Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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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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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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Leadership and collaboration

When you consider that success includes all the important aspects of life in aggregate, the most successful people focus first and foremost on making other people successful. They collaborate with others. When an opportunity arises they first consider its implications on the people they lead and the people they care about. When a problem surfaces they don’t panic and start pointing fingers; they work with the team until things are right again.

In a humorous and insightful article titled “The Princess Bride”: Movie or Mini-MBA? author Jim Foxworthy takes eight quotes from this classic movie and applies them product management. The first one relates nicely to leadership and collaboration:

“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” The lead engineer says the product will miss the release date by six months. You may want to strangle this person, but keep this quote in mind. You’ve got to collaborate with your counterparts in development, because what they do isn’t immediate. It’s not throwing a light switch.

Too often we get in a hurry and forget to work with those who can help us the most. Take the time to listen. Make sure you understand every situation before you make decisions. Work effectively with others and your success will accelerate up and to the right.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers have to collaborate with many teams. None is more important than development…the folks who are building your products. You have to work with them, you have to be patient, and you have to be a team player. Take time to listen, look for ways negotiate and come to an agreement.


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Working with others

Collaboration is the master skill that allows teams to function effectively. Whether you are the leader (or manager or ‘boss’) of the team or a contributing member, working effectively with others on the team is key to your success.

To improve collaboration and work more effectively, talk openly and candidly with your team. When problems arise, go to the source and tackle issues head-on. Listen to what other people say and be willing to make changes based on their feedback. Use your positive influence to drive to a mutually beneficial results.

The key to working effectively with others is recognizing what drives them, valuing their perspectives, and encouraging them to fill in where you have gaps.


The Product Management Perspective: As product managers we’ve said a lot about how we should be driving the product direction and not let development drive it. While I agree with the overall concept, there are a lot of developers that know their (your) products very in-depth, they are passionate about their products’ success and they really do (quite often) have good ideas. We should listen to them. I’m currently ramping up to speed with my new products and relying heavily on my development teams. I put tremendous significance on their product knowledge and their desire to make the products better. Your relationship with the development team(s) is critical; do yourself a favor and listen to their ideas.


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ProductCamp Utah

Holding user conferences is one of the great pastimes of organizations far and wide. In the technology world, conferences have grown into huge events that attract thousands of participants and occupy massive convention centers. Hosting technology conferences has turned into an industry driven by big money and advertising. The value to individuals has diminished as the industry has commercialized. Enter BarCamp.

BarCamps sprouted up in 2005 as the unconferenceway of gathering and sharing ideas. They are open, participatory workshop-like events where the participants provide the content and attendees collaborate to learn and grow in their specific areas of interest. The BarCamp phenomenon has gone viral and spread far and wide.

Leaders in product management and product marketing have extended the BarCamp idea to ProductCamps (or PCamp). PCamps are free, collaborative un-conferences organized to help product people (product managers, product marketers, UX designers, developers, etc.) network, learn and improve their ability to create great products. The first PCamp was held in Mountain View CA in 2008 and has grown into a significant event in Silicon Valley. From Silicon Valley the PCamp wave has spread to Austin, Boston, London, Sydney and many other cities all over the world through blog posts and word of mouth. The ProductCamp growth has been incredible.

After months of planning and preparation, the Utah Product Management Association is hosting the first ever ProductCamp Utah on Saturday, September 10, 2011 in Bluffdale Utah. We invite you to register for this free event and join us for what is sure to be an insightful day of learning, networking and growth.


The Product Management Perspective: Let’s face it, we all need to improve our product management/marketing skills. Product camps are a great way to sharpen the saw and grow your network. I strongly encourage you to seek out and participate in a ProductCamp in your area. Don’t just go there to listen, step forward and host a session. You will not regret it!


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Trust and Job Satisfaction

One of the most important keys to leading a team is creating an environment of trust. Merriam-Webster defines trust as an “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.” To work successfully as a team, the leader must create a culture where people can rely on the strength and abilities of those they work with and believe in their leader’s direction and vision.

Why is trust important to job satisfaction? People prosper when they know their efforts are appreciated and their work is meaningful. They step up to greater challenges when they know someone has their back. They will go beyond what they thought they could do and have greater results when they know their work will be appreciated and rewarded. Building trust is the key to building a great team.

