Archive for May, 2016

Here’s to the Heroes

May 30, 2016

Lieutenant Alix Idrache, Photo taken by Staff Sgt Vito T  Bryant at May 21, 2016 graduation from West Point

In this time of graduations and celebrations, on this day when we honor those who have served/are serving/will be serving our country, I would like to humbly acknowledge  the heroes amongst us. (See also the inspiring and patriotic article behind the photo.)

  1. Here’s to those leaders who were the glue who held us together, the oil who kept us running smoothly, and the lighthouse that led the way, especially when the possibilities seemed bleak. Most notable amongst them to me is John F Kennedy, who he challenged us as a nation to “Go to the Moon” in his speech to Congress on May 25, 1961.
  2. Here’s to the persistent visionaries who overcame insurmountable odds to define a new world of possibilities. Notable amongst them is Christopher Columbus, who defied those who feared falling off the end of the earth, who overcame the reservations of his backers, Queen Isabel and King Ferndinand – Isabel and Fernando, los Reyes Católicos – (who in the end didn’t think he would succeed, but didn’t want to lose out on the benefits if he did), and who overcame a near mutiny of his sailors, before sighting the white sands of San Salvador Island in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492.
  3. Here’s to those who have inspired and challenged us to question and change the status quo. Notable amongst them is Mahatma Gandhi. inspired others to change their world through nonviolent civil disobedience, not just to help India gain independence from Britain, but also to inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
  4. Here’s to scientists like Albert Einstein and Madame Curie whose research changed the way the world works and opens up new possibilities for all of us.
  5. Here’s to those like Pocahontas who have bravely bridged two worlds, opening up the possibility of understanding and collaboration.
  6. Here’s to the explorers of new frontiers including Christopher Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Neil Armstrong and their funders. The world is a better, broader place because you’ve done so.
  7. Here’s to the selfless givers amongst us, who put others in front of themselves. Notable amongst them is Mother Theresa.
  8. Here’s to those who have stretched our perceptions about what’s ‘normal and acceptable’, to the creatives and un-structureds, and hyper-normals who stretch our comfort and reality zones. People like the Beatles, Jackie Robinson, and of course Picasso and Dali have changed and opened up our thinking.
  9. Here’s to the leaders who accepted criticism, injustice and adversity with grace and humor and fortitude. I stand behind our President Barack Obama and his numbers to date, but don’t want to get political. I appreciate his humor and wit in his ‘Obama Out‘ speech at a White House correspondence dinner.
  10. Lastly, here’s to the everyday, unnamed heroes who are humbled and inspired by the trust and faith of others, overwhelmed and inspired by the possibilities ahead, and resilient, ethical and competent enough to continue leading the way.

Who are YOUR heroes and what do they stand for?



May 16, 2016

WSSMentors051216FountainBlue’s May 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors. 

We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives, and who so graciously shared their wisdom and experience, stories and advice. Below is their collective advice and recommendations.

Know yourself.

  • Know yourself and your value-add. What can you do better than what other people can do, and how can you leverage that for the good of the project, the good of the team.

Stretch yourself.

  • Consider becoming a mentor, for it energizes you, helps you see new perspectives and also what’s next.
  • Embrace opportunities for continuous learning.
  • Be the kind of stand-out employee who gets noticed for consistently, energetically and good-naturedly deliver quality results, no matter what you are asked to do. This way, the right people will notice you and consider you for positions that would stretch you in good ways.
  • Be open and curious and outwardly facing, and connect with people who can help you remain that way, whether they are mentors, mentee, sponsors, champions, advocates or others.
  • Look for opportunities for continuous learning, which may make you feel uncomfortable at times. Putting yourself front and center may be an initiation by bonfire, but it will tell you and others ways you can shine, and also ways you can grow.
  • If you’re interested in advancing, take the time to know the executives in your company as she/he would be in a position to recommend you for a position or a project which you might not know about, and which might stretch you in a great way.
  • Consider hiring a coach who would help you better understand your value-add, your response to group and team dynamics, your current challenges and opportunities. He or she may help you create a proactive plan for your career and your future, and also be an accountability partner for you as you execute that plan.
  • Be worthy of champions and advocates by performing well at work, delivering measurable results, and treating others with respect and support. Any number of these advocates and champions may give you the time, energy, dollars, resources, connections etc., that you may need to make something happen.
  • Consciously choose to work with people not-like-you, as a mentor, as a mentee, as a boss, as a colleague etc. She or he would help you see things in a broader and deeper and different way.
  • Invite opportunities to connect with customers and understand their current and anticipated needs, regardless of what role you have within a company.
  • Be curious about why things are not working or responding as expected. Ask the right questions of the right people and learn the whys behind it. 
  • Bring your A Game, every time, all the time. Especially when things are really challenging and you just don’t feel like it!
  • Be hungry – don’t settle for more of what you’ve got, but invite opportunities to do more, be more!
  • Keep seeking all different types of mentorship and learning opportunities.
  • If you’d like to move forward, don’t look down, look up and around, and work with people who can help you do that.

