Archive for January, 2016

Choose a New Way

January 26, 2016

OldWayNewWayCan you feel that accelerated pace of business where you’re sitting right now? There’s going to be a tipping point where those in the lead will grow by leaps and bounds, and those fighting and resisting the inevitable change will be left in the dust. We certainly *are* at a nexus, because of all the changes in communications, infrastructure and technology that have come before us. I’ve worked with a wide range of both early stage and large established companies, and it’s my hope that this post will help more leaders and companies choose a new way of doing business.

  1. Choose to be customer-centric. Know and anticipate what your most desired customers want and don’t only deliver it, anticipate it before delivering it, exceeding even their high expectations. Gone are the days when we create a cool technology and tool, and customers have to figure out why they need it and how to use it!
  2. The internet of things is not just a buzz word, it’s about the technology embedded in real everyday things that will be an integral part of everyone’s lives. The leaders will be companies who can create compelling solutions which are easily used, managed and scaled, as well as secure and attractive for customers, whose lives will be easier and more comfortable because of these solutions.
  3. Expect that tech will reach all industries, no matter how mundane, everyday, disconnected, isolated, unromantic you once thought they were. From garbage to clothes, from drugs to books, from energy to food, from flooring to accessories, tech will touch it all, and customize it to the needs of the customer. The only questions are how, when, with whom. The leaders are the companies who can envision how non-tech can embrace the technology that will scale the growth for partner companies.
  4. Proactive management of data and processes will be an integral part of all successful solutions. Separating the noise from the critical data points, visualizing the trends from the volumes of information are critical to understanding what customers want and how to deliver it.
  5. Robust analytics, versatile security and cloud-based architectural planning to help ensure scalable growth and processing and optimize reliability and flexibility.
  6. Moving to mobile apps, integrated with web and cloud solutions is just responding to the needs and preferences of the customer.
  7. Making it easy for customers to communicate and connect with each other and the company will help company leaders keep their finger on the pulse, and empower advocates and ambassadors for the product and company.
  8. Separating what’s real and what’s vapor in terms of financials is just being honest with yourself and those who work with you and believe in you. Start with an honest assessment and real projections, and be strong enough to own up to discrepancies between actual and reported numbers. As Warren Buffet would say, ‘You know who’s been swimming without their shorts when the tide goes out’.
  9.  What I’m saying with all of the above is that we are in the Age of the Customer – and those who know that and live that and respond to that will be the companies and leaders who succeed.
  10. And lastly, what I’m saying is that it takes true leaders to respond to all of the above, and seize the opportunities in the new way business is done.

Your mileage probably varies! Please share your thoughts and perspectives. We hope that you choose and grow a company and leader adopting the New Way!

Choose This, Not That

January 26, 2016

Choose your wayIn this very competitive employee market, everyone is looking for that top talent that would best represent the company, best grow the business and best serve partners and customers. But most of us have experienced first-hand the folly and consequences of those bad-hires that have missed the mark – maybe not in a ‘bad’ way, but in a way that means lost opportunity, and lost time. Here are some rules of thumb I suggest, when you face two apparently equally-qualified candidates for that critical position.

