Archive for November, 2015

A Note of Thanks

November 25, 2015

ThanksThere’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. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!


Measuring the Impact of Diversity

November 24, 2015

BeingDifferentI 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 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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?

The Business Case for Diversity

November 16, 2015

November13PanelistsFountainBlue’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

Ten Steps to Better Decision-Making

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4.  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.
  5.  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.
  6. Add 2-4 options that you are considering.
  7. 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.
  8. Add a new option that you were not considering, but could be an opportunity for you.
  9. 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?
  10. 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.,