Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Guest Post: Three Ways to Increase Trust and Eliminate Drama

By Marlene Chism

You ask your employees to engage, but they sit there with their arms crossed.  You solicit ideas, but no one comes forward. No one seems to know exactly what is expected and everyone seems to pass the buck.  If you see any of these drama indicators, it’s likely that there is a trust issue in your workplace.

Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust says in one of his articles, ‘Think about it this way: When trust is low, in a company or in a relationship, it places a hidden “tax” on every transaction: every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is taxed, bringing speed down and sending costs up. My experience is that significant distrust doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time it takes to get things done.’

Covey says the two components of trust are character and credibility. I agree and would like to add that where there is a lack of trust, there is drama, and where there is drama, there is always a lack of clarity. The lack of clarity contributing to the trust issues in your organization may be as simple as looking at your processes. Here are three ways to increase trust and eliminate drama by building better processes.

Create an Employee Handbook
In my book, Stop Workplace Drama I talk about the one component always present in all kinds of drama and that is a lack of clarity. Where there is no employee handbook, there will be a lot of confusion. Besides the mission statement, there is no other communication tool more important than the employee handbook. The employee handbook is the one place everyone can go when there is a question regarding any area related to employment with the company including expectations, safety requirements, dress code, probation period, laws, compensation and more.

Develop Written Job Descriptions
If you are delivering feedback to your employees without setting them up for success, you will create a barrier to effective performance and will decrease the trust between boss and employee. No one likes to be judged for their performance if they are not clear on how to make the grade. One way to increase job performance is to describe exactly what areas of responsibility and tasks are to be performed on any particular job. Without a job description you are inviting an excuse, “that’s not my job.”  With a job description there’s no question about what is expected and what skills are required to get the job done. Job descriptions can change over time, so make sure you keep yours updated by having the employees themselves add to the job descriptions or alter them as their duties evolve and change.

Teach Standard Operating Procedures
Each job has many tasks that work together to effectively produce a product or a service that contributes to the overall goals of the company. A standard operating procedure often referred as SOP is a documented step-by-step process of how the job is done most efficiently to avoid defects, or safety hazards or to produce the highest quality product. A good standard operating procedure for each job helps to ensure consistency. You take the guesswork out of performance and thus increase trust when you have the appropriate SOP’s in place.

Ready to Stop Workplace Drama?  Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama, invites you to learn more about her new book and Stop Your Drama Methodology, eight principles to help leaders gain clarity and reduce workplace drama.


The Product Management Perspective: Too often drama creeps in to product initiatives and makes it more difficult to deliver on time. Product managers who build relationships of trust will keep the drama at bay and the product initiatives moving forward in the right direction.


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Trust and credibility

How do you effectively develop trust in your organization? Trust is built over time as you follow through with the promises you make. Your credibility — the quality or power of inspiring belief — grows in much the same way. The principles of trust and credibility are tightly linked and build on each other.

In his book The Speed of TrustStephen M.R. Covey defines the “4 Cores of Credibility” as foundational elements that make you believable, both to yourself and to others. The first two cores deal with character, the second two with competence:

Core 1: Integrity: Many equate integrity with honesty. While honesty is a key element, integrity is much more. It’s integratedness, walking your talk and being congruent, inside and out. It’s having the courage to act in accordance with your values and beliefs. Most violations of trust are violations of integrity.

Core 2: Intent: At the core of intent are motives, agendas and the resulting behavior. Trust grows when your motives are straight forward and based on mutual benefit — when you genuinely care not only for yourself, but also for the people you interact with, lead or serve.

Core 3: Capabilities: Your capabilities are the abilities you have that inspire confidence — your talents, attitude, skills, knowledge and style. They are the means you use to produce results.

Core 4: Results: Your results comprise your track record, your performance and getting the right things done. If you don’t accomplish what you are expected to do it diminishes your credibility. On the other hand, when you achieve the results you promised, you establish a positive reputation of performing, of being a producer.

Each of these cores is vital to credibility. They work together to build trust. The strength of your character and competence equate to the strength of your leadership.

The Product Management Perspective: Trust is vital to successful product management. Product managers create value for their co-workers on other teams (e.g. development, support, etc.) by clearly defining requirements, roadmaps and portfolios. Trust grows through meaningful interaction with your teams and consistent application of proven principles. Trust is a two-way street: product managers need to carry out their tasks in such a way that the team members can trust them. They (the PMs) also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do.


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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: Watch Out for Flying Monkeys!

