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FountainBlue’s CONNECTIONs leadership scoops highlight leadership thoughts and concepts which would be of interest to the entrepreneurs and execs in the FountainBlue community, along with our original leadership posts, which were created in collaboration with the dozens of executives and entrepreneurs over the past two decades. We hope that our writings and articles help others to connect ideas, thoughts, people and concepts, that stimulate more strategic, more inclusive, more collaborative thinking and more results-achieving communications and actions. At FountainBlue, we write, coach and consult with the purpose of facilitating leadership One Conversation, One Leader, One Organization at a time.
Curated by Linda Holroyd
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Entrepreneurial Success? Yes, There's a Test for That

Entrepreneurial Success? Yes, There's a Test for That | Connection |

The Founder Institute's mission is to "Globalize Silicon Valley" and help promising entrepreneurs launch companies. It is arguably one of the world's premier startup launch program (FI has chapters across 60 countries as well as in Silicon Valley, and has graduated 2400+ founders and 2100+ companies). And with all those graduates, FI knows a lot about the traits of successful entrepreneurs and now it has a study to back up an early hypothesis: when FI started in 2009, Adeo Ressi (Co-Founder & CEO) and Jonathan Greechan (Co-Founder) hypothesized that by implementing a short, objective test during the application process for their program, they would be able to predict the likelihood of someone building a successful technology company. FI conducted a seven-year study on the traits as well as trait combinations that make up successful entrepreneurs. They dub these "Entrepreneur DNA Profiles." FI worked closely with social scientists to identify 6 groups of personality combinations (FI conducted a proprietary Predictive Admissions Test on nearly 23,000 applicants (over 30,000 people apply to FI programs worldwide) and continues its research on traits of successful entrepreneurs with its graduates).

The six entrepreneurial profiles FI identified: The Hustler; The Innovator; The Machine; The Prodigy; The Strategist, and The Visionary. Hustlers are described in the study as "expert sales people equipped with very high levels of extraversion and conscientiousness, who identify with the likes of Mary Kay Ash and Zig Ziglar." Prodigies are more likely to relate to Elon Musk or Larry Page, as they have "very high fluid intelligence and emotional stability, but lower extroversion".

The tests identified a number of interesting traits in successful entrepreneurs, which interestingly, include these two takeaways:

IQ is not a factor that directly correlates with entrepreneurial success
Older age has shown in the data to correlate with more successful entrepreneurs up to the age of 40, after which it has limited or no impact.
Equally fascinating (when we consider the status certain founders and startups are elevated to), the traits with a negative correlation to entrepreneurial success include predatory aggressiveness, deceit, emotional instability, narcissism, and permanent excuses.

As for "success" (since the whole point of the test and 7-year study was to find success traits), FI defines the success of "early-stage" entrepreneurs by their "ability to quickly execute defined strategy and short-term goals". These short-terms goals may relate to startup metrics around revenue, market adoption, profitability, capital raised, recruitment of top talent, product milestones etc. In other words, the traction investors expect to see from an early-stage company.

There is one obvious upside of implementing an objective test in the application process for programs such as Founder Institute: it eliminates selection bias based on location, profession, race, gender or demographic. And no further explanation is required as to why more diversity in tech and the startup ecosystem (generally) is needed. Now as to whether the study will have a broader impact for diverse early-stage entrepreneurs seeking funding from the VC community, no predictions on the outcome of that one.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Be: The Hustler; The Innovator; The Machine; The Prodigy; The Strategist, or The Visionary.

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The One Ingredient You Must Demonstrate in Your Leadership

The One Ingredient You Must Demonstrate in Your Leadership | Connection |

Perry Noble suggests that there is one ingredient that would make a lot of leadership issues go away. In The Most Excellent Way to Lead, he turns to the advice of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

Paul had a lot to say about leadership and rightly so. Leadership comes to us naturally but without some guidance it’s not just easy to get it wrong, it's highly probable. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he is discussing – in chapter 12 – how people should work together and points out that we all have roles but that none is more important or better than another. Just different.

And then at the end of chapter 12 he lists some of the roles needed in the church, but then he says in chapter 13 that no matter who you think you are or how gifted you think you are, if you can’t do it in love—outgoing concern for others—then you are nothing. Your leadership doesn't matter. You aren’t doing it right.

It sounds like Paul is just saying play nicer, but he’s talking about serving others in some of the most difficult ways possible.
“The most excellent way to lead is also the most difficult. It goes against our natural tendencies and the culture we live in, and it highlights the fact that leadership is ultimately about the leader.”
Paul is taking about being patient with others when your patience has run out.

Being kind when they don’t deserve it.

Being supportive of other people’s success and helpful when they stumble.

Looking out for the best interests of other’s before yourself.

Never keeping a tally of other people’s failures and wrong behaviors.

Always seeking the truth even when gossip is more believable.

Choosing to trust others when it would be easier to be suspicious of them.

Being optimistic even when circumstances compel you to do otherwise.

And never giving up on people even when you are discouraged.

Noble does a good job explaining each of these and more both on a personal level and organizationally. “The way we look at other people is important,” writes Noble, “and when we see them through the lens of love, our capacity to lead significantly increases.” Without love, as Simon Sinek has pointed out, “people are forced to spend too much time and energy protecting themselves from each other.”

Mark Sanborn adds, “when we allow love to define who we are as we work, we become irresistible leaders with a contagious passion for what we do.”

This is how we get things done through others. This is how we develop others and allow them to flourish under our leadership. It’s how we build more leaders to carry on after we are gone.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Thank you Perry Noble, for helping us reflect on what it takes to lead.

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Breaking down the gender challenge | McKinsey & Company

Breaking down the gender challenge | McKinsey & Company | Connection |

To make meaningful progress on gender diversity, companies must move beyond the averages and focus on the biggest pain points.

Corporate ambitions to achieve gender parity often produce scattershot initiatives. It’s easy to see why: gender parity is a huge undertaking, with many dimensions—a challenge akin to urban planning—in which executives must reimagine their “city” and culture, put in place multiyear building plans, add infrastructure, and improve services. Our latest research suggests that leaders can cut through the complexity of the task by first establishing priorities linked with their organizations’ most pervasive talent-pipeline problems.

More specifically, data we collected during 2015 (in collaboration with, from 30,000 employees at 118 North American companies across nine industries, show that many organizations are afflicted by one of three common pipeline pain points: women are unable to enter, stuck at the middle, or locked out of the top (exhibit). Our hope is that if companies can recognize themselves in one of these patterns, they will be better able to target their gender initiatives. (For detailed data on industry pipeline patterns, see the downloadable PDF for this article. For more on the overall research effort, see “Women in the workplace,” which revealed that women are less likely to advance than men, hold fewer roles leading to top management positions, and are a century away from gender parity in the C-suite if progress continues at the pace that prevailed between 2012 and 2015.)

Unable to enter

A number of sectors—especially automotive and industrial manufacturing, energy and basic materials, and technology—are unable to attract women for entry-level positions, so women are poorly represented throughout the talent pipeline. This problem usually arises from recruiting challenges or pre-pipeline problems, particularly the low graduation rates of women in industry feeder programs such as engineering, where they receive about 20 percent, 24 percent, and 23 percent of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees, respectively
The technology sector typifies these challenges. Women hold 37 percent of entry-level roles, versus 45 percent for our overall sample, and underrepresentation continues at each stage of the pipeline. Not surprisingly, 38 percent of women in technology feel that their gender will make it difficult for them to advance in the future. Sixty percent of women in technology also cite stress and pressure as their primary reason for not wanting to be a top executive. These figures are among the highest across all sectors surveyed.

Companies confronting entry-level hiring challenges can improve the health of their pipelines by making an up-front investment in the ecosystem of qualified female candidates and by focusing their efforts on achieving greater diversity in their recruitment processes. To expose the root causes of gender disparity at the pipeline’s start and to suggest solutions, companies should start by asking themselves questions such as these:

What would it take to improve pre-pipeline gender diversity, and how might we play a constructive role in that effort?
What quantitative targets could we track to improve the gender diversity of our recruiting pipeline in a meaningful way?
How can we maintain objective recruitment criteria while empowering hiring managers to spot and interrupt unconscious bias? As we do so, how do we make sure our lateral- and experienced-hiring programs are also gender balanced?
Leading companies today are partnering with universities to cultivate talent early. Organizations such as Girls Who Code2 or initiatives such as TechPrep3 (launched by Facebook) nurture talent in early education, often at points where girls abandon paths leading to STEM4 degrees. One technology company struggling with diversity in recruiting used advanced analytics in its résumé-screening process to identify and remove gender bias. This resulted not only in a more diverse pool of talent but also in higher-quality candidates overall. Another company focused on bias training for all managers involved in recruiting, and as a result a larger proportion of women received offers.

Stuck at the middle

Failing to advance women into middle-management roles is a common problem. Many organizations focus considerable time and energy on achieving greater diversity in the recruiting process, perhaps starting at or close to parity for men and women in entry-level positions. Such gains, however, are often quickly eroded within the first few promotion cycles. The sectors experiencing these challenges most frequently include logistics and transportation, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and hospitality.

Consider healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, for example. They start out with more women in their pipelines than companies in many other sectors do—59 percent versus 45 percent for the average in entry-level jobs—but look quite similar at the vice-presidential level. This drop-off reflects below-average middle-management promotion rates. In our sample as a whole, women were 85 percent as likely as their male counterparts to make the jump from senior manager or director to vice president, while in healthcare and pharmaceuticals the odds were just 64 percent. Of note, just 37 percent of women in healthcare and pharmaceutical companies feel they have fewer opportunities than their male coworkers do, versus 49 percent for other industries. Clearly, the middle-management cliff cannot be explained by simple causes—for instance, biased promotion practices. Questions such as the following can help companies struggling with middle-management promotions to understand why their pipeline abruptly narrows and how to unclog it:

Which of our gender programs, if any, specifically focus on support for early-tenure women? What is the utilization rate for these programs?
How do we ensure that we are drawing on the organization’s full range of talent when making promotion decisions at the middle-management level?
How can we avoid incorporating biases into promotion decisions and thereby ensure a level playing field?
Innovative approaches are emerging to address middle-management pipeline stoppages. With the aim of ensuring greater gender balance in the slate of candidates put up for promotion, one company we know has reworked its job descriptions and advertising approaches. Another invited third-party experts into its reviews to observe how it made promotion decisions. By cataloging readily identifiable biases, these experts were able to work with HR and managers to make promotion processes more inclusive. Simple things can make an enormous difference—for instance, ensuring that women are considered for midlevel promotions, receive feedback if they don’t get the jobs, and have sponsorship and action plans helping them to build the skills needed to grow into leaders.

Locked out of the top

Companies in the third group are adept at attracting women for entry-level roles and advancing them into middle management but struggle to promote them to top-level executive positions. Sectors that suffer from this challenge most seriously include retail and consumer goods, media and telecom, and financial and professional services.

The retail and consumer-goods sector, which has a higher percentage of women in all entry- and midlevel roles than our overall sample does, is an interesting case in point. The proportion of women at the top falls sharply—to 13 percent, as compared with 18 percent for our overall sample. This drop-off reflects below-average top-level promotion rates. In our sample as a whole, women were 92 percent as likely as their male counterparts to make the jump from senior vice president to the C-Suite, while in retail and consumer goods the odds were far lower, at 45 percent. Not surprisingly, only 23 percent of women in this sector feel that gender is a priority for their CEOs, compared with 35 percent for the overall sample. Questions for companies struggling to land more women in top jobs include the following:

How can we counteract trends causing women to move away disproportionately from line roles and P&L responsibility?
How do senior, external, and lateral hires affect our pipeline? Are they diluting gender gains?
Which executive men and women are using—and publicly supporting—work-flexibility programs? If none have done so, which leaders would be the most effective work-flexibility champions?
Who is sponsoring and mentoring our senior high-potential women?
We’ve seen leaders grapple successfully with these questions. When the top team at one company took a hard look at the numbers, executives realized they were blocking their high-potential senior women from advancing into top roles, by importing a high percentage of lateral hires, almost always men, for leadership roles. A course correction—simply applying the company’s core recruiting principles and targets to external hires—helped clear the way for talented senior women.

In another recent case, a business-unit head required his entire leadership team—men and women alike—to role-model flexible-work programs visibly, even if that meant working from home only periodically. He also helped women on his management team to craft flexible work arrangements, going so far as to lure back a senior woman who had quit as a result of family concerns. And to encourage accountability, he carefully tracked and evaluated his team’s progress against gender-balance goals. Within five years, the division had improved its performance in gender equality significantly more than the rest of the company had.

