Archive for September, 2021

Climb the Mountain

September 17, 2021

Climb the Mountain Panel.png

FountainBlue’s September 17 Front Line Managers Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Climb the Mountain’, featuring Sanchita Gupta, Amber Barber and Krista Pavlakos.

We were fortunate to have such courageous, bold, authentic and dynamic panelists who represented a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds. Below is a composite of their thoughts and recommendations about climbing the corporate ladder.

Some thoughts on relationships:

  • Build relationships and networks of trust.
  • Remember that you are not alone. Reach out and build connections and community around you. Keep speaking your truth and see who else has similar experiences.

Some thoughts on stretching yourself:

  • Leverage the feedback you receive even when it confuses and puzzles you and makes you uncomfortable. This may be your ticket to the next level. 
  • Adopt a growth mindset, and help others to do the same.
  • Be open to new experiences and thoughts.
  • Step in to leadership vacuums and collaborate with others to achieve results once you step in.
  • Be passionate about what you do and work hard to do it well. 
  • Be fully yourself and grow and advance on YOUR terms, rather than trying to follow someone’s footsteps, fit someone’s mold.

Some thoughts on how to solve problems:

  • Focus on solving problems for others on your team and helping them to succeed.
  • Be curious about the problems, motivations and needs of others and work collaboratively to address their needs.
  • Ask ‘what happened’ when something succeeds or fails, but more importantly ask ‘WHY did it happen’.

Some thoughts on communication:

  • Communicate transparently, authentically, regularly.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – so stay on top of your coordination and communication to help keep everyone on the same page, focused on the same objectives.

Some thoughts on resiliency:

  • Sometimes the people closest to you discourage you from doing what you know you can do. Choose to persevere anyway.
  • Push beyond your own comfort zones. Never settle for mediocrity and become complacent.
  • Confidently and courageously choose to persevere one step at a time, no matter who or what gets in the way.

Some thoughts on planning:

  • Plan for the unknown as best you can, and be agile and other about the problems you’ll face, and the actions required to solve the problem. 
  • Don’t plan to get it right every time all the time, but do plan to learn from both successes and failures.
  • Go broad, go deep with your impact, and proactively plan for your next steps.
  • Sometimes the path forward is not a straight line. That’s still a good thing.
  • Sometimes the path forward wasn’t even planned. That’s still a good thing.

Some thoughts about the growth process:

  • Growth is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride.
  • Sprinkle your lessons with humor and grace.

The bottom line is that if you’re confident, passionate, humble, curious, open-minded and collaborative, you can start climbing that corporate ladder too. And if you do, reach out to trusted others to support you in this worthwhile and challenging journey.


One of the Onlys

September 10, 2021

FountainBlue’s September 10 When She Speaks online program was on the topic of ‘One of the Onlys’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at ASML and our esteemed panelists. 

Our panelists represented a wide range of roles, backgrounds and organizations, yet they all experienced being one of the onlys.

But each found a way to be heard, to be influential, to be productive, despite the fact that they were originally less than well received. Below is advice they shared on how they navigated the challenge.

Manage Yourself

  • You are not alone, even when you feel very lonely, like you’re the only one. There are many ‘onlys’ out there, and many of them are willing to help you, and many others who are willing to be supporters, cheerleaders, and allies to you.
  • Be confident in what you do well, and consistently solve real problems well, building a brand for yourself even if it’s beyond others’ expectations of you.

Build Relationships

  • Develop relationships of trust with influential others across the ecosystem. 
  • Leverage those relationships to better understand the motivations and challenges faced by others, so that you can help address their needs.
  • Look for the common connections, the common motivations between yourself and others around you. 
  • Recruit advocates and cheerleaders, and make sure that you advocate and cheer for others as well.
  • Conduct the meetings before the meeting to best position yourself, the team and the project for success.

Seize the Opportunities

  • Always take a seat at the table when you’re invited, even when you’re not sure you belong there. 
  • When appropriate, make a seat at the table, but do this selectively – only when the topic/problem/project/challenge really needs your support and input.
  • Be bold and confident enough to share your opinion, even if you’re not sure it would be well received. But also make sure that your opinion is based on your experience, on data you’ve collected.

Be Other-Centric

  • Listen well to others as they describe their needs and their challenges. Then commit to following through and delivering solutions for them.
  • Know your audience and their challenges and motivations so that you can better serve all.

