Archive for July, 2016

What Kind of Leader are You?

July 19, 2016


Everyone wants to be a leader, and in a perfect world, we are all great leaders. The best leaders know what type of leadership is needed for any circumstance, and she/he knows how and when to best excel, and who can complement his/her own leadership style. I find it helpful to understand the types leaders I most respect, especially as I notice that each one shines under different circumstances.

1. The Beacon is the leader that shines the way. She/he doesn’t get into the details but inspires because of a vision described or an impossible task performed, or both.

2. The Cheerleader is the leader that believes unconditionally in the person, the team or the cause. He/she is ever the person to pick up everyone after a failure, a set-back, an unintended result. The resilience and optimism is contagious and necessary for the success of any project.

3. The Anchor keeps everyone focused on the values and the goals of relevance to the team. She/he carries that moral compass and measures and communicates the results generated.

4. The Devil’s Advocate helps vet new ideas to help ensure that they fit the mission and vision of the project or organization and that they are practical, considering the resources available.

5. The Mediator resolves issues between team members by smoothing feathers, by clarifying communications, by facilitating compromises and re-focusing everyone on the shared mission and vision.

6. The Negotiator is the leader who works with those outside the group to gather more energy and resources so that results can be realized.

7. The Translator helps ensure that people from different backgrounds and perspectives are speaking a common language and working toward a common purpose.

8. The Ambassador advocates for the project or cause to ensure that there are sufficient resources and time so that results can be generated.

9. The Prodigy is the learner and next-generation leader who will carry the torch for future projects. He or she is curious and energetic, open-minded and multi-faceted.

10. The Leader of Leaders have a touch of each of the above, and knows which facet to turn on when to make things happen.

What type of leader are you? Which circumstances require what type of leadership?


Career Agility

July 18, 2016

July15WSSSFPanelFountainBlue’s July 15 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership in SF event was on the topic of Agility: The Key to a Successful Career. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have such a dynamic panel of women leaders representing disparate roles and companies. Each panelist had a compelling perspective, a poignant voice, and each authentically, candidly and generously shared their journey and their learnings. They had the following in common:

  • They all started out with something small, which grew as they succeeded at each opportunity. Sometimes that led into deeper responsibility in similar roles, and sometimes to something different altogether.
  • They got noticed for their abilities by those who mattered, and these people were able to craft opportunities for them which were able to further stretch them, and the organization as well.
  • They fearlessly embraced the unknowns as they strove to become fully realized beings. They plowed ahead despite the fear. Their go-for-it mentality inspires us all.
  • They know their priorities and their values and don’t compromise on them. 
  • They know their strengths and select opportunities which allow them to lead with their strong suit(s).
  • They insist on always growing and learning – for themselves and for those around them.
  • They make sure that they add value wherever they’re working, whatever their job description. 
  • They are passionate about what they do and consistently stretch themselves and others on how it’s done.
  • They are curious and open-minded about the perspectives of those not-like-themselves.

Below is advice that they shared with us regarding embracing opportunities to advance and realize your professional potential.

  • They wisely touted the usefulness of a full and broad network which helps gain both access and perspective. But a network is also a two-way street, and they generously reach out, give back, mentor and support others in their network as well.
  • They repeatedly mentioned that we must all know what our brand is – what we do for whom and why we are passionate about doing so. Being cognizant of your brand and proactively reaching for what’s next can help you transcend from one job to another, from one role to another, from one industry to another.
  • Be aware of what you’re looking for, and be specific about what you’re looking for, so that others around you can help you realize that vision. 
  • Wherever you are is where you are meant to be, unless you decide it no longer is. Then it’s on you to do something about it.
  • The best lessons in life are often the hardest lessons. Learning from these tough lessons will make you more agile, more resilient, more effective. 
  • Choose opportunities and lessons which would expand your knowledge and perspective. Hiring and working with people not-like-you is a good way to do so, as is traveling to places before unknown.
  • Walk a mile in the shoes of others so that you can support them in their journey as well. With that said, watch your back and don’t succumb to the manipulative games of self-serving others.
  • Work hard, do good work, work your brand, and seize the opportunities that present themselves to you. Being prepared helps set yourself up for receiving lucky opportunities and having courage helps you to open the door when someone or something’s knocking!

Below is advice for those looking at what’s next for themselves career-wise.

  • When you’re looking for what’s next for yourself career wise, reach for what you’re looking for and make the case on why you are the best candidate for the role.
  • Ask for help from others – nobody is ever alone, unless they elect to be that way, or allow themselves to think that way.
  • Be positive, always gravitate to something rather than running away from something!
  • Stare down the worst fears. Break it down so that you understand the fear, and let others help you gain a perspective beyond the fear. 
  • Compromise on the little things (it might be title, salary, corner office etc.,) so that you can reach for the things that really matter to you (impact, passion, result, growing something from nothing, independence).
  • Sometimes career agility must take place from the employer side. Be creative in finding ways to keep top talent engaged and present
  • As you’re hiring, consider the skill side (what someone can do) and the style side (how they get things done). Training on skills is easier than training on passion and coachability. 