Targeting pipeline blockages isn’t a panacea but can be a valuable means of jump-starting progress. We hope the patterns we’ve described here will help companies to focus their efforts, make meaningful changes, and build momentum to deal with less visible barriers. Tackling gender issues should not be a firefighting exercise—jumping, every year, to the next thing. It takes a strategic eye to find the root causes of gender inequality and build a new kind of organization.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Great stats on the number of women leaders across industries - women are unable to enter leadership ranks in some industries, stuck in the middle for others, and locked out others

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20 Priceless Lessons Everyone Should Learn in Their 20s

20 Priceless Lessons Everyone Should Learn in Their 20s | Connection |

20 Priceless Lessons Everyone Should Learn in Their 20s
15-minute meetings can be ultra productive.



IMAGE: Getty Images

What are the most difficult and useful things people have to learn in their 20s? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Nelson Wang, entrepreneur, writer, and founder of, on Quora:

Here are the top 20 things I learned in my twenties:

1. Marry your ideas with execution. Ideas are good. An idea married to execution is better. So you came up with 100 good ideas. That's great. Can you actually make any of them a success?
2. Being able to focus is a skill. When I was in my 20s, I wanted to be a writer, a producer, an actor, a financial analyst, a salesperson, and an entrepreneur. And that was just in the category of careers. Imagine what that list looked like for multitasking my daily activities. As I got older, I realized that our time and energy is incredibly limited each day. Being able to focus is absolutely critical if you want to make a big impact.
3. Perseverance is the most important skill you can learn. You will fail, sometimes over and over again. It's human. No one's perfect. It's not about you fall, but how you get up each time. Did you learn? Did you quit when it made sense? Did you try again? Learn to persevere. I wanted to quit after writing my first book because it was such a flop. Guess what? I continued writing for years and eventually I got published in Forbes, Time, Fortune, Inc and Business Insider. #StayTheCourse.
4. Working hard doesn't guarantee success, but it makes it more likely. Working hard does ensure a few things: you'll learn a lot, you'll develop discipline, and you'll typically see more opportunities. Combine working hard with working smart, and you've got a recipe for success.
5. Work is very personal. You spend about 24% of your time at work your entire life. Bring your whole, authentic self every single day. (This is Sheryl Sandberg's idea). Do you think people say, "Gosh, I love working with Nelson because he's so robotic and shows no emotion or personality." Nope, didn't think so.
6. You don't know everything; learn from others. According to Socrates, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." Okay, I think Socrates is kind of right here. Just kind of. I think you know something. But none of us know everything. Leverage the intellectual power of your network and always be insanely curious to learn from others. You never know what incredible knowledge they can share with you. For example, the other day I sat down with a friend for a coffee and learned how he built a business that generated tens of thousands of dollars in sales in a few months with only a few hours of work a week. #MindBlown.
7. An important part of business is setting proper expectations. Learn to let people know in advance what to expect when they work with you. This is half the battle.
8. 15-minute meetings can be ultra productive. Hour-long meetings are almost always too long. Seriously, when's the last time you really had to have a meeting that long to be productive? Try aiming for 15 minutes. It forces you to be concise.
9. You can lead, with or without a title. When I worked at a huge technology company in Silicon Valley, I was an individual contributor. I came up with an innovative idea for generating sales and new customers on my own and soon the word spread about its success. Before you knew it, I was asked by the executive leadership team to present it nationally to the entire team. That's when I realized, leaders lead by inspiring, coaching, and empowering people to be great. You can lead with or without the title.
10. First impressions make a difference. I flew to over 70 cities in 2 years for business. When I wore a hoodie and fell asleep once, the stewardess woke me up and said, "It's time to wake up, teddy bear." I was 29 years old at the time. When I wore a suit (because I had business meetings that same day), people would treat me differently and call me "sir." First impressions make a difference.
11. Time is the most valuable currency. In college I spent an inordinate amount of time playing Mario Kart and partying. Yes, it was fun, but as I've gotten older I realize now how valuable that time was. If I could go back in time, I would spend that time pushing myself to learn, to grow as a person, to spend more quality time with my friends and family, and to even start a business. Also, when I was in my early 20s, I often thought about how to make more money. Money is important. We need it for food, shelter, and clothing. It's absolutely necessary in life. But the most valuable currency is time. Time with our loved ones. Time to live a life we can be proud of. Time is finite. Spend it wisely.
12. Most arguments don't matter. Choose your battles wisely. 13. Most people have a limited amount of social currency.
Sometimes only you can motivate yourself to be great. Sometimes one of your idols can inspire you. Sometimes a family member can get you amped up. Sometimes a love interest can drive you. And sometimes, only you can motivate yourself.
14. Figure out your why. Your purpose will fuel your drive. This is the strongest motivator of all.
15. Have strong opinions, weakly held. I love hearing people talk about their ideas and opinions in a passionate way. It shows they care. I also love it when people realize that there's a better way to do things (even when it's different from their own opinion). Be passionate and be open to changing if there's a better way.
16. Data-driven decisions are powerful. "I think the "subscribe" button on the site should be blue," said the executive. "Why?" replied the marketing manager. "Because, I just think blue will do better." Instead of simply making decisions based on opinion, consider leveraging data to arrive at an answer. For example, an A/B test is a common and great way to find out which variations perform better on a webpage. Embrace testing.
17. Intuition can be just as powerful. Sometimes, though, intuition can be really powerful. When Steve Jobs created the iPhone, he had an incredible sense of what he thought people would want. It reminds me of the quote from Henry Ford: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
18. Your most important investment is in your health. Treat your body well and it will thank you many years later. Eat more fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly. Your energy, focus, and general happiness will improve. My secret to how I got on track with my health? Eating a green smoothie daily for 30 days.
19. Integrity is what you do when no one is looking. But no one will ever know, you think to yourself. Yes, but you always will. And you'll have to live with it. Do the right thing.
20. Love is what really matters. At the end of the day, love is what matters. Love more.
This question originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Wise and practical advice I wish someone told me when I was in my 20s

Linda Holroyd's curator insight, March 15, 2:27 PM

Wise and practical advice I wish someone told me when I was in my 20s

Scooped by Linda Holroyd!

The Missing Link of Digital, Business and Leadership

The Missing Link of Digital, Business and Leadership | Connection |

Although it has some tilt toward IT and the Chief Information Officer role, it does a good job in driving a broader perspective based on the much needed alignment between IT/digital, business and leadership in general.

Just consider this snippet from the conclusion:

“Understanding new technology capabilities is no longer the exclusive purview of the IT organization. Leaders across the business must learn about and stay abreast of digital trends, the implica- tions of those trends for their business, and how to leverage the new technologies. That doesn’t mean they have to know how the technology works but rather why it’s important and how to use it.”

…and this piece from the introduction:

“To us, this research is a call to arms for CIOs to be proactive about educating and empowering business leaders with quality digital learning support. CIOs at companies the report calls Digital Leaders are significantly more likely to mentor business leaders to improve their digital skills. These are the business-minded CIOs Red Hat calls “Enterprisers.” They consider it their job to inspire and educate their C-level peers and the business at large on what is possible with digital technology. Conversely, CIOs who do not embrace this role—turf protectors who regard IT as their exclusive domain—are preventing their organizations from using technology to adopt better business processes and seize opportunities.”

The executive summary mentions this key challenge:

“The global survey found that while CEOs generally understand the strategic opportunities and threats of digital business, many have yet to build and communicate a vision for their companies or to develop a strategy to make that vision a reality. And most organizations’ functional leaders lack the skills and knowledge they need to execute a digital strategy, even if there’s one in place.”

…and here you get some suggested actions:


Digital Leaders do a number of things that other companies can learn from. Given that more than 80% of respondents are either Followers or Laggards, there’s plenty of room for improvement. CEOs should personally lead this charge from a vision and strategy perspective, going on the road and sharing the message with leaders in all markets. And there’s a lot that CIOs, often in partnership with other company leaders, can do as well.


Create a digital advisory board with both internal and outside experts to advise the executive team.
Learn to paint a picture of the digital future, and use examples from companies in similar industries to make that real.
Embed IT staff in the lines of business so that learning happens during the course of work, not just in special meetings or training sessions.
Create a common lexicon to increase understanding, communicating in language that makes sense from the perspective of business activities and outcomes, not IT. It helps to start from the customer’s perspective.
Partner closely with key business leaders—especially the CMO and the head of product development—to bring together the best from both domains. Identify and make clear which digital knowledge and skills need to reside in the lines of business and which should reside in IT.
Work with the training and development organization to establish both formal and informal learning forums.
Embrace a coaching framework across the organization, with KPIs built into individual managers’ performance reviews.
Identify and bring in outside experts to address specific trends for different parts of the business.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Excel at digital leadership and management

Sebastián Muñoz's curator insight, March 10, 5:44 AM

Excel at digital leadership and management

Scooped by Linda Holroyd!

Secrets for Leveling Up

Secrets for Leveling Up | Connection |

These are not really secrets, nor do they work for everyone, nor do I claim that below is an exhaustive list of strategies. However, the advice below in aggregate can help you rise to a higher level within your organization, if you have reasonable leaders in a growing and successful company.

  1. Decide that you want to level up and rise within your organization, and consistently strive to do so. So many people apply bursts of initiative and effort here and there, which only serves to confuse others – at times you’re seen as motivated and brilliant, and at other times, you fly under the radar. Consciously deciding to level up means bringing your A game every time, all the time.
  2. This is assuming that your A game is good, that you perform well by everyone’s measure, that you are successful working on a diverse range of projects and a wide range of responsibilities, partners and staff.
  3. Clearly communicate your role in the success of projects, without taking credit for the work that others have done.
  4. Watch for people who take the credit for the work that you do and strategize on how to fix that directly or indirectly. In the wort case, the leaders and management will never give you the credit, role, resources, recognition and responsibility  you deserve, so if you’re deciding to level up, you are in the wrong company.
  5. There are more opportunities in companies that are doing well in growing markets of course. However, there are also many opportunities to help stagnating companies in declining markets make a pivot toward a more profitable product, service or market. The key is to understand the needs of the customer in your market and adjacent markets.
  6. But knowing the needs of the customers and the trends in the market is not enough. You need to know how your company can shift its products and offerings to better serve that customer.
  7. And knowing that isn’t enough either. You have to convince key stakeholders throughout the organization about this strategy and collaborate with all stakeholders with the objective of better serving the customer.
  8. Succeeding in the above will change your relationships with many people. Most will be surprised to see a new side of you. Some will not like it, and try to play games and revert the relationship to the way it used to be. Get the support you need to be strong and purposeful. Know who your friends are, and don’t trust those who are only pretending to be your friend.
  9. Doing the above well means that you will have a larger profile, a broader and deeper network, as well as more credibility, responsibility and resources. You may choose to stop ascending if the responsibilities, pressure and stress are too much, if it’s not what you want or need after all. If you decide to do that, make sure it’s the right choice for you. It would be hard to change your mind later and try again to level up, for there will be those who remember when you last tried to do so. But don’t judge yourself if you decide *not* to ‘swim with the sharks’. It’s definitely not for everyone!
  10. But if you do decide to continue leveling up, make sure that you’re emotionally, mentally, psychologically and physically up to that level of exposure and pressure, and get the support you need to stay fresh, centered and strong.

Best wishes on your journey up the corporate escalator. We welcome your comments on how *you* would level-up.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Level it up - be all that you can be!

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Choose This, Not That

Choose This, Not That | Connection |

In this very competitive employee market, everyone is looking for that top talent that would best represent the company, best grow the business and best serve partners and customers. But most of us have experienced first-hand the folly and consequences of those bad-hires that have missed the mark – maybe not in a ‘bad’ way, but in a way that means lost opportunity, and lost time. Here are some rules of thumb I suggest, when you face two apparently equally-qualified candidates for that critical position.

  1. Passion vs. Efficiency. Choose the one who is more passionate about the role, the task and the business. Sometimes you might find someone more efficient than passionate, and that’s good too, but the passionate one will more likely have more fortitude, more perseverance and more patience for the long run.
  2. Education vs. Experience. Some companies and hiring managers look for the right degree from the right school. But I’m personally more impressed by how someone has applied that education in the work context, to produce tangible results. (And I’m personally *not* impressed with companies and pseudo-leaders who are snobbish about educational pedigree.)
  3. In-depth knowledge vs. Openness to learning.  It’s wonderful to meet someone who knows the ins and outs of technologies, processes and solutions, and even more wonderful if he or she is open to learning new ways of doing things. But if you had to choose one or the other, choose the one who is more open. For anyone who thinks that they know how things are done/should be done may not be able to shift with the speed of business, especially when you need to do it quickly!
  4. Process vs Agility. Of course you want someone who is efficient and puts processes in place so that she or he doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel at every turn. But you also want someone agile and nimble enough to flex with the needs of customers and markets. Ideally you need both, but if you had to choose, go with those who are agile and customer-minded, yet efficient and process-driven.
  5. In the box vs. Out of the box. When you’re in-the-box, you know the ins and outs of the business, the technologies, the people around you. Thinking and acting out-of-the-box is good, when done well, but it can also be disrupting and disconcerting for those around you, so of course you need a balance. If you have to choose, select the out-of-the-box thinker and doer who knows how to communicate the whys and whats before making others around them feel uncomfortable.
  6. Speak vs. Listen. Any great leader is also a great communicator. But most leaders don’t know that speaking with impact comes only after listening to those around you. So get the quiet candidates to speak their mind, and don’t assume that they would be too quiet and too complacent for the job. And teach her or him how to speak after listening.
  7. Thorough vs. Intuitive. If your thorough candidate follows the 80-20 rule, it’s all good. And if your intuitive candidate is basing intuition on data, that’s also all good. And if you have to choose one or the other, for most roles, the intuitive who understand the data is better. The exception is when a role needs to be extremely thorough, and every nuance of data and task is important, and much rides on the data and information available, go with the more thorough candidate.
  8. And vs Or. You have candidates who are very competitive and speak to their greatness in delivering specific results. And you have candidates who talk about the efforts of the team and how together the team is greater than individual members. This ‘and’ thinking is the kind of collaborative mind set which will better help your company, than the ‘or’ thinking that characterizes how someone is trying to sell herself or himself over someone else who is equally qualified for the role.
  9. Inclusive vs Selective. You will have candidates who have a track record for working with disparate teams and people, and those who have a track record for working with people just like them. Both are good, but if you had to choose, the one with experience working with diverse people would be more open to working with diverse teams, customers, technologies and requirements.
  10. Breadth vs.Depth. Although doing a deep-dive in any one technology, industry, company or market is also a very good thing, breadth in education, role, experience, company and industry will bring you a more well-rounded candidate.

These are my opinions based on what I’ve seen over 25 years in working with tech business experiencing much change. I’m sure that your mileage will vary, and I welcome your thoughts! But I also hope that my thoughts above will help you weigh which candidate would work better for you.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Good luck with your candidate selections/interviewing process - and let me know what you think about the choices I'm recommending above!

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How Mindfulness Will Turbocharge Your Career

How Mindfulness Will Turbocharge Your Career | Connection |
Mindfulness is an increasingly popular notion in the workplace, with companies such as Apple, Yahoo, Starbucks, and Google using it to their benefit. Google, for example, offers employees a 19-hour course on the subject, which is so popular that thousands of Googlers take it each year.

So what exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a simple yet effective form of meditation that enables you to gain control of unruly thoughts and behaviors. People who practice mindfulness are more focused, even when they are not meditating. Mindfulness is an excellent technique to reduce stress because it stops you from feeling out of control, stops you from jumping from one thought to the next, and stops you from ruminating on negative thoughts. Overall, it’s a great way to make it through your busy day in a calm and productive manner.

Ellen Langer, a Harvard University psychologist who studies mindfulness, described it this way: “Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. And it’s energy-begetting, not energy consuming. The mistake most people make is to assume it’s stressful and exhausting—all this thinking. But what’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them.”

And why is mindfulness becoming so popular in the workplace?
While the benefits of mindfulness are many, perhaps the most important reason that companies such as Google are sold on it is its ability to directly improve performance. Langer has conducted a host of studies that show that practicing mindfulness improves your performance on all types of tasks.

Still, the mindfulness movement isn’t all about performance; there are a number of other important reasons why companies are making mindfulness a priority. Five of these reasons follow, all great illustrations of why we should all be using mindfulness to our benefit.

Mindfulness is the ultimate stress-reliever. Stress is more than a performance killer; it’s a people killer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly two-thirds of all hospital visits are for stress-related problems, and 75% of health-care expenses are stress related. Stress can cause high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and more. Mindfulness is a great stress reliever because it takes you out of fight-or-flight mode and brings you into a relaxed state of mental clarity and calm.

