Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

On Building Trust and Influence

January 7, 2021

On Building Trust and Influence

On Building Trust and Influence

Who do you trust so you can stay safe, have fun, stay connected?

How do you get more influence, so others help you get what you want now for yourself, for others, for the future?

How are trust and influence related?

What can I do to get more people to trust me, get more influence to support my agenda?

Whether you’re on the pre-school playground or in the most elite boardroom, these thoughts rattle through your head. I get asked these questions often. So the last time I was asked these questions, I came up with a top ten list with my thoughts on how to build both trust and influence. I hope that you find it useful as you build your relationships of trust, your programs and projects of influence.

  1. Trust is of paramount importance in building relationships. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of trust in a relationship, and the stability and resiliency of that relationship.
  2. Trust can be a difficult thing to earn, and an easy thing to violate. If trust is violated in a relationship, contemplate deeply why a trust has been violated and what, if anything, can be done to repair that trust, that relationship. The learnings from this reflection will serve you well.
  3. Trust must be respected, nurtured and tended in all relationships, and never taken for granted.
  4. The more trusted relationships you nurture and grow, the easier it is to create and sustain more deep and trusted relationships. 
  5. Influence helps people get more things done. Influence becomes increasingly important in a world where we are increasingly interconnected, and no person is an island.
  6. The more influence you have, the easier it is to gain more influence.
  7. Influence in one area does not necessarily mean influence in another area. To be strategic about your influence, be clear on what you want to influence and for which target audience.
  8. It is easier to influence people who trust you. But someone doesn’t necessarily have to trust you to be influenced by you. Those with much influence are role models for many people, and should keep this in mind.
  9. When those with influence make a mistake, it does impact how influential they are. Reflection on what happened and transparent communication to others about the learnings from a mis-step will help those of influence remain influential.
  10. It is optimal to build deep relationships with people you trust, with whom you can collaborate to influence others on a common cause. Collaboratively building more synergistic relationships of trust and more impact and influence will help all parties make measurable progress toward achieving common goals.

Your comments are welcome. E-mail us at


Be a Bigger YOU!

December 29, 2017


As we embrace the shiny newness and promise of 2018, reflect on what you’ve learned last year, and resolve to be a bigger YOU in 2018. The picture was taken in front of a sculpture of a tree near the Santa Rosa mall, and reflects the promise of new growth following the 2017 fires. The thoughts below represent my learnings from 2017.

  1. See competence and consistency as two sides of the same coin. Keep reaching for one, and let the other catch up before leveling up.
  2. Have the confidence to keep reaching for stars, and also the humility and openness to welcome input and feedback.
  3. Communicate boldly, clearly and transparently, but listen and observe more than you speak.
  4. Be open and imaginative enough to see through your own filters, as frightening and as confusing as it may be to do so.
  5. Have a strong moral compass around your values, but respect that others may have the same.
  6. Be youthful and energetic in your approach, wise and open in your perspective.
  7. Be compassionate and supportive, while also being wise and reserved for those who might take advantage.
  8. Strive for courage, and temper it with common sense.
  9. Be calm, especially when circumstances are extreme, but err on the side of measured action.
  10. Be slow to judge, quick to learn.

Wishing everyone a 2018 which surpasses your hopes and dreams!

Fail Forward

December 19, 2015

FailForwardIn Silicon Valley, where we wear failure like a badge of courage, we must consider that not all failures are *good* failures. Having witnessed first-hand and indirectly ranging from small to spectacular, my rule of thumb when experiencing failure is whether the failure moves you forward.

  1. Moving forward means that you’ve learned something new about yourself, and what you do well, and not so well.
  2. Moving forward means that you are less likely to do a similar thing again, for very specific reasons.
  3. Moving forward means that you build new relationships in your life that adds more meaning and perspective to what you do at work and at home.
  4. It also means that some important existing relationships are different and/or better.
  5. Moving forward means that you see the overall experience as a net positive one, despite the short-term pain and upset.
  6. Moving forward means that you are stronger and better and more grounded overall.
  7. Moving forward means people who know you and used to know you may see you now in a different light.
  8. Moving forward means that you can forgive yourself, and others involved and know better what to expect from yourself and those same others in future projects.
  9. Moving forward means that you have a broader, deeper view of the world, and the people and technologies and things in it.
  10. Moving forward means that you are better and braver and more prepared for the next adventure.

As we go into a new year, look for opportunities to succeed, reach for stars, and if you have to fail, fail forward.