In their book The Leadership Challenge, authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner highlight the importance of trust in developing job satisfaction: “Trust is the most significant predictor of an individual’s satisfaction with their organization.” Building a culture of trust and collaboration provides incentive for growth, and fulfillment is a natural by-product. Kouzes and Posner give three actions you can take to foster trust and create satisfaction among your team members:

  1. Show trust to build trust: As the leader, be the first one to trust others. Disclose information about who you are and what you believe. Admit mistakes. Listen to others. Acknowledge the contributions of others. Create an environment where people will take risks and reward them for their efforts.
  2. Say ‘we,’ ask questions, listen and take advice: People accomplish great things when they collaborate with others.  Talk in terms of ‘our’: our vision, our values, our goals, our plans, our actions, our achievements. Make sure people see themselves as part of a larger vision.
  3. Get people interacting: Get people interacting with you and with each other. Have informal one-on-one meetings regularly. Hold regular stand-up meetings each morning with your team. Ask questions that encourage people to talk about who they are and what they believe. Hold celebrations in public places and openly reward those who go above and beyond.

As a leader, make creating a culture of trust your highest priority. Go out of your way to connect with people you lead and they will go out of their way to do great things for you. Everyone involved will experience greater job satisfaction as a result.


The Product Management Perspective: Developing trust is a key factor of product leadership. Successful product managers know that trust is bi-directional: they work hard to make sure co-workers from other teams trust their direction and leadership. They also trust that team members will do what they have committed to do. Collaboration is the master skill that allows teams to function effectively. Trust promotes success, and successful people are happy and have high job satisfaction.


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Trust – the key to success

One of the five factors of leadership, the tag ‘trust’ has become a hallmark of the Lead on Purpose blog. The act of trusting others and trusting yourself is vital success.

The Speed of TrustYesterday I received a copy of The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. I had listened to a podcast and read positive reviews about the book, so I was happy to receive a copy. I say “receive” because a friend of mine gave me the book with a personalized autograph from the author. As I started looking through it the first thing I noticed was the large number of reviews. As I began reading them it didn’t take me long to realize the power of this book. The book has 11 pages of reviews by 65 well-known, successful people. Though I have not yet started reading the book, just reading the reviews provided great insight on trust. Following are a few reviews that stand out and provide significant food for thought:

“Trust reduces transaction costs; it reduces the need for litigation and speeds commerce; it actually lubricates organizations and societies. At last, someone is articulating its true value and presenting it as a core business competency.” –Marilyn Carlson Nelson

“Collaboration is the foundation of the standard of living we enjoy today. Trust is the glue. This is the first book that teaches the ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’ of trust.” –Ram Charan

“After you turn off the projector, quit PowerPoint, and end your pitch, most deals come down to a simple question: Do you trust each other? This book is a valuable and timely explanation of how to trust and be trusted.” –Guy Kawasiaki

“Good leaders know where they are going. Followers trust it’s the right direction. Without trust, you get nowhere.” –Jack Trout

“Everything in marketing points to the reality that the profitable companies are those that have earned the confidence of their public. Confidence cannot be overestimated.” –Jay Conrad Levinson

“If you want to speed forward to wealth, you have to have unconditional trust to maximize earnings. This great book will tell you how.” –Mark Victor Hansen

“Lack of trust within an organization saps its energy, fosters a climate of suspicion and second-guessing, completely devastates teamwork and replaces it with internal politics. The end result is low morale and the consequent low standards of performance.” –Koh Boon Hwee

“The most important element in any relationship, business or personal, is trust and credibility.” –Brian Tracy

“Why are you reading the blurbs in this book? Simple, because you trust (a few of) us. Trust drives everything in our nonbranded, too-fast world. So trust this: This is an important book. The younger Covey has written a book that matters.” –Seth Godin

Trust provides the foundation on which you build solid relationships. Trust is something we give, and something we receive. Trust tethers us to others with whom we can achieve success. I am eagerly looking forward to reading my copy of The Speed of Trust.


The Product Management Perspective: Trust is vital for product managers. The people they depend on for the success of their products do not (usually) report to them; therefore, product managers need to do everything in their power to gain the their trust and keep their confidence. Trust goes both ways: product managers need to carry out their tasks in such a way that the team members can trust them. They also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do.


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Guest Post: Talk is Cheap!

Make communication with employees your priority during times of economic adversity

By Albert J. Weatherhead

If you’re a business leader, you don’t have to confront tough economic times alone.  You have incredibly knowledgeable and highly motivated consultants at your beck and call.  These experts are chomping at the bit to help you emerge from the current economic adversity stronger and ready to hit the ground running when the economy brightens.

