Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How to lead with integrity

One of the most important characteristics of leadership is integrity. Integrity means you are true to your word in all you do and people can trust you because you do what you say.

The word integrity has deep meaning and is often intermingled with words like honesty and truthfulness. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know right from wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequences, is the hallmark of integrity.

In a recent Forbes article, Karl Moore and Chatham Sullivan discuss what integrity means and why it’s so important:

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How leaders harness innovation to out think competitors

“We’ve entered a new era. Call it the age of imagination, ideation, conceptualization, creativity, innovation—take your pick. Creativity, mental flexibility, and collaboration have displaced one-dimensional intelligence and isolated determination as core ingredients of a competitive advantage.”

Out ThinkIn his book OUT THINK: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, author Shawn Hunter synthesizes a set of what he calls “truths in emerging innovative leadership practices” that help companies generate value in the form of innovative products and services. The volatility of the current economy—which he calls ‘marketquake’—demands that organizations become agile in order to survive.

In the book, Hunter explains a series of ten processes that comprise the ‘Out Think’ journey:

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How leaders create happy customers and great results

How do leaders create sustained growth and make an obvious improvement to the bottom line of their company? Is it really possible for one (or a few) people to make a major difference in the results of a big organization? The answer, of course, is ‘yes’—if they take the right approach.

When leaders engage with their employees and gain their trust, the employees in turn provide a positive experience for the customers. Delighted by their experience, customers come back. They not only come back, they tell their friends who buy products and services. The bottom line grows and, if practiced consistently over time, the company has long-term, sustained growth.

Michael Hyatt describes how influential leaders improve customer focus and make a major difference: 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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Do you show gratitude?

No matter what you are facing in life right now, there are things for which you can (and absolutely should) be grateful. Showing gratitude to others helps you see the world as a better place and move forward more effectively during the tough times. You should be thankful for the people who make your life better. Albert Schweitzer said it well: “Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”

Leaders know their success depends on the united efforts of others. Showing gratitude will make you a more effective leader and will strengthen you in the following ways: Continue reading


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Why companies win by building relationships

For too many companies, business-to-business (B2B) customer engagement is dismally low. In most cases the people running the business don’t recognize the disengagement and don’t see it as a problem.

In his article B2B’s Win by Building Relationships, Not Selling on Price, author Marco Nink gives the following insight on the importance of building customer relationships:

Competing on price is a losing strategy, and Gallup research shows it’s an unnecessary one. B2B companies are more likely to be successful and secure in their customer relationships if they help their customers succeed. The more a B2B company helps its customers perform, the more essential it becomes. That kind of customer impact transforms B2B companies from vendors into vital partners.

To make a difference for your customers you need to help them improve performance and achieve their goals. Building solid relationships will not only help customers improve their performance, but will also increase their commitment to you. Listen to their feedback and build connections with the factors that drive their business.

Here are three simple tools that great leaders use to improve their working relationships:

  1. Listen: Leaders let other people talk and they pay attention to what they’re saying. They remove anything that would distract from their conversations and focus on what people are trying to convey.
  2. Understand: They appreciate what other people do and value their feedback. They know that taking the time to understand where people are coming from will pay dividends in the long run.
  3. Acknowledge: Leaders acknowledge the contributions of others. They are quick to give credit to others for their successes. They know that customers will be more motivated to use their products and provide value if they acknowledge their contributions.

Are you building effective relationships with your customers?


The Product Management Perspective: To effectively lead the product development efforts, product managers must build meaningful relationships with their customers. Listen to them, learn from them, put their feedback into the appropriate context, then move forward and make decisions that will improve the value of your products.


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Why is trust key to your company’s success?

I write about trust often on this blog, so I’ll keep this post short and to the point: Gaining and keeping the trust of those you lead is one of the top factors to your company’s ongoing success.

Think about someone you trust unconditionally. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for that person? Why? Here’s my answer: that person would never ask me to do something that was not in my best interest.

