Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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How a Disengaged Workforce is Costing You Money

Guest post by Jüri Kaljundi

As a CEO, I make sure that at the end of the week I know what every member of my team is up to and they know that I know. Why? Because I believe that for most companies, especially start-ups, the greatest challenges can only be solved with a highly engaged and motivated team.

I think that it doesn’t come as a big surprise to anyone, but having a motivated and strong workforce is vital to every company. The problem is, that although, in theory, most leaders acknowledge the need for taking care of employees, only one third of the workforce in US is engaged at any given year. But engagement and worker happiness are not topics we can only talk about to make us look good. We must actually make them feel good. Continue reading


Getting the Results You Want – 7 Things to Consider

Guest post by Paul Axtell

One of the toughest jobs in the universe is to be a product or project leader with people who do not work directly or exclusively for you. Every team leader has faced these two questions at some point on every project:

How can I get people to take on work and deliver when they don’t report to me?

People are on multiple teams. Is it really fair of me to ask them to take on a lot of work?

Here are seven points that may be useful to you in finding approaches that work: Continue reading


Great Leaders are Made, Not Born

Guest post by Allen Kors

While some may be born with an innate knack for great leadership skills like confidence, communication, and creativity, I’d like to argue that great leaders are made not born. Even if you are born with certain traits and talents, only through carefully developing those skills and talents can you learn to master the art of leadership. Being a great leader takes practice.

To develop great people skills, potential leaders need to learn how to become better listeners, how to accept critical feedback in a constructive way, and how to best display empathy and patience with other team members and colleagues. Continue reading

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How do you reduce the customer churn rate?

Guest post by Ryan Harrison

SaaS (software as a service) sales teams often focus on bringing in new clients; however, they often miss the key fact that existing clients pay more dividends in the long run. The blog ForEntrepreneurs.com reports that 5-30 percent of a business’ revenue comes from the initial sale. Renewals and upsells account for the other 70-95 percent. Businesses that struggle with a high churn rate lose out on these compound dividends.

Churn rate measures the number of customers leaving a business over a specified period of time. For any business with a subscriber-based service model, churn rate can mean the difference between profit and bankruptcy. Continue reading

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How to Foster Productive Communication with Employees

Guest post by Diane Pierre-Louis

The best leaders are nearly always excellent communicators. Clear and productive communication between management and staff is a great stage-setter for a successful and rewarding workplace environment. Whether you feel that you’re already communicating well with your employees or know this is an area that needs polishing, it’s always wise to review some common-sense strategies.

Listen with Intent

The art of meaningful listening requires effort and practice, but it is well worth the effort in the end. Generally, most of us are pretty lousy listeners. Although we might keep our mouths shut, we’re mostly likely just biding our time until the other person is finished and we can have our say. We think we know what our conversation partner will say next, so we plan our responses, which means we are not honestly listening. How can we possibly understand what someone means if our attention is silently focused elsewhere? Pay attention and be an active listener. And whatever you do, don’t interrupt.

Pay Attention to Tone and Body Language 

Body language is often more telling than the words that leave our mouth. As you’re listening to your employee, be an active observer as well as an attentive listener. Body language experts assert that 90% of how we communicate is nonverbal, so what we do with our body and facial expressions are as powerful as the words we speak. Practice using open body language that indicates you are receptive and willing to enter into a healthy conversation. This can include leaving your arms by your sides instead of crossing them and leaning slightly toward the speaker.

Tone of voice is also important. Unless we listen to recordings of ourselves regularly, it’s hard for us to relate to how our voice sounds. Be aware that your voice may indicate how tired, stressed, bored or irritated you are – even if your words indicate otherwise.

Follow up on Conversations

Don’t depart from a meeting without restating what you just heard. That will go a long way to eliminating the possibility of misunderstandings. Also, get into the habit of sending a quick email recapping what was discussed in a meeting or other work-related gathering. Often, employees bring up questions or concerns during a meeting, so a prompt follow-up addressing those issues is a valuable communication tool that lets your staff know you were listening and that you care.