Understand the world you’re working in.

  • Do the market research and learn about what’s new and what’s next so that you can stay ahead of the curve.
  • Align corporate goals, mandates and objectives from a strategic and a tactical perspective and continue to measure results.
  • Look beyond where you are to the future of technology, the future of industry, the future needs of the customer.

Remember that it’s always about the people.

  • Relationships come first and foremost. 
  • Connect with people beyond your day-to-day circle so that you can see new perspectives and opportunities.
  • Choose to work with people who would accelerate your growth, while you are accelerating their’s.
  • Find a mentor/mentee with whom you can build a long-term, productive, win-win relationship. There are many different kinds of mentors and mentoring relationships, and many ways both sides can benefit from these relationships. Work proactively with your mentor/mentee to ensure that it’s a positive win-win relationship across roles, companies, time.
  • Take the WIIFM perspective – What’s in it for me? – Ask yourself the question how are you helping your boss and her/his boss? 
  • Pay it forward. Find every opportunity to give back.

Resources onlilne:

  • Thank you to Erna Arnesen for sharing the following: 

    • Blank form for mentee to complete 
    • A sample completed mentoring session form
    • Sample of a reverse mentorng form, courtesy of Erna Arnesen
    • Sample Mentor Mentee Agreement 
  • Thank you to Laura Owen who shared the following:

    • Polycom’s mentoring program and mentoring guide
  • 22 Quotes to Help Boost Your Mentoring Prowess, Inc. Magazine


Please join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s May 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors as well as our gracious hosts at Polycom.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Erna Arnesen, former VP, Global Channel and Field Marketing, Plantronics
  • Panelist Jocelyn King, Sr Director, Programmable Solutions Group Marketing, Intel Corporation
  • Panelist Laura Owen, Chief Human Resources Officer, Polycom
  • Panelist Gail Rahn Frederick, Senior Director, Developer Ecosystem and Services, eBay

Recruitment and Retention Best Practices

May 6, 2016

Stressful people waiting for job interviewFountainBlue’s May 6 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Recruitment and Retention Best Practices in a time of Change! Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Symantec. Below are notes from the conversation.

Change is an inevitable part of the business world, particularly when you’re leading a tech company in Silicon Valley! Leaders from our Recruitment and Retention VIP roundtable represent companies that are at various stages of M&A activities, divestitures, rapid-growth and fundings. They are challenged with identifying, recruiting, developing and retaining their key talent and high potentials, and have provided the following pearls of wisdom.

Change creates tension and uncertainty for everyone. Communication is key to the retention and recruitment objectives for all organizations.

  • Leaders managing through change must collaborate with key stakeholders to strategically communicate what they’re doing, why it’s being done, what the process will be, what success looks like, etc., as this will help key talent make decisions to remain engaged and help others to make the same choice.
  • Change may take months to happen, and people potentially affected by the change will be uneasy, so periodic, proactive, and candid communications, delivered by charismatic, genuine and leaders will help everyone through the process.
  • When there’s an acquisition, don’t settle on just getting the bodies from the acquired companies, but seek also to sell to the minds and hearts of those people, so that they stay engaged, committed and connected.
  • Leaders need to take the high road and message what’s right for the company in the long term, (even if they feel like they’ve been wronged). This will help them leave the kind of legacy they want, after serving for so long at a company, plus it will help those who stay remain successful and committed.
  • Be purposefully inclusive in your communications, independent of roles, levels, locations, etc., This will help build that sense of teamwork and common mission during times of change.
  • Say and model an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ model of leadership, with a common, constructive, positive and productive message.

