Archive for April, 2016

What It Takes to Lead

April 25, 2016

Group of woman

I’m one of those people who gets out there and meets a lot of people, whether it’s for the events that I run monthly or with the execs I coach or the start-ups I advise, or just at social and neighborhood gatherings, networking is part of my DNA – I like connecting people with each other, and connecting disparate ideas into something new.

So when I’m asked ‘What does it take to lead?’ I think about it from the context of meeting and knowing a wide range of leaders – at all levels of the hierarchy, representing all roles, from start-ups with a seed-of-an-idea to Fortune 10 companies. Below is my view of what the best leaders have in common.

What It Takes from the Inside – Your HEART

They say that every great leader has a vision of what’s possible, a vision she/he is passionate about.

  1. I would agree, and also add that this vision may not be specific to a business. It may be a social and community vision implemented by a Mother Theresa or a social vision implemented by a business icon through their foundation.
  2. But I would add that having that vision isn’t enough, for one must also have the energyand ability to make it happen, the attitude to persevere and succeed despite insurmountable odds, and the wisdom and patience to manage the inevitable stress which always arises when big things happen, when many people are involved.

What it takes to Execute – Your HANDS

A vision is only a dream, unless a leader knows how to make it a reality. There are four elements of execution:

  1. Financial execution which focuses on the P&L and efficient, scalable operations.
  2. Cultural execution which ensures that the right people join and grow and stay within the organization.
  3. Product execution which works with product, development and sales/marketing/customer/ops teams to ensure that customers are happy with the product or service.
  4. Growth execution which engages the right staff, customers and alliances to proactively grow the product or offering.

What It Takes to Be Smart and Strategic: Your HEAD

Assuming that you have the vision to make things happen, and the ability to execute on that vision, you will need to be strategic and smart enough to weave the pieces together.

  1. Every great leader embraces technology as a great enabler, as a great tool for serving ever more demanding customers.
  2. Every great leader is a transparent, clear, proactive communicator with the ability to influence others to make things happen. 
  3. Every great leader chooses opportunities for continuous learning, and continually raises the bar for herself/himself. No great leader does things the way it has always been done, even if they do that same thing exceptionally well.
  4. Every great leader seeks the win-for-all collaborative solution which engages all stakeholders in delivering results.

So based, on this criteria, who do you know that’s great? And what criteria would you use to define greatness?


Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand

April 25, 2016

AprilPanelFountainBlue’s April 22 When She Speaks in SF, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand. 

We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives who so graciously shared their wisdom and experience on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand. Below is their collective advice and recommendations.

First and foremost, our panelists encouraged us to be courageous enough to first know and then speak your mind with clarity, to be strong and open enough to learn from how others are responding to you and to coach and support others around you to do the same. This leads to meaty, authentic, transparent conversations which are healthy for the organization, for the team, and for everyone in it.

Taking the time to know yourself and how you’d like to be perceived, and also the strength and curiosity to understand how you’re showing up, how you’re perceived by others are fundamental to successfully accomplishing that goal. From there, you can manage the delta between what-you-want-your-brand-to-be and how-you-are-perceived, so that you can manage your brand, and leverage your brand to get to where-you-want-to-go.

Our panelists all encouraged us to mindfully target a position, role and company which best fits your interests and your values. Finding a culture that works for you will help you stay true to yourself, and holding the bar high in terms of culture and purpose will help you land in that right company and role.

Our panelists all talked about the power and learnings from failures and ‘bad management experiences’, remarking that there were more learnings from the negative than the positive experiences – if we have the courage and curiosity and perspective to learn and grow at each juncture.   

Our panelists recommended that we surround ourselves with a support network, a ‘board of directors’ that would help us succeed – ranging from mentors, friends and colleagues, who will support us unconditionally and help us keep true to ourselves, to advisers who can support us with specific challenges and solutions to executive sponsors who are our internal champions.

Each of our customers reflected these admirable brand traits:

  • A customer and results orientation  
  • A strong, centered, perseverance that can and have moved mountains
  • An authentic, trustworthy, passionate communicator
  • A courageous, curious, learning-agile, and humble leader-under-development
  • An other-centric mentality which makes them great listeners and communicators 



Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s April 22 When She Speaks in SF, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand and our gracious hosts at AppDynamics!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Coach, Adviser and Consultant
  • Panelist Steph Douglass, Vice President, People & Culture, OpenTable
  • Panelist Shannon Eis, VP Corporate Communications, Yelp
  • Panelist Nandini Ramani, VP Engineering, Twitter
  • Panelist Gwen Tillman, Head of People Development, AppDynamics

Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand

April 10, 2016


FountainBlue’s April 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand.  We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives who so graciously shared their wisdom and experience on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand. Below is their collective advice and recommendations.