Our dynamic and amazing panelists are challenging us to to be career-agile, to reach high to be all you can be, first by knowing yourself, then by constantly reaching and growing yourself and all those around you. 


Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s July 15 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership in SF event, on the topic of Agility: The Key to a Successful Career as well as our gracious hosts at StubHub! 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Coach, Adviser and Consultant 
  • Panelist Laura (Danckwerth) Bermudez, Director of Software Development for StubHub Social & President of eBay Women In Technology
  • Panelist Melissa Daimler, Head of Learning + Organizational Development, Twitter
  • Panelist Carole Gum, VP Global Campaigns, AppDynamics
  • Panelist Alexandra Shapiro, SVP, Marketing, PR and Communications, Bigcommerce
  • Panelist Miriam Warren, VP of New Markets, Yelp

Being Human in an Age That’s Digital

July 12, 2016

tablet in hand

‘Going Digital’ has become that buzzword, that panacea to today’s business strategy challenge. As well it should be . . . to some extent.

There’s no denying that we need to automate the data, set up the hardware and network infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean that we should de-value the human and let AI and analytics trump the judgment and skills of humans.

Experienced humans DEFINE the right problem.

1. If we let automation and software solve the problem, and you’re addressing a symptom or the wrong problem, the solution will leave you right back where you started . . . or worse.

2. Humans can conduct the interviews with the stakeholders who have that problem and understand how each stakeholder is affected, and how each group works with other groups. This is a necessary step to solving any problem. And not something that can be delegated to something digital. You can, however, create interview templates, document results, share documents with stakeholders, and in general, collaborate to create documents and automate the sharing and updating process.

3. Humans with deep experience, that tribal knowledge, have witnessed a wide breadth of problems. Creating libraries of modules to address elements of common problems just makes sense. Knowing which modules to leverage how is also something not to be delegated to something digital. But managing the updating of those modules can be automated.

4. Getting buy-in from all stakeholders from the DEFINE stage is not something you can delegate to anything digital.

Experienced humans DESIGN the solution to the defined problem.

5. Experienced humans leverage findings from the DEFINE stage to DESIGN a solution which meets the objectives of major stakeholders, in alignment with corporate goals. Designing a solution is an opportunity to validate the design proposed from the ‘define’ phase. If changes need to happen, experienced humans have the judgment to know if the DEFINE phase needs to be revisited, or if the DESIGN needs to be tweaked. Again, this is not something which can be delegated to something digital.

6. Designing, validating and testing a scalable solution which addresses current and anticipated needs takes an experienced team of humans. But these experienced humans integrate analytics to ensure that the results are measured real-time, and create the automated processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.

7. Getting the buy-in from all stakeholders for the DESIGN is also not something that can be delegated.

Experienced humans lead the BUILD of the solution. 

8. Builds can not be automated, no matter how sophisticated and detailed the program specifications are! But having modules, scripts and processes in place will help humans more efficiently implement that build, and coordinate development with others who are doing the same.

Experienced humans effectively TEST the solution. 

9.  Sure scripts can be set up to test whether a build is working in measurable terms. But the human knows what to measure, when to measure it, and what success looks like. Having a detailed understanding of what’s-to-be-tested and measured makes it easier for humans to oversee the automated, ongoing testing of a solution.

Experienced humans effectively DEPLOY the solution. 

10. No disrespect to all the digital programs and automations leveraged throughout the process, but it will again take a human to know how and when to deploy to which audience, and also how to support any of these customers following the deployment.

In the end, throughout the development process, it’s the human who needs to decide which digital solutions and tools can help do what. And the next time you, as a human, fear that something that’s digital will replace you, think about what it means to be human, in an age that’s digital.

Special thanks to Patrick Lesandrini, author of IT SHIFT – Providing IT and Business Transformation Services for his contributions to this article.

Communication Strategies at the Speed of Change

July 8, 2016


FountainBlue’s July 8 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Communication Strategies at the Speed of Change’. Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Polycom and our execs in attendance, who share the insights below. 

Change has always been a part of life, but tech leaders today are feeling it more quickly and more primally. 

  • Communication today is cheap – there’s too much noise out there. But communication today is so much more important than it ever has been – because of the importance of immediacy, the importance of coordinating and collaborating with a wider range of others.
  • A leader today needs to do what has always been important: digest huge amounts of data to communicate key points which are most important for each audience. But to be effective, she or he must also sift through the volumes of information to identify and ingest only the most relevant pieces of information, so that a strategy and communication is clear and backed by data.
  • Relationships are even more important today than they were decades ago. Because there are so many more people and so much information, it’s MORE important to build deep, trust-based relationships with significant others in the network who can help to both craft the message and strategy, and also to spread that word to different networks and channels.
  • Poignant and engaging writing is still important, but today we are more careful about what we share with whom, due to constraints around NDAs for example. However, leaders who share openly and transparently with an authentic voice, using good judgment, will be best heard.
  • The immediacy of communication between individuals and groups adopted by millennials is spilling over into other generations and is here to stay. The question becomes how each leader will manage their communications to best connect with others and to stay on-message, as an individual and as an exec.