  1. Passion vs. Efficiency. Choose the one who is more passionate about the role, the task and the business. Sometimes you might find someone more efficient than passionate, and that’s good too, but the passionate one will more likely have more fortitude, more perseverance and more patience for the long run.
  2. Education vs. Experience. Some companies and hiring managers look for the right degree from the right school. But I’m personally more impressed by how someone has applied that education in the work context, to produce tangible results. (And I’m personally *not* impressed with companies and pseudo-leaders who are snobbish about educational pedigree.)
  3. In-depth knowledge vs. Openness to learning.  It’s wonderful to meet someone who knows the ins and outs of technologies, processes and solutions, and even more wonderful if he or she is open to learning new ways of doing things. But if you had to choose one or the other, choose the one who is more open. For anyone who thinks that they know how things are done/should be done may not be able to shift with the speed of business, especially when you need to do it quickly!
  4. Process vs Agility. Of course you want someone who is efficient and puts processes in place so that she or he doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel at every turn. But you also want someone agile and nimble enough to flex with the needs of customers and markets. Ideally you need both, but if you had to choose, go with those who are agile and customer-minded, yet efficient and process-driven.
  5. In the box vs. Out of the box. When you’re in-the-box, you know the ins and outs of the business, the technologies, the people around you. Thinking and acting out-of-the-box is good, when done well, but it can also be disrupting and disconcerting for those around you, so of course you need a balance. If you have to choose, select the out-of-the-box thinker and doer who knows how to communicate the whys and whats before making others around them feel uncomfortable.
  6. Speak vs. Listen. Any great leader is also a great communicator. But most leaders don’t know that speaking with impact comes only after listening to those around you. So get the quiet candidates to speak their mind, and don’t assume that they would be too quiet and too complacent for the job. And teach her or him how to speak after listening.
  7. Thorough vs. Intuitive. If your thorough candidate follows the 80-20 rule, it’s all good. And if your intuitive candidate is basing intuition on data, that’s also all good. And if you have to choose one or the other, for most roles, the intuitive who understand the data is better. The exception is when a role needs to be extremely thorough, and every nuance of data and task is important, and much rides on the data and information available, go with the more thorough candidate.
  8. And vs Or. You have candidates who are very competitive and speak to their greatness in delivering specific results. And you have candidates who talk about the efforts of the team and how together the team is greater than individual members. This ‘and’ thinking is the kind of collaborative mind set which will better help your company, than the ‘or’ thinking that characterizes how someone is trying to sell herself or himself over someone else who is equally qualified for the role.
  9. Inclusive vs Selective. You will have candidates who have a track record for working with disparate teams and people, and those who have a track record for working with people just like them. Both are good, but if you had to choose, the one with experience working with diverse people would be more open to working with diverse teams, customers, technologies and requirements.
  10. Breadth vs. Depth. Although doing a deep-dive in any one technology, industry, company or market is also a very good thing, breadth in education, role, experience, company and industry will bring you a more well-rounded candidate.

These are my opinions based on what I’ve seen over 25 years in working with tech business experiencing much change. I’m sure that your mileage will vary, and I welcome your thoughts! But I also hope that my thoughts above will help you weigh which candidate would work better for you.

A Work-Life Balance that Works for Life – in SF

January 23, 2016

JanuaryCollageFountainBlue’s January 22 When She Speaks-in-SF, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of A Work-Life Balance the Works for Life!.  We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives around work, life and balance! They have each successfully grown their careers, continually reaching for new roles and positions and better education as well. Collectively, our panelists shared the following pearls of wisdom for those seeking work-life balance.

  • Embrace life and the opportunities in front of you with gusto. Target positions and roles where you have the skills and the passion to succeed, roles where the market values your contributions.
  • Be self-aware enough to know what you want, what you’re good at and confident enough to keep reaching for the skills and experience so that you can succeed in those roles.
  • Consistently deliver to your own high standards and you will have more negotiating power on how your work gets done.
  • Celebrate your victories, but humbly expect that there is much more to learn from everyone around you.
  • Life is a journey which takes constant reflection on what’s working, what’s not working, and what to do about it. Set a high bar for what you want out of life, and how work fits into that framework.
  • Know your values and expectations. What are your non-negotiables, and where can you flex?
  • Make quality time with spouse and children and important others in your life a high priority, even if it means you have to leave at odd hours during the day to be there for them.
  • Select a company and team that would support your work-life balance perspective, and work to make little shifts in support of those you work with and for, so that those around you feel fulfilled at work.
  • Make a job selection based on where you are in your life, and what you want out of life. For example, if you have very young children or heavy responsibilities at home, perhaps taking on international traveling schedules would present too much stress and conflict. 
  • Communicating your work-life balance needs and proactively negotiating to get those needs met at work is critical. Negotiating for the support you need at home is equally important, so that you can focus on what matters – having the time, energy and resources to perform at and deliver in both places.

In the end, remember that life comes first, and work can wait. But work is important, so select work that matters to you, work in which you can excel, and negotiate with your management so that work supports your current life goals.

Resources:

——————

Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Yelp and our panelists!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Coach, Adviser and Consultant
  • Panelist Elizabeth Brown, Chief People Officer, Unity
  • Panelist Wendy Jennings, Director, Employee Shareholder Services/Stock Administration, AppDynamics, Inc.
  • Panelist Sonia Oliveira, Director, International (Localization), Zynga
  • Panelist Jodie Yorg, Chief of Staff to the SVP of Revenues, Yelp

A Work-Life Balance that Works for Life

January 16, 2016

FountainBlue’s January 15 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of A Work-Life Balance the Works for Life! 

