Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How to lead with integrity

One of the most important characteristics of leadership is integrity. Integrity means you are true to your word in all you do and people can trust you because you do what you say.

The word integrity has deep meaning and is often intermingled with words like honesty and truthfulness. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know right from wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequences, is the hallmark of integrity.

In a recent Forbes article, Karl Moore and Chatham Sullivan discuss what integrity means and why it’s so important:

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Trust in Leadership – 5 Key Practices to Earn Trust

Guest post by Daniela Baker

One recent article in Forbes magazine examined the interesting phenomenon behind a shift in today’s leadership principles. The article’s author asserts that old leadership models were based on power because business was essentