Archive for the ‘Front Line Managers’ Category

Open Minds, Open Hearts

December 2, 2022


FountainBlue’s December 2 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘Open Hearts, Open Minds’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

We were fortunate to have such inspiring and practical advice from a diverse set of open-hearted, open-minded leaders and managers. Our panelists shared their advice and strategies for:

  • embracing the business opportunities for being open-minded and open-hearted
  • thinking, planning and executing on these strategies to produce measurable outcomes
  • welcoming the opportunities and challenges around the unknowns and
  • amplifying the ripple effect – where success builds on success

Below is a compilation of their advice:

It takes leadership.

  • See the up-sides in the challenges and courageously venture forth strategically, methodically, and collaboratively to build both relationships and results.
  • Clearly communicate the North Star – the values and direction for the organization – and inspire and lead others to collaborate and make incremental progress.
  • Focus on the long-term plans while navigating the short-term challenges and opportunities.
  • Choose to regularly perform the tasks and actions which move the needle forward, in alignment with corporate goals, market trends, and customer demands.
  • Challenge your team to do more with less, but make sure that they have minimal support and resources to succeed.

Build a culture of trust.

  • Communicate clearly and transparently in a way which connects and informs in order to build a culture of trust, where people feel comfortable stretching themselves, taking calculated risks, while learning and growing.
  • Help your team see change as an opportunity and provide them with the support, training and resources so that they can pivot and flex with the changes, both anticipated and not.
  • Adopt a can-do, positive attitude especially through challenging circumstances.
  • Be clear on the guardrails around change so people can better take measured risk and more likely succeed. 
  • Have the back of your team members as they take risks.

Stretch yourself.

  • Leverage your experience and connections to position yourself for expansion, growth and impact. 
  • Be willing to make the best of challenging circumstances – they are character-building opportunities. 
  • Choose to make an impact within and across roles, products and functions with an open mind, and an open heart.
  • Be curious about the challenges of others and sincerely offer your support.

The bottom line is that having an open mind and an open heart is the foundation for leadership and innovation, which in turn keeps companies, teams and leaders productive and successful.


Embracing Gratitude

November 4, 2022


FountainBlue’s November 4 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Embracing Gratitude’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. Our energetic, positive and proactive panelists spoke eloquently and passionately about how to embrace gratitude. Below is a summary of their advice.

Thoughts about Gratitude

  • Gratitude is in the attitude. Nobody can control and manage all that happens, but we can each choose to have the latitude to respond in ways that are more positive and constructive.
  • Gratitude is not necessarily a mindset you’re born with. It’s a choice you can make, a strength you can nurture, a quality you can spread for the betterment of all.
  • Maintain your inner peace no matter where the winds might blow at the moment.

Choose Gratitude

  • Make time for the people you love, the things you like to do.
  • Embrace a grateful, positive, constructive energy as you speak and act. 
  • Surround yourself with people who are appreciative and positive, projects which are productive and worthwhile.
  • Invite exposure to people, projects, plans that are very different from yourself and what you’ve done, so that you better appreciate the differences.
  • Adopt a can-do/must-do attitude and really stretch yourself, expressing gratitude for the opportunity. 

Express Gratitude

  • Let important others in your life know what they mean to you and how they’ve helped you.
  • Pause to feel, express and embrace gratitude.
  • Encourage and reward your team for choosing gratitude for themselves and expressing gratitude for others. 

Be Open and Curious

  • Be grateful for the learnings in the opportunities and the challenges.  
  • Be grateful for opportunities to learn in chaotic, emotional circumstances, letting your left brain lead if necessary, so you’re not overwhelmed and unproductive. 
  • When failures happen, embrace the learnings, applaud the courageous, reflect on what can be done differently and better next time. 

Gratitude is a Journey

  • Don’t expect to be grateful 100% of the time for everything that happens. But do be grateful for the incremental challenges and the learnings and opportunities ahead. 
  • You can’t always win, but you can always try to fail forward, learning with every opportunity. 

Nobody can live in a perfect world, but we can ALL choose to live a life of gratitude and spread that grateful energy, words and tasks to those around us.

Change Management Best Practices

October 24, 2022

FountainBlue’s October 21 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘Change Management Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 


Change happens. And it happened to our panelists for this session. There were illnesses, client and executive obligations, personal conflicts, etc., So this month’s panel did not go as planned.

But our panelists persevered. And I picked up the baton as well, joining in the fray. Below is a summary of thoughts and suggestions on how to best manage through change.

Be Bold and Strategic

  • Be bold and brazen about the changes you can facilitate. It’s the only way to make BIG changes happen.
  • Make a plan, but don’t be married to the plan, for it will not go as expected. 
  • Pivot and shift based on how the plan is progressing. 
  • Be clear on what you know and what you don’t know as you plan-fully and strategically embrace necessary changes.
  • Manage the adopters, the naysayers, the protestors, and all other personas as you lead through change. 

Build a Network

  • Connect with a host of others who can support you through changes. It will help you have the courage, perspectives and insights to navigate change, which can otherwise be very lonely. 
  • Share fully and candidly with trusted others in collaboration to navigate necessary changes.
  • Help the Stars shine brighter, the Cows (cash cows) keep producing, the Dogs find new paths, and the Unknowns get clarity on their fit with the product/service/organization. 

Be Empathetic and Supportive

  • Be empathetic and supportive to those who will not fit in when change happens. Delivering a message with grace and constructive advice and support will help them land well, while also helping your team carry on with positive and constructive energy. 
  • Be that sounding board for others as they navigate change. 
  • Create a safe space for all can share the challenges and opportunities around necessary changes. 

Change is not generally easy, but these change-management steps might help you navigate change proactively.

  1. Be clear on your values and your value-add.
  2. Create and/or sign on to a corporate vision which fits your values and where you can contribute in a way which is impactful.
  3. Accept that changes will happen, and that conflict will be inevitable.
  4. Collaborate with all parties to align on principles and goals while agreeing on, delivering on, and communicating business results. 
  5. Navigate the storm around the change with direct, transparent, empathetic conversations with the goal of clarity and connection.
  6. Align thoughts, words and actions around the change.
  7. Own up if there are flubs in the process, if there were errors and problems caused by changes (or because change didn’t happen earlier), and while continuing to build momentum toward that positive change.
  8. Make change not-personal. Make it about business imperatives and the metrics/data. 
  9. Support everyone as they navigate change and keep celebrating incremental successes. 

These steps are not necessarily sequential and don’t lead to a specific end goal, for change is an ongoing process.

The question in the end is not whether change will happen, but which change will happen to who/what and what can we do to navigate these changes.

Making Decisions That Count

October 7, 2022

FountainBlue’s October 7 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Making Decisions That Count’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as a Program Leader – Amber Barber, Jade Global
  • as a Business Leader – Melissa McDonnell, Dolby
  • as an Operations Leader – Lora Muller, Tektronix

Our versatile and accomplished panelists have certainly made a wide range of impactful decisions in their respective careers. They were generous and gracious enough to share their wisdom.
Be Strategic.

  • We don’t know what we don’t know, so enlist a wide range of people and perspectives around the problem, not just people who share your own viewpoint.
  • Clearly communicate WHY decisions are made, factors and people involved in making the decision, desired results of the decision, revision or pivot plans around the decision, etc.,
  • Leverage the data to make business cases behind decisions. Different stakeholders might need different business cases. 

Be Plan-ful.

  • Have a clear and complete problem statement, including input from a wide range of perspectives.
  • Strategize on how to get classes of resistors or individual resistors onboard with a decision. (Hint: Start by understanding their motivations and fears.)
  • Create a win-win framework for all involved, where possible.
  • Err on the side of action, once you’ve worked through your strategy and your plan.

Connect and Align.

  • Connect with humility and open-mindedness, inviting open inquiry and input, and aligning on common goals. 
  • Manage through any miscommunications and misalignments with honest, direct, empathetic communication, building connections of trust.
  • Make the distinction between alignment and agreement. You might insist on alignment on goals, but might not agree on how some task is performed to achieve that goal.
  • Debate all sides when coming to a decision, but align behind the decision once it is made. 
  • Help everyone be open, transparent, collaborative and communicative, working as one team to achieve a common goal.
  • Empower everyone to be accountable and responsible. Follow the DACI/RACI (Driver/Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model to optimize decision-making. 

When things go south…

  • Own a bad decision and learn the lessons from these choices.
  • Pivot agilely, strategically and plan-fully.

We learned that there might not be much difference between the BOB (best of the best) decisions and the WOW (worst of the worst) decisions… It all depends on how we lead, manage, communicate, and navigate through the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The WHY Before the WHAT Before the HOW

September 16, 2022

FountainBlue’s September 16 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘The Why Before the What Before the How’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as a People Leader – Ruth Radford, Lam Research
  • as a Program Leader – Sam Gupta, Pure Storage 
  • as an Engineering Leader – Pooja Agrawal, Renesas

Our spoke eloquently and passionately about their whys and provided practical and effective strategies to align everyone to a purpose, while delivering on results (the whats and the hows). Below is a compilation of their best practices.
Respect Everyone’s Contributions

  • Allow people to collaborate and deliver their portion of the deliverable, while aligning everyone to the client objectives and project purpose.
  • Welcome people from different backgrounds to contribute.
  • Resist the urge to more efficiently do a task yourself, and respect that others have different strategies which may also work.

Connect and Reframe

  • Connect people from different backgrounds, roles and mindsets with each other, aligning on the same purpose and contributing toward a common goal.
  • Help uber-technical people see the bigger picture, the larger solution.
  • Invite technical people to explain how a technology or process better serves the customer so that you can make a business case for support and resources.
  • See the WHY from all angles so that you can communicate the version of the WHY which would motivate each stakeholder. 

Overcome Resistance

  • Conversations around the Why sometimes meet resistance, especially if change is required. Objections might include problems with the what or the how, or even challenging the strategy or requesting validation that it will work. 
  • Continue to have direct conversations around the why, focusing on the corporate mission and values and direct customer requirements helps address objections.
  • Lobby for the resources and support to enable cross-functional teams to collaborate and deliver quality results.
  • Communicate the need to accelerate the pace of business, align behind core values, deliver on results, and adopt new skills and knowledge.

Plan Well, While Also Embracing Agility

  • Be clear on objectives and create plans which mitigate risks, especially risks that are likely to happen, or those which would be disastrous if they should happen.

The bottom line is that in this world of great change, leaders and companies must rally behind a ‘WHY’ and deliver WHAT customers are looking for, in a WAY which is efficient, effective and sustainable. 

Performance Review Best Practices

September 2, 2022

FountainBlue’s September 2 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘Performance Management Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as an HR Leader – Kerry Perryman, Samsung Research America
  • as a People Leader – Jennifer Exum, Gig Talent Collective
  • as a Product Leader – Sam Gupta, Pure Storage

Our passionate and seasoned panelists offered courageous, direct, and kind advice on how to better manage performance and bring out the best in people. Although they represented a wide breadth of experience and backgrounds, our panelists agreed on the following best practices:
Be Strategic

  • Align objectives across the organization, products and teams.
  • Leverage influencing skills to manage a host of stakeholders with the goal of delivering measurable results which fit performance objectives.
  • Understand the motivations of the various stakeholders and keep this in mind as you manage performance for the overall team.
  • Take a holistic view of individual, group and company performance, rather than counting on snapshots of detailed data which may be taken out of context.
  • Encourage the team to be plan-ful about their work, without being rigid; to be agile about their work while adhering to requirements, standards, processes and protocols.

Communication is Key

  • Engage in ongoing, constructive, data-based conversations around feedback.
  • Consistently communicate performance standards and execute to those standards.
  • Consistently think, speak and act in a way which inspires trust, informs transparently, and invites engagement. 
  • Make conversations direct and specific, but not personal. 

Collaborate, Connect and Inspire

  • While it’s important to oversee the performance of their own teams, it’s also important to collaborate with other stakeholders to deliver exceptional results. 
  • Look not just at where employees are, but also where they’d like to go, and support them in that journey.

Be Positive and Proactive

  • Find a positive and constructive way to manage performance, rather than adopting strategies which may (inadvertently or intentionally) pit people against each other.
  • Take the opportunities to praise and reward good performance and strategize on how to make the good behaviors and outcomes even better.
  • Invite and reward a mindset of growth and curiosity. 

As we look at the paradigm shift to a new version of normal, we must also realize that the way we manage and oversee performance must also shift, given the new realities of the workplace. 


Problem-Solving Strategies

August 23, 2022


FountainBlue’s August 19 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Problem-Solving Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

This month’s panelists spoke eloquently and passionately about the need to solve problems, and the opportunities which arise from solving problems well. They agreed that leaders need to be clear, firm, fair and consistent in communicating, in order to empower everyone to engage and participate in the problem-solving process. Collaboration is key in building team synergy, in securing a wide range of input and perspective, for  leveraging relevant experience and expertise.

There was much emphasis on the importance of having a clear, succinct, direct, metrics-based problem statement, one which is flexible enough to evolve as the program morphs. There were also recommendations for leveraging tools to facilitate collaboration tools like white-boarding, especially when staff members span the globe.

Our panelists also noted that there are also times when people need to meet face-to-face. For example, it’s important to meet in-person when you’re dealing with people issues, when you need to physically interact with a product, when you’re building relationships. 

Below is a summary of best practices for problem-solving:

  • Include a wide range of perspectives when working on a problem.
  • Simplify the problem, and even deconstruct it if appropriate so that you better understand it.
  • Invite wild ideas so you can fully brainstorm options, but also consider only the ideas which are practical.
  • Consider the cost/value of potential solutions, so that you implement solutions which are practical, sustainable, reasonable, and useful.
  • Focus on addressing the most impactful, highest-priority problems first. 
  • People-problems are generally more complex, less straight-forward than engineering or process problems. With process and engineering problems, there can be clearly defined standards and protocols.

It’s not easy to solve complex problems, but listening well and deeply is a key step forward for doing this well.

Managing Up, Down and Sideways

August 5, 2022


FountainBlue’s August 5 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Managing Up, Down and Sideways’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as an HR Leader – Kerry Perryman, Samsung Research America
  • as a Product Leader – Sondra Bollar, Oracle
  • as an Engineering Leader – Stephen McGrath, Trimble

We were fortunate to have such experienced and diverse panelists for this week’s front line managers online program. It’s been a tumultuous week with challenges and changes for many organizations, so it was a great time to learn about how to better manage up, down and sideways.Our panelists agreed on many management principles:

  • Build relationships with a wide network of people will help everyone better manage and lead. Healthy long-term relationships are built on respect and trust, developed from ongoing, proactive, authentic, transparent communication between all parties.
  • Be clear on your plan, based on the information you have to date and the objectives and goals defined for you. 
  • With that said, be nimble and agile should the direction change or if the data indicates other strategies and actions would better serve the goals.

Below is some advice for better managing up, down and sideways:
Be a Leader

  • Err on the side of action, even if your information set is incomplete and the result is uncertain.
  • Be curious about your blindspots and the blindspots of others with whom you work.
  • Manage your emotions and stay calm, even if you feel that you’ve been wronged.
  • Encourage everyone to learn from mistakes, and take advantage of teachable moments.

Be a Project Leader

  • Make specific plans for minimum deliverables, based on input from a wide range of sources.
  • Plan-fully allocate the right resources for the right talent, in alignment with overarching goals.

Empower and Engage Your Team

  • Provide exciting opportunities which challenge your team members individually and collectively.
  • Help your team manage and prioritize tasks and projects, and explain how everyone’s work fits in to the overall plan and why specific projects and tasks are more important than other ones. 

The bottom line is that management is an art and a science. 

Great managers help others feel secure and safe while also focusing on clarifying changes in goals and objectives and how they impact the organizations, teams, products, and individuals.When teams are managed well, there is deep trust and exceptional results made by productive and empowered team members. 

Embracing an Agile Mindset

July 15, 2022


FountainBlue’s July 15 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Embracing an Agile Mindset’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as a Business Leader – Louise Lamb, Coupa
  • as a Program Leader – Mona Hudak, Cisco
  • as an Engineering Leader – Pooja Agrawal, Renesas

Our Agility panelists represented a wide range of roles, organizations and backgrounds, but they have much in common:

  • They navigated their career with agility and grace.
  • They build deep networks and relationships which transcend roles, organizations and opportunities.
  • They embrace challenges as opportunities and stalwartly march forward to learn and grow, facilitating success for their teams, their products, and their organizations.
  • They are passionate and eloquent communicators who enjoy sharing their wisdom and advice.

Below is a compilation of best practices on how to embrace agility.
Be Strategic

  • Be purposeful and intentional about what you do and why you do it. 
  • Be open about the challenges in front of you and inclusive and collaborative as you address them head-on.
  • Welcome opportunities to fail quickly, and to fail forward, learning what to-do and what not-to-do along the way.

