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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