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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