Manage Your Emotions

  • Choose to be a more vulnerable, a better version of yourself when you are faced with people who are less than respectful of your abilities.
  • Be curious about why someone else responds the way they do to something you’ve said or done.
  • Manage your own emotions well, so that you can focus on building relationships with people who may trigger something in you.
  • Accept that others might not accept you as one-of-them, and try not to let it get to you.  


  • Respect that sometimes you have to use the back door to get things done, when certain parties are less than receptive to the support. 
  • Lean into leadership. Find the leadership gap where you can step in, solve critical problems, and connect with people.

The bottom line is that there is no silver bullet to being respected and heard when you don’t quite fit in with others in the room. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t make an impact and make a difference.

Power Optimization

September 10, 2021

FountainBlue’s September 10 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Power Optimization’, with opening remarks by PG&E.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of executives speaking on the challenges and opportunities around power optimization. It’s clear that our appetite for energy will continue to rise, and it’s clear that the infrastructure needs to be updated and upgraded in order to ensure access to reliable quantities of energy, preferably through sources which are renewable and less impactful for the environment.

Whether you’re looking at the energy challenge from the consumer or from the enterprise lens, there are technology, policy, and adoption challenges and opportunities around decarbonization, digitization and decentralization. There were many more questions than answers in this month’s conversation. Below are some of these key questions.

Decarbonization Challenges and Opportunities

  • What can we as consumers and as business leaders do day to day to manage our consumption, diversify our energy generation strategies, store and distribute energy, and keep energy levels reliable, safe and cost-effective, all while adopting sustainability-based business practices which decelerate climate change and support the earth?
  • What are the policy, technology, and infrastructure choices we need to make renewables options more attractive, more reliable, more efficient?
  • How can we better ‘educate’ decision-makers on the impact and ripple effect of their ongoing energy choices?

Digitization Challenges and Opportunities

  • How can we better optimize energy usage so it impacts our bottom line as well as our sustainability goals?
  • What can we do to facilitate adoption of the digital solutions which would help automate software and/or motivate adoption?
  • How can we progress from leveraging Artificial Intelligence models and its ability to understand historical patterns of energy usage to Machine Learning models which might factor in circumstances which have not occurred historically?
  • How would access to the wholesale energy costs impact the day-to-day energy decisions of energy consumers?

Decentralization Challenges and Opportunities

  • What policy, technology, and process changes need to happen to grow and maintain the core centralized network, which is essential even as we decentralize?
  • How can we better manage the growing base of energy-generators so that we can optimally store and fairly and efficiently distribute that energy?
  • How can we proactively predict and manage downtime and failures given the distributed nature of the energy generation system, and the structure and requirements of the grid? 
  • How can we better design and architect hardware solutions for chips and devices which optimize energy usage? 

The bottom line is that there will be more people, and there will be more people using more technology needing more energy. The choices we make around how we generate and use energy will impact our future and our earth. Nobody has all the answers. And nobody can do it alone. But if we focus on the real data and the real challenges, perhaps together we can make progress on this increasingly important challenge and make it into an opportunity to better support ourselves and our earth.

The Why Before the What Before the How

September 3, 2021

FountainBlue’s September 3 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘The Why Before the What Before the How’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 


Our panel represented leaders and managers from a wide range of backgrounds who generously shared the whys, the whats, the hows of leadership, and their best practices for building momentum on key business initiatives, particularly when everyone and everything is experiencing so much change.

Each panelist boldly and courageously led from whichever chair they were given, to deliver information, results, communications, strategies, and processes – whatever the team and organization needed at the time.

And each panelist also did their own internal search on what works for themselves personally, serving their own ‘whys’ to ensure that their work maps to their values and their skills as well as the market opportunities.

It was impressive to see what our panelists navigated in this time of great change, and how they nobly led others through the process, leaving an indelible mark not just to the bottom line, but also to the culture and emotional wellbeing of those influenced by them.

Their humility, openness, and other-centric communication and leadership styles served them well as they listened closely and attentively to all stakeholders, and facilitated the successful collaborations which brought ongoing, tangible, measurable results.