Do you lead your organization such that everything you do results in the best outcome for the people you lead? If not, why not? If you want to gain the full trust of your people, you need to show them, by your words and actions, that what they are working towards will be in their best interest. When problems arise, and things don’t go as planned, they will understand why and will move forward despite setbacks.

When you live and lead in such a way that people trust your decisions and direction, you will succeed.


The Product Management Perspective: Trust is the key to effectively working with the teams you depend on for your product’s success. Trust is key to understanding your customers and markets. Trust is a two-way street: you need to carry out your tasks in such a way that team members will trust you; you also need to trust that team members will do what they have committed to do. When you live and lead in such a way that people trust your decisions and direction, you will succeed…and so will your products!


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Three ways to be more influential at negotiating

Guest post by Kurt Smith

Your palms start to sweat. You’re thinking about this quarter’s benchmark. You can’t remember what your purchasing agent said about your most recent vendor, but you know that you need this sale. Actually, you need the next couple of sales. Negotiation – that’s how you’re going to succeed. Your prospects want to pay less than your sticker price. You want them to pay at least that much. How can you make a deal that results in both parties walking away winners?

Understand Your Value

If you don’t come to the negotiation table with some type of value, you’re already dead in the water. You have to know why your product or service is valuable to your prospect. For example, maybe you sell computer software that automates a company’s accounting processes. The company you’re meeting with is hesitant to buy anything from anyone because they believe accounting needs that “human touch” and discretion to be effective – that accounting isn’t just numbers on a screen.

Why would your software be valuable? Perhaps it doesn’t completely eliminate human beings from the equation. By automating the actual accounting processes, it frees up the accounting team to focus on qualitative problems instead of quantitative ones.

Computers are fully capable of doing math. But they can’t think – this is the value in your product. Your software allows your prospect to be more creative with its finances. That, in turn, will allow it to become more productive – which results in a better bottom line.

To this end, you could design a presentation to show how your product fosters creativity, productivity, and profit.

Listen To Your Prospect

Becoming a better negotiator isn’t about talking him into a sale. Often, listening is what will give you the edge. Knowing which questions to ask is often far more powerful than knowing what magical phrase will make him buy. In most circumstances the prospect already knows what he needs to do.

He just wants to see if you’re paying attention – he wants to know if you have the solution. There’s this delicate dance that goes on during negotiations. The prospect wants to know that you understand his problems; that you are listening.

Listening also provides you with clues as to how to present your offer. For example, if the prospect happens to mention that his company just spent a lot of money building out a new department, then it might not be the right time to ask for a lump-sum of cash. Maybe your prospect can finance the purchase of your product instead.

Learn To Become A Problem-Solver

Inevitably, prospects will throw up walls to block a sale when they just don’t feel like they can buy from you right now. How do you overcome this? You learn to be a problem-solver. Let’s assume that your prospect can’t make a move for 30 days because they’re waiting on financing for some other project. You don’t want to just leave the room with a “maybe” or “come back in 30 days.”

You might lose the sale. Instead, you could confirm that the prospect does indeed need your product or service, and have them sign a contingency form – they agree to buy from you now for a discounted price. You get commitment now. All you have to do is invoice them in 30 days. Problem solved.

Kurt Smith has extensive experience in sales and marketing. Originally from Austin Texas, Kurt recently he has taken on a role as a sales team leader for a telesales firm in Manchester in the UK where his wife is from. In his new role he finds he often needs to keep the team’s morale high and he is always researching ways to improve their day. On weekends he enjoys mountain bike riding and going for walks with his wife, Linda and their basset hound Dusty. His articles mainly appear on business blogs. Visit the NextDayLenses.com website to see how they use it to offer solutions to potential customer service issues.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers negotiate all the time. Learning how to sell your ideas effectively will increase the value of your products, as well as your value to the company. You won’t win every time, and that’s not a bad thing, but initiating more dialog will improve your products overall appeal.


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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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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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