M&A Strategy and Execution Best Practices

December 12, 2015

Business People Standing On A Symbol Of RecyclingFountainBlue’s Dec 11 Pre-Launch event for the VIP roundtable series was on the M&A Strategy and Execution Best Practices! We are grateful for the leaders and companies represented around the table, for sharing their wisdom and experience so graciously and generously. Please also join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Altera, who made our pre-launch event possible, and who had the original idea for the series. Below is a list of best practices around strategy and execution when managing an M&A event.

Strategy Best Practices:

  • Find a synergistic and/or complimentary offering, one that provides an expansion opportunity into new markets that are growing, and fills a gap in your technology direction and abilities.
  • Focus on the purpose of the acquisition – is it for the IT, for the talent, for the market share, while planning and executing on the M&A event.
  • Factor in whether there will be a leadership and cultural synergy between the two entities. Sometimes companies get so excited about the tech and market acquisition up-sides that they dismiss the cultural and leadership mis-matches which could make an integration difficult at best.
  • Look not just on whether the technology is the right match, but whether the team being acquired will also have the talent to market and sell that technology and product. Don’t just assume that the acquiring company will take over that piece.
  • Consider collaboration and defensive objectives in M&As, buying the leaders in a competitive landscape market​.
  • With that said, even if it makes sense to buy the market leader in a market which is being consolidated, make sure that the major customers would back the acquisition or they might make it difficult and even impossible to complete the M&A process.
  • Look beyond the factors that drive your decision for today, and look at what’s best for the company in the 2-3-year timeframe.
  • ​Consider whether the longer term benefit worth the short term integration cost and pain and whether the revenue model be bigger and better now and 2-3 years from now.
  • When there are competitive bids for a company to be acquired, consider not just the dollar value offered, but also how much independence is likely valued by the company to be acquired.
  • Larger companies can consider the option of being bought out by smaller companies in the same space, if they have the revenues to buy them, and if the leadership has the humility, strength and character to ensure the integration. Success for both sides means that the larger brand lives on and the smaller company provides the financial and leadership strength to expand.

Execution Best Practices:

  • Decide on common definitions for terms like ‘revenues’, ‘market’, ‘opportunity’, ‘partner’, ‘results’ etc.,
  • Whether you’re the acquiring or the acquired company, make sure that you have all the information and the right information throughout the due diligence process.
  • Have realistic objectives based on the information you have and agree on how success will be measured.
  • When a decision is made to start the M&A integration process, have enthusiasm and be optimistic, but don’t wear blinders. Pay attention to any red flags you might see and be curious about why they are there and whether there are more.
  • Proactively manage the brand strategy for both the acquiring company and the acquired company. How will the brand be improved and enhanced post-acquisition? What is the consistent communication and message about the M&A? Communicating in words and actions in alignment with the M&A objectives is critical to the success of any integration.
  • Leaders must manage their own emotions and help their people to manage theirs throughout the M&A planning and integration process. Ongoing transparent and open communication and alignment of words and actions will help ensure successful integrations. Keep the communications consistent and positive and insist that people communicate with respect.
  • Insist on making decisions when they MUST be made quickly​, selecting the best of all options, based on objective criteria which focuses on the M&A objectives, rather than deferring discussions, conversations and decisions.
  • Adopt a balance of structure and agility throughout the integration process. Have a plan, but be willing to drift from it as each integration is different.
  • Adopt a ‘Shut-Up and Eat’ principle as it helps people from both companies adopt a disagree-and-commit mentality and unity that helps moves things forward and discourages politicking and second-guessing, even when a unpopular decision has been made or when factions are divided on a decision that has been made.

The collective predictions for M&As include:

  • A continued consolidation of companies, particularly in the semiconductor space. It’s a ‘eat-or-be-eaten’ mindset right now.
  • China will play a role in semiconductor industry as it has billions to spend and is prospecting. Integrations with Chinese government or companies may be difficult because of cultural differences.
  • The digitization trend will continue to disrupt companies and industries, particularly industries which are not traditionally in tech! This poses new opportunities and challenges for acquiring and acquired companies.
  • Larger companies will have more spin-outs to support their innovation efforts in specific areas. Entrepreneurial teams can be more agile with their innovation, and can be more easily integrated back into the company once the technologies have been developed and the company’s brand and channel become more important.
  • Larger companies will have more splitting between business units and technologies as market opportunities and tech evolution favors that the entities divide up again. This is frustrating to many as these entities were purposefully integrated in the first place, so leaders must manage communication and motivate all players involved in order for the split to be successful, retaining technology and talent.

