbased on pressure from others (rather than on facts) is disloyal to the direction and people you first adopted *and* to the new direction and people you’re leaning toward. Make the right choice based on facts and merit and stick with it.
  6. There is no excuse for telling bold-faced lies. And using ‘data’ to back up the lies doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lie. You may win a battle here and there with these lies, but never the war. And the lies will catch up with you. Plus you have to live with yourself, regardless of whether they do.
  7. Purposely mis-understanding the intentof someone’s communication to their detriment or to your benefit is a form of a lie. See #5 above.
  8. Taking credit for someone else’s workis a form of a lie. See #5 above.
  9. Assigning or manipulating someone else to do the work and taking the credit for itis worse than #8 above.
  10. Pretending to be someone’s friend and taking advantage of the friendshipis a lie upon a lie. Need I say more?

I hope that this post helps each of us take steps in search of meritocracy within a business, no matter where we sit in the totem pole, no matter how we are directly or indirectly affected by the actions of others.

Something From Nothing

January 20, 2015

Something From NothingI live in Silicon Valley, where tech entrepreneurs rule. It’s a world where being smart and working hard are a given, and being creative and resourceful are regularly rewarded. And being able to make something from nothing sets you apart.

Although I’ve spent the last two decades working with tech start-ups as an employee, consultant, vendor and adviser, I started from humble beginnings. Born in Hong Kong, the second of four children, our family of 6 immigrated to San Francisco to stay with my aunt with $20 in our pockets and no job. Although I was only 5 at the time, I started learning about the value of friends and family, the rewards of hard work, the promise education provides, and that the opportunities are available for the hard-working, passionate and creative.

Today, I feel my parents beaming down on the four of us kids from above, proud that we are the educated, independent and good people that are we. In working with a wide range of tech leaders and companies over the past two decades, I’ve also learned a thing or two about creating Something From Nothing.

  1. The opportunities are there for those who can see ‘something’, when so many others don’t.
  2. That ‘something’ must be about what-the-customers-want, not about how sexy the technology is.
  3. Because we are emerging from an Age of Information to an Age of Personalization, technology will be a key part of creating individualized ‘somethings’ for the customer.
  4. Creating ‘something’ takes skill, persistence, creativity, flexibility, and so much more.
  5. Leaders at all levels must ever focus on building momentum, creating positive energy. Standing still, no matter how profitable, is choosing complacency, and others who are more mobile and flexible will achieve that edge.
  6. Choose people to work with who are ethical, talented, and hardworking – in that order.
  7. Choose customers, partners, investors and other stakeholders carefully. Communicate transparently, clearly and regularly to continue to build a win-win, long-term relationship with all.
  8. Your internal team must be working together to meet common goals. Dissenters, no matter how talented, are not worth the investment of time and money.
  9. No matter where you sit within the organization, know when and where you fit best, and know when you should move yourself from one place to another as the company grows. Know also how others fit within the organization and how that is impacting the organization. And if you see a misalignment, do something about it.
  10. Knowing what-you-do-for-whom may change with the times. Knowing what-technologies-work-today may not be the answer tomorrow. Knowing who’s the right customer/partner/investor/staff member/etc. today may not work for tomorrow. Being fluid and managing each of the situations above, and whatever else may arise, while maintaining relationships with all, will separate the winners from the wanna-bes.

Those are my thoughts based on my experience coaching executives and advising start-ups. What are yours?

How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times

January 17, 2015

JanPanelFountainBlue’s January 16 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of panelists to cover our work-life integration topic. They had different educational backgrounds, career paths, and family choices. They each lead from a different role, in a different tech company. Yet they also had much in common: 1) they chose to work in tech companies and rose to positions of influence within these companies; 2) they chose to complement their work life with a full calendar of responsibilities and commitments outside work, including family; 3) they made tough choices when they needed to; and 4) they freely and generously shared their stories and words of advice with us.

They told us collectively to:

Make the Right Career Choices

  1. Choose a job and role for which you have a passion and have skills to contribute.
  2. Work with managers and companies which would help you achieve your personal and professional objectives.