This consulting resource is none other than your employees – and it won’t cost you an extra cent to take advantage of their expertise and tap their limitless good will, because talk is cheap

All you have to do is ask!

Using communication and collaboration to overcome and transform adversity is a topic I cover extensively in my book, THE POWER OF ADVERSITY: Tough Times Can Make Your Stronger, Wiser, and Better.   And I can assure you that the advice I share with you today has stood the test of time…

It helped me inspire my Weatherchem team to create the original Flapper® dispensing closure. Over 150 companies, including Durkee, Cremora, San Giorgio, Ronzoni, and McCormick, now use the entire line of Flapper products, and Weatherchem continues to lead the industry in offering the widest, most innovative array of closure products.

This advice also worked for me almost 50 years ago, when, at the age of 30, I was working for my father at the Weatherhead Company, a manufacturer of military ordinance, automotive and aviation parts, and gas control devices and storage products…

Economic Adversity Builds Walls for You To Tear Down

It was 1960, and members of the AFL-UAW Local 463 union negotiation committee led by its president, John Allar, were threatening to strike the Weatherhead Company over a wages dispute.  We employed 600 people in a million square foot factory so vast that a railway track ran down the middle.

I said to Allar, “Rather than be at each other’s throats as we sink, let’s work together – collaborate – and figure out how we’re going to get out of this mess…”

In other words, I was ready to tear down the walls that separated the union and management, because I understood that we needed each other to survive.

Unfortunately, my gesture was rebuffed and the union decided to strike.

That first day, I made sure I was there by 6:00 AM, before the union pickets. They arrived to see me busy changing a flat tire on a truck.

“Oh, look, he’s finally doing some manual labor,” the union reps taunted, but I could see the look of respect in their eyes (and more important, in the eyes of the union rank and file setting up to walk the picket line).

I had captured their attention and interest, and primed them to communicate and collaborate with me.

What was my strategy?  One way or another, I was determined to turn the walls between us into a bridge that could span our differences. From that very first day, I walked that picket line with my striking employees, engaging them in conversation whenever I could.

My staff watching from the factory’s executive suite, was worried the picketers would take a baseball bat to me, but nobody did, because I kept them talking.

And yes…

Talk is cheap, but it is also invaluable in building trust between

management and employees when economic times are hard.

In the end, the strike was settled on the terms I established – because the union came to see that my terms were the right terms for our mutual success… and because I kept us talking.

Now let’s return to the present economic mess we’re in…

Concerning the auto industry debacle, do you understand why Congress had the top executives come to Washington to participate in hearings, but didn’t call in the car companies’ union negotiating committees to hear their side of things?

For that matter, why didn’t Congress have the smarts to invite a contingent of assembly line workers to share viewpoints from the factory floor? (Those hard-working, blue-collar folks would probably have put forth the most valuable testimony of all!)

Don’t you make the same mistake: Tear down the walls and talk to your employees.  Discover what’s running through their minds, and be sure to let them know what you’re thinking – and that you want their help because you’re all in the same boat.

Successful management – in a good economy or a bad one – is more like taking a pulse than taking inventory, because beyond all the mechanics of the place, every business is a collective human endeavor.

And what separates humankind from all the other creatures is our ability to talk, so always, always communicate with your employees.

Ask: How can we improve this place? What’s wrong here? I guarantee you will get more valuable information in just a few hours than you could possibly act upon in a year!

It worked for me half a century ago on the picket lines in front of my father’s company …

It worked far more recently to help me build Weatherchem into a multimillion-dollar manufacturing company that has provided me with the means to be a major philanthropist, endowing hospitals, universities, and charities that offer valuable help to thousands of people.

You too can leverage economic adversity to strengthen and revitalize your business so

that you’ll be well positioned when financial prosperity once again returns, which I’m confident it will.

Just remember… Talk may be cheap, but it’s also priceless when it comes to building camaraderie, respect, energy – and yes, even love – throughout your workplace, in both good times and bad.

Albert J. Weatherhead is the author of The Power Of Adversity and chairman and CEO of Weatherchem, a private manufacturer of plastic closures for food, spice, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products.


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Guest Post: Leadership Lessons from a Kindergarten Class

Today’s post comes from Jim Holland. Jim’s passion is enabling product marketing teams. With over 20 years of technology experience, he has a fresh and unique perspective in guiding and managing product teams and has a knack for synthesizing conceptual ideas and turning them into reality. Enjoy the post and don’t hesitate to tweet your comments to Jim directly.