In the end, the secret to successful integrations is to have a future-perfect vision of the combined company, and to ensure that the technology is robust and scalable, the processes support the people and technology, and that the people and culture are in alignment to address an opportunity in a growing market.  

Time: Our Irreplaceable Resource

October 12, 2015

TimeManagementYou can make more money on the next contract or role, you can do a better job on the next project, you can have better luck with the next relationship, but your one irreplaceable resource is time. So give it the respect it deserves and be strategic about what you want to accomplish with your time.

  1. It doesn’t always have to be about business or professional goals, but decide whether what you’re doing is for a business or professional result and allocate the appropriate amount of time to generate the results which you want or which are required of you.
  2. Start by asking why you want to do something, what you want/need to do to make it happen, then figure how you are going to do it and who you need to connect with to make it happen. 
  3. Develop and nurture relationships that will support your goals. Avoid relationships which are time-sinks and energy-sucks. (With that said, you may have personal commitments to friends or family which are not ‘productive’ uses of your time, but they are commitments that should be honored, but be realistic about what you can do with the time spent with them.)
  4. Plan follow-up conversations proactively, preferably by the end of the meeting. Have clear assignments, homework and expectations for next steps and postpone a meeting if these things aren’t yet accomplished, to save everyone time.
  5. Be reliably and predictably on-time, to show that you respect other people’s time.
  6. Look for patterns of occurrences and behaviors which have made you rushed for time and figure out what you can change to increase the odds that you will reliably show up on-time and well prepared.
  7. Be honest with yourself on how well you’ve managed your time. Then tweak the plan so that your more efficiently use your time, and that of your client, partner, prospect, colleague, etc.
  8. Examine what happens if your professional goals are leading to more of a social outcome. Was it the right goal, the right contact? Did you do your homework beforehand? Did you manage expectations and conversation?
  9. Carefully manage relationships where your friends or your family are your clients and partners too. Know when you’re focusing on professional goals and when you’re just being social.
  10. Above all, take time for yourself, so that you’re fresh, energized and grounded and can appreciate the little things and see the bigger picture. 

What are YOUR best practices for time management?

Walking Points

October 17, 2014

Walking PointThe September 2014 article The Four Reasons Working Relationships Fail highlights Dr. John Gottman’s University of Washington study identifying four behavioral indicators which led with 93% accuracy to the dissolution of a marriage: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.

It is our contention that there are ten unsurmountable behaviors, leaving leaders little option but to disengage when possible, or just hope for the best when not. We hope that defining these ‘walking points’, will help people think about what they can change and whether they should move on.

Expect Respect

  1. Respect for others is a requirement for leaders from any chair. Holding others in contempt for not thinking, behaving, acting, doing something like you should be done makes you difficult to be with, even if you are right. For it’s not about being right, it’s valuing the right for others to do things differently, and being open to thinking that things could or should be done differently.
  2. Feedback is a terrific learning tool, and delivered in a positive, constructive way is a great way to learn. But constant and continual criticism, especially when attacking character and things-that-can’t-be-changed is very hard to live by. The bottom line is that you yourself should decide what you should change and whether and why that should be changed, and if the other person thinks it’s her/his right to make that decision for you, there will be no winners.

Communicate Directly

  1. Direct communication is a critical component of healthy relationships, so refusing to engage and work through feelings and issues is counter-productive. Being defensive and acting the victim may continue to bring up old problems and issues, but will not help you and the other party figure out how to fix the problem going forward.
  2. Similarly, avoiding and withdrawing confrontations and denying that problems exist will not help both parties understand and resolve the issues at hand.

Timing’s Everything

  1. In a work relationship where roles are defined, one person may not be ready to assume the role she/he has been given. There may be a lack of maturity, understanding, knowledge, experience or ability to assume the role given, and both parties suffer. Unless both are able to change the way they need to interact with others, the relationship is doomed to fail.
  2. Similarly, it’s hard to separate work and life – life happens and someone perfectly reasonable and capable may not be emotionally, spiritually, physically able to get the job done. Unless she or he is able to recognize that and make changes, others who work with this person are required to carry the load, bail out the project, take the blame, etc.