Continue to Grow

  1. Seize every opportunity to learn and grow. Be open to experiencing new things and new perspectives. But be realistic about managing the time and responsibilities to ensure that you can succeed if you take on *too* much.
  2. Manage life like a roller coaster – things go in waves, in ebbs and flows. Give a little here, take a little there, and choose to intentionally coast sometimes.
  3. Learn from your mentors, sponsors and others around you.
  4. Lower your standards and broaden your perspective if that would help better integrate work and life.
  5. Learn to ask for help. And be prepared to also help others. Above all, don’t judge yourself or others for needing help.
  6. Make and take the time for yourself, so that you can be more ‘present’ and ‘prepared’ for the other things of importance.
  7. Surround yourself with the network of people who will believe in you, be there for you, and accept you. Beware those who would judge you for the choices you make.

Get the Support You Need

  1. Enlist the help of others around you, especially for delegating the less important things.
  2. Clear and transparent communication between work, home, community, parent, and other parties will help you navigate a path to success, even when circumstances are difficult.
  3. Set clear boundaries and expectations on all sides, and live by those boundaries, while also remaining fluid about them as your priorities will evolve and change.
  4. Leverage technology to facilitate efficiency and communication and results.
  5. Leverage Employee Assistance Programs, and other corporate offerings which may help you navigate a particularly difficult time in your life.

The biggest takeaway is that we are not alone. Nobody has it all, all the time. But investing in yourself and getting support for all that you do will help you manage your work-life integration objectives.

Please join us in thanking our hosts at Dell and our speakers for FountainBlue’s January 16 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times:

  • Facilitator Jerri Barrett, Vice President of Outreach, SENS Research Foundation
  • Panelist Maryam Alexandrian – VP Global Sales, Channels & Field Ops, Dell Inc
  • Panelist Serpil Bayraktar, Principal Engineer, Chief Architect’s Office – Development, Cisco
  • Panelist Sondra Bollar, Software Development Director, Oracle
  • Panelist Niki Hall, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Polycom
  • Panelist Vijaya Voleti, Senior Engineering Manager, PayPal

Perception Trumps Reality

January 9, 2015


We all know that how-you’re-perceived is more important than who you are and what you do/what you’ve done. However, the raw pain and sense of betrayal of this injustice really eats at you when you’re again the victim of misperception. Take heart – here’s some advice on how to better align how-you’re-perceived and who-you’d-like-to-come-across!

  1. Know the delta between how others see you and how you’d like to be seen. It’s just the way of the world, and blame can’t be assigned on either side. Just work with what you have rather than objecting that it exists!
  2. Always focus on understanding the people involved, their motivations and the problem at hand. Knowing the lay-of-the-land will help you better understand the world view of others and how their world view impacts their perception of you.
  3. Understand the political landscape so you can build the relationships and messaging needed to better align perception and reality about your capabilities. Be flexible about who you like and whom you can work with. Question your own assumptions and conclusions about the people around you. Assume best intent of others, unless they prove otherwise to you – not just by what others say about them. These people don’t have to enter your inner circle, but it helps to build a broad range of professional connections to help align the perceptions with the facts.
  4. Make a proactive and ongoing investment in managing your brand, as that’s how others perceive you. People are going to have their perception about you anyway, so make it easy for them to see you as you’d like to be seen. Communicate proactively, transparently and regularly.
  5. Don’t let misalignments in perception slide. Not knowing what’s being said about you or not saying and doing something about it can be interpreted as tacit approval and weakness.
  6. Figure out who’s playing what political games and for what purpose. The key players of these games are probably impacting how you are perceived by others.
  7. Manage your own emotions and reactions, especially when you are a victim of political games. It’s not that your emotions are illogical or unwarranted, it’s that many people feel uncomfortable and helpless around others who are responding emotionally, and most people think that over-emotives can’t be competent.
  8. Do what you can to facilitate a more transparent, more trusting environment and culture one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time.
  9. Stuff happens to the best relationships, to the best people. Nurture true and deep relationships with good people and stand behind the people in your close network, even if circumstances are making them act out of character. Try to understand what they are going through and be as gracious and supportive and forgiving as you can be.
  10. Regardless of which seat you might have at the table, if you have one at all. In other words, see all problems as opportunities to lead. Turning negative energy and emotions into a positive course forward helps not just you but everyone around you. Are you resilient and courageous enough to see the opportunity in every disaster?

What are your thoughts? What will you do differently the next time?