Mindfulness improves your ability to focus. Mindfulness improves your ability to focus on one thing at a time. This focus carries over into everything you do. Mindfulness teaches you to avoid distractions and bring a heightened level of concentration to your work. While you may have fallen prey to multi-tasking in the past, mindfulness will help you to kick this nasty, productivity-killing habit. A focused mind is a productive mind.

Mindfulness boosts your creativity. Creativity hinges on your mental state. Mindfulness helps you to get into a creative frame of mind by defeating the negative thoughts that stifle creative thinking and self-expression. The fact that mindfulness focuses on “the now” helps you to think freely and creatively.

Mindfulness improves your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. EQ is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

Decades of research now point to EQ as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. It’s a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with tremendous results. TalentSmart tested EQ alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found that EQ is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. Of all the people we’ve studied at work, we've found that 90% of top performers are also high in EQ.

The heightened awareness that exists in a mindful state allows you to more clearly feel, label, and understand your emotions. This turbocharges your emotional intelligence because it greatly increases your self-awareness, which is the foundation of a high EQ.

Mindfulness makes you a better person. A Harvard study found strong connections between mindfulness and prosocial behavior. Subjects who meditated showed compassion and kindness to others 50% more often than those who didn’t. There’s something about feeling present and calm that brings out the best in people.

Bringing It All Together
Mindfulness can improve your performance now as well as your capacity to perform in the future. Give it a try, and you’ll be surprised where it takes you.

Have you ever tried mindfulness meditation? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
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Manage your thoughts and feelings with mindfulness

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I Spent 5 Years Interviewing the Most Successful People Alive -- They All Have These 7 Things in Common

I Spent 5 Years Interviewing the Most Successful People Alive -- They All Have These 7 Things in Common | Connection |

I Spent 5 Years Interviewing the Most Successful People Alive -- They All Have These 7 Things in Common
For my new book, Getting There: A Book of Mentors, I spent 5 years interviewing some of the most successful people alive (Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Anderson Cooper, Sara Blakely, Jeff Koons, Kathy Ireland, Les Moonves, to name a few). Here are the 7 things they all have in common:

In his Getting There essay, legendary investor Warren Buffett explains that it’s essential to understand your strengths and weaknesses. He relays that when deciding what to pursue, knowing what to leave out is as important as knowing what to focus on and quotes Tom Watson (the founder of IBM) who said, “I’m no genius but I’m smart in spots and I stay around those spots.”

Buffett explains, “My brain is not a general-purpose brain that works marvelously in all situations. There are all sorts of things that I’m no good at and there are all kinds of investment opportunities I’m not able to comprehend. I understand some kinds of simple businesses. I can’t understand complicated ones. Coca- Cola, for example, isn’t very complicated. It’s a durable product and the appeal is universal. I try to find businesses I can grasp, where I like the people running them and think the price makes sense in relation to the future economics.”

John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Systems, advises, “Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details—accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation.”

None of my Getting There subjects are good at everything, but they all became incredibly successful by honing in on what they excel at.

You’ve probably heard this before -- and for good reason! The path to success is almost guaranteed to be arduous, but if you love what you do you’ll thrive on the inevitable challenges and have the stamina to achieve your potential. My Getting There subjects express that if you pursue something just for the money or because you “think you should” -- it probably won’t end well.

World famous scientist J. Craig Venter (AKA the first person to sequence the human genome) says, “So many people get pushed along in the “system,” and because they don’t really know what they want to do, they practically let their careers be chosen for them. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s hard to be successful at it. You can show up and do what’s required, and you can even do your job well, but that’s not where real success is going to come from. Success comes from doing something extraordinary with passion and intensity.”

World famous composer Hans Zimmer joked in his Getting There essay, “Whenever I need legal or medical advice I go announce my problems to my orchestra…Half are doctors and half are lawyers whose parents forced them into those jobs!”

My Getting There subjects demonstrate that you don’t need to have your career all mapped out, what’s essential is to always keep your eyes open for new opportunities and be open to change.

▪ craigslist founder Craig Newmark stumbled upon his businesses while trying to pursue a social goal.

▪ Michael Bloomberg only decided to start his own company, Bloomberg LP, after being fired from his job at Salomon Brothers

▪ Jillian Michaels, who runs a health and wellness empire, dedicated herself to that field after being fired as a talent agent.

▪ Les Moonves, the President and CEO of CBS, originally pursued acting, but eventually realized he would be happier on the other side of the camera.

Moonves elaborates, “Things sometimes come at you and hit you in the face. If your path is rigid, you’ll likely miss out on opportunities... I shifted from acting to producing theater and realized it felt great. Before long, I shifted again and got my first job in TV as a development executive at Columbia Pictures Television.”

None of my Getting There subjects waited around for someone to recognize a talent in them and offer them a break. It would be awesome if the world worked that way, but unfortunately it rarely does. If you want something, you have to figure out a way to make it happen.


Anderson Cooper wanted to be a foreign news correspondent but couldn’t even get an entry-level job at any of the major networks. He ended up working as a fact checker for Channel One, an agency that produces news programs for high schools.

Cooper quickly realized that when you are at a job people tend to pigeonhole you in whatever role you are in -- and sometimes you have to do something drastic in order to change people’s perception of you. So he quit his job, borrowed a friend's video camera, and went overseas to shoot stories by himself. Living on a mere five dollars a day, Cooper made his videos as interesting and dangerous as possible, then offered them to Channel One for such a low price that they couldn’t refuse. This bold move is what launched his career and enabled him to live his dream.

Cooper explains, “Had I asked the producers at Channel One if they would be supportive of my going out to make war videos, they would probably have said no. It’s easier to say no than it is to say yes, and they might not have wanted to feel responsible for me in any way. So I just did it. I rarely ask people for advice or permission when I’m planning on doing something I feel strongly about. That only opens the plan up to be crapped on.”

My Getting There subject don’t blindly follow others. They think on their own and understand that just because something has been done one way for years doesn’t mean that it’s the best way, or that another way won’t work.


In the mid 1970’s Gary Hirshberg noticed that we were changing the way food was made, for the worse. (We were injecting our animals with hormones and antibiotics, spraying our fields and produce with toxic pesticides, and using chemical fertilizers, all with no real knowledge of what would happen to kids who grew up on a diet containing these things.)

Hirshberg started promoting organic food before most people knew what the word meant. He soon founded the organic yogurt company, Stonyfield Farms. He recalls, “When I tried to get retailers to carry Stonyfield yogurt, which was a little more expensive than the nonorganic brands, they’d say, ‘Does Organic mean it has dirt in it?’ It was difficult to get stores to carry our products.”

It took Stonyfiend 9 years to make it's first nickel, but it is now the largest organic yogurt company in the world -- and every large manufacturer in the food space has an organic product line.

Hirshberg says, “Challenging conventional wisdom can be scary, but most major changes happen because someone asked: “Why not do it differently?” If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

My Getting There subjects know that trying new things is essential for growth and if you don’t take risks you will never get anywhere. As a result, they view falling down as just part of the process. As super-model-turned- entrepreneurial-mogul Kathy Ireland succinctly puts it, “If you never fail, it means you are not trying hard enough.”

Ireland failed for years at various start-ups (a microbrewery, a skin-care line, and several art projects), before finally launching her own brand, kathy ireland Wordlwide. It is now a $2 billion enterprise with its name on more than 15,000 products.

Fitness expert Jillian Michaels elaborates, “No one likes to feel vulnerable, but the reality is that you can only know as much depth, happiness, and success in your life as you can know vulnerability. If you don’t ask out a girl or a guy on a date, you won’t get rejected, but you won’t fall in love either. If you don’t apply for the job, then you won’t get the position you want. If you don’t try to start your own business, then you’ll never be the entrepreneur you always dreamed of being.”

** This one is the real clincher! **

Every single one of my Getting There subjects have failed, numerous times -- but they found success because they were able to stand back up and try again, or learn from their mistakes and try something new. The point is, they forced themselves to keep moving forward.

 ▪  Author Jeff Kinney spent eight years writing his first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book only to have it rejected by multiple publishers. Abrams finally gave him a chance and there are now over 115 million Wimpy Kid books in print (not to mention the movies).

▪  John Paul DeJoria was fired from three jobs and lived in his car on two dollars and fifty cents a day. He went on to found John Paul Mitchell Systems and the Patrón Spirits Company.

▪ After establishing his own architectural practice, Frank Gehry found himself on the verge of bankruptcy several times before reaching solid ground

▪ Matthew Weiner shopped his TV show around Hollywood, but it was rejected all over town. Mad Men finally made it to the screen seven years after it was written.

I have come to compare life to a game of Whack-A-Mole. (You know that arcade game in which players use a mallet to hit toy moles back into their holes?) Well, life seems to whack us all over the head from time-to-time. In big ways and in small ways. In ways that have to do with our career and ways that have to do with our personal lives. They all intermingle.

My Getting There subjects are where they are today because, even after getting whacked multiple times, they found a way to lick their wounds then pop back up with a smile. This is what you must do in this the next time you get a whack, recall a specific story that inspires you (Getting There is chock full of them!) then figure out a way to pop yourself out of whatever hole you happen to be in.

Getting There: A Book of Mentors is  filled with inspiring anecdotes, actionable career advice, and wisdom applicable to life in general.

Amazon recently sold out (and is in the process of getting restocked), but Barnes & Noble has it!


Linda Holroyd's insight:

Inspiring lessons from extraordinary people - here's to the eclectic, resilient, leaders who led the way

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10 TED Talks to Make You a Better You

10 TED Talks to Make You a Better You | Connection |

For something that's been around for only a few years, TED talks have quickly become an important medium for learning and inspiration. They help people in all kinds of pursuits with knowledge and inspiration--and there's something wonderfully accessible about seeing and hearing someone communicate directly.

If you're not already a fan, these 12 TED talks represent some of the best and are a great place to start, especially if you are looking to become a better you.

1. Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

When we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough" ... then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.

With insight and humor, Brené Brown shares findings from her research and where they led her in terms of human connection that leads toward knowing oneself and others.

2. Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness

Our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.

The author of Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert takes exception to the idea that happiness lies in getting what we want.

3. Richard St. John: Success Is a Continuous Journey

Why do so many people reach success and then fail? One of the big reasons is, we think success is a one-way street. So we do everything that leads up to success, but then we get there. We figure we've made it, we sit back in our comfort zone, and we actually stop doing everything that made us successful. And it doesn't take long to go downhill.

Richard St. John tells the story of the rise and fall of his business as the basis for a discussion about the importance of tenacity and the nature of success.

4. Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work

By training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we've found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.

We believe we should work hard in order to be happy, but what if it's the other way around? Positive psychology researcher and teacher Shawn Achor uses humor and rapid-fire delivery to make the case that happiness makes us more productive.

5.  Larry Smith: Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career

If you don't find the highest expression of your talent, if you settle for "interesting,"  do you know what will happen at the end of your long life? Your friends and family will be gathered in the cemetery, and there beside your grave site will be a tombstone, and inscribed on that tombstone it will say "Here lies a distinguished engineer, who invented Velcro." But what that tombstone should have said is, "Here lies the last Nobel laureate in physics, who formulated the Grand Unified Field Theory and demonstrated the practicality of warp drive."

Larry Smith uses humor and blunt truth to call us out on settling for anything less than pursuing our passions.

6.  Tony Robbins: Why We Do What We Do

Your model of the world is what shapes you long term. Your model of the world is the filter. That's what's shaping us. It makes people make decisions. To influence somebody, we need to know what already influences them.

Understanding motivation--our own and that of others--is a key to success. Famed success coach Tony Robbins discusses the forces that compel us to do the things we do.

7. John Wooden: The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding

If you make an effort to do the best you can regularly, the results will be about what they should be. Not necessarily what you'd want them to be but they'll be about what they should; only you will know whether you can do that. And that's what I wanted from them more than anything else.

Legendary coach John Wooden shares his thoughts about the meaning of success, the wisdom he gained from his father, and the values and lessons he passed on to his players.

8. Ron Gutman: The Hidden Power of Smiling

Smiling can actually make you look good in the eyes of others. A recent study at Penn State University found that when you smile, you don't only appear to be more likable and courteous, but you actually appear to be more competent.

Learn about the evolution and purpose of the human behavior we call smiling--a behavior that has a surprisingly strong influence on our well-being.  

9. Matt Cutts: Try Something New for 30 Days

The next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days?

Google engineer Matt Cutts presents a new way to think about goals. Pick something you keep intending to do and commit to trying it for 30 days.  

10. David Steindl-Rast: Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful

Benedictine monk and interfaith scholar Brother David Steindl-Rast shares the "gentle power" of gratitude.

The bottom line is: your life only gets better when you get better. 

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Great list of TED Talks that help you become a better YOU

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The Ultimate Guide to Personal Productivity Methods - Todoist Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Personal Productivity Methods - Todoist Blog | Connection |

The Ultimate Guide to Personal Productivity Methods


The right productivity method can make a huge difference in your work. A friction-less workflow can take you from feeling overwhelmed, unfocused, and unproductive to feeling calm, in control, and prepared to take on even the biggest projects.

The good news is, there are new methods being developed, tweaked, and shared all the time. There’s bound to be a system out there that fits your unique personality and projects.  But wading through the thousands of articles about different productivity systems can be a massive time commitment – time you could be using to actually get things done.

That’s why we decided to do the legwork for you. We’ve gathered the most powerful productivity methods and frameworks all in one convenient place. This post will give you a brief overview of the most popular and useful productivity methods, how each works, and what kind of person will find each useful. It’s designed to help you get set up with your ideal workflow as quickly as possible so you can start reaping the productivity benefits right away.

How to get the most out of this guide
First, we broke down the time commitment needed to get started with each method, rated with a simple Low, Medium, or High.

Eager to begin a huge project but feel completely lost whenever you try to start? Start with a method rated Medium or High.

Up against a hard deadline with a to-do list the length of California and a tendency to procrastinate under stress? Jump to the systems with a Low rating.

We’ve also indicated which methods are more Visual, Tactile, or Abstract — many are a combination. If you know which learning/work style you lean toward, you can skim through and jump to the methods that align best with your natural approach:

If you’re the kind of person who prefers maps over written or verbal directions, you’ll probably find the visual methods more satisfying.

If you love the feeling of physically crossing items off a to-do list or you often find yourself strategizing by moving note cards around on the floor, you’ll probably feel most comfortable with tactile methods.

If neither of those approaches sound like you — if you organize projects simply by writing it down or you strategize easily in your head with no physical or visual representation — you might find the abstract methods most useful. The upside of abstract methods is that they also tend to allow for more complexity in prioritizing and categorizing.