Below is advice on how to successfully communicate during times of great change.

  • Leveraging neutral and informed outside perspectives can help shape communications strategy and messaging. Building relationships with these influential and connected others is essential for building credibility and achieving results.
  • Identify your niche audiences and strategize on how the core message should be delivered to each audience, based on how they think, where they are located, what resonates for them.
  • Speak clearly and concisely in language the audience would understand, preferably with a request for action.
  • Be clear on ownership of programs and processes and document communications, players and intentions.
  • Have others take ownership for taking actions and communicating results, so that they are engaged in the process.
  • Be clear on what measurable results look like from a quantitative perspective, and update others on the progress based on data.
  • Live interviews with trusted interviewers lead to the type of authentic programs others would watch and learn from – which could lead to revenues.
  • Be clear on your own value-add in terms of skills and tangible/measured results and outcomes. Evaluate where you can best add value based on what you’re passionate about and what results you’ve driven to date.
  • Work with those who are more engineering-minded about the value of communicating more of the bigger picture, and less of the details when connecting with those-outside engineering.
  • Stakes are high when companies decide to merge. And execs are restricted on what they can say during sensitive timeframes. But working with the lines and connecting with others to meaningfully and authentically share progress during change will help keep staff loyal and engaged.

The conclusion is that communicating strategically and authentically will help effectively building credibility and relationships which are core to leading anyone, no matter where you sit at the table.

Our thanks once again to our hosts at Polycom and to our execs in attendance for this month’s VIP roundtable!

Social Media

July 3, 2016

July1WSSPanel.pngFountainBlue’s July 1 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Social Media for Work and Play. Below are notes from the conversation. 

Our panelists this month represented a wide range of companies, educational backgrounds and experiences, yet each had extensive experience and perspectives around social media.

Our panelists are experienced professionals with distinct perspectives around leveraging social media for work and play, and they generously shared some common best practices.

They each actively and consciously leveraged social media in their day-to-day activities to build relationships, to share their brand, to keep in touch with others in their network, and also for pure enjoyment. 

Each panelist recognized that the different social media tools serve different purposes, and that each individual has different objectives. So key to knowing what tool to use to communicate what message is to understand what your goals are – whether it’s a social goal of staying connected with family who are spread out, or extending a corporate message to strategic partners.

Whereas LinkedIn is a must-have for all professionals, open to those well beyond your immediate network, FaceBook and Instagram are more social platforms for more personal communications with messages more intended for friends.

Whereas blog tools like Medium and WordPress are platforms for communicating a brand and message, tools like Slack and Yammer are designed for social interactions between an established group, to build connections between teams who work in different locations for example.

A tool like Twitter can be used to perpetuate a corporate message, and also to add a personal and social element to that professional brand. Our panel mentioned some interesting and creative tools which you might consider for your company.

  • LinkedIn provides a background and history of a professional career, complete with testimonials, allegiances, educational background etc. Every professional should have a profile, and link to fellow professionals whom they know and trust. 
  • WeChat and WhatsApp can be used to connect to message between people who are far apart.
  • WordPress and Medium and other blog sites are great platforms for spreading your message and your brand.
  • YouTube can help communicate deep technical issues or share presentations and information easily online.
  • Wikipedia may be used as a platform to share deep technical expertise.
  • helps compile written and curated data on the same theme, by the same group or individual.

Because there are so many options to use social media, companies need to proactively manage the corporate and product brand. It helps to have a handbook and agreement and a regularly-updated message about what to say and how to say it, but in the end, professionals must trust that employees know how to exercise good judgment and use discretion as their words and actions may reflect badly on themselves, their teams, their products/services. 

Marketing and PR teams may also work closely with executives to draft communications and messages, and also provide a handbook to the general staff on approved company communications policies and practices.

The bottom line is that social media is great when it helps you expand and grow your network and your brand, and not so great when the message and consequences are not as intended. Proactively managing your brand and thoughtfully communicating through these platforms would help you get more consistently positive results.


Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s July 1 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Social Media for Work and Play and our gracious hosts at Synaptics.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Stefana Hunyady, Sr. Director, CPI Horizontal Programs, PayPal CTO office
  • Panelist Ann Minooka, Sr. Director of Marketing and Communications, Synaptics
  • Panelist Laura Padilla, Senior Director Technology Alliances, Nutanix
  • Panelist Heather Sullivan, Vice President & Head of HR – Global Innovation Center, Samsung Electronics