What can a classroom full of bright-eyed and energized kindergartners teach you about leadership? A lot!

My wife is a gifted Kindergarten teacher. She’s a tuned-in educator who engages each child with the attention of a ninja master. During the school year, I’ve been asked to come in and help, so I’m well acquainted with each personality in the group and the “good morning Mr. Holland” that accompanies each visit. Near the end of this school year, my wife asked if I could complete a project with her class. The project was to ask each student, and record the answers to: “What was the most important thing I learned in Kindergarten this year?” I decided to use this as research into the minds of 6 year olds and to see what leadership attributes the kids had acquired over the months.

The project was fun, the one-on-one discussions great and the content was included in each student’s journal for them to keep. Below are the responses and how often they were mentioned without any coaching on my part:

  • I learned how to Read (4)
  • I learned my A-B-Cs (4)
  • I learned more about mathematics (3)
  • I learned why we should wash our hands (1)
  • I discovered the library and books (2)
  • I learned we have RULES (1)
  • I learned respect for my teacher (4)
  • I learned Fire Safety (1)
  • I learned how to make friends and to share (5)
  • I learned about Art (2)
  • I learned computer skills and terminology (2)

While this project would create a lot of input for how to sense your markets and how to interview one-on-one, I want to share some leadership qualities that each of us should possess – qualities learned in Kindergarten.

Your ABCs and 123s - From the first day of Kindergarten, great teachers assess individual needs, capabilities and prepare materials, activities and learning experiences for each student. As leaders, we need to follow the same by actively assessing the capabilities of each team member, understand their personalities, strengths and challenges and identify ways improve their contribution. As with any good Kindergarten teacher, when was the last time you conducted an assessment or gap analysis of each team member? As a leader do you have regular (formal and informal) one-on-one discussions with your team? These are not performance reviews or interrogation sessions, but time allocated to listening, understanding and addressing issues while building confidence and educating. Do you hold regular sessions to build business, corporate or other knowledge? I’m not talking about boring staff meetings. I’m talking interactive sessions where you or others members of your team lead sessions on topics that were identified by you or the team.

Washing Your Hands – Kindergartners learn, if you don’t want to get sick or spread germs, you should wash your hands regularly. Every leader has to create, maintain and show integrity. Are you the type of leader that passes “germs” to his team and organization with negative comments about individuals and management? Do you build integrity by maintaining individual, team and corporate confidentiality? Are you keeping your “hands clean” so the team trust and relies on you?

Rules – Kindergartners as well as leaders learn that rules are established as a pattern of consistency. Are there rules or guidance that you have established with your team? Do you set the example by following the team, department or company guidelines without failure? Kindergartners know the consequences for breaking the rules include removal of privileges or the dreaded visit to the principal’s office. As a leader you have to set and maintain realistic expectations and “rules” for your team.

Fire Safety – a colleague once commented; “never burn a bridge, for you might have to cross the river again and walking over rushing water is easier than swimming through it.” As leadership, we have to create and sustain relationships with individuals, teams, executives, customers and perhaps shareholders, investors and industry analysts. Leadership isn’t just about directing a group of people, projects or things. It’s about open communication that creates credibility for you and your team. Create “fire safety” in your team by looking for ways to improve team communication that will lead to better internal and external collaboration.

Sharing – Kindergartners recognize one of the most important aspects of class (team) dynamics is learning to share and making friends. As a leader, are you building the team by sharing knowledge, insights, corporate shifts, and changes with the team. What methods do you use to socialize new information? Do you send a few emails late on Friday afternoon, or actively interact with the team and share? Do you build awareness and share the success and challenges of your team’s accomplishments with senior management? If not, why not? Even a kindergartner knows you need an advocate who’s willing to stand on your behalf.

My experiences this year with my wife’s Kindergarten class have given me some great insights into how leaders can assemble or build teams by learning each personality, assessing specific needs, creating a plan to teach and share and building others by involving the strengths of the team to accomplish the goal.

If you like the post, please comment. If you’d like to connect with Jim, he may be reached on Twitter at jim_holland or drop him an email at jbhprivate[at]gmail[dot]com.


The Product Management Perspective (as Mike would say): Each leader must understand and apply his team’s personality, capabilities and business experience to build and execute successfully. Using the Kindergarten approach may simplify daily leadership and create new levels of credibility and visibility for your team.

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