Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How can leaders use 360-degree feedback to boost employee engagement?

Guest post by Steve Brown

One of the popular approaches to improving performance and employee engagement is to set up 360-degree reviews. With this process, a person gets feedback from their peers, as well as their manager. Management people also get feedback from the people who report to them. The fact that you receive performance feedback from many directions is why it’s termed 360-degree feedback. While many companies have achieved good results with this system, others have failed. Here are some steps for understanding and using 360-degree feedback effectively. Continue reading


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How you can inspire others to do great things

I’ve been thinking lately about how to motivate people and inspire them to step up, to take action, to do great things. I see so much opportunity for people, and yet so little motivation to make a difference.

So what is the root cause of the lack of inspirational leadership? Too many people are afraid to take a risk, to step outside of their comfort zone, to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. The focus on what they can do within their comfort zone, not on why they do it and why they can make a difference.

Simon Sinek describes this beautifully in a famous TED talk: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe, to sell to people who believe what you believe. Continue reading


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How do you build the right culture in your company?

People in countries, organizations and companies tend to behave in similar ways. The term culture has come to represent this idea: the way people think, behave or work. The culture of a company can have a major effect on the value—in terms of products and services—that a company provides to its customers.

A recent Gallup study analyzed data from more than 30,000 employees in various industries to determine what characteristics led to companies creating a high-performance culture that improves top- and bottom-line business metrics. The analysis revealed six crucial components on which companies should focus: Continue reading


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Accelerating Leadership Development in the Workplace

Contributed by Global Knowledge

Today’s business recruiters face a growing concern over the future of leadership. This concern is certainly not unfounded – by the year 2020 over a quarter of the workforce will be aged 55 and over (compared to just 13% in 2000), and many of these will hold senior positions in their organization. Employers are therefore being faced with the sensitive task of bridging the skills gap in a bid to find new leaders to replace those who are heading towards retirement.

Accelerating Leadership DevelopmentJocelyn Bérard, Global Knowledge’s Vice President is one leader who is working diligently to steer organizations through the leadership predicament towards a green light solution. In his latest publication Accelerating Leadership Development: Practical Solutions for Building Your Organization’s Potential, Bérard identifies key ways in which employers can work to fill leadership roles, whether through leadership training or business development strategies.

According to Bérard, the book’s main purpose is to aid businesses to “speed up the process of leadership development [by making sure that they] have the right opportunities and infrastructure to retain that talent.” The publication includes a step-by-step approach to accelerating leadership development within the workplace, which seeks to lay the foundations for organizations to “identify talent gaps, select next-generation talent, determine leadership requirements and give them [employees] the tools they need to succeed.”

The publication also includes interviews with top international academics and executives from Europe and North America who offer sound advice on how to find, encourage and nurture emerging talent in the workplace.

In addition to his recent book, Bérard also regularly offers leadership advice in industry publications both online and in print. In a recent article on accelerating leadership development, Bérard identified two key strategies for organizations seeking to prepare for leadership succession:

1.  The 9-Box Grid

A core part of the solution is identifying potential leader candidates, this may be an employee who consistently produces work of a high standard and is skilled in every area of their role. One tool, which Bérard suggests organizations can use, is the nine-box grid that can be used to position potential leaders on a low, medium and high performance scale.

However, merely scoring employees with a performance rating is not enough to predict and rate potential leaders. Bérard identifies six factors that employees need to take into account in order to assess future leaders. These are:

  1. Cognitive complexity and capacity
  2. Learning orientation: self and others
  3. Drive and achievement orientation
  4. Motivation to lead
  5. Social and emotional complexity and capacity
  6. Personal and business ethics

These factors are believed to be essential in order to streamline the leadership assessment process.

2.  Carefully Identify Potential Leaders Through Diagnosis

Meticulously assessing a potential leader’s capabilities, competencies, experience and knowledge is essential in order to recognize strengths and identify room for improvement. Bérard says options for assessment could include “360-degree surveys or simulations, validated personality traits inventories, tailored knowledge, and an experience review interview or questionnaire.”

Using these four components to appropriately assess potential-leaders will give employers an accurate indication of whether a candidate is ready to make the leap of faith towards leadership training and development.

Author Note: Global Knowledge are IT and business training providers who organize a number of leadership development training events designed to offer practical solutions for building an organization’s potential. The next event will be hosted by Jocelyn Bérard on the 2nd December. Visit the website to find out more.