Today’s post comes from Jim Holland. Jim’s passion is product management and product marketing. With over 20 years of technology industry experience, he has a fresh and current perspective in leading product management teams and has a gift for taking conceptual ideas and turning them into strategic reality using methods based on market sensing best practices. Enjoy the post and don’t hesitate to tweet your comments to Jim.
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What images do you create when you hear the words, Flying Monkeys? Perhaps the creepy, winged creatures from the Wizard of Oz or the Broadway remix Wicked, the ones that are villains’ henchmen and carry you off to the inevitable showdown with the Wicked Witch?

flying-monkeysWhile leading a team of Product Management and Marketing professionals not long ago, I coined the term “Flying Monkeys” for all unsolicited requests from executive management on behalf of customers and prospects that surfaced while executive were on the road. Imagine you’re sitting in a product planning meeting with your favorite product team. You’re engaged in a lively conversation when all of a sudden, Flying Monkeys dive into the conference room via as vibrating Blackberry’s, urgent emails, flashes of instant messages and sigh of the onslaught – Flying Monkeys – Flying Monkeys announce the arrival. The monkeys quickly grab product management, marketing and development resources, and quicker than you could say, “there’s no place like home” three times, your product roadmap, release content, development resources and team are tossed into turmoil like a Kansas barnyard in a summer twister. As a leader and messenger of the market, how do you handle these disruptions?

In my previous guest post, I introduced the Yin and Yang of Product Management and how balance and interactions drive success. This harmonic balance is easily thrown off when Flying Monkeys appear. Pressured with executive leadership commitments (usually in front of sales and customers) your team begins ducking and dodging the monkeys while trying to focus on bringing the right products to market. As product management leaders; “How do you watch out for Flying Monkeys?”

Product management and its leadership have to be vigilant and plan for the ambush of Flying Monkeys. While product managers know they have all the responsibility and none of the authority, you must focus on what matters most, and be grounded in product management best practices that bring consistency and irrefutable evidence to any conversation. Leaders of product management have a responsibility to establish and maintain visibility into the executive team, and provide regular updates on strategy, delivery and financial success, using the product team to support all conversations.

If your executives regularly connect with customers and prospects, prepare them in advance, and let them know that you are available to discuss any topic in a separate meeting. Another avenue that many product management leaders fail to utilize is internal relationships. Maintaining a relationship with executive administrators, travel, finance, sales and development can provide valuable information on travel schedules, agendas and the details that will reinforce the emergence of Flying Monkeys.

In the series, How to be a Great Product Manager, Saeed Khan shares the four C’s of Leadership that each Product Management professional and leader should strive to embrace. The Four C’s include:

  • Credibility – leadership begins with credibility. If people aren’t willing to believe you and trust what you say, then there is no way you’ll be given authority to do anything significant.
  • Commitment – demonstrate commitment to your product’s success. In your current job as a Product Manager, have you bound yourself to the success of your product? Or are you just going through the motions and simply doing the job? People want to see that product managers truly care about product success and figuring out what is right and best for their product.
  • Communication – No amount of credibility can be retained if communication barriers exist between a leader and his/her followers. Leaders must be able to communicate their thoughts, ideas, visions and strategies clearly and succinctly, and in such a way that those listening are inspired to want to be part of the plans the leader is proposing.
  • Courage – the most challenging of the 4 Cs. The difference between a leader and a manager is the leader’s ability to take risks, blaze new trails, and have people follow him or her down those trails. Leaders can be praised when they succeed, but will be criticized roundly when they don’t.

How can Product Management and its leaders ground the Flying Monkeys? By creating credibility in their role and communicating effectively, and showing leadership they are committed and willing to stand by their beliefs and facts. As leaders of product management, it is your obligation to be the voice of reason and sound decisions.

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): As the messenger of the market, product management cannot be carried away by Flying Monkeys or allow the disruptions. Product managers and those leaders who manage them must establish and maintain credibility internally, in order to confidently communicate externally. When you create a foundation of leadership based on strong executive relationships, you eliminate the Flying Monkeys before they ever appear.


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Guest Post: The Yin-Yang of Product Management — Market Sensing

Today’s post comes from Jim Holland. Jim’s passion is product management and product marketing. With over 20 years of technology industry experience, he has a fresh and current perspective in market sensing best practices, with significant experience defining and launching products in the application lifecycle, mobile, and enterprise software markets. Enjoy the post and don’t hesitate to tweet your comments to Jim directly.

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I am going through the steps of entering the blogging community with my own blog. Michael knows this and asked if I’d like to test that waters with a guest posting. As a product management leader, I have learned that everything great about product management starts with Market Sensing.