No-Jerks Allowed

  1. People who are self-centered and selfish may be OK to work with in the short term, but in the end, their focus on themselves and their own self-interest, even putting it in front of the team, the company and others, will lead to their downfall. I hope that you’re not part of that journey.
  2. People who are not jerks by nature, but who are entrenched in how things should work and inflexible about adopting anything or anyone new wind up also dooming the company. It’s not your job to help them become more flexible – if you find someone inflexible, find another relationship or role.
  3. People who are not jerks by nature, but who lack the competence and experience to lead might find themselves indecisive and fickle when making decisions, and find themselves easily blaming others when things don’t go as expected.

Everybody’s Different

10. It’s all about chemistry. You could work with a stellar boss or co-worker and all pistons would fire no matter what you do together. And that same person can’t work successfully with anyone else. And vice versa! So if it’s just not working for you, no matter how hard you work to make it a productive, collaborative relationship, it might be time for one or both of you to move on.

These are our thoughts on behaviors that lead to failed relationships. What are yours?

Next month, we’ll talk about politics in the workplace – the games that people play and what to do about it.

The Next Generation Leader

October 13, 2014


We talked about how a collaborative, consultative leadership style will be favored in the Next Generation Workforce, as we emerge into the Age of Personalization, but what does that mean? What should you select for in the hiring process and whom should you groom? How do you know that you have the right person in the right role and entice the right people to join up? Below are our thoughts.

  1. Collaborative – The world will be filled with a wide range of stakeholders working within a dynamic ecosystem. It’s hard to know all the players and their motivations. Collaborating with a range of stakeholders and aligning on objectives and goals is an essential ingredient for successful leadership and management.
  2. Consultative – Consulting with the range of stakeholders to understand their motivations and perspectives will help you better collaborate with all, and get the engagement of all.
  3. Ethical – Leaders will be ever more in a fish bowl, under a microscope. Doing the right thing, having values that matter, advocating for customers and others, etc., have to be part of who you leader is, day-in and day-out. It’s not a mask you can put on, a costume you can don. It’s who they are inside, shining out. Select someone who is truly ethical, not just someone with a great veneer.
  4. Tech-Savvy – The world and the people in it will be driven by tech, as it’s the only way to deliver what the customers demand. Being tech-savvy enough to get-the-tech and how tech will drive the business are an essential ingredient for success.
  5. Customer-Focused – It’s about the customer – knowing them well and serving them well. There is no room for debate.
  6. Other-Focused – Ever putting others first is a path to growth and learning, no matter which chair you’re sitting on.
  7. Experienced – Look for a leader who has depth in at least one specific area, and exposure to a range of areas – technologies, products, markets, businesses, etc., Depth and breadth of experience will help leaders integrate the input and message from all the data sources and make measured, data-based decisions.
  8. Flexible – Pivoting will be part of all business models in an Age of Personalization, so leaders who are flexible enough to pivot, and intelligent enough to know why it needs to be done and how it should be done will prevail.
  9. Self-Aware – Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as well as the needs of the company, and constantly overlaying one with the other by being self-aware will help ensure that you’re right for the company and vice versa.
  10. Outspoken – Speaking your mind in a way that respects the input and rights of others will help set a direction that all can buy into – an essential leadership quality in the new age.

These are our thoughts on the qualities of a next-generation leader? Share your thoughts by e-mailing us at

Ten People You Should Have In Your Network

February 28, 2013

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No matter what your role is, what level you are within an organization, where you are in your career path, or to what degree you are happy with where you are personally and professionally, your network has tremendous influence over your career, your impact and influence for today and going forward. In this age where communication can be pervasive and instantaneous, given how connected we are globally and the tools we use daily to connect with others (from e-mail to social media to videos), it is ever more critical that we message precisely (a topic for another blog) what we want to the audience and network we prescribe. In considering your network and who you would like to target which message to, consider including these ten people as an essential part of the network you build:

  1. You Mom or other Cheerleader, someone who would stand behind you no matter what, and insist that you live by the values under which she has raised you. This is a maternal figure or cheerleader someone who believes in you, and gives you the confidence, fortitude and inspiration to keep going, especially when times are tough; and to appreciate the people in your life, the accomplishments you’ve already achieved, and the values you stand you. Having a mother figure in your network gives you the sense of self and confidence in self to insist on excellence and persistently reach and grow.
  2. Your Dad (or Mom) or an older, wiser Advocate, someone who always raises the bar for you, and insists that you bring honor and success to your family and yourself, while providing for those who rely on you. This is the paternal figure (who could also be your mom) who challenges you to be all that you can be, advocates for you and your higher purpose, and helps you to provide for others, and stand for the values with which you were raised. Having a father figure in your network will help you feel comfortable with who you are, what you stand for, and understand how to reach beyond your current circle of people, your current goals.
  3. Your Best Childhood Friend, or the equivalent, who may or may not get what you are doing now, but knows that you will always be there for him and her, and that your purpose, passion and values are clear.
  4. A Devil’s Advocate, who is always poking holes at your ideas, to ensure the validity of what you decide to do in the end.
  5. A Hero who has opened the world of possibilities in new ways, and stretched your thinking about what’s possible.
  6. An Older Sibling who is always encouraging, sometimes contrarian, yet also always raising the bar for you. He or she may be exactly like you, or nothing like you, but they have witnessed your personal development and professional growth and will help you find that true north.
  7. A Mentor with skills and information not necessarily in your repertoire, who sees your potential and facilitates your success. He or she might help you see things from the other point of view, and give you ideas and recommendations and resources beyond your field of vision. She or he might at times be that hero or devil’s advocate or cheerleader, and coaches and encourages resilience, fortitude and resourcefulness. Good mentors make great accountability partners, while always staying on your side, sometimes with tough love.
  8. An Executive Sponsor who can open doors for you at the top executive suites, but only if he is she thinks that you’re ready for it. She or he would stand beside you and help facilitate your success and recover from inevitable missteps while coaching and prepping you for the next opportunity. He or she would take a chance on you, and open doors for you, and also call you to task if you don’t deliver.
  9. An Adviser who has broken the ground in some way in a specific business or technology area, and can help you think through the business and tech opportunities, challenges and implications. Part mentor, part partner, part devil’s advocate and cheerleader, an adviser could be very hands-off, or definitely hands-on with the day-to-day business. The better ones are hands-on, but not necessarily hungry for a home run.
  10. A Partner or Spouse who doesn’t think or act like you, or play and work in the same circles as you, who is not afraid of providing candid feedback, as well as implicit support. The best ones know when to play which of the roles above to push you while supporting you implicitly.

So which of these people are in your network? Who do you still need in the network? Who else should be on the must-have list? We invite your questions and comments about your marketing and leadership successes and challenges.

Expanding Your Brand From Tactical to Strategic

November 29, 2012


FountainBlue’s monthly top-ten rules of leadership are designed to guide our client entrepreneurial tech companies and the community in general on leadership best practices for themselves, and for their teams and organizations. The questions and stories raised and the advice given has been mentioned before to individual members, and compiled and gathered to benefit the larger community. This month’s top-ten-leadership rules is about how to expand your brand beyond tactical results to strategic leader who delivers results.

It happens time and time again in the valley, ambitious, hard-working, result-delivering technologists rise up the corporate ladder, delivering stellar measurable results. We are rewarding for being smart, hard-working, and executing efficiently. But there comes a point in our career, where the powers to be tell us in no uncertain terms that we are great at the doing, but not strategic enough to further rise within the organization. If you’ve heard that, and would like to correct their perception, here are some thoughts on how to change your image in their eyes,

Know yourself and why you’d like to be thought of as more strategic.

1. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and how to best lead with your strengths.

2. Know why you’d like to be thought of as more strategic, and also what’s missing if you’re not more strategic. Imagine and act as if you already where you’d like to be.

Think of your past work in a different light, first in terms of what it did for your team and company, and then in terms of measurable results.

3. Map your career path following an overarching technology or business trend, and your results within that larger picture.

4. Update your profile to reflect this mindset and communicate from this larger perspective.

Evaluate opportunities that overlap your passion, your skills, and the market opportunity.

5. Map your next position, role, organization based on what’s logically next on your career and personal path, and explain how your past experiences and successes position you well for what’s next.

6. Be thorough in considering what’s next for you, even if it means that you leave your team, company, industry, geography.

If you really do choose the strategic path, be willing to give up some old and proven practices.

7. Follow the 80-20 rule, and force yourself to not be quite as thorough at some things.

8. Embrace the unknowns and trust your instincts and your gut more, for many times, you don’t have the time or resources to know much for certain.

Build strategic networks of relationships.

9. Strategic people know that it’s not about being right, it’s about how things are done, and how you make people feel.

10. Build relationships at all levels by speaking the language of others, and nurturing the success of all, for everyone has a piece of the puzzle.

The next time you have a review or feedback that you are not as strategic as you can be, read above and prepare for a measured rebuttal about how you are much more strategic than he or she thinks you are.