As you learn about the way that you work best, here are a few things to keep in mind:
The goal is to actually get stuff done. While it’s common for new workflow to take extra time upfront, they should become increasingly effortless over time. If you find that sticking to a certain productivity method is taking up a significant amount of time, energy, and mental bandwidth, it’s probably not for you. That’s totally ok. There are plenty of other options out there.
You’re not married to one productivity method forever. You may find that a given method is better suited to some of your projects, and not others. A method that used to work for you might become a burden to maintain later on. Be flexible and don’t be afraid to make a change.
To borrow a phrase from Pirates of the Caribbean, productivity methods are more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. The methods outlined below are great starting points, but they’re infinitely more powerful when you mold them to fit your specific work style. Experiment with different methods and mix and match to find your ideal workflow.

Personal Kanban

Time commitment to get started: Low

Type: Visual, Tactile

Perfect for people who: Have a tendency to start a lot of projects but finish very few of them.

What it does: Helps you visualize progress on all of your projects.

Personal Kanban is an incredibly simple system. And that can be a good thing. Sometimes all you need to make progress is a way to see the status of your projects laid out simply in front of you.

Here’s how Kanban works: Using whatever medium you prefer (sticky notes or a whiteboard work well), split your projects into three categories: To Do, Doing, and Done. That’s it.

But this simple system is more powerful than it seems.

By using a finite space for “To Do” and “Doing,” you’ll see how quickly those categories fill up. You get a constant, physical reminder when you need to concentrate on finishing your current projects before starting new ones. In addition, having all your work laid out in front of you helps you feel calm and in control of the big picture.

Eating Live Frogs: Do the Worst Thing First

Time commitment to get started: Low

 Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who:  Tend to put off important items, resulting in missed deadlines or rushed work.

What it does: Helps to avoid procrastination while ensuring that you make progress on the right things.

A lot of productivity systems and tools are all about getting started. They assume that as long as you’re crossing something off your to-do list, you’re being productive. But in reality, it can make a big difference which task you pick first.

If you put off your most important tasks until the very last second, you’re not really improving your productivity on the things that matter. And, worse, you may find yourself missing deadlines or hurting your reputation by rushing through your most challenging work.

The term, “eating the frog first,” comes from that old well of ( delightfully snarky) wisdom, Mark Twain. He supposedly once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

To get started, schedule your daily tasks from hardest to easiest. You’ll get your most important, intimidating, anxiety-inducing tasks(aka your frog) done while your energy is high and your day will get progressively better. You’re likely to find the overall quality of your work improves too.

A huge part of learning to be truly productive is accepting that the impulse to procrastinate is inevitable. Learning to work around your own self-destructive impulses is key. As Brian Tracy puts it in his book Eat that Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time:

Everyone procrastinates. The difference between high performers and low performers is largely determined by what they choose to procrastinate on.
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Must, Should, Want

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract, visual

Perfect for people who:  Need to prioritize tasks, but tend to go for lists over graphs.

What it does:  Prioritizes your tasks by urgency, ensures that you’re accomplishing the right things.

Must, Should, Want is all about figuring out what’s critical today and what can wait. Write down everything you have to do and then identify each as a Must, a Should, or a Want.

 Your Must tasks are non-negotiable. “Pay rent” — that’s a Must if it’s the first of the month.

A Should is something you need to do, but it’s not dire that it be done today. Answering certain emails may be a Should. It’s important, but delaying it a day or two may not be a big deal, especially if you have a list of Musts due tomorrow.

A Want is something you’d like to do, but might not be practical or necessary at the moment. It can be put off for the future, if need be. Learning a new language is a great goal, but if it’s a choice between getting eight hours of sleep every night and becoming conversational in Portuguese, you might not want to risk the long-term effects of sleep deprivation just to learn a new (albeit, beautiful) language.

A popular variation on this method, called MoSCoW, calls the “Want” category, “Could,” and adds another, “Won’t” for those pesky items that always seem to wind up on your to-do lists, but might not be worth your time and energy in the end.

The SMART Method
Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who:  Are in the early phases of a big project and need to strategize before jumping in.

What it does: Turns big, abstract ideas and goals into concrete, actionable plans.

There have been many adaptations and adjustments to the SMART productivity method since it was introduced three decades ago. At its core, SMART is a way to take a big, pie-in-the-sky idea and figure out how to make it work in the real world by asking yourself a series of questions. SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Timely.

Let’s break it down.


Meaning the What — what is this project and what, specifically, do you want to accomplish?


These are the individual tasks and steps that add up to a complete project.


Who is going to do which step? Yes, this is another method that can work for teams, but don’t toss out this step if you’re working on a solo project. Chances are, if you’re using SMART you have a big project, and nothing that big can be accomplished 100% on your own.

If you have small children, you might use this step to think through childcare options. If you’re starting a business, you might reach out to a lawyer or financial planner. Every large undertaking requires some help along the way.

Clarifying how you’ll get that help will make it easier to get your project started.


This is the Debbie Downer of SMART. It encompasses all obstacles in your way, everything that could threaten your project. You can’t overcome a problem until you understand it completely. By carefully considering the challenges ahead, you can start mulling over solutions before they even get a chance to trip you up.


Deadlines. Deadlines are an important part of nearly every successful productivity strategy, and with good reason. Time constraints force us to be efficient. Come up with reasonable deadlines for each measureable task —ideally giving you more time than you think you’ll need so you don’t fall victim to the Planning Fallacy.

Overall, SMART is perfectly suited for thinking through any big problem or project. However, when it comes to the day-to-day work of a complex undertaking SMART doesn’t have much to offer. This is a great system for anyone who is overwhelmed with the sheer size of their current project and needs a plan to move forward.

It’s simple, it’s easy to remember, and it doesn’t require a lot of reading to get started.

The Action Method
Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Need to turn creative brainstorming into an actionable to-do list.

What it does: Tidies up the messier aspects of creative work.

The Action Method was developed in 2006 by Behance as a way of simplifying creative meetings. The problem with brainstorming and most creative work is that it often needs to be messy to be truly innovative. Thinking outside the box requires untidiness, but actually getting things done requires an orderly system.

The Action Method helps you move from the idea phase to actionable steps with priorities, due dates, and assignments (if you’re using the Action Method in a team). It involves breaking down ideas into three key categories: Action Items, Backburner Items, and Reference Items.

Action Items are the steps you take to get the project done.

Backburner Items are the interesting ideas that don’t directly fit into your plan for this project.

Reference Items are the resources and information you’ll need to complete the project. For instance, your brand’s visual and logo style guide might be a reference item for a homepage rebranding project.

The Action Method allows you to welcome and integrate great, off-beat ideas while still coming away with a concrete plan.

Though there was an online version of this method for a time, Behance pulled support for it last year. There are still Action Method notebooks sold, if you’re into that kind of thing, but you can use the Action Method with virtually any medium.

Time commitment to get started: Low

Type: Visual, abstract

Perfect for people who:  Find small tasks and interruptions are taking over the whole day.

What it does: Holds you accountable to your daily plan by alloting specific periods of time for specific types of work.

Researchers have found that bite-size tasks and interruptions (“Hey, can I ask you a quick question?”) can disrupt concentration for up to half an hour. If you find yourself spending too much of your day dealing with little items that only reappear the next day (like emails) and too little time tackling the big stuff, this method is for you.

To start timeboxing, just split up your day into blocks of time with specific tasks assigned to each one.  Here’s what one timeboxed day might look like:

There are number of different approaches to timeboxing, along with a variety of task-specific timeboxing methods like Inbox Zero for tackling your email. InboxZero uses a number of tricks to make it work, but one of the foundations involves dedicating specific chunks of time to reading and answering emails so that they don’t take over your day.

This a great way to keep yourself accountable and prevent the minutia from overtaking your whole day.

An additional timeboxing method is called day-theming.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of switching between different types of work or areas of responsibility throughout the day, you dedicate each day of the week to a specific theme. Day-theming is great if you need to  dig deeper and do more complex work, or for people who have more than one major area of work that they’re responsible for.

Biological Prime Time

Time commitment to get started: High

Type: Abstract, visual

Perfect for people who: Love data and self-experimentation and want to optimize their days for maximum productivity.

What it does: Tracks your biological rhythms to find the best times for different kinds of productivity.

This is a delightfully nerdy method. It requires a lot of research on yourself and a big time commitment up front, but the personal productivity insights you’ll get out of it can pay off in the long-run.

The basic idea here is to track your energy, motivation and focus to get a sense of when, where, and how you’re the most productive.

To start, eliminate any factors that could mess with your energy — changes in caffeine intake is a big one, staying up late is another — then record what you’re accomplishing once an hour, every hour that you’re working for a few weeks straight. The exact details that you record may vary, but to get the most accurate results you’ll need to be be as consistent as possible. Time and activity tracking software like Rescue Time and Toggl can be a big help here.

Once you’ve gathered your data you can comb through it, looking for patterns. You can even turn the data into graphs. Do you have less motivation on the days when you skip breakfast? Start keeping energy bars or fruit and yogurt on hand for a bit of quick energy. Is your most productive hour around 10am? Schedule your most important tasks for that time and push meetings off for later in the day.

The sheer amount of information that you can gather about yourself by doing this little take-home version of a scientific study will astound you. You’re bound to discover some very interesting things about what drives your productivity — just be careful to not let your self-quantification become its own form of procrastination.

If you can diligently track all three weeks, you’ll come out the other side a productivity superhero.

Getting Things Done
Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract, visual, tactile

Perfect for people who: Have a lot of loose ends rattling around in the brain and need a way organize it all.

What it does: Gets your thoughts, worries, and to-dos all out on paper (or into an app) and then helps you organize it all into small, bite size tasks that you can tackle immediately.

GTD is easily the most famous and lasting productivity method in the world.

Created by David Allen and made famous in his bestselling book of the same name, Getting Things Done is an all-encompassing productivity system. GTD aims to remove the frenzied stress of having too much on your plate by putting those ideas in an organized system outside your own head.

The basic stages of the GTD method are:

Capture—This is a brain dump. Just write down everything you have to do in any order with any wording. Don’t worry about the how’s and when’s, just get it out of your head in some form. A good rule of thumb: If you’re stressed or anxious about it, add it to your list.

Clarify—Pluck out the vague ideas and worries and break them down into specific tasks or steps. If you wrote down “Bank” now clarify whether you need to go to the bank to get cashiers check, call the bank to ask about a loan, or just check your balance online. If it’s a big project, like moving all your banking and investment accounts, for instance, you might need to clarify and then break it down into several little steps. The smaller the better. Small steps feel less intimidating, so you’re more likely to want to tackle them first.

Organize—Now that you have the tasks clarified, you need to prioritize them, attach due dates where you can, and maybe categorize them into projects or types of tasks you can tackle all at once(for example, emails or calls).

Reflect—Look over your to-do list on a daily and weekly basis. Are there any steps in your projects that are still too vague? Break them down further. Any due dates that are unreasonable now that you look back? Adjust them. Are any items on the list no longer relevant? Get rid of them.

Engage—Attack that list. You’re ready to get stuff done.

Todoist’s unique system of labels and filters work well with the GTD method. Taylor Martin shared a short video on how he uses Todoist to GTD. And our own Becky Kane recently shared her tips for making the system work even better for you.

Time commitment to get started: Low

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who:  Desperately need to get something done and have a tendency to get distracted.

What it does: Helps you maintain focus for longer by splitting your work into short bursts.

If you find yourself putting off big tasks because the time they’ll take feels too imitating, or you get distracted easily, you might do well with work sprints.

Pomodoro is the most popular variation, though there are many others. With Pomodoro you work for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break, and then repeat until you’ve completed four sprints, after which you take a longer break. It’s that simple.

Work, 25 minutes

Twitter, 5 minutes

Work, 25 minutes

Instagram, 5 minutes

Work, 25 minutes

Facebook, 5 minutes

Work 25 minutes

Half hour break – get up and stretch!

While many people swear by this technique, others find that 25 minutes isn’t enough to time to delve deeply into their work and the five-minute break disrupts their concentration. If that’s the case for you, you can adjust until you find the exact timing that works for you. There are a few time structures others have found helpful, like 52/17 or 90/20.

Don't Break the Chain
Time commitment to get started: Low

Type: Visual

Perfect for people who: Want to adopt new daily habits.

What it does: Encourages consistency in daily habits or tasks.

This technique was made famous by Jerry Seinfeld, who said that he writes a joke every single day. No matter how he feels or whether he has anything to say, he writes at least one joke every day.

And how does he hold himself accountable to keeping this commitment? A calendar — an old-school, hard copy calendar with the whole year on one big page. Each day that he writes, he puts a big X on the calendar. After a few days, a lovely chain of Xs emerges. If ever he’s tempted to skip a day, he just has to look at the calendar where a single missed day will ruin the aesthetic and stick out like a sore thumb.

This is obviously a great technique for adopting or ditching habits. It doesn’t tell you much about your priorities, deadlines, or overall progress, but if you’re trying to write a book or run a marathon, putting in the effort every single day is the only way to get there.

The Eisenhower Matrix

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Visual

Perfect for people who:  Like graphs, have trouble seeing things in black-and-white, and would rather prioritize on a continuum than stuff tasks into a few categories.

What it does: Identifies which tasks are priorities and which are just distractions.

The Eisenhower Matrix is another simple method that allows you to prioritize in a delightfully visual way: an XY axis. This is a great tool for visual people. It allows for prioritizing complex projects, yet it’s quick and easy to implement.

Take a piece of paper and draw a very large plus sign; the X axis (a.k.a. horizontal line) represents the level of urgency with the left side being the most urgent and the right side the least. Your Y axis (vertical line) represents importance, with the lowest importance at the bottom, highest at the top.

You end up with four boxes: Urgent and Important, Less Urgent but still Important, Less Important but Urgent, and Less important and Less Urgent. You can place all your tasks on a continuum within the boxes, giving you a clear visual understanding of what really needs to be done now and what can (and should) wait.

The instructions are simple, you can create a new matrix with a pen and a piece of paper any time you like. Just start drawing, and you’re off.

Agile Results

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Are goal-oriented and/or are tackling complex projects and need to keep to a timeline.

What it does: Focuses on outcomes and prioritization while keeping diligent watch over the scope of your projects and goals.

Agile Results aims to align your day-to-day activities with your larger goals. Like many productivity methods, it encourages working through blocks, but it’s still achievement-oriented. It pushes you to take time to reflect on what’s working and what could be improved. While many methods focus only on moving forward, Agile has one eye on the past and the other on the future.

To start using Agile Results, simply identify three outcomes you want to see for the year, month, week, and day.  When setting your daily goals, you should make sure they align with your goals for the week. When you set your goals for the week, they should align with your goals for the month. Same for monthly and yearly goals. At the end of each time period, look back and see how you did. What worked? What didn’t you finish and why? Adjust as needed.