To me market sensing is more than market research or analysis, digging through data, customer call reports, sales requests or analysts notes. For me, Market Sensing is “a process of planning, discovering, organizing and internally understanding market insight to validate decisions based on real evidence and market need.”

Market Sensing is the balance and unification of a product’s beginning, life and success.

yin-yangTo illustrate the balance that each product manager should undertake, let’s compare it to the concept of Yin-Yang. Found in numerous cultures throughout the world, Yin-Yang represents the ancient Chinese understanding of how things work. The outer circle represents everything, while the two inner shapes within the circle represent the interaction of two energies, called yin often depicted in black and yang usually in white, which cause everything to happen. Just as things in life are not completely black or white, neither is product management and the leadership it provides.

Using this analogy, Market Sensing is the outer circle. Many product manager’s fixate on the outer circle and how or what a product should be. We treat products as if they require perfection to be accepted by the market. If not, we think it reflects on us and our inabilities. We chase elusive feature thoughts, and use gut instinct in its pursuit of perfection. In looking for answers, we often overlook or place a limited value on Market Sensing. Product management must acquire a Yin-Yang founded on Market Sensing. I believe there are two components that drive market sensing success.  One part is proactive, the Yin, and the other reactive, the Yang.

To create a Yin–Yang in Product Management, we have to balance the proactive and reactive elements of what we do each day. Some of the proactive processes I’ve used to keep the Yin in place include:

  • Customer interviews – are a great way to connect. Kristin Zhivago’s article on how to interview customers adds some insights that you may have forgotten.
  • Virtual focus and advisory groups – Here’s a list of the Top 10 Things to Do when conducting a virtual session.
  • Surveys – provide insight, but go a step further asking for real customer feedback. Ideascope is a great tool to capture, rank and prioritize what’s important to customers.
  • Win/Loss Analysis – if you do it well, it goes beyond all the sales stuff and gets to the heart of what a customer or non-buyer thinks. Stewart Rogers from Ryma has some great ideas.

As a reminder of the Yang, try to limit to the following:

  • Development generated requirements – are nice, but if you aren’t leading the development of all requirements as a product manager, someone else will.
  • Chasing Sales – if you are chasing the latest big deal, you’ll never win unless that’s your business model.
  • CEO epiphanies – if your boss says, “The CEO had a great idea on the way to the office.” Respectfully ask if the idea is founded on market evidence, and was validated by those in the daily commute.
  • Gut Instinct – as a product management leader, guessing, ideas, opinions, and other randomness won’t work. You need market-based insight and facts.

How can Product Manager’s and the leader do a better job at Market Sensing? By creating an approach similar to Yin-Yang.

As a leader in product management, it is your obligation to be the leader for sound decisions. Market Sensing best practices provide the foundation of sound decisions. Creating a market sensing process takes time and effort, both of which will pay dividends as you engage in your role as product manager and leader.

If you like the post, please comment. Until my blog www.marketsensing.com is launched, please tweet at Jim_Holland or drop me an email at hollandj[at]rymatech[dot]com. If you’d like to hear and see what I’ve shared in the past, please view Market Sensing – Anticipating Market Problems and Market Sensing 201 – What Processes Work for You?


The Product Management Perspective (as Mike would say): As the product manager who uses a balanced market sensing process, you will create and sustain products with a Yin-Yang like focus. It will amaze you as you create a new level of credibility internally, and confidently deliver to the market those products founded on real market evidence and information. Create and use your Product Management Yin-Yang as the foundation to strengthen your leadership.


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Trust is essential

Gaining people’s trust is essential for building a successful team.

A recent article in Investors Business Daily discusses the importance of gaining the trust of your team. Some leaders work hard to gain acceptance or even popularity with their teams rather than being upfront about their strengths or weaknesses. Ultimately, however, trust is more important than popularity. Patrick Lencioni, author of several leadership books including The Five Temptations of a CEO, said: “Trust is the most important thing a leader can have. People will walk through walls of fire for you if they know they can trust you. But without trust, nothing else matters.”

One of the best ways to gain trust is to be up front with the people you lead. Great leaders are not afraid to admit mistakes. At first blush it implies weakness; however, admitting mistakes actually helps leaders gain credibility because the people they lead see them as down-to-earth and genuine. Lencioni said: “Ironically, pretending you’re strong when you’re not is a sign of weakness.” By staying true to their promises and providing feedback through good and bad, leaders gain the trust of their teams and strengthen their organizations.

The Product Management Perspective: Trust is vital for product managers. Because the people who they depend on for successful product launches do not (usually) report to them, 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 (the PMs) also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do.

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