Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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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!


Successful companies are “nice”

“There’s no way to institutionalize or “corporatize” niceness…. It has to come from the top, and from there it will filter down…”

We live in a world where information travels quickly and powerfully. Nothing happens—good or bad—without the world knowing it. In his book Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management is over—and Collaboration Is In, author Peter Shankman shows how famously nice executives, entrepreneurs, and companies are setting the standard for success in this new world. He goes in-depth with nine hallmarks of effective leadership:

Nice CompaniesTrait #1—Enlightened Self-Interest: Creates a system where people feel secure but also accountable; where everyone feels confident enough to say, “I made a mistake.”

Trait #2—The Accessibility Factor: Shows commonsense respect and openness for and with colleagues, direct reports and rank-and-file workers and establishes a feeling of workplace equality.

Trait #3—Strategic Listening: Makes sure they understand what someone is saying instead of taking words and forgetting them later. Acts on what they see and hear in the marketplace.

Trait #4—Good Stewardship: Seeks, first and foremost, to be a good neighbor; chooses stewardship that fits with and reflects well on the business.

Trait #5—Loyalty: Allows for and encourages professional growth of employees; provides flexibility for motivated, productive workers; lets employees fail and ensures that everyone learns the lessons within the failure.

Trait #6—Glass-Half-Full POV: Acts enthusiastically about the possibilities, but is not blind to the problems. Is action-oriented, takes time to consider all options and makes timely decisions.

Trait #7—Customer Service-Centric: Practices what he or she preaches; gives the team permission to solve customer problems; knows the audience—it’s not about who you think you are, it’s about what your customer thinks.

Trait #8—Merit-Based Competitor: Observes the marketplace and examines data for competitive insights; provides customers with new reasons to return; finds new, fun ways to make change work.

Trait #9—Gives a Damn: Makes decisions based on shareholder value and impact on corporate integrity; does what’s right even if it’s not obviously profitable; accepts ultimate responsibility.

Mr. Shankman shows how leaders like JetBlue’s Dave Needleman, Andrew Taylor of Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Ken Chenault of Amex practice these traits to build productive, open, innovative and positive workplaces for the benefit of customers, employees, stockholders, and the bottom line. Your organization’s growth and success will increase as you apply these principles.

This book has scores of stories that illustrate how nice people and companies finish first. It’s a must-read for every leader who wants to create a successful, long-term organization.

The Product Management Perspective: It goes without saying that nice product managers have more success. Your success depends on others doing their work in the best way possible. Take Mr. Shankman’s words to heart as you take your next product to market.

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Tips for Motivating Employees

Guest post by Marcela De Vivo

Managers and team leaders alike want to create the best possible environment for their employees in order to have a high-functioning workplace, but exactly how to go about this is a bit of a difficult question. Each employee has a particular way they get things done, but it is your job as their leader to motivate them to work together.


Image via Free Digital Photos

There are several different ways to go about motivating your employees; some are tried and true, and others may be things you have never done before. Whatever you do, start working today for a more positive work environment and higher group efficiency.

1. Spend time one-on-one

Sometimes, it’s easy for your employees to get lost in the midst of a huge corporation. This can be discouraging, and can ultimately cause them to think that their work is not recognized or needed.

Let them know that you do acknowledge and appreciate their efforts by spending some time with them, one-on-one. Share with them specific times when you have been satisfied with their work, and remind them why they are so indispensable within the company.

2. Be a good example

Your employees are constantly looking to you for how they should be doing things and how they should react in certain situations. That means, if you are constantly giving off negative vibes and criticizing the company, there is a pretty good chance your employees will learn to do the same.

Come into the office everyday with a positive attitude, and start including your employees in the decision-making process. They will start to respond to your outlook, which develops a much healthier work environment.

3. Devote a room to relaxation

When employees are at work day-after-day, accomplishing tasks and going to meetings, the office tends to become monotonous. Your employees need some place to relax and recharge, and why can’t this be right in your building?

Create a room specifically for relaxing and meditation. Use feng shui in the room to ensure there is a good flow and atmosphere for all your employees. One of the most effective ways to promote relaxation is to incorporate a water element within the workplace, such as a water wall or small fountain. When your employees feel rested, they will be more motivated to work hard.

4. Promote a safe environment

Like anyone, your employees get frustrated with some aspects of work. Does this mean that every time you hear them voice something negative you should be worried they are going to quit? Of course not! Instead, let them know it’s okay to speak up and voice their complaints.

As a leader it is your job to make this a healthy exercise instead of becoming negative, but sometimes getting something off our chest just feels good. Do what you can to listen to their requests and complaints and make some positive changes in the office.

5. Have fun as a group outside the office

A close-knit team works wonders for productivity at work. Building relationships and morale should be at the top of your list as a manager, but this doesn’t always need to stay at the office.