One of the most clever aspects of this method is the way it uses the vision of the finished product as a motivator. By regularly reminding yourself of your end goal, Agile Results re-ignites your enthusiasm and puts it to work for you. It’s also a forgiving method. If you mess up your day or even your week, that’s fine. Agile Results builds in time to think about what went wrong and make better choices in the future.

The To-Done List and the To-Don’t List

Time commitment to get started: Medium

Type: Abstract

Perfect for people who: Spend too much time worrying about how much didn’t get done yesterday/have a lot of bad habits that prevent productivity.

What it does: Flips the traditional to-do list on its head in order to look at productivity in a new way.

The to-do list can feel a lot like a critical know-it-all sometimes. It remembers that you swore you’d get through all your emails by the end of the day and likes to remind you that you still have a big task overdue from last week. It’s easy to lose sight of all of the things you did get done.

That’s where the to-done list comes in.

To make a to-done list, keep track of what you’ve accomplish throughout the day. Rather than focusing on all that’s left to do, keep your focus on your progress.  Review your to-done list at the end of every day.

If you try this and it feels a little silly, stick it out for a day or two. You might find that you’ve accomplished a lot more than you thought — and research shows that progress (no matter how small) is a huge motivator.

If you’ve given the To-Done List a shot and find that little tasks (like replies to unimportant emails) are still clogging up your day, you might try the To-Don’t List.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Make a list of activities and bad habits that you want to avoid and write them down. Then check them off as you manage to avoid each.

This one also has a tendency to feel awkward and obvious at first. You already know what you should and shouldn’t do with your time. But give it a shot. You might find that the daily reminder is an effective way of giving yourself a mission for the day ahead.

And when you reach the end of the day, you have a clear way of knowing if you were productive. Did you manage to avoid repeating those bad habits? Success!

We’re on a serious mission to crowd source as much productivity wisdom as possible. Did we miss any productivity methods that have worked for you? Do you have a twist on any of the productivity methods we’ve listed here that others could benefit from? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author:  Tricina Elliker is a freelance writer, content strategist, and productivity nerd in Portland, Oregon. 

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Great resource for becoming more productive or helping your team to do the same!

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Measuring the Impact of Diversity

Measuring the Impact of Diversity | Connection |

I always thought that being different was a *good* thing, but we’ve all been conditioned to conform in various ways. There are many studies heralding the business advantages of diversity in the workplace, most notably Catalyst’s infographic listing 39 benefits of Diversity available at Below are suggestions on what to measure, to help leaders from across the organization ensure that diversity, a cornerstone of innovation, thrives within and throughout the organization.

  1. The most obvious thing to measure is the number of new-recruits. But measuring how these new recruits are different than current staff is also important. Consider diversity in gender, culture, orientation, age, background, and other measures as well.
  2. Another measure is a derivative of the above and often goes un-measured because of it. Measuring the quantity and variety of sources for new recruits helps ensure that a large range of recruits gets considered for employment.
  3. Some companies run programs to attract people of diverse backgrounds to an organization. Whether it’s an innovation competition, a scholarship program, or a community outreach campaign, these types of programs can successfully garner more awareness and more interest from the right people. Measuring the number and impact of corporate programswill also impact the number of job applications received.
  4. If we move on from attraction to retention and development measures, the first thing to consider is the process for identifying high-potentials. Who gets to decide who the high-potentials are? How many leaders are engaged in the process? What’s being measured when identifying these high-potentials? Rare is the organization that has a coordinated, concerted effort to even identify these high-potentials.
  5. Even those organizations who know who their high-potentials are may not have a plan for developing and retaining them! Measure how successful your organization is in developing and retaining peoplein general, and high-potentials in particular! How will you have a leadership pipeline if you don’t do this?
  6. It’s worth investing in the education of your people in general, and measuring how many of them attendclasses and programs and certifications. Emphasize as well *who* gets selected to attend which program, favoring those identified as high-potential.
  7. A strong measure of success for any training and development program (as it is for any corporate initiative) is the engagement and commitment of senior leadership to the cause. Executive participation must go beyond the thoughts and words, but also into specific, committed and ongoing actions which provide funding and resources behind those words.
  8. Retention statistics are important, but look not just at the percentage of retention you have, but more carefully at who’s leaving. Attrition is part of the game when working in a fast-paced tech environment. Focus on and measure the retention of your best-performing high-potentials, even if that means that you might lose an overall volume of people on the team.
  9. If you do all the above well, then there should be more high-performing people with diverse backgrounds in the executive and C-suites. Of course you measure how many people there are of diverse backgrounds in those senior positions, but the problem comes when companies don’t have the diverse leadership they’re looking for and hire outside talent that might not be the right culture/social/program/tech fit rather than look at how to do all the steps above better.
  10. Of course it’s always about the bottom line, so measure:
  • The number of technologies you’re offering successfully;
  • Your expansion into new markets and opportunities;
  • The amount of revenues generated;
  • The number of new opportunities available;
  • The depth and breadth of your partnerships and client base;
  • All other corporate and cultural performance indicators.

And if it doesn’t add up, how could more diverse and varied leadership and talent make it right?

Linda Holroyd's insight:

How are you measuring the impact of your diversity initiatives?

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The Business Case for Diversity

The Business Case for Diversity | Connection |

FountainBlue’s November 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series was on the topic of the Business Case for Diversity. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives around leadership, innovation and diversity. But they had much in common:

  • they were all exposed to people from many cultures, languages and backgrounds and recognized the importance of having diverse viewpoints and accepting people for their differences;
  • they recognized and appreciated that they themselves are different, largely because their mothers helped them be confident in being original and respecting the differences in others;
  • they embraced diversity as a business advantage; and
  • they generously share their perspectives with their teams, with their company, with their community.

Collectively, our shared the following pearls of wisdom:

  • Do accept and respect that others have expectations about where you should fit and what you should do, but be your own person despite what they expect of you.
  • Respect that we are all different but equal, and all have something to share. These differences add more varied and diverse elements to work and life.
  • Find your talent, find your voice and speak your mind, while encouraging and supporting others to do the same. This takes self-awareness, patience, reflection and is part of an ongoing inner journey.
  • Know what you’re good at, accept who you are, and be passionate about what you do. With that said, STRETCH all of the above, don’t just complacently go through the motions. As one panelist puts it, if you are a tiger, be that mover and shaker, if you are an elephant, be that reliable beasts of burden who get the job done but don’t be a hippo who swaddle in mud and occasionally raises his head.
  • Be strong, especially when it’s not easy to be different and un-accepted because of the differences. You are not just making a stand for yourself, but for others who are also different.
  • Develop and curate your own moral compass so that you can strike that balance between who you are, who you want to become, how you are responding to others, how others are influencing you, what you think is the right thing to do, and how to achieve the best-for-all-results. An integral part of achieving this goal is to embrace the thinking and perspectives of people not-like-you.
  • Take charge and reach for what you want to achieve in life and work, overcoming restrictions and barriers, collaborating and working with others.
  • In order to take charge, you need to curate the influence and support of those in charge. See what motivates them, show them why embracing your perspective and that of others who are different would provide a business advantage. Speak in a language they understand and respect to earn your credibility.
  • Consider that being overly-emotional might make some people uncomfortable and impact the message you would like to deliver, and how you are viewed. Manage your communication accordingly.
  • Consider that many people might be influenced by what you wear. For example, wearing skirts and jewelry might limit how others perceive you and take that into account. You could overcome these perceptions with your results and your words, but understanding how you will be perceived and making the other party comfortable and open might make it easier for you to get your message across and focus on the results, rather than gender.
  • Be patient with those who are judging you, restricting you, or trying to get you to conform. Understand the influences that have brought them to this state and work with them to embrace the value of thinking and doing things differently.

  • Below is advice for facilitating diversity within your organization.
  • Communicate the importance of diversity and its impact on products, team and solutions.
  • Help teams understand that they are on the same side, but may just perceive and respond differently.
  • Show management the data behind the diversity initiatives implemented.
  • Put the actions behind your words – encourage out-of-the-box thinking, hire diverse people on to your team, reward different perspectives, listen to those who see things differently, encourage people from different teams to participate, etc.,

In the end, we hope that the panelists and the event encourage all to better embrace diversity as an opportunity for you to rise and shine and find a better, deeper, more complete version of yourself and others around you.


Catalyst’s infographic listing 39 benefits of Diversity

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Thank you to our panelists for FountainBlue's When She Speaks November 13 event, Business Case for Diversity:

Facilitator Camille Smith, Work In Progress Coaching
Panelist Monica S Bajaj, Senior Engineering Manager, NetApp
Panelist April Greene, HR Director, Juniper
Panelist SK Lau, Product Line Engineering Operations, Texas Instruments
Panelist Shobhana Viswanathan, Product Marketing, VMWare

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Recruitment and Retention Best Practices

Recruitment and Retention Best Practices | Connection |

FountainBlue's May 6 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Recruitment and Retention Best Practices in a time of Change! Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Symantec. Below are notes from the conversation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below are some suggestions for recruiting and retaining key talent.

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

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

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

Below are predictions for the future of work.

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


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

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Thank you to execs from our community for participating in our roundtable and to our hosts at Symantec!

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23 different ways to conceptualize leadership

23 different ways to conceptualize leadership | Connection |

Leadership is an interesting concept. At one level, it's massively complex. There are entire sections of the publishing industry devoted to it, and we fly people all over the world to discuss it. It's probably a multi-billion dollar industry onto itself.

At another level, it's deceptively simple. You work for an organization. "It" (the org) has goals. You work with, and manage, other people. They have goals. How do you align "A" (org goals) and "B" (individual goals) in such a way that tangible, measurable results are driven?

There are a lot of different ways to think about and conceptualize leadership. Here are a few.

Leadership is about building something great together: This idea comes from Mark Leslie, who took a company with 12 employees and $95K in revenue and made it a company with 6,000 employees and $1.5 billion in revenue. In short, he's someone to listen to. His basic advice is simple: invest others in your process. If everything is coming from a top-down vacuum, there will never be any real buy-in. In short: if you want to build trust, you need to demonstrate trust.

Leadership is really just about managing negative thoughts: According to research from the Cleveland Clinic, humans experience about 60,000 thoughts per day. 95 percent of those thoughts are habituated, and 80 percent of the habituated thoughts are negative. If you do the math on that, we walk around all day with a lot of negative baggage -- so maybe leaders should be thinking about how to motivate people towards a place of positive self-efficacy.

To be a better leader, "fire yourself." I don't mean this literally. I mean sit down every quarter with your team and talk about what everyone did wrong -- believe me, everyone did something wrong -- and "fire" yourself for that. Then come up with an action plan to prevent it from happening in the next quarter. Firing yourself is a strategy akin to just openly discussing failure at work. Everybody fails, and oftentimes more than once per hour. We need to discuss and re-contextualize that more, so that people can grow.

Leadership is not about buzzwords: People in "the modern age" or "the digital age" have a neo-centric focus, which means they always want to embrace the newest thing, be that a Netflix show, a podcast, a business model, or what have you. One idea around leadership that's cropped up in the last couple of years is the concept of "authentic leadership," so many people speak and discuss and pursue that avenue. "Authentic leadership" is complete bullshit. It's a buzzword. It doesn't mean anything. Leadership is about relationships between people and goals; it's not found in the latest buzzword.

Leadership is about giving a voice to many options, but knowing when to call it quits: Here's what a lot of people do -- they claim to care about everything within their silo or department, which is impossible. At a certain level, your responsibility is the bottom line -- and as such, you care about the things that impact the bottom line. Many leaders will claim to care about every project, but then transparently show they only care about 3-4 revenue-generating items, and that makes everyone working on the other projects feel like an also-ran. Don't be so transparent about what actually matters. Same vein: if you think something is a good idea but you just don't have the resources for it right then, kill it off. Kill off good ideas, because otherwise you overwhelm your team.

Leadership is about telling others what you're struggling with. There is sometimes an attitude that big, important decisions can only come from higher levels of an organization, which makes no sense. An organization exists to make money typically, right? They part with some of that money -- which they would rather have -- in order to pay salaries to staff. If they're parting with a key resource, shouldn't the recipient of that resource (the staff) be allowed to contribute ideas and feel like they're a part of it? If you lead a team, sit down every month and explain your biggest problem -- i.e. what your boss is on you for. See what ideas they come up with.

Leadership is about storytelling: Our brains seriously love stories. Almost nothing resonates more. Many leaders think 'storytelling' is a term that 'marketing should be dealing with,' but there are ways to bring storytelling into your leadership -- and you can do it in less than 5 minutes per week.

Leadership is about creating an environment where your employees want to go the extra mile: Zenger-Folkman calls this "bold leadership," which is a little bit buzzword-heavy (see above). In reality, you want your employees to want to work hard for you, which is represented in this chart by Z-F:

Leadership is about thinking about the next generation of leaders: Rather than being threatened by someone down the chain with good ideas, embrace them and develop them -- and create a true leadership pipeline for your organization. This is valuable in times of financial downturn, unexpected churn, or even a ton of new business.

Leadership is about knowing how to generate novel solutions: To best understand this, consider the parable of the roofer, the carpenter, and the inline skater -- represented visually below.

Leadership is about listening: Richard Branson has made this a priority, and in all likelihood he has a bunch more money than you do.

Leadership is about being a doer, seeking new opinions, showing support, and solving problems: That's from nobody less than McKinsey, which is a fairly trusted brand when it comes to leadership research. It's a little buzzword-heavy, yes, but you can't argue with the results.

Leadership is about accomplishing a goal, not advocating for your way to the goal: The latter is essentially "micro-managing," which shouldn't be confused with "leadership" in any capacity or context. You want to help people get to a specific place or target; you don't want to tell them every single step to take.

Leadership is about knowing you still need to grow: Just like having a kid isn't the top of the mountain -- you still need to raise the kid -- so too is the process of becoming a senior leader at a company. Leadership, or a title, itself isn't the destination; you still need to grow and learn and become curious and get better at your new responsibilities.

Leadership is actually about making as few decisions as possible: This one comes from Reed Hastings and Netflix, who have done pretty well the last few years.

Leadership is about investing in training: Here's an incredible stat on how we train leaders. Most leaders get their first leadership position at 30, and receive their first leadership training at 42. There's over a decade in between those averages. So, the first 12 years you're a leader of other people, you've probably been to no official trainings? That needs to be reconsidered.

Leadership is about being a spitfire. Wait, what? Well, spitfires are animals -- bugs, essentially -- and in their communities, leaders and followers co-decide on everything related to the group. It's a powerful model for getting things done.