The Product Management Perspective: Many product management leaders face challenges with aging individual contributors on their teams. What makes this challenge even more difficult is the shortage of college programs focused on product management, which means new candidates need training and preparation beyond what they get in college to get started. Therefore, product management leaders must focus on not only finding people with the right skills to lead their products, but also on training them for their job. When hiring a VP or Director of Product Management, make sure your chosen candidate understands these aspects and will focus on developing leaders in your product organization.


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Arm the Messenger: Helping Your Team Talk Business

Guest post by Allison Rice

Imagine you are at a networking event with several of your employees, enjoying an appetizer and mingling with other small business types, when suddenly you overhear one of your own team members struggling to explain what, exactly, your business does and how you do it. Would you be embarrassed? Of course you would.

But scenarios like this don’t have to happen. Instead, you can arm your team with the information necessary to talk about your business in the outside world. After all, word of mouth is the best advertisement for any business — and happy team members who can readily discuss how the company works are a sure sign of success.

Find out how much everyone knows

First, find out where your team stands in terms of discussing business affairs. Arrange a meeting with the entire company, from college interns to managers and partners, and give everyone a simple worksheet of questions to answer. Don’t tell them before the meeting what the meeting will be about or you won’t get a true picture of how much training is needed.

What should everyone know?

The worksheet should include questions that you would want your team to be able to answer in a variety of business situations. Whether an employee is attending a networking function or encouraging a new client to consider your product, he or she should be able to speak candidly about what your company offers and have a general idea about everyday processes. The classic questions of who, what, when, where, how and why make a good starting point. For example:

What Does the Company Offer?

This question seems simple enough, but often employees and managers don’t have a clear answer. Narrow it down to specifics with the following hints:

  • Is it considered to be a product or service?
  • What makes the product or service unique?
  • What kind of competition exists in the market, both locally and nationally, for this product or service?
  • Does your company include “perks” or benefits with its products or services? (For example: a hair salon offers a 10-minute scalp massage with each wash and haircut.)

Who Might Benefit From What the Company Offers?

Understanding the demographics of the company’s product or service is also important. Make sure your team knows about the qualities of your ideal client, such as:

  • The company’s target age range
  • Target educational and/or economic status
  • Gender, if applicable

How Does Your Company Deliver?

How your company delivers a marketing message, or navigates today’s economy, is important. What do your employees know about your marketing efforts?

  • Mass Media: Does your company use television, radio or live events to deliver a message?
  • Websites: How does your company’s website work? Is it possible to purchase your product or service on the web?
  • Social Media: What social media tactics does your company use?
  • “Old School” Methods: Does your company send out brochures and/or fliers, hang posters or mail newsletters?

Why Has Your Company Thrived?

The “why” portion is a chance to share the philosophy of your company: its history and its current mission. While you might not think people will ask about these matters, this is important information that each employee and business owner should have.

Where Can Someone Get More Information?

This should be a no-brainer, but make sure everyone on the team is aware of all the different places a potential client can find out more, such as:

  • The company’s website or email address
  • The company’s storefront(s)
  • The company’s contact information

When is the Best Time to Get in Touch?

Answering this question could be as easy as relaying the business hours, but, if you have a website that offers purchasing, a client would need to know that the product or service is available any time.

Follow up the worksheet session

After you give your team the worksheet and let them fill it out, you’ll be able to see how much, or how little, everyone knows. You’ll also be able to notice any similarities in the answers. If the answers are not similar at all, that means there’s more training to be done. Sharing the same company information is important. If you find that your team didn’t respond in the way you wanted, it might be time to schedule a training session or two and get everyone on the same page.

Remember, every single employee within the company is likely to be delivering your message to the outside world at some point, so it’s important to figure out what the message should be and make sure it’s understood by everyone.

Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of promotional marketing pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers play a key role in ‘arming’ the company with product messaging, especially in answering questions about what the company offers. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone in the company knows what your product will do for your customers. Take advantage of every opportunity to share the value of your product and get your coworkers excited about how it helps 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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Are you building a great organization?

Whether you lead a classroom of school children or a major corporation, you should frequently ask yourself the question “am I building a great organization?” Why should you try to build a great organization? Because doing so is, for the most part, as easy as building a good one (see Good to Great chapter 9).

Here are five posts from Lead on Purpose that will help you build a great organization:

1. Taking leadership to the next level

2. The pursuit of something better

3. Developing a climate of trust

4. Leadership and collaboration

5. Becoming a decisive leader


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you have the opportunity to build great products and have a very positive influence on your overall organization. Your influence can go a long way to building a great company.