  • Know yourself – who you are, what you like, what your values are and find work and personal pursuits which are in alignment with same.
  • Do well at what you choose to do and communicate your brand based on what you do well.
  • With that said, intentionally decide what you will do, and only do what is in alignment with who you are, what you stand for, what you want to accomplish in life and work.
  • Do regular assessments to make sure that you’re in alignment, so that you don’t keep doing things that aren’t important to you, even if you do them well!
  • Know how you’d like to be perceived and how you actually are perceived with tools like 360s. Figure out how to close the gap between desired and actual perception.
  • Be curious when something doesn’t seem to feel or fit well and find a fix to get back in alignment.
  • Having a network of trusted others who are invested in your success will help you stay grounded in this regard.
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone – embrace those continuous learning opportunities and learn from your mistakes. Applying your transferable skills in new ways will help you stretch and grow yourself and your brand.
  • Doing things well and right is almost always good, but treating people well and right is always the right thing. People will remember how you made them feel more and longer than whether you were the one who got it right.
  • Develop your emotional intelligence so that you can better handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically as it will help your brand.
  • How you got here isn’t necessarily what will bring you to the next level. In other words, checking off boxes of achievements, from tackling projects and writing programs to getting your MBA and completing integrations, may not be sufficient to get that promotion or that juicy new project. Bringing out your authentic self, investing in people, and developing your soft skills will help you leave people better off, will help you be perceived and considered as a better leader.
  • Develop a reputation for being trustworthy, especially when a company is going through a lot of change.
  • To intentionally build your brand in the industry, gain expertise and perform well, then go beyond your own company. Publish and present papers, participate in panel discussions, volunteer, stand up for causes you care about, all in alignment with the bigger message you’d like to communicate.


  • Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goldman
  • “Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than IQ or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work . . . IQ is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.” Warren Bennis
  • The Complete Guide to Running 360 Reviews by Christian Vanek 


FountainBlue’s April 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Creating and Managing Your Executive Brand. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Sandisk and our panelists!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Deepika Bajaj, Head of Marketing and Growth, Redlink Inc.
  • Panelist Hillary Barnhart, Senior Director, Business Operations, Applied Materials
  • Panelist Amy Rubin Friel, Head of Marketing and Product Management, Exciting New Stealth Business, Nokia Technologies
  • Panelist Michelle Ravn Appelqvist, Senior Director – Sales, Marketing, Product & Technology Legal, SanDisk Corporation

IT Trends and Predictions

April 1, 2016

Information Technology
FountainBlue’s April 1 VIP roundtable was on the topic of IT Trends and Predictions! Below are notes from the conversation.

With the decades of advances in technology – from consumer to enterprise solutions, from infrastructure and network set-up to databases and big data, from networks to cloud, from mobile apps to IoT solutions, we’re continuing to push the technology development and adoption angle. 

With that said, the obstacles to adoption are not necessarily the effectiveness and impact of the technology solutions themselves, but more process, people, access, and operational challenges. There may be traditionally slow-moving industries, companies or countries who are resistant to change, and afraid that new technologies will create more problems than they can solve. There may be operational, technology and cultural hurdles which make the adoption of IT solutions more problematic – from the difficulty of integrating with legacy systems to the difficulty of integrating established processes, to the change-resistant mind-set of leaders and staff who are so used to doing it the-way-it’s-always-been done and those who are fearful of the implications of technology adoption and the resultant change.

The challenge then is a communication and management issue – how do you articulate the value proposition to teams/ companies/partners/customers and other stakeholders so that we can all reap the rewards? Suggested strategies are below:

  • As IT leaders, pivot away from the internal/supply-chain perspective and more into the customer point of view. Understand what the customers are looking for and develop customized solutions based on their requirements. 
  • Thinking about IT solutions as case studies for industries and customers will help IT leaders and companies understand and deliver on their value-add. 
  • Think about the technology and the data as secondary to the needs and requests of your stakeholders. Frame IT and big data solutions as ‘real-world’ problems.
  • Consider how your IT solution fits within the overall ecosystem and create partnerships and alliances based on what would add the best end-to-end value for the customer.
  • Strategically and plan-fully approach integrations so that they complement current offerings and meet and anticipate the needs of current and expected customers. Make sure that the leadership team and staff on both sides of M&As are/would be receptive to an integration and have the skills to do so effectively and efficiently.

Thoughts on trends and opportunities are highlighted below.

  • There are huge opportunities around the Internet of Everything (not just things) which goes far beyond the data and beyond things and focuses on outcomes.
  • Adapting technologies and processes for existing solutions to solve current problems creates opportunities for leaders to serve new customers and markets. 
  • Leveraging existing technologies to save the waste will provide opportunities for many, and has the potential to transform industries.
  • There are huge opportunities as there will be an amplified proliferation of sensors, including Edge-of-the-Network low-cost sensors, leveraging existing technologies including BlueTooth, radio, power lines. 
  • All these sensors will continue to generate huge volumes of data, which needs to be managed and processed real-time, perhaps leveraging machine learning rather than traditional formulaic calculations. Opportunities here are immense.
  • 3D imaging and printing solutions open up a real opportunity in many industries – from customized tailoring to customized medical treatments, from rapid prototyping to construction.
  • Many industries, most notably financial services are open to sophisticated, real-time, security-oriented IT solutions personalized to the needs of their customers.
  • Healthcare is ripe for change. There are opportunities around infrastructure, from security to hospital management, around big data and analytics, from wearables to disease management, around diagnostics with imaging supporting everything from radiology to pathology for example.
  • Independent of industry, IT solutions generally include real-world, consumer-facing technologies from sensors to apps to ingestibles, cloud infrastructure to support the gathering and reporting of the data generated, analytics and reports which may trigger decisions and actions, aggregated reports based on volumes of users, etc., 
  • With that said, there will be standardization and specialization as we reach critical mass for solutions in each industry, for each problem, so there are opportunities for companies to support other companies in serving the customer – much like what IBM’s Watson is doing for the analytics side of cancer research or what RuntimeIO does to support the back-end collection of data. 

Resources, information and studies  

Please join us in thanking execs present at the roundtable as well as our gracious hosts at Dell.