Leadership is about soft skills: We all love the Type-A hard-chargers in a sales/revenue context, but leadership is actually about soft skills such as empathy, listening, understanding motivation, communicating, and the like.

Picking leadership isn't all about experience: ... and that's backed up by research.

Leadership is about finding the new strategy or approach: Like I said above, don't chase buzzwords. But just as you apply 'Blue Ocean' strategies to marketing and customer acquisition, apply them to how you think about leadership.

Leadership is about communication: This probably should have been the first thing I listed, because in many ways it's the most important. How do you communicate with employees better? Here are some approaches to consider.

Leadership is about asking questions, not just giving orders or assigning tasks: Consider the '10-to-1 ratio' as a golden rule here. When asked properly -- instead of people screaming and confusing that with true accountability -- questions can be extremely powerful workplace drivers.

Leadership is about respect: Hard to sugarcoat this one. There's evidence here, here, here, and here. Oftentimes, people become 'managers' -- not the same as 'leaders,' but often confused -- because of their skill around making money or hitting specific targets. They assume the next step of their career arc involves making others do what they just did. That's where a lot of companies collapse people-wise: management and leadership are not intuitive. It's about developing new skills and thinking about concepts in new ways, such as outlined above.

I've written about this topic a ton, and you can find a few more ideas and approaches to leadership here. What else would you add?

My name's Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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These Are the Two Original Sins of the Internet—And Now's the Time to Fix Them

These Are the Two Original Sins of the Internet—And Now's the Time to Fix Them | Connection |

I was recently given a career achievement award – which was a little unnerving since I’ve still not decided what I want to be when I grow up – and it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the intersection of technology and journalism. Because of the disruptions caused by digital technology, journalism is completely different that it was when I became a reporter more than three decades ago. Most of the changes are good, but there are two big things that I think we need to fix.
Before we get to them, we should pause to recognize that the disruption of media by technology is nothing new. It goes back at least 500 years to when Gutenberg’s movable-type printing presses wrested control over the flow of information from the scriveners and scribes that worked for the church and other authorities. This permitted people to have direct access to information, and thus helped enable both the Reformation and the Renaissance.
I’m writing now about Leonardo Da Vinci, who was born in 1452, the same year that Gutenberg printed his first bibles. Leonardo never went to a university and knew little Latin, but the new technology allowed him to teach himself everything from anatomy to zoology by reading books.
Leonardo left more than 7,000 notebook pages of drawings, thoughts, and ideas. They’re all on paper, which makes them extraordinarily easy to access even after five centuries. Indeed, Leonardo's notes are far easier to access than our e-mails, tweets, blog posts, and Facebook pages will be five centuries from now. When I was meeting with Steve Jobs and we were trying to get the emails he had sent in the 1990s, they were impossible to retrieve, even by his tech people. When I asked a university librarian recently the best way to preserve some interesting e-mails I had, she said I should print them out on paper and put them in a box.

So amid technological change, we should remember what a good technology paper is. It’s superb at the storage and distribution and retrieval of information. It’s got an incredible battery life, and it doesn’t have to have backwards compatible operating systems.

In fact, I’ve often pondered what would happen if for 500 years we had been getting all of our information on electronic screens and some latter-day Gutenberg came along and said, “I can take that information and I can put it on paper and I can deliver it to your porch and you can take on the bus or to the bathtub or backyard.” We’d say, “Wow, paper is a wonderful technology. Someday it’s going to replace the internet.”

During the time of Benjamin Franklin, the declining cost of printing presses helped enable the foundation of the United States both by preventing the British authorities from controlling the flow of information (their attempts to force newspaper to publish only with a “by authority” seal did not work, nor did their Stamp Act) and by allowing people up and down the coast to connect and network. The committees of correspondence were our first Twitter feed, and pamphleteers such as Thomas Paine were our first bloggers; they spurred the Revolution.
When Franklin stitched together the colonial postal system, he made it an open network. Actually, at first he tried to favor his own content – the newspapers, magazines, and almanacs that he and his partners up and down the coats printed – like a modern media conglomerate. But he soon realize that the system would work best if there was net neutrality.
When the Internet was devised fifty years ago, its underlying technology, known as packet switching, tended to decentralize the control of information flows. Instead of central hubs that authorities could control, each node of the Internet had the power to originate, forward, and receive information. If censors or an enemy was able to restrict some of the nodes, the network would just route around them.
When I was at Time magazine in the 1990s, we reported that the Pentagon had funded this design so that it could withstand a Russian attack. One of the graduate students who had helped devise the network wrote a letter saying that was untrue. After all, he pointed out, one reason they were graduate students in the 1960s was to avoid the draft; they weren’t trying to help the Pentagon. Time didn’t print the letter, because the person who headed the Pentagon office said that it was indeed designed to survive an enemy attack, but of course they hadn’t told the graduate students that. He later said to tell the former graduate students that he was on top and they were on the bottom, so they didn’t know what was happening. One of them responded, when I told him this, that the Pentagon official was on the top and they were on the bottom, so he was the one who didn’t know what was happening. That describes the Internet well: it’s built and controlled from the bottom up, not top down.
Networks transform everything they touch. Because of the Internet’s architecture, gatekeepers get disintermediated.
I saw how that affected world politics when I was at Time. I was in Bratislava covering the fall of communism in 1989, and I was put in the hotel where they put foreigners, which meant it was one of the few places there that had satellite television. A person who worked in the hotel said, “the student like to come in here and watch the music channel.” I said they could use my room, and I came back early one afternoon so that I could meet some of them. But when I got there, they weren’t watching MTV. They were watching CNN and what was happening in the Gdansk shipyards with the revolt against the Polish communist leaders. It became clear to me that the lack of control of information was always going to lead to the demise of authoritarian regimes.
I saw this again a few years later being in a town called Kashgar in the western part of China. I went to a coffee shop, and there were three kids on a computer. I asked what they were doing and they said they were on the Internet. I asked if I could try something, and I typed in and it was blocked. And I typed in, it was blocked. At which point one of them elbowed me aside and… boom, Time came up and CNN came up. I said, “What did you do?” “Well, we know how to go through proxy servers in Hong Kong that the censors are clueless about.” Again I could see how this lack of ability to control information was going to change our politics.
The good thing, especially with the advent of the web, was that anybody, anywhere got to publish anything they wanted and had access to any information anybody else published.
But for all of its wonders, I think that the birth of the Internet was accompanied by two original sins. First, we allowed and even indulged anonymity. I know that anonymity protects people’s privacy and allows them to say what they want. But the Internet could have been built differently, and at some point maybe it will be, so that users would have a choice. You should be able to go to the part of the Internet that’s anonymous. But you should also have the option to go to a secure layer of the network that has verified identity and authentication. That would allow you to engage in discussions and read the comments of people who are willing to take responsibility for what they say. It would make for more civil discussions. It would also permit more secure banking, easy financial transactions, fewer cyberattacks, less spam and phishing, and reduce the number of times you get emails from friends say they’ve lost their wallet in Malaysia so could you please wire them some money via a bank in Nigeria. In the real world we spend most of our time in places where we know who we are talking to and dealing with; we should have that same option on the Internet.
There’s a tale that Plato tells in The Republic involving the Ring of Gyges. If you put on the ring, nobody knows what you’ve done, nobody knows what you said, nobody knows it was you who did something. He and Socrates discuss whether you could have a civil system and morality if people could put on the Ring of Gyges. Today’s Internet shows us that the answer is no.
I was talking to Madeline Conway, who’s been the managing editor of the Harvard Crimson. She said she spends her days trying to keep anonymous quotes out of news stories, then spends the evening reading the anonymous postings in the comments section, which are frightening.
Internet anonymity is one of many reasons that civility has been drained from our public dialogue. In fact, we have a leading presidential contender who seems like the embodiment of an online comments section.
We have lost the notion of community that was existent in the early days of the internet with services like the WELL, started by Stewart Brand. When you logged on to the WELL, the first thing you saw was, “you own your own words.” In another words, you had to take responsibility for what you said, even if you were using a pseudonym (which you knew could be traced to your true identity). The result was that a trusted community was formed there, and it had wonderful discussions.
The other original sin of the Internet was that most journalistic organizations made their content free when they put it online, and they thought they could survive on advertising revenue alone. I was in charge of new media at Time Inc., and when we first put our content on websites we thought we would charge users, either through subscriptions or a pay-per-drink model. But as soon as we went online, you could look out the window of the TIME-LIFE building and see people from Madison Avenue running toward us with bags of cash to buy banner ads. Ad revenue was so addictive that we began to focus only on aggregating eyeballs for advertisers, and we gave up trying to get revenue from consumers.
That was an unsustainable business model. The amount of advertising dollars rises each year in a small way, but the number of websites goes up exponentially. So, the CPMs you can get from advertisers declines inexorably.
But it was worse than just being an economic problem. It meant that we were no longer directly beholden to our readers.
Henry Luce, a co-founder of Time in 1923, said that a business model for journalism that was solely reliant on advertising revenue was not only morally abhorrent but also economically self-defeating. As a Presbyterian missionary’s son, I don’t know which of those two things he thought was worse.
So, I think we now have to look at the difficult task of trying to put these two genies back in a bottle. I think we need to offer communities that are less anonymous and more curated. Obviously there should be places that indulge anonymity, and if people want to go there, fine. But we should also create places where people can be part of communities that aren’t susceptible to trolling and anonymity – places where people take responsibility for their own words.
I think journalism is healthy these days, indeed it is vibrant. I see that every morning when I can hop around from Vox and the Atlantic and Politico to the New Orleans Advocate and the Huffington Post as well as all sorts of blogs and Twitter feeds I now rely upon.
Journalism isn’t broken. What’s broken is the business model for journalism.
So, I think we need to find ways to get revenue from users that are simpler and easier than the subscription models that some newspapers have begun to make work. That’s a good line of revenue, but it’s not easy for everybody to do that.
There are times when I want an article from some obscure magazine or newspaper, but I don’t want to subscribe. I’m certainly willing to pay a dime or even a dollar for that article or that issue. It’s not the cost but the mental transaction cost that gets in the way. We need to have easy small payment systems. We need simple transactions, without passwords or PayPal rigmarole, perhaps based on bitcoins or some other digital coin wallets embedded in our browsers.
For 500 years, technology has increased the spread of ideas and the empowerment of individuals. This has bent the arc of history towards freedom, individual empowerment, and democracy. I’m convinced that this will also be true for the next 500 years. But it’ll be up to those in journalism today to rectify some of the mistakes made by people in my generation.

Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, is the author of The Innovators and biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger. He was the editor of Time and the CEO of CNN. This piece is adapted from a talk he gave at the Shorenstein Center’s Goldsmith awards at the Harvard Kennedy School.

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Internet original sins: Anonymity for users and free content

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Things Science Says Will Make You Much Happier

Things Science Says Will Make You Much Happier | Connection |

It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with happiness. After all, the “pursuit of happiness” is even enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. But happiness is fleeting. How can we find it and keep it alive?

Psychologists at the University of California have discovered some fascinating things about happiness that could change your life.

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychology professor at the Riverside campus who is known among her peers as “the queen of happiness.” She began studying happiness as a grad student and never stopped, devoting her career to the subject.

One of her main discoveries is that we all have a happiness “set point.” When extremely positive or negative events happen—such as buying a bigger house or losing a job—they temporarily increase or decrease our happiness, but we eventually drift back to our set point.

The breakthrough in Dr. Lyubomirsky’s research is that you can make yourself happier—permanently. Lyubomirsky and others have found that our genetic set point is responsible for only about 50% of our happiness, life circumstances affect about 10%, and a whopping 40% is completely up to us. The large portion of your happiness that you control is determined by your habits, attitude, and outlook on life.

"Happiness depends upon ourselves." -Aristotle

Even when you accomplish something great, that high won’t last. It won’t make you happy on its own; you have to work to make and keep yourself happy.

Your happiness, or lack thereof, is rooted in your habits. Permanently adopting new habits—especially those that involve intangibles, such as how you see the world—is hard, but breaking the habits that make you unhappy is much easier.

There are numerous bad habits that tend to make us unhappy. Eradicating these bad habits can move your happiness set point in short order.

Immunity to awe. Amazing things happen around you every day if you only know where to look. Technology has exposed us to so much and made the world so much smaller. Yet, there’s a downside that isn’t spoken of much: exposure raises the bar on what it takes to be awestricken. And that’s a shame, because few things are as uplifting as experiencing true awe. True awe is humbling. It reminds us that we’re not the center of the universe. Awe is also inspiring and full of wonder, underscoring the richness of life and our ability to both contribute to it and be captivated by it. It’s hard to be happy when you just shrug your shoulders every time you see something new.

Isolating yourself. Isolating yourself from social contact is a pretty common response to feeling unhappy, but there’s a large body of research that says it’s the worst thing you can do. This is a huge mistake, as socializing, even when you don’t enjoy it, is great for your mood. We all have those days when we just want to pull the covers over our heads and refuse to talk to anybody, but the moment this becomes a tendency, it destroys your mood. Recognize that when unhappiness is making you antisocial, you need to force yourself to get out there and mingle. You’ll notice the difference right away.

Blaming. We need to feel in control of our lives in order to be happy, which is why blaming is so incompatible with happiness. When you blame other people or circumstances for the bad things that happen to you, you’ve decided that you have no control over your life, which is terrible for your mood.

Controlling. It’s hard to be happy without feeling in control of your life, but you can take this too far in the other direction by making yourself unhappy through trying to control too much. This is especially true with people. The only person you can control in your life is you. When you feel that nagging desire to dictate other people’s behavior, this will inevitably blow up in your face and make you unhappy. Even if you can control someone in the short term, it usually requires pressure in the form of force or fear, and treating people this way won’t leave you feeling good about yourself.

Criticizing. Judging other people and speaking poorly of them is a lot like overindulging in a decadent dessert; it feels good while you’re doing it, but afterwards, you feel guilty and sick. Sociopaths find real pleasure in being mean. For the rest of us, criticizing other people (even privately or to ourselves) is just a bad habit that’s intended to make us feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It just creates a spiral of negativity.

Complaining. Complaining is troubling, as well as the attitude that precedes it. Complaining is a self-reinforcing behavior. By constantly talking—and therefore thinking—about how bad things are, you reaffirm your negative beliefs. While talking about what bothers you can help you feel better, there’s a fine line between complaining being therapeutic and it fueling unhappiness. Beyond making you unhappy, complaining drives other people away.

Impressing. People will like your clothes, your car, and your fancy job, but that doesn’t mean they like you. Trying to impress other people is a source of unhappiness, because it doesn’t get to the source of what makes you happy—finding people who like you and accept you for who you are. All the things you acquire in the quest to impress people won’t make you happy either. There’s an ocean of research that shows that material things don’t make you happy. When you make a habit of chasing things, you are likely to become unhappy because, beyond the disappointment you experience once you get them, you discover that you’ve gained them at the expense of the real things that can make you happy, such as friends, family, and taking good care of yourself.