Plan group events with your team. Weekend barbeques at someone’s house, Monday morning breakfasts and even happy hour events after work all grow your employees together and get them excited to work together. You can even use these kinds of events as a reward for hard work.

Tips-blue man

Image via Free Digital Photos

No matter what methods you employ, your employees should be very important to you. They are the ones working for you, and it is your job to motivate them to be the best they can be.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and business owner who always puts her team first. She and her team practice yoga and meditation every morning and, on Fridays, they all get together to have lunch to brainstorm and relax. You can find out more about her business and team by visiting Gryffin Media’s website.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you have a major influence on all those responsible for creating, marketing and selling your products. While you do not manage those individuals, you can have a major effect on their productivity and success. Experiment with these principles to find ways to motivate those whom you count on for the success of your products.

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Learn to let go

I am facing a major change in the next week. My daughter, who has gone to college for a couple of years, recently decided to serve an 18 month mission for our church; she will be serving in Scotland and Ireland for the next year and a half. While I couldn’t be happier for her decision, it’s admittedly difficulty for me to let her go. Not only will I miss doing things with her, but I’ll also worry about her safety. Though logic tells me she’s a “big girl” and will handle herself well, it’s difficult for me to let go. And yet I know that this experience will provide opportunities that will help her grow throughout her life.

As leaders, we often face situations where someone we know wants to take a new position that will give them opportunities to grow in their career. We might hesitate to let them go because they play such a key role. However, successful leaders learn when to let go and support their people taking new roles (even if they are leaving the organization).

To the extent we support and encourage someone in this situation we will find new opportunities for growth in our own situation. For example, the process of finding and training someone to backfill a role will help us sharpen our own saw. It’s never easy, but in the long run our efforts will be well worth it. The more we help others get where they want to go, the better off we become. And quite often, the people you help with their careers come back later to help you succeed.

The Product Management Perspective: Quite often as product managers we get comfortable with a given development team or marketing exec, and then change comes and we wonder what’s going to happen. As with most things in life, if we embrace the change and work for the best outcome, good things will happen. Learn to let go, and then double down, work hard and things will go well.


Making tough decisions

Making big decision is not easy; in fact it might be one of the most difficult things we ever have to do. The tendency is to postpone decisions as long as we can and put of the pain.

At its root the word of decision means to cut off. When you make a decision you go with one thing and leave all the rest behind. Cutting yourself off from other choices is not easy, and that’s at the root of why we tend to put off big decisions. We postpone decisions for various reasons: we don’t want to offend people; we’re not sure who or what to choose; we’re afraid we’ll be wrong in the end. We need to stop putting off big decisions.

According to Seth Godin, the key to making big decisions is not time: “First rule of decision making: More time does not create better decisions. In fact, it usually decreases the quality of the decision.” Why is it better to act quickly? Seth goes on to say, “Deciding now frees up your most valuable asset, time, so you can go work on something else. What happens if, starting today, you make every decision as soon as you have a reasonable amount of data?”

A CEO I know recently made a decision to consolidate three teams into one. Two of the teams were led by VPs, which meant one of them had to go. There was a fair amount of disagreement whether the CEO made the right decision, but I was very impressed by his decisive action. I don’t know any of the details behind the decision, but from my perspective he didn’t draw it out, he was cordial and fair to all parties involved, and he didn’t apologize. He admitted he might find out he was wrong at some point, but he accepted full responsibility for the decision and is moving forward.

“Leadership is an action, not a position.” ~ Donald H. McGannon

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you have to sort through a lot of data. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Be decisive. When you encounter decisions that must be made about your product, get the information and make the decision. Don’t procrastinate; your product’s success depends on it.


Timely decisions

What does it take to make the right decision? According to a recent post by Seth Godin, the key to making decisions is not time:

First rule of decision making: More time does not create better decisions. In fact, it usually decreases the quality of the decision.

So if taking more time decreases the quality of your decisions, what can you do to increase it? Seth goes on to say:

Deciding now frees up your most valuable asset, time, so you can go work on something else. What happens if, starting today, you make every decision as soon as you have a reasonable amount of data?

Acquire the data you need and sort it out quickly. Make the decision and move forward confidently.

“Leadership is an action, not a position.” ~ Donald H. McGannon

Do not let time get in the way of timely decisions.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you have to sort through a lot of data. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Be decisive.

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Success is a choice

Can you remember a time in your life where you when you faced adversity? Perhaps you lost a loved one, you didn’t get accepted to your preferred university, or maybe you lost your job. How did you handle it? What did you do to pick yourself up and move forward? Looking back you probably see that some decisions were right and had a positive effect. In hindsight you might also see decisions you’d like to change or do differently. It’s worth a review.