Below is a compilation of best practices for leading and managing well:

  • Take a strategic and ecosystem-based approach so you can better understand the challenges and opportunities ahead, and better envision, plan for and execute on the vision.
  • Have the courage to step in and speak up no matter where you sit at the table for it will serve you well, but it will also serve everyone else impacted by the communication.
  • Gather information about the market, the product, the customers, the competitors will help you better understand the why, the what, the how, the who around the choices you’re making every day.
  • Build community and connection to raise the bar for yourself and others, so we can each better manage and lead.
  • Understand the motivations of the key stakeholders, and ensure that they understand the motivations of other parties.
  • Advocate for your company, product and team, so you can support everyone in building the business, regardless of your role and level.
  • Align your vision, mission and values, and ensure that your actions, your people, your tasks remain in alignment.
  • Measure and communicate progress so accountability is maintained.
  • Agilely manage, lead, plan and grow, for nothing will stay the same.

The bottom line is that we can all be more open, more humble, more empowering and more supportive of others.


  • Find Your WHY – Simon Sinek
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – FranklinCovey

What to Do When Nothing’s Normal

September 1, 2021
What to Do When Nothing’s Normal

What do you do when nothing’s normal? How do you plan for the day-to-day, for the future, for what’s next? How do you build a culture when nobody can see the future?

In our August post, we talked about Redefining Normal and followed up by collecting more survey results through phone and online interviews. We’ve combined these findings with the data and information we’ve collected from decades of coaching, leadership development and change management experience, with an emphasis on our findings over the past 18 months. 

Indeed, the pandemic and its aftermath has made us all look at what we took for granted as normal, and wrestle with the realization that nothing will ever be normal again.

Yet the Resilient forge on despite the challenges,

and the Successful tap into shared knowledge and networks,

knowing that we are stronger together.

This month, we look more deeply at what leaders can do to build culture when nothing’s normal, exploring a model which takes an inside-out, outside-in approach. We don’t promise you answers, only more questions and updates on our findings so that together we can explore what to do when nothing’s normal.

An Inside-Out Perspective on Building Culture

Inside-Out: In this section, we look from the perspective of the individual, the leader and manager at all levels who sees directly how he/she/they can contribute individually to the culture.

In general, when individuals look through their own personal lens, there are three main motivators: 

  1. The mission-driven calling to work for a purpose, in alignment with their personal values;
  2. The burning desire for continuous learning and development which makes them better versions of themselves; 
  3. The passionate drive to do something new and bold which innovates and makes the world a better place in ways small and big.

Those who are mission-driven want to contribute in ways big and small to a cause in alignment with their values, a cause larger than one they can serve by themselves, a cause that can be addressed because they show up fully and regularly at work. They must feel like their companies, leaders, technology, and brand are in alignment with this sense of purpose.

To serve the needs of the Mission-Driven staff, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Creation of a Common Platform which matters beyond the work
  • Brand Integrity and Authenticity
  • A Culture-First Mindset
  • Alignment between the Mission, the Vision and the Execution
  • Transparency and Authenticity
  • Clarity of Purpose in Thoughts, Words and Actions

Those who are Lifelong Learners want to be presented with challenges at work, the opportunity to excel at and learn from these challenges, with a source of light pressure to drive continuous improvement, never settling for mediocrity. 

To serve the needs of the Lifelong Learners, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Access to Materials and Training
  • Accountability and Ownership
  • A Culture of Continuous Learning and Development
  • Guidance and Coaching on Educational Plan
  • Individualized Offerings
  • Rewards for Agility and Openness

Those who are Innovators are motivated by their desires to be creative, solve problems, and work on a variety of challenging tasks which make a difference. They are hungry for a fail-forward mindset and culture, as well as tangible opportunities to innovate and learn with the support of mentors, resources and the organization at large.

To serve the needs of Innovators, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Access to Mentors, Sponsors and Resources
  • Assurance that Credit is Fairly Distributed 
  • Focus on Customer-driven Innovation Projects
  • Diversity of Perspectives and Experiences on Team
  • Inspiring Examples and Success Stories
  • Rewards for Innovative Ideas and Execution

An Outside-In Perspective on Building Culture

Outside-In: In this section, we look from the perspective of the leader or manager at any level, on what managers and leaders from any chair can do to facilitate the development of an organization’s culture.

In general, when individuals look through the lens of the team, organization, or community, there are three main motivators: 

  1. The socially-minded desire to connect with and trust in others. They crave a co created history along with traditions and continued progress toward common goals and including celebrations of success;
  2. The burning desire to leverage corporate influence and resources to collectively impact larger social, political, and environmental issues; 
  3. The passionate drive to advocate and lobby for more equitable rights, resources and opportunities for those less fortunate, less empowered and less enabled to succeed.