Negativity. Life won’t always go the way you want it to, but when it comes down to it, you have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else. Happy people make their time count. Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, they reflect on everything they have to be grateful for. Then they find the best solution available to the problem, tackle it, and move on. Nothing fuels unhappiness quite like pessimism. The problem with a pessimistic attitude, apart from the damage it does to your mood, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you expect bad things, you’re more likely to get bad things. Pessimistic thoughts are hard to shake off until you recognize how illogical they are. Force yourself to look at the facts, and you’ll see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem.

Hanging around negative people. Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spirals. You can avoid getting drawn in only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with negative people. A great way to set limits is to ask them how they intend to fix their problems. The complainer will then either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

You should strive to surround yourself with people who inspire you, people who make you want to be better, and you probably do. But what about the people who drag you down? Why do you allow them to be a part of your life? Anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious, or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them. Life is too short to associate with people like this. Cut them loose.

Comparing your own life to the lives people portray on social media.The Happiness Research Institute conducted the Facebook Experiment to find out how our social media habits affect our happiness. Half of the study’s participants kept using Facebook as they normally would, while the other half stayed off Facebook for a week. The results were striking. At the end of the week, the participants who stayed off Facebook reported a significantly higher degree of satisfaction with their lives and lower levels of sadness and loneliness. The researchers also concluded that people on Facebook were 55% more likely to feel stress as a result.

The thing to remember about Facebook and social media in general is that they rarely represent reality. Social media provides an airbrushed, color-enhanced look at the lives people want to portray. I’m not suggesting that you give up social media; just take it sparingly and with a grain of salt.

Neglecting to set goals. Having goals gives you hope and the ability to look forward to a better future, and working towards those goals makes you feel good about yourself and your abilities. It’s important to set goals that are challenging, specific (and measurable), and driven by your personal values. Without goals, instead of learning and improving yourself, you just plod along wondering why things never change.

Giving in to fear. Fear is nothing more than a lingering emotion that’s fueled by your imagination. Danger is real. It’s the uncomfortable rush of adrenaline you get when you almost step in front of a bus. Fear is a choice. Happy people know this better than anyone does, so they flip fear on its head. They are addicted to the euphoric feeling they get from conquering their fears.

When all is said and done, you will lament the chances you didn’t take far more than you will your failures. Don’t be afraid to take risks. I often hear people say, “What’s the worst thing that can happen to you? Will it kill you?” Yet, death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. The worst thing that can happen to you is allowing yourself to die inside while you’re still alive.

Leaving the present. Like fear, the past and the future are products of your mind. No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future. Happy people know this, so they focus on living in the present moment. It’s impossible to reach your full potential if you’re constantly somewhere else, unable to fully embrace the reality (good or bad) of the very moment. To live in the moment, you must do two things:

1) Accept your past. If you don’t make peace with your past, it will never leave you and it will create your future. Happy people know that the only good reason to look at the past is to see how far you’ve come.

2) Accept the uncertainty of the future, and don’t place unnecessary expectations upon yourself. Worry has no place in the here and now. As Mark Twain once said,

“Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”
Bringing It All Together

We can’t control our genes, and we can’t control all of our circumstances, but we can rid ourselves of habits that serve no purpose other than to make us miserable.

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Choose happiness!

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Choose happiness!

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Critical Skills You Should Learn That Pay Dividends Forever

Critical Skills You Should Learn That Pay Dividends Forever | Connection |
Critical Skills You Should Learn That Pay Dividends Forever
Mar 2, 2016193,840 views3,802 Likes389 CommentsShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Twitter
The further along you are in your career, the easier it is to fall back on the mistaken assumption that you’ve made it and have all the skills you need to succeed. The tendency is to focus all your energy on getting the job done, assuming that the rest will take care of itself. Big mistake.

New research from Stanford tells the story. Carol Dweck and her colleagues conducted a study with people who were struggling with their performance. One group was taught to perform better on a task that they performed poorly in. The other group received a completely different intervention: for the task that they performed badly in, they were taught that they weren’t stuck and that improving their performance was a choice. They discovered that learning produces physiological changes in the brain, just like exercise changes muscles. All they had to do was believe in themselves and make it happen.

When the groups’ performance was reassessed a few months later, the group that was taught to perform the task better did even worse. The group that was taught that they had the power to change their brains and improve their performance themselves improved dramatically.

The primary takeaway from Dweck’s research is that we should never stop learning. The moment we think that we are who we are is the moment we give away our unrealized potential.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The act of learning is every bit as important as what you learn. Believing that you can improve yourself and do things in the future that are beyond your current possibilities is exciting and fulfilling.

Still, your time is finite, and you should dedicate yourself to learning skills that will yield the greatest benefit. There are nine skills that I believe fit the bill because they never stop paying dividends. These are the skills that deliver the biggest payoff, both in terms of what they teach you and their tendency to keep the learning alive.

Emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. EQ is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. Decades of research now point to EQ as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. It’s a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction, with tremendous results.

TalentSmart tested EQ alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found that EQ is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. Of all the people we’ve studied at work, we've found that 90% of top performers are also high in EQ. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in EQ. You can be a top performer without EQ, but the chances are slim. Naturally, people with a high degree of EQ make more money, an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary. Increasing your EQ won’t just pad your bank account, it’ll make you happier and less stressed as well.

Time management. One of the biggest things that gets in the way of effective time management is the “tyranny of the urgent.” This refers to the tendency of little things that have to be done right now to get in the way of what really matters. When you succumb to it, you spend so much time putting out fires that you never get any real work done. How many times have you left work at the end of the day, only to realize that you didn’t move the important things along even one inch? Learning to manage your time effectively frees you up to perform at your absolute highest level, and it does so every single day of your life.

Listening. This one should be easy. If we’re not talking, we’re listening, right? Well, not exactly. A lot of times, we think we’re listening, but we’re actually planning what we’re going to say next. True listening means focusing solely on what the other person is saying. It’s about understanding, not rebuttal or input. Learning how to suspend judgment and focus on understanding the other person’s input is one of the most important skills you can develop.

Listening is a bit like intelligence—most everyone thinks they’re above average (even though that’s impossible). A study at Wright State University surveyed more than 8,000 people from different verticals, and almost all rated themselves as listening as well as or better than their co-workers. We know intuitively that many of them were wrong.

There’s so much talking happening at work that opportunities to listen abound. We talk to provide feedback, explain instructions, and communicate deadlines. Beyond the spoken words, there’s invaluable information to be deciphered through tone of voice, body language, and what isn’t said. In other words, failing to keep your ears (and eyes) open could leave you out of the game.

Saying No. Research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for many people. No is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as I don’t think I can or I’m not certain. Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them. When you learn to say no, you free yourself from unnecessary constraints and free up your time and energy for the important things in life.

Asking for help. It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that asking for help is a skill, but it is. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence and humility to admit that you need assistance. This skill is critical because the last thing a leader wants are employees who keep on trucking down the wrong path because they are too embarrassed or proud to admit that they don’t know what they’re doing. The ability to recognize when you need help, summon up the courage to ask for it, and follow through on that help is an extremely valuable skill.

Getting high-quality sleep. We've always known that quality sleep is good for your brain, but recent research from the University of Rochester demonstrated exactly how so. The study found that when you sleep, your brain removes toxic proteins, which are by-products of neural activity when you're awake, from its neurons. The catch here is that your brain can only adequately remove these toxic proteins when you have sufficient quality sleep. When you don’t get high-quality deep sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc and ultimately impairing your ability to think—something no amount of caffeine can fix. This slows your ability to process information and solve problems, kills your creativity, and increases your emotional reactivity. Learning to get high-quality sleep on a regular basis is a difficult skill to master, but it pays massive dividends the next day.

Knowing when to shut up. Sure, it can feel so good to unload on somebody and let them know what you really think, but that good feeling is temporary. What happens the next day, the next week, or the next year? It’s human nature to want to prove that you’re right, but it’s rarely effective. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you and the relationship severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right. The vast majority of the time, that means biting your tongue.

Taking initiative. Initiative is a skill that will take you far in life. In theory, initiative is easy—the desire to take action is always there—but in the real world, other things get in the way. There’s a big difference between knowing what to do and being too scared or lazy to actually do it. That requires initiative. You have to take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone, until taking initiative is second nature.

Staying positive. We've all received the well-meaning advice to "stay positive." The greater the challenge, the more this glass-half-full wisdom can come across as Pollyannaish and unrealistic. It's hard to find the motivation to focus on the positive when positivity seems like nothing more than wishful thinking. The real obstacle to positivity is that our brains are hard-wired to look for and focus on threats. This survival mechanism served humankind well, back when we were hunters and gatherers and living each day with the very real threat of being killed by someone or something in our immediate surroundings.

That was eons ago. Today, this mechanism breeds pessimism and negativity through the mind's tendency to wander until it finds a threat. These "threats" magnify the perceived likelihood that things are going—and/or are going to go—poorly. When the threat is real and lurking in the bushes down the path, this mechanism serves you well. When the threat is imagined and you spend two months convinced that the project you're working on is going to flop, this mechanism leaves you with a soured view of reality that wreaks havoc in your life. Maintaining positivity is a daily challenge that requires focus and attention. You must be intentional about staying positive if you're going to overcome the brain's tendency to focus on threats.

Bringing It All Together
Research shows that lifelong learning pays dividends beyond the skills you acquire. Never stop learning.
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Sound, sensible advice that will help you be open and grow

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Expanding Your Circle of Influence

Expanding Your Circle of Influence | Connection |

FountainBlue’s February 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence. We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives around what it takes to be influential and impactful within an organization. They agreed on the following:

- Knowing who you are, what you’re passionate about, and being committed to delivering results and getting things done are the heart of every influential leader.
- Communicating who you are and engaging and listing others in your web of influence to join in and support goals and objectives comes only after the first step, but is also critical.
- Reaching for more breadth and experience, being open to new people and learnings helped make our panelists the successful and influential leaders they are.
- Taking the high road, seeing the larger picture, and being open and accepting of others helps leaders navigate waters, which can be sometimes turbulent, especially when there’s a lot of change. And even when things are pretty stable, because of the nature of tech companies and the market changes overall, everyone needs to deal with a very diverse base of stakeholders. Learning the motivations of the audience, and communicating in a way they understand is also critical in order to be influential.

Below is advice from our panel for those who want to be more influential:

- Don’t think that to be an influential you have to be a Dragon Lady. Be influential in a direct, positive, collaborative, win-for-all way.
- In the same token, don’t hold back from trying to be influential because you want to be nice, because you don’t like conflict.
- Get your facts straight and focus on the data to influence others on a course of action and decision.
- Have a broad and deep network of connections, spinning a web across all those you touch. Use those connections to get the information, resources and connections you need to get work done!
- Select a leadership team, company and culture that aligns well with your values, who you are, what you’re about.
- Being trustworthy, authentic, goal-focused and direct will help make sure that you are worthy of the influence you wield.
- Pick your battles. Know what you will focus on and change, work with what you can’t change. There will be those Dragon Ladies, those cows-in-the-road, but ignore and push forward to achieve that higher purpose. 
In the end, the heart of influence is a brand, a reputation for consistently and persistently delivering results, in a wide range of roles and settings.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Thank you to our speakers for sharing their insights about influence:

  • Panelist Megan Bozio, Sr. Director, Global Key Accounts Program Office, Oracle
  • Panelist Karen Randig, Director of Finance, Dell 
  • Panelist Nithya Ruff, Head of Open Source Strategy Office, SanDisk, President for Women’s Innovation Network (WIN) at Sandisk
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Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: The True Value of Leadership

Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: The True Value of Leadership | Connection |

Leadership emotional intelligence, authenticity, and charisma are not enough. Leaders succeed when they add value to others. Without making others better, all the personal qualities of leadership are more self-serving narcissism than true leadership. Good leaders inspire employees to do their best. Better leaders build organizations that outlast and outlive individual leaders. But, the best leaders create investor confidence in future success. 

In recent years, investors have begun to look beyond current earnings to determine a firm’s true market value. Investors have examined intangibles like strategy, brand, and R&D to ensure that a firm will produce future not just past earnings. More recently, we have found that 25 to 30% of investment decisions can be traced to investors confidence in leadership

To determine the quality of leadership, investors can now access a Leadership Capital Index (see the book Leadership Capital Index: Realizing the Market Value of Leadership). This index gives investors a thorough and rigorous way to evaluate leadership. We envision investors starting to access and assess leadership insights much like they do financial and intangible results. The Leadership Capital Index examines both the personal qualities of a leader and the leadership team and the human capital systems that the leader puts in place. 

But, how can a leader initiate conversations that give investors confidence in their leadership ability? Here are some tips for leaders who want to realize more market value through their leadership. 

As an individual leader, you and your leadership team can inspire personal confidence from investors when you demonstrate:

  • Learning: Show investors that you are constantly learning and growing in your role. Talk about the future more than the past. Demonstrate to investors personal energy and vitality in creating a future.
  • Strategic Clarity: Report challenges you see in the industry and have a clear strategic point of view about how to respond to those challenges.
  • Predictable Execution: Deliver on promises over and over and over again.
  • Leverage Talent: Say “we” more than “I”; share credit for success; make others feel better about themselves when they meet with you.
  • Situational: Know how to adapt your leadership style to the situation. Make your customer brand promises your personal leadership guide.

As a leader, you should create an organization that has unique capabilities to deliver sustainable value over time. Work on creating:

  • Cultural Clarity: Make sure that your internal culture matches the brand promises you make your customers.
  • Talent Flow: Show investors that you have industry leading ability to bring the best people into your organization, to develop and grow them, and to remove them if necessary.
  • Positive Accountability: Hold people accountable for results without becoming locked into burdensome performance appraisal systems. Learn to have positive conversations with employees.
  • Information Flow: Be adept at managing the flow of information into your organization through analytics and improve decision making.
  • Work Logic: Build a governance system that enables agility and responsiveness.

When you show investors that you have created both individual leaders and organization capabilities, they will respond and give you more market value. This is the next agenda for both leaders who add value and investors who want to realize that value. 

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Measure your leadership value in tangible terms

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How to separate learning myths from reality

How to separate learning myths from reality | Connection |

Misconceptions about the brain are embedded in corporate training programs and could be sabotaging their effectiveness. Companies should reevaluate them in light of the latest scientific insights.