The bad news: things happen that are beyond your control. The good news: you can choose how you react to everything in your life. This principle was driven home to me last night in a conversation with my wife. I was grousing about a recent (significant) change at work and she held up her hand and said simply, “it’s your choice; you can decide how this will affect you so make a good choice.” Her statement stopped my negative thought process in its tracks. She was absolutely right: I can make the choice of how I react.

When it comes to achieving success, the choice is yours to make. Mac Anderson summed up the importance of choice as follows:

In my 64 years on this earth, I have come to realize that the difference in our success or failure is not change, but choice. Because when adversity strikes, it’s not what happens that will determine our destiny; it’s how we react to what happens.

Mac created an inspirational movie about making choices and finishing strong. It will absolutely inspire you to make choices that will lead you to success (only three minutes and set to a great Survivor tune).

The Product Management Perspective: Managing a product is all about making choices; few if any are easy. When you encounter decisions that must be made about your product, get the information and make the decision. Don’t procrastinate; your product’s success requires your willingness to make tough decisions.


The paralysis of inaction

It’s no secret that difficult situations happen to everyone. Nothing you do will remove every obstacle on your path to success.

At time, the difficulties — such as emergencies — happen quickly. In those cases most people act quickly and do everything they can to mitigate their problems. However, difficulties often creep up slowly and cause pain gradually.

You’ve heard the story of boiling a frog. How often do you find yourself in a situation you know you want to change, but you can’t muster the courage to “jump out” or change your circumstances? This is the paralysis of inaction, and it has a negative, draining affect on your performance. In the book Think Big, Act Small the author Jason Jennings makes this astute observation:

Uncertain futures cause paralysis and inaction at a time when consumers are demanding more action, better products, and increasingly personalized services. In the face of such widespread chaos, it’s natural to return to the fundamentals.

Fortunately, most people who suffer from a paralysis of inaction can return to the fundamentals and make changes that will greatly improve their lives. In a recent post Donald Trump gives his economic survival tips, which are not only pertinent in our current economic situation but also equally important to defeating the paralysis of inaction:

  • Pay attention to national and international news and finance coverage at least several times a day, preferably hourly. In volatile times, vigilance is necessary.
  • Absorb, assess, and then act. Knowledge without action is impotence.
  • When a tsunami hits, there’s no time for procrastination. Keep your momentum in tune with the times.
  • Avoid your comfort zone — it’s probably outdated anyway.
  • If you’re honest, you should know the questions that should be asked, as well as the answers. That’s probably why there’s so much confusion out there today.
  • Remember The Blitz. That can put things into perspective. Things may be tough and getting tougher, but we’re not being bombed day in and day out either. If you don’t know what The Blitz is, use your time wisely to study WWII to find out.
  • Is your life half empty or half full? Half is better than zip. Count your blessings.
  • Realize that fear is the exact opposite of faith.
  • Resolve to be bigger than your problems. Who’s the boss?
  • Don’t negate your own power. Whatever you’ve been dealt, know you can deal with it.
Copyright © 2009 Donald J. Trump, author of Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education In Business and Life

Use Trump’s tips to help you improve your current situation. The most prescient of his tips for me…fear is the opposite of faith. I’ve heard that no less than ten times in the past two weeks. If you find yourself in fear or doubt I highly recommend you listen to Dr. Paul’s podcast Facing Your Giants. It’s well worth your time.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you know what happens when decisions are not made quickly. Product quality suffers and release dates are overshot. Take steps now to make sure you do not suffer from the paralysis of inaction.

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Leadership Development Carnival

Dan McCarthy published his latest Leadership Development Carnival today with links to more than 40 posts about leadership, decision making and accountability. I am honored to announce that a recent post from Lead on Purpose was featured in Dan’s FOGL (friends of Great Leadership) section. Dan’s monthly leadership carnivals bring many thought leaders together in a single forum where you can gain tremendous insight into leadership practices. Reading the Leadership Development Carnival will be well worth your time.

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Backing your decisions

An important factor in the success of an individual or company is the ability to make decisions and stand behind them. One of the most important things you can do — especially in a recessionary economy — is look for opportunities to do a better job at whatever it is you do with your time, and take on new initiatives with a positive attitude.

“It is sometimes taught that one of the most essential elements of success is the ability to say no. But I want to tell you from the fullness of my practical experience, of far greater importance is the ability to say yes and back it up.” This quote came from Jesse Jones, an important figure in helping the US pull out of the Great Depression.

Do not allow the constant bad news deter you from looking for new opportunities and making decisions. When you make decisions, stand behind them and do it on purpose.

The Product Management Perspective: Decisions are a constant for product managers. Remember back before you got the job…you observed product managers making decisions. they seemed to be in the thick of things; they seemed to be in control. Now you are in that position and it turns out it’s not quite as easy as it looks. There’s stress involved that you did not see before. What a great opportunity! Enjoy the chance you now have to make decisions and stand behind them.


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