Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Six Channels of Influence: How to Navigate Them Effectively

Guest post by Willy Steiner

The human being is a self-propelled automaton entirely under the control of external influences. Willful and predetermined though they appear, his actions are governed not from within, but from without. He is like a float tossed about by the waves of a turbulent sea.” – Nikola Tesla

Humans are very complex organisms. We are the sum of the various influences of our lives – family, educational, religious, social, national and organizational. I had a client who worked quite a few years in a top-down, command-and-control type of environment. When his boss concurred with his recommendations, that seal of approval, that authority, was all he needed to influence things. When I got to know him he had moved to another organization and proceeded to start with buy-in from his boss prior to the implementation of various solutions. But he got significant cultural resistance because this was not a command-and-control type of environment. He had to work hard developing relationships to get buy-in and reduce resistance. Once we appreciated the differences in influence style between the different organizations, I was very proud to see how my client worked hard to adapt to this new model of influence in the new organization. Continue reading


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How deep is your desire to succeed?

As I’ve gotten older and seen more the of what the world offers, I’ve come to realize that success depends as much on the desire of an individual as anything else. Hard work, persistence and intelligence also factor in, and depending on the endeavor (for which one is striving to succeed) these may play a bigger role. However, without a burning inner desire, your chance of success is greatly diminished.

While there are many ways desire helps you meet objectives, here are three factors that, if focused on, will accellerate your path to success: Continue reading


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How are you using your time?

A common response when you ask somebody for their help or their input is “I don’t have enough time.” This is an interesting response given that we all have the same amount of time – 24 hours in a day. When someone doesn’t have enough time it usually means they are focused on something at that moment and don’t want (or feel it’s worth their time) to stop what they’re doing and help you. They don’t have any “white space” at the moment. Continue reading


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Build Your Network to Live Your Passion

Work Happy Now! Guest Post by David Bradford, author of Up Your Game

All of our life successes are defined within the context of their impact on people; namely ourselves first, then impact on family, community, and globally. Without people, on a small scale or large, no innovation in technology would be of significant value. Without people our lives lack depth, connection, and passion.

The Power of Personal Relationships

Two of the most talented people I have ever interacted with are Bill Gates and Gary Kildall. Gary Kildall and Bill Gates have had arguably the most profound impact on the history of personal computing of any two people except possibly Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They defined the age of personal computing, and their contributions continue to have a major impact on business in the twenty-first century.

Why is Bill Gates one of the richest men on planet Earth and Gary Kildall a forgotten footnote in the annals of the computer industry? The fundamental reason is that Gates and Microsoft were about developing relationships that enabled them to secure an agreement to supply the desktop Operating System for the IBM Personal Computer and Kildall did not. Why? What factor impeded the “Inventor of the P.C. Operating System” from securing the most important contract in the history of the computer industry, yet permitted Mr. Gates to secure the same?

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Why leaders need a long-term vision

Why are you in business? What drives your daily activities—your long-term vision or making the numbers this quarter? If you’re a board member, do you incentivize your executives to make a long-term contribution for the company or to keep the shareholders happy this quarter? If these questions cause you any discomfort, your priorities might be out-of-line with your core values.

In a recent interview with McKinsey & Company, Bill George—Harvard Business School professor and former Medtronic CEO—said the following: Anyone who’s willing to postpone the long-term strategies to make the short-term numbers is in route to going out of business.

In the full interview—Bill George on rethinking capitalism—Mr. George discusses important topics including insisting on the long term, managing expectations and creating lasting value. I recommend you spend a few minutes listening to Bill’s interview; it’s well worth your time.


The Product Management Perspective: One of the key aspects of product management is creating a long-term vision for a product/portfolio. Some are uncomfortable putting too much effort in looking to the future because things change. The core of this discomfort is not so much that things might change, as it is that they will be perceived as being wrong.

Don’t let the possibility that you’ll be wrong stop you from looking towards the future. Regardless of whether you end up right or wrong (or anywhere in between), the efforts you put into planning for the future will pay off. You will learn things you would have missed had you not tried. Be the leader—the CEO—of your product and create a long-term vision of how it will create value for your customers.


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Using smart goals and data-driven assessment

Smart goals and data-driven assessment help employees and managers map career advancement – Guest post by Danielle M.

Employees may start angling for a merit increase after a certain amount of time on the job, but discussions about advancement can get uncomfortable — and frustrating — if metrics are left out of the equation. Using metrics to measure progress toward certain milestones can make evaluations more valuable and help employees work toward their objectives.

Setting SMART goals

The SMART system works quite well for setting objectives and measuring performance. Here’s what the acronym means:

  • Specific: When an individual or team needs to tackle a large general goal, such as “Increase productivity,” it often helps to specify the desired action. Breaking down the job into smaller, more specific goals can also help. For example, “increasing productivity” may be clearer as “increasing number of items made per hour” or “decreasing the time it takes to solve problems.”
  • Measurable: How can an employee and manager measure performance on a specific goal? Often, when data is used to assess performance, a yes or no answer can ascertain whether a goal was accomplished. Did the individual meet production goals? Were all incidents of problems reported and resolved quickly?
  • Achievable: When setting goals, be sure that achieving the desired outcome is possible. A manager cannot increase productivity by taking away breaks, for example. But she may be able to implement a reward system.
  • Relevant: There’s no sense in creating a goal that doesn’t meet the needs of the company or department. Be sure to set goals that feed into larger goals for the team or organization.
  • Time-bound: Goals need to have an end date, even if it simply marks the beginning of the next phase. The timing aspect of a goal gives the employee and manager a window for evaluating progress toward the goal

Using metrics to assess workplace performance

Implementing the SMART system for performance reviews requires a certain amount of data collection. After all, tracking progress toward a specific and measurable goal is all about knowing how many of something happens according to a certain standard (often stated in terms of time). But the good news is that much of the information needed to evaluate performance can be collected automatically. Here are some examples:

  • driver log for professional truck drivers can track the number of miles that an employee has driven in a certain block of time and provide real-time updates on miles to go and any violations the driver has accrued.
  • Review metrics can report on a customer service agent’s customer-abandonment (hang-up or disconnect) rates as well as hold and total call time. If certain agents are consistently referring calls to a manager, the metrics may show a need for continued training.

To evaluate qualitative (non-numbers-based) goals, consider asking peers in the department to weigh in on an individual’s performance. Using information about how employees feel about their own performance and that of their peers may help identify problem areas, departmental strengths and weaknesses, and other data that doesn’t track easily on a quantitative scale.

Succeeding with a plan

Progress toward a new goal may seem slow, but removing personal preference and other subjective measures from assessments levels the playing field and ensures that the most deserving employees are rewarded.

Danielle M. studies marketing and supply chain management at the Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis, IN. She is a firm believer of Lean Manufacturing principles and lives for standardized processes. In her spare time she blogs about local music and takes care of her puppy Elwood.


The Product Management Perspective: The SMART system will help you manage your products more effectively. The more specific you are about your products’ goals, the better your team members will understand their role. Focus not only on building great products, but also on ways you can measure your progress more accurately.

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