Manage Through Change 

  • Align everyone to a common purpose, but be open about HOW each person or group might implement/perform their tasks. 
  • Focus on your performance, but also on the perception others have of you, and the politics which may complicate your ability to perform well.
  • Accept that change will always happen, and be positive and constructive when facing these changes. 
  • Focus on delivering the business imperatives as you integrate changes. 

Overcome Obstacles to Change

  • Identify and address the root causes for the problems and challenges in front of you.
  • Encourage everyone to be resourceful problem-solvers and data-centered decision-makers. 
  • Break problems into smaller pieces so that you don’t boil the ocean.

Overcome Objections to Change

  • Distinguish between practical and emotional resistance to change so that you can better manage the adoption of necessary changes. 
  • Be empathetic and supportive to people who are change-resistant, and provide training, support and information so that they can better accept change. 
  • Be patient and persistent and positive as you agilely manage others through change.
  • Be positive, dynamic and proactive as you lead through change. 

Change is a constant, but agilely and resourcefully responding to the need for change will help yourself and your team deliver business results which satisfy customers. 

Growing Your Emotional Intelligence

July 1, 2022

FountainBlue’s July 1 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘Growing Your Emotional Intelligence’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. 

  • as a Business Leader – Sheri Simmons, Philips
  • as an HR Leader – Roxanne Dos Santos, Samsung Research America
  • as a People Leader – Susan Norton, BOLD
  • as a Product Leader – Ashwini Lahane, Freshworks

Our EQ panel represented a range of organizations and roles, but had much in common:

  • They humbly navigated their career up, down and sideways, always looking to learn and grow and become a larger and better version of themselves.
  • They are highly aware of their impact on others, and leverage their power and influence for the greater good, driving bottom line results while also developing their people.

Our panelists spoke extensively about Daniel Goleman’s five components of emotional intelligence, as profiled in his Sept 2005 book entitled Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

  • Emotional self awareness: Knowing what one is feeling at any given time and understanding the impact those moods have on others is a foundational quality of emotional intelligence. Staying attuned to your feelings and sensitive to how others are responding to what you’re thinking, saying or doing will help develop EQ.
  • Self-regulation: Putting up filters to control, redirect or otherwise manage one’s emotions supports one’s emotional intelligence. In addition, anticipating consequences before acting on impulse helps ensure smooth interactions and communications and build relationships and rapport.
  • Empathy: Awareness of and respect for the the emotions and feelings of others is another core EQ quality. This other-centeredness helps build understanding and connections between people, even when they are very different.
  • Social skills: Leveraging EQ skills can help manage relationships, inspire, empower and engage others to participate in the larger cause. 
  • Motivation: Leaders with high emotional intelligence can better achieve goals, enjoy the learning process and persevere in the face of obstacles, and mobilize those they touch to do the same.

Below is a compilation of advice on best practices for growing emotional intelligence:

Stretch Yourself

  • Embrace challenges as learning opportunities and grow from each experience.
  • Have the courage to invite and accept feedback, and the fortitude to grow and learn from it.
  • Manage your ego, which may not respond well to the thoughts, words and actions of others. 
  • Be aware and manage the triggers and buttons which may not bring out the best in yourself, and lead to less than desirable responses to others.
  • Know when to Endure, when to Engage, when to Embrace the challenging situations (and people) in front of you. 
  • Challenge yourself about your perspective, about your pace, about your areas of focus, about the processes adopted, about the scale you’re striving for.
  • Do what you need to do to keep centered and balanced, including journaling, meditating, reflection, education, etc.,

Challenge Others to Also Grow

  • Have the compassion and grace to support others as they also navigate challenges during these times of great change.
  • Help others to feel safe and supported while raising the bar for them, and providing them with the resources and support to feel engaged, empowered and successful. 
  • Be direct with your feelings, but in a non-emotional way. Try this formula when you face people not-like-you, ‘When you do X, it makes me feel Y. Could you do Z instead?’ 

Grow the Team and Organization

  • Proactively manage your own emotions so that you can optimize for a productive and constructive response and relationships with the team and the organization. 
  • Help your team tie passion to purpose and collaboratively drive toward measurable outcomes.

The bottom line is that your EQ will always be more important than your IQ, and growing your EQ will grow yourself and all you touch.