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Tips for Motivating Employees

Guest post by Marcela De Vivo

Managers and team leaders alike want to create the best possible environment for their employees in order to have a high-functioning workplace, but exactly how to go about this is a bit of a difficult question. Each employee has a particular way they get things done, but it is your job as their leader to motivate them to work together.

Tips-leadership

Image via Free Digital Photos

There are several different ways to go about motivating your employees; some are tried and true, and others may be things you have never done before. Whatever you do, start working today for a more positive work environment and higher group efficiency.

1. Spend time one-on-one

Sometimes, it’s easy for your employees to get lost in the midst of a huge corporation. This can be discouraging, and can ultimately cause them to think that their work is not recognized or needed.

Let them know that you do acknowledge and appreciate their efforts by spending some time with them, one-on-one. Share with them specific times when you have been satisfied with their work, and remind them why they are so indispensable within the company.

2. Be a good example

Your employees are constantly looking to you for how they should be doing things and how they should react in certain situations. That means, if you are constantly giving off negative vibes and criticizing the company, there is a pretty good chance your employees will learn to do the same.

Come into the office everyday with a positive attitude, and start including your employees in the decision-making process. They will start to respond to your outlook, which develops a much healthier work environment.

3. Devote a room to relaxation

When employees are at work day-after-day, accomplishing tasks and going to meetings, the office tends to become monotonous. Your employees need some place to relax and recharge, and why can’t this be right in your building?

Create a room specifically for relaxing and meditation. Use feng shui in the room to ensure there is a good flow and atmosphere for all your employees. One of the most effective ways to promote relaxation is to incorporate a water element within the workplace, such as a water wall or small fountain. When your employees feel rested, they will be more motivated to work hard.

4. Promote a safe environment

Like anyone, your employees get frustrated with some aspects of work. Does this mean that every time you hear them voice something negative you should be worried they are going to quit? Of course not! Instead, let them know it’s okay to speak up and voice their complaints.

As a leader it is your job to make this a healthy exercise instead of becoming negative, but sometimes getting something off our chest just feels good. Do what you can to listen to their requests and complaints and make some positive changes in the office.

5. Have fun as a group outside the office

A close-knit team works wonders for productivity at work. Building relationships and morale should be at the top of your list as a manager, but this doesn’t always need to stay at the office.

Plan group events with your team. Weekend barbeques at someone’s house, Monday morning breakfasts and even happy hour events after work all grow your employees together and get them excited to work together. You can even use these kinds of events as a reward for hard work.

Tips-blue man

Image via Free Digital Photos

No matter what methods you employ, your employees should be very important to you. They are the ones working for you, and it is your job to motivate them to be the best they can be.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and business owner who always puts her team first. She and her team practice yoga and meditation every morning and, on Fridays, they all get together to have lunch to brainstorm and relax. You can find out more about her business and team by visiting Gryffin Media’s website.


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you have a major influence on all those responsible for creating, marketing and selling your products. While you do not manage those individuals, you can have a major effect on their productivity and success. Experiment with these principles to find ways to motivate those whom you count on for the success of your products.


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Becoming a decisive leader

“Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret.”

Authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath wrote the book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work with the following goals: “We want to make you a bit better at making good decisions, and we want to help you make your good decisions a bit more decisively. We also want to make you a better advisor to your colleagues and loved ones who are making decisions.”

The entire premise of the book is built around four principles the authors call the WRAP process:Decisive

  1. Widen Your Options
  2. Reality-Test Your Assumptions
  3. Attain Distance Before Deciding
  4. Prepare to be Wrong

To widen your options, ask yourself these questions: What are we giving up if we make this decision? What else could we do with the same time and money? Push for additional alternatives, for “this AND that” rather than “this OR that.” Find someone else who’s solved your problem, and learn from them.

To reality-test your assumptions, start by considering the opposite. Some companies have a formal process to prepare a case against a high-stakes proposal. Spark constructive disagreement within your organization. Find ways to bring real-world experience into your decision-making process.

As you make big decisions, take a step back and consider the larger impact. Use the 10/10/10 tool: how will I feel about the decision 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? What about 10 years from now? Look at your situation from an observer’s perspective. Focus on your core priorities and create a “stop doing” list to help you weed out time wasters.