Great leaders know that a company’s fortunes will rise and fall on the contributions of its employees. Creating an environment that promotes open communication among all employees and supervisors will foster the trust and collaboration necessary for long-term success.

Diane Pierre-Louis is a writer for Bisk Education and covers a variety of topics related to higher education and the workplace, including effective leadership and conflict management.

The Product Management Perspective: One of the best ways to show customers you care about them is to truly listen to them. Too often product managers hear the words coming out of a customer’s mouth and immediately start talking about how their product will solve the problem, rather than listening to find the root of the problem and seeking answers. Most product managers understand that customers are not always right. However, it is always in your best interest to listen to them and understand what they are saying.

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Leadership and listening

Positive and effective communication starts with listening. When you listen first and ask questions second, you come away with a much better understanding of what the other person wanted you to know. If you need to communicate something to another person, state it quickly and then listen to their response. When you participate in meetings, listen to what the others have to say. Fight the impulse to talk; listen attentively and you’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Recently I had an eye-opening experience with learning by listening. My son invited me to attend a session with renowned sports performance enhancement coach Dr. Craig Manning. The only stipulation from my son was…”you have to set back and listen, and not make any comments.” [Those who know me well know I like to chime in and share my wisdom, so this would be a challenge for me.]

I accepted. I went to the session and for a full hour I sat still and listened. It was an amazing experience. Even though Dr. Manning was teaching my son, I learned some remarkable things about myself. I discovered actions I can take to improve my life and my work. All of this came because I listened (not only to Dr. Manning, but also to my son).

If you want to be happier, work more effectively, or improve your leadership, take the time to listen. Don’t just hear what people say, pause and reflect on what they really mean. Ask questions that will help you to better understand what the other person is saying. Listen, and become a better leader.

The Product Management Perspective: You work with a lot of different people, most of whom have opinions about your product. A well-known mantra in product management is “Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.” While I agree the gist of this statement, I find value in listening to others’ opinions. The act of listening to others brings knowledge and enlightenment to us. Even if we end up doing something totally different from what the other person suggested, we all benefit from listening and considering alternatives.

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Leadership and effective communication

Effective communication is one of the most challenging aspects in life. Regardless of your role in any organization (company, family, church, etc.), understanding the intentions of others and communicating your objectives is trying at times, and occasionally downright frustrating. However, if you want to build strong relationships of trust, effective communication is absolutely critical. Here are five key considerations:

  1. Recognize the issue. In the majority of cases where poor communication is the problem, the primary issue is not recognizing poor communication. Too often it seems the problem lies with the other person, or they don’t listen, or they are just stubborn. More often they don’t understand your intentions. Step back and look at the bigger picture; you might be surprised by what you see.
  2. Look for solutions. Never try to pin the problem on the other person. Talk through the issues and look for signs of misunderstanding. Take the approach that you want to solve problems and the answers will follow.
  3. Exercise patience. It’s easy to get frustrated when you disagree with another person’s actions or behavior. Exercising (literally having or working out) patience is key to solving problems. Lead out in making things happen to improve your relationships. Be humble and open to things you did wrong.
  4. Forgive. Holding grudges and acting out of pride has brought down many companies, families and even nations. The simple solution is to forgive and move forward without holding grudges.
  5. Don’t wait. When you recognize an issue, don’t hesitate to act. The longer you wait the harder it is to approach the person and have the conversation. Act quickly and you will be surprised how much easier it is to resolve the problem.

Every relationship is worth the effort it takes to communicate effectively. Leaders, regardless of their role, need to focus constantly on assuring they communicate effectively and listen intently. Make it a habit; it will save you from having to face much bigger problems.

Did I communicate this message effectively? Please leave a comment with your ideas.

The Product Management Perspective: Communication is key to effective product management. Keep a close eye on all your relationships and make sure you are communicating effectively.


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