Those who are Community-Builders are motivated by the desire to create a safe, trusted and synergistic network focused on everything from developing and supporting each other to creating deep relationships and from providing empathy, camaraderie, fun and energy  to working as a team to deliver extraordinary results. Community-Builders are looking for a sense of belonging, a trusted and supportive network, and for opportunities to share experiences, celebrations and traditions together.

To serve the needs of Community-Builders, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • A Positive and Productive Culture which Celebrates Success
  • Clear Accountability and Metrics  
  • Resources and Support to Achieve Results
  • Sense of Fit and Belonging 
  • Connections between Community Groups and Members

Those who are Social Responsibility Advocates are motivated by the desire to leverage company resources and brand to deliver impact on social, environmental, and systemic challenges, to provide services to others in need, and to provide socially responsible leadership and financial support.  The corporate platform and brand provides opportunities to make a broader impact in many ways, including by serving the needs of local nonprofits, by supporting the fundraising efforts around climate change, or by providing resources for the disadvantaged.

To serve the needs of Social Responsibility Advocates, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Partnerships and Ecosystems to Amplify Impact
  • Platform to Amplify Impact and Share Knowledge
  • Opportunities to Serve Social Causes of Interest
  • Alignment between Corporate Mission and Social Causes Supported
  • Respect and Support for the Daunting Challenges of Today  

Those who are Justice-Seekers are motivated by the desire to to witness equal opportunities around pay, recognition, and opportunity for all. Justice-Seekers would like to see open-minded leaders who respect and embrace diverse people in their thoughts, words and actions. Transparent, data-based conversations will help justice-seekers see the progress being made, and respect their leaders and organization overall.

To serve the needs of Justice-Seekers, leaders at all levels must provide:

  • Alignment on Values, Policies and Communications  
  • Equal access to Support, Coaching, Education and Resources
  • Systematic Approaches to the Recruitment, Retention and Advancement of Diverse Talent
  • Training on Unconscious Biases
  • Celebrate and Reward Diverse Thinking and Ideas
  • Transparent and Regular Reporting on progress to date

Bringing it Together: 

Whether you look through the lens of what you can do as an individual to shape culture personally, or look through the lens of the organization as a whole, take ownership and focus on making a difference, through the  conscious choice to evolve the culture, consistently and relentlessly.

Next month, we will create a how-to blog around building culture. As we continue to develop our content in Building Culture When Nothing’s Normal, your input is welcome through our survey, e-mail, or an interactive conversation.

In Honor of the Heroes and Victims of 911

September 1, 2021
The Story of Hope, Despite the Events of 911,
as told by a stewardess from Delta Flight 15

In honor of the 20-year anniversary of 911, I thought I’d share this true feel-good story, as told by a stewardess of Delta Flight 15 (anonymous), which was directly impacted by the attack. It gives me hope for a better world, and positively taints my perspective about fellow humans.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic. All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.  As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces.  The captain handed me a printed message.  It was from Delta’s main  office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean.  We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly.  The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.

He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately — no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area.  A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings. We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air.  We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland, to have it checked out.

We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new!  Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM!…that’s 11:00 AM EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.

After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement:  “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have.  The reality is that we are here for another reason.”  

Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief.  The captain informed passengers that Ground Control in Gander told us to stay put. The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft.  No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts.  Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane. In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in D.C.  People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in  Canada.  Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash.  By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.  We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.

We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time.  At 6 P.M., Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.  Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing.  And they were true to their word.  Fortunately, we had no medical situations to worry about.  We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy.  We took REALLY good care of her.  The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th, a convoy of school buses showed up.  We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that, we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a  small  hotel.  We had no idea where our passengers were going.  We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander!  We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely  friendly.  They started calling us the “plane people.”  We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport.  Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.  What we found out was incredible.

Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places.  They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers.  Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.”  Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school.  If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.  Families were kept together.  All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady?  She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.  During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips.  Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors.  Some went for hikes in the local forests. Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals.  Everyone was given tokens for local laundromats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.  In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

Passengers were crying while telling us these stories.  Finally, when   they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late.  The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving.  They coordinated everything beautifully.

It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise.   Everyone knew each other by name.  They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight.  The crew just stayed out of their way.  It was mind-boggling.

Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.

And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an  announcement over the PA system.  We never, ever allow that.  But this time was different.  I said “of course” and handed him the mike.   He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days.  He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.  He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number).  The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travellers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship.  He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in their college education.

I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now.  It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them.

It reminds me how much good there is in the world.

In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward.

*This is one of those stories that needs to be shared. Please do so…