No decision maker is perfect, so prepare ahead of time to be wrong. Consider a range of outcomes, from very bad to very good. Conduct a ‘pre-mortem’—“it’s a year from now, our decision has failed utterly. Why?” Do a ‘pre-parade’—“It’s a year from now. We’re heroes. Will we be ready for success?” Set ‘tripwires’—deadlines or partitions—to help you realize you have choices.

Finally, you have to trust in the process. “Bargaining”—horse-trading until all sides can live with the choice—will take more time up front, but it accelerates implementation. Making sure others are aware of your decision making process is key to team buy-in.

Decisive is a great read, filled with stories and examples of how to analyze things rapidly and make informed decisions quickly. I guarantee it will keep you interested and you will learn techniques for making decisions. The book is replete with great stories that will keep you reading and learning. Some of my favorites include:

  • David Lee Roth, lead singer of the band Van Halen, put an M&Ms clause in every contract. The clause demanded a bowl of the candy without any brown M&Ms backstage before every concert. Was he a spoiled rock diva or an operations expert?
  • What major decision did Andy Grove, president of Intel, make in 1985 that was a huge turning point for the company?
  • The CEO of Quaker (the oats company) made a major decision in 1983 that cost his company more than $1.5 billion by the time it all played out.
  • Why did Zappos, the online shoe store based in Las Vegas, offer its new employees $1000 (now up to $4000) to quit their job (at Zappos)? Why do they have one of the lowest employee turnover rates of any company?
  • Why did Kodak executives allow digital images to kill their company? What did the executives know years ahead of time that could have saved the company?
  • How did the product Rogaine emerge successfully from mistakes made in another product line?

If you read only one book this year, make sure it’s Decisive!


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers make decisions constantly. They get bombarded with figures and estimates all the time, and they need to make decisions and move forward. The book Decisive has opened my eyes to new, better ways of making decisions. This is a must-read for all product managers and product marketing managers.


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How to Encourage Team Members to Lead

Guest post by Lindsay Traiman

Leadership plays a vital role in every company. To have a successful business, it is important that every team member is prepared to step up and lead when necessary. Forbes.com defines leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” By encouraging others to lead, you can more easily achieve company goals and create a nurturing, supportive work environment. Use the following strategies to encourage your team members to lead.

Educate your staff — Not everyone has innate leadership skills, but these skills can be developed. Offer guidance and leadership training to give your staff the confidence and tools they need to lead and inspire others.

Encourage shared leadership roles — Leadership does not come naturally to everyone, which can make it a difficult and scary experience for some. Ease your staff into leadership positions by first allowing them to share the role with yourself or other team members. Allowing people to co-lead projects reduces anxiety and creates a more positive leadership experience by giving team members someone to lean on for assistance.

Define the goal — Unclear goals can create huge obstacles for those attempting to lead a project. Be sure that you clearly define the task, objectives and goals when assigning a project to assist your team members in their leadership efforts.

Listen – Listening is a very important part of effective communication. Always listen to what your staff has to say. By listening, you can gain more insight into the things that motivate individual team members while also learning what goals they have for themselves.

Lead by example – As a leader, your team members look to you as a role model. There is no easier way to encourage others to lead than by leading them effectively. According to a Dale Carnegie study, 62 percent of engaged employees said their managers set a good example. By practicing what you preach in all aspects of your business, your staff will grow to trust you. Employees who trust that their managers are taking their leadership role seriously are more likely to go the extra mile to support the organization’s goals.

Value your staff – Always let your staff members know how important they are to the company. When you see your staff actually taking initiative and utilizing their leadership skills, be sure to recognize them and acknowledge their efforts. Your employees must be reassured that their hard work and leadership is vital to the company’s success.  A study by Bersin and Associates states that companies that provide ample employee recognition have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover rates than companies that don’t. A little appreciation truly goes a long way.

While it may not be easy to develop leadership skills in others, it is essential to the success of your business. Encourage everyone on your team to lead in order to help your company succeed.

Lindsay Traiman writes on behalf of Dale Carnegie Training, a company founded on the principles of the famous speaker and author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Today, the company offers leadership training and helps businesses and individuals achieve their goals. Visit Dale Carnegie Training online to learn more about leadership training.


The Product Management Perspective: Many of the strategies described here are key to successful product management. Product managers need to educate others (especially sales) about their products. They need to listen to the market and learn what makes potential buyers want to buy their products. They need to communicate effectively, both inside and outside the company. Perhaps most important, product managers need to value their coworkers and build trust with their organization.

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