Jan2016Panel

We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives around work, life and balance! They have each successfully grown their careers, continually reaching for new roles and positions and better education as well. Collectively, our panelists shared the following pearls of wisdom for those seeking work-life balance.

  • Know your priorities. The work can often wait, but embrace the opportunities to capture the joy of key moments with your loved ones, and make the effort to spend quality time with your friends and family.
  • Plan-fully setting boundaries and communicating expectations transparently and iteratively can help you both enlist help and support and set you up for success.
  • Remember that it’s a journey and not a destination – be fluid between the surviving and thriving spectrum, aiming more toward the right!
  • Be known for having high standards and consistently delivering to those standards. Then you can build a reputation that will allow you the flexibility to decide how and when things get done, so that you can embrace those precious life moments.
  • Select a company and a management team that speaks the talk, and walks the talk regarding work-life balance.
  • Expect that life will happen, no matter what your plans are. Be kind to yourself and the important people in your life so that you can navigate through the rough patches together, and enjoy the calm moments.
  • Having a supportive spouse makes a huge difference. Select one who wants to partner with you in achieving work and life goals.
  • You don’t have be be-all, do-all. There’s no shame in getting help, whether it’s a maid or nanny, or whether it’s ordering in or eating out, or whether it’s tapping on a family member or neighbor to help out with kids or chores.

In the end, the work work can wait. Don’t let it overwhelm you and compromise your health. Help those who work with you adopt the perspective that they are each more important than the work they do, for they are valued more for who they are.

Resource: Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family – Sep 29 2015, by Anne-Marie Slaughter

==================

Please join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s January 15 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of A Work-Life Balance the Works for Life and our gracious hosts at EMC.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Coach, Adviser and Consultant
  • Panelist Angelique Egorerua, Sr. Manager, ECD Renewal Sales, Americas, EMC
  • Panelist Sara Hepner, Vice President of Worldwide Services Sales, BMC Software
  • Panelist Namrata Mummaneni, Director Quality, Core Product & Technology, eBay
  • Panelist Karen Pieper, Director of Software Operations, Microsemi
  • Panelist Sridevi Koneru Rao, Senior Director, Business Development, Cisco
  • Panelist Lisa Violet, Vice President, Internal Audit and Business Continuity, Hitachi

Negotiating Best Practices

January 15, 2016

star success partner vector logoFountainBlue’s January 15 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Negotiating Best Practices. Thank you to our senior execs participating in the discussion, as well as our gracious hosts at OCZ. Below is a summary of advice and pearls of wisdom.

  1. Be strategic and plan-ful about each negotiation, taking the time to understand the objectives and goals of various stakeholders, the motivations and drivers for each side, and work the relationship as you manage the process.
  2. Change is part of life in the tech sector. Understanding how people interact with each other, how success is measured, and how to work with various stakeholders through these changes is critical for the successful implementation of programs and projects.
  3. Today’s companies are international in flavor and scope, and negotiating with staff, business partners, customers, etc., to align goals, deliver results using a common standard, and make the top line and bottom line meet are critical to the recruitment, development and retention of your key talent.
  4. Build strong trust-based relationships with key stakeholders and partners and a relationship for communicating with transparency and integrity while delivering on results. 
  5. When negotiations get complicated, it may help to script out a conversation and do some role-playing to prepare for the negotiation.
  6. Ensure that your role and that of your team is one that facilitates communication and collaboration. 
  7. Have a list of musts, wants, and walk-aways, so that you can help manage the natural gives-and-takes when you have a yes-no-yes conversation. You can also think of it as a sandwich of good and bad things to communicate as part of the negotiation process.
  8. Don’t be afraid to make the ask, if it’s the clear and right thing to do, even if it’s awkward and uncomfortable to do it.
  9. Leveraging specialists and resources during tough negotiations, and always be actively listening and empathetic, especially when the egos of top execs are involved. 
  10. Speak the language of various groups to get them all engaged and aligned on the same goals – understanding and delivering what the customer wants.
  11. Be ready to say yes, but with conditions. (e.g., sure we can deliver by X date/integrate that solution, but we can’t hold to the standard of scalability and reliability we set)
  12. When reaching for the next rung on the corporate ladder, first consider do you want to swim with the sharks? Is it something you’re looking to do with the current company/management? If so, learn to confidently and clearly communicate your results with the right people and ensure that you get credit for the work you do. 

In the end, the key to negotiation is to plan-fully create that win-win, to address your immediate and long-term interests while factoring in that of the various stakeholders.