Over the years, you have probably gained some insight into how your brain works. You may have taken a course or read a book that promised to reveal the secret of maximizing your mental capacity—a common sales pitch of leadership coaches these days. In the process, you may have read that after a critical period in childhood there is no hope for significant learning, that half of your brain is inactive at any given time, or that you’re capable of learning properly only in your preferred style.

Each of these claims is what we call a “neuromyth,” a misconception based on incorrect interpretations of neuroscientific research. Our experience advising companies on their lifelong-learning initiatives suggests that such misunderstandings remain embedded in many corporate training programs. As companies increasingly pour money into developing their employees, they can no longer afford to invest in training programs based on inaccurate and out-of-date assumptions. In recent years, for example, US businesses alone spent more than $164 billion annually on employee learning.1 The stakes are high and getting higher.

Bridging the gap between popular neuromyths and the scientific insights gathered in the past few decades is a growing challenge. As modern brain-imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), have advanced scientific knowledge, these misleading lay interpretations by business practitioners have advanced as well. Unless such misconceptions are eliminated, they will continue to undermine both personal- and organizational-learning efforts. In this article, we’ll address the three most prominent neuromyths in light of the latest research and explore some of the implications for corporate learning.

Myth #1: The critical window of childhood
Most of us have heard about critical learning periods—the first years of life, when the vast majority of the brain’s development is thought to occur. After this period, or so the assumption too often goes, the trajectory of human development is deemed to be more or less fixed. That, however, is an exaggeration. Recent neuroscientific research indicates that experience can change both the brain’s physical structure and its functional organization—a phenomenon described as neuroplasticity.

Researchers studying the plasticity of the brain are increasingly interested in mindfulness. Practicing simple meditation techniques, such as concentrated breathing, helps build denser gray matter in parts of the brain associated with learning and memory, controlling emotions, and compassion. A team led by Harvard scientists has shown that just eight weeks of mindful meditation can produce structural brain changes significant enough to be picked up by MRI scanners.2

Organizations from General Mills in consumer foods to digital bellwethers such as Facebook and Google increasingly give their employees opportunities to benefit from mindfulness and meditation. Most such programs have garnered enthusiastic support from employees, who often see a marked improvement in their mind-sets and job performance. For example, employees at the health insurer Aetna who have participated in the company’s free yoga and meditation classes report, on average, a 28 percent decrease in their levels of stress and a productivity increase of 62 minutes a week—an added value of approximately $3,000 per employee a year. CEO Mark Bertolini, who started the program a few years ago, marvels at the level of interest generated across the company; to date, more than a quarter of Aetna’s 50,000 employees have taken at least one class.3 Leaders like Bertolini understand that providing them with the tools to become more focused and mindful can foster a better working environment conducive to development and high performance.

Myth #2: The idle-brain theory
A recent European survey discovered that nearly 50 percent of teachers surveyed in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands believed that the idle-brain theory has been proved scientifically.4 This misunderstanding originally stemmed from inaccurate interpretations of activation hot spots in brain-imaging studies. By now, more carefully interpreted functional brain scans have shown that, irrespective of what a person is doing, the entire brain is generally active and that, depending on the task, some areas are more active than others. People can always learn new ideas and new skills, not by tapping into some unused part of the brain, but by forming new or stronger connections between nerve cells.

This insight into the brain’s capacity becomes particularly relevant for the environment and context in which learning typically occurs. Everybody knows, all too well, about the habit of quickly checking e-mails or planning for the next meeting in the middle of a training session. The problem is that such multitasking engages large parts of the brain’s working memory. Without freeing that up, we cannot successfully memorize and learn new information. In short, multitasking and learning cannot occur effectively at the same time.

Some organizations, recognizing this problem, are working to build immersive learning environments where distractions are eliminated. At Lamas Pinto, we’ve created a model factory that participants can walk through to see operating conditions in action. But first, everyone is asked to place their phones and other distractive belongings in a locker, so they can fully concentrate on the learning exercise at hand. At many companies, removing the temptation of using mobile devices during learning sessions is becoming commonplace.

Myth #3: Learning styles and the left/right brain hypothesis
Almost everyone has encountered the theory that most people are either dominantly analytical (and left brained) or more creative (and right brained). However, this either/or dichotomy is false. The two hemispheres of the brain are linked and communicate extensively together; they do not work in isolation. The simplistic notion of a false binary has led, in many businesses, to the misconception that each one of us has a strictly preferred learning style and channel. Recent studies have flatly disproved this idea, suggesting instead that engaging all the senses in a variety of ways (for instance, audiovisual and tactile) can help employees retain new content.

One organization that puts this idea into practice is KFC, which uses multiple forms of learning in customer-service training. Sessions begin with an after-hours board game placing the entire team of a store in the role of the customer. This is followed up by “gamified” learning that fits into roughly 15-minute windows during shifts. These video game–like modules put the employees behind the cash register to handle a number of typical customer experiences, including responding to audio and visual cues of satisfaction. At the end of the online modules, employees physically reconvene at the front of the store to hear feedback, report on what they’ve learned, and receive live coaching as reinforcement.

Although significant progress has been made, much remains to be done to eradicate neuromyths from the philosophy of corporate-training programs. Neuroscience research has confirmed some of the approaches that learning professionals already use, such as on-the-job reinforcement and engagement without distractions. But that research has also contradicted other approaches. Companies should draw on the newly substantiated insights and may need to rethink their training programs accordingly. At the very least, they need to improve their dialogue with, and understanding of, the scientific community.

1 – 2013 State of the Industry, Association for Talent Development, December 2013,
2 – Omar Singleton et al., “Change in brainstem gray matter concentration following a mindfulness-based intervention is correlated with improvement in psychological well-being,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, February 18, 2014,
3 – David Gelles, “At Aetna, a CEO’s management by mantra,” New York Times, February 27, 2015,
4 – Paul A. Howard-Jones, “Neuroscience and education: Myths and messages,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2014, Volume 15, Number 12,

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Stimulating thoughts on how we think and develop

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Fail Forward

Fail Forward | Connection |

In Silicon Valley, where we wear failure like a badge of courageous, 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.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Keep reaching for stars, and if you have to fail, fail forward.

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Navigating Transitions: M&A Strategy and Execution Best Practices

Navigating Transitions: M&A Strategy and Execution Best Practices | Connection |

FountainBlue’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.  

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Thank you to the senior execs in the FountainBlue network who shared their advice, experience and wisdom. For more information about the series, visit

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How To Make Yourself Work When You're Not In The Mood

How To Make Yourself Work When You're Not In The Mood | Connection |
Procrastination affects everyone. It sneaks up on most people when they’re tired or bored, but for some, procrastination can be a full-fledged addiction. They avoid all day the work that is right in front of them, only to go home and toil late into the night, frantically trying to finish what they could have easily completed before dinner.
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

With the holidays approaching, the high season for procrastination is upon us. It’s even more difficult to get work done when you’re stuck at the office, wishing you were enjoying time with family and friends.

Still, the procrastination cycle can become crippling at any time of the year, which is troubling, because recent studies show that procrastination magnifies stress, reduces performance, and leads to poor health.

Psychologists at Case Western Reserve University conducted an interesting experiment where they offered college students a date range instead of a single due date for their papers. The researchers tracked the date that students turned in their papers and compared this to their stress levels and overall health. Students who waited until the last minute to turn in their papers had greater stress and more health issues than others did. They also received worse grades on their papers and in the class overall than students who turned their papers in earlier.

A study published earlier this year by Bishop’s University explored the link between chronic procrastination and stress-related health issues. The researchers found a strong link between procrastination and hypertension and heart disease, as procrastinators experienced greater amounts of stress and were more likely to delay healthy activities, such as proper diet and exercise.

Procrastination is fueled by excuses. We cannot expect to overcome procrastination and improve our health and productivity until we’re able to overcome the negative mental habits that lead us to procrastinate in the first place.

What follows are the most troubling excuses we use to help us procrastinate. They’re troubling because they’re the most difficult excuses to conquer. For each, I offer preventative strategies so you can overcome procrastination and get productive, even when you don’t feel like working.

“I don’t know where to begin.”

Paradoxically, we often find ourselves frozen like a deer in headlights when confronted with a difficult task. As well, much like deer, the best thing we can do is move in any direction, fast. When a task is particularly difficult, you need all the time you are given to complete it. There’s no sense in wasting valuable time by allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the complexity of the task.

The key here is to not allow fear of the whole to stop you from engaging in the parts. When something looks too difficult, simply break it down. What can you accomplish in 60 minutes that will help you slay the beast? Then, what can you do in 60 more minutes?

Breaking your task into shorter periods (where effort is guaranteed) allows you to move out of the “deer in headlights” frame of mind. Before you know it, you’ve accomplished something, and the task goes from way too hard to absolutely doable. When it comes to challenging tasks, inactivity is the enemy.

“There are too many distractions.”

For most of us, getting started on a large project is a challenge. We stumble over all sorts of smaller, irrelevant tasks that distract us from the real assignment. We answer emails, make calls, check the news online…anything to avoid the elephant in the room.

Being busy is not the same as being productive. When you find yourself avoiding a particularly sizeable task, slow down and visualize what will happen if you continue to put off the task. Distractions numb you by shifting your attention away from these consequences (a.k.a., away from reality). Reminding yourself of what will happen if you continue procrastinating is a great way to make distractions less enchanting so that you can focus on your work.

“It’s too easy.”

Tasks that are too easy can be surprisingly dangerous, because when you put them off, it’s easy to underestimate how much time they’ll take to complete. Once you finally sit down to work on them, you discover you have not given yourself enough time to complete the task (or at least to complete it well).

If a task is too easy, draw connections to the bigger picture, because these connections turn mundane tasks into a fundamental (and do it now) part of your job. For example, you might hate data entry, but when you think about the role the data plays in the strategic objectives of your department, the task becomes worthwhile. When the smaller, seemingly insignificant things don’t get done or get done poorly, it has a ripple effect that’s felt for miles.

“I don’t like it.”

Procrastination isn’t always about a task being too easy or too hard. Sometimes, you just don’t want to do it. It can be very hard to get moving on a task in which you’re disinterested, much less despise.

Unfortunately, there’s no foolproof way to teach yourself to find something interesting, because certain things will never draw your attention. Rather than pushing these tasks to the back of your plate, make it a rule that you cannot touch any other project or task until you’ve finished the dreaded one. In this way, you are policing yourself by forcing yourself to “eat your vegetables before you can have dessert.”

When you do get started, you can always turn the task into a game. How can you achieve your task more efficiently? How can you change the steps of the process and still produce the same result? Bringing mindfulness to a dreaded task gives you a fresh perspective. The task itself might not be fun, but the game can be.

“I don’t think I can do it.”

You are assigned a new project by your supervisor. In fact, it’s one you’ve wished he or she would give you for a while. However, now that it’s in your lap, you simply cannot get started. You cannot get past thoughts of failure. What’s going to happen if I blow it? How am I going to do this? Could I be fired over this? It can reach a point where avoiding failure seems like the best possible option. After all, if you never engage in a project, you’ll never fail. Right?

Wrong. Procrastination itself is failure—failure to utilize your innate talents and abilities. When you procrastinate, you’re failing to believe in yourself.

Remember when you were learning to drive and you could only look straight ahead, because if you looked at something off the road, you’d unwittingly turn the wheel in that direction? Worrying about everything that might go wrong if you fail has the same effect. It pulls you toward failure.

You must shift your mind in a confident direction by focusing on all the positive things that are going to happen when you succeed. When you believe you can do something—and you visualize the positive things that will come from doing well—you equip yourself to succeed. This thought process gets your mind headed in the right direction. Worrying about everything that could go wrong only binds your hands. Break the chains and get started!

Bringing It All Together

Fighting procrastination teaches us to fully engage in our work, get more creative with it, and, ultimately, get more done.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Put to rest the barriers that are making you procrastinate

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Measuring the Impact of Diversity

Measuring the Impact of Diversity | Connection |

I always thought that being different was a *good* thing, but we've all been conditioned to conform in various ways. There are many studies heralding the business advantages of diversity in the workplace, most notably Catalyst’s infographic listing 39 benefits of Diversity available at Below are suggestions on what to measure, to help leaders from across the organization ensure that diversity, a cornerstone of innovation, thrives within and throughout the organization.

  1. The most obvious thing to measure is the number of new-recruits. But measuring how these new recruits are different than current staff is also important. Consider diversity in gender, culture, orientation, age, background, and other measures as well. 
  2. Another measure is a derivative of the above and often goes un-measured because of it. Measuring the quantity and variety of sources for new recruits helps ensure that a large range of recruits gets considered for employment. 
  3. Some companies run programs to attract people of diverse backgrounds to an organization. Whether it's an innovation competition, a scholarship program, or a community outreach campaign, these types of programs can successfully garner more awareness and more interest from the right people. Measuring the number and impact of corporate programswill also impact the number of job applications received. 
  4. If we move on from attraction to retention and development measures, the first thing to consider is the process for identifying high-potentials. Who gets to decide who the high-potentials are? How many leaders are engaged in the process? What's being measured when identifying these high-potentials? Rare is the organization that has a coordinated, concerted effort to even identify these high-potentials.
  5. Even those organizations who know who their high-potentials are may not have a plan for developing and retaining them! Measure how successful your organization is in developing and retaining people in general, and high-potentials in particular! How will you have a leadership pipeline if you don't do this?
  6. It's worth investing in the education of your people in general, and measuring how many of them attend classes and programs and certifications. Emphasize as well *who* gets selected to attend which program, favoring those identified as high-potential.
  7. A strong measure of success for any training and development program (as it is for any corporate initiative) is the engagement and commitment of senior leadership to the cause. Executive participation must go beyond the thoughts and words, but also into specific, committed and ongoing actions which provide funding and resources behind those words. 
  8. Retention statistics are important, but look not just at the percentage of retention you have, but more carefully at who's leaving. Attrition is part of the game when working in a fast-paced tech environment. Focus on and measure the retention of your best-performing high-potentials, even if that means that you might lose an overall volume of people on the team.
  9. If you do all the above well, then there should be more high-performing people with diverse backgrounds in the executive and C-suites. Of course you measure how many people there are of diverse backgrounds in those senior positions, but the problem comes when companies don't have the diverse leadership they're looking for and hire outside talent that might not be the right culture/social/program/tech fit rather than look at how to do all the steps above better. 
  10. Of course it's always about the bottom line, so measure:
  • The number of technologies you're offering successfully;
  • Your expansion into new markets and opportunities;
  • The amount of revenues generated;
  • The number of new opportunities available;
  • The depth and breadth of your partnerships and client base;
  • All other corporate and cultural performance indicators.

And if it doesn't add up, how could more diverse and varied leadership and talent make it right?

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Here's to all those who embrace diversity in intent, thoughts, words and actions

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