Communicating intent and direction is not enough. Leaders must also plan-fully make it easy for key talent and high potentials to navigate changes *and* remain engaged and successful. 

  • Have a clear and planned framework for governance, operations, integration etc., so that people undergoing change can be quickly productive and engaged and connected.
  • Connect people with each other and with resources so that they can be more immediately successful.
  • Provide as much sameness and stability wherever possible, especially when much is happening. 

Clear, collaborative leadership is essential for recruiting and retaining key talent.

  • Good leaders make the right strategic decision for a company in the short term and for the long term. Great leaders communicate and engage all stakeholders throughout the change process so that vision becomes reality.
  • Great leaders know it’s about getting key people on-board and engaged, and they will ensure that those people (generally starting with the customer-facing people first), get the support, encouragement, reward and confidence they need so they can represent the company well to customers. They know how to build success from that foundation of strength.

Below are some suggestions for recruiting and retaining key talent.

  • Adopt a measurement-based standard for success that’s objective – whether it’s looking at revenues or market growth or retention numbers. From those measurement-based outcomes, figure out how to change recruitment and retention strategies so that you get the results you’re seeking.
  • Improve the success of your recruitment efforts by following up with new-hires and hiring managers and proactively facilitating their success.
  • Consider hiring those who know what’s in the playbook and how to execute what’s in the playbook, but also more closely consider those who can deviate from that playbook, and customize that playbook, based on the individual circumstances.
  • Know the culture of your company and hire those people who would fit that culture, rather than focusing on that ‘top talent’ who’s not quite a cultural fit now, but who might later get integrated into that culture.
  • Consider encouraging a healthy competition with performance metrics where possible.
  • Adopt a ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ (WIIFM) attitude of the prospective employee and speak to what’s important to them.
  • Whether you’re choosing the rapid-integration or the longer term, staged integration approach, adopt a strategy that matches your culture, and provide the communication and infrastructure support so that the plan can be well implemented.
  • Hire an exceptional talent management team, and let them use their passion and abilities to find and recruit the right people for the company. This will in turn propagate the right energy, message and culture, feeding a virtuous circle so that more people want to work at the company, better products and services are delivered, thereby further growing the customer base and staff.
  • Consider using a panel discussion as part of your interview process, asking questions such as ‘why YOU’? ‘why NOW?’ and ‘why US? It’s also helpful to have each panelist evaluate on specific criteria, including cultural fit, functional fit, experience and technology. 
  • Give candidates the opportunity to think on their feet to test their intelligence, their communication ability, their comfort level with ambiguity, etc.,
  • Encourage referrals for key positions.
  • Message the merits of joining the company to the interviewees.
  • Look for four key criteria when hiring: Intelligence, Coachability, Experience and Character. You don’t necessarily have to have direct experience, provided that you’re intelligent and coach-able enough, but if you don’t have the right character, it may never work, and it’s expensive to hire the wrong person.
  • Choose to join a fast-growing company (unicorns, pre-IPO companies) in a hot space (mobile, security, platform for example) and potential hires will show up. From there, it’s a question of setting the bar high so that only the best get hired and stay.

Below are suggestions for building a diverse team and robust leadership pipeline.

  • Consider hiring new-grads and growing them into key positions.
  • Encourage senior executives to sponsor high-potentials so that you can fill that leadership pipeline.
  • Request diversity for your candidate pool and support the HR team in delivering that diverse candidate pool for consideration.
  • Hire a qualified woman candidate where appropriate and advocate for pay equity. Retaining that female leader will increase the likelihood that more women and minorities will stay and desire leadership roles.

Below are predictions for the future of work.

  • Some entitled millennials may get that wake-up call, and learn that it will take commitment and hard work to remain successful at work. Leaders who manage them may be able to work with them from their perspective, on their terms.
  • There may be a back-firing on the work flexibility trend. Companies big and small may be expecting more in-office time to facilitate more collaboration and communication and perhaps increase productivity. 


The bottom line is that leaders are chartered with recruiting and retaining key people despite inevitable changes. Keys to success in managing change include a standard for clear communication, an emphasis on seamless execution, a track record of measured outcomes, all delivered by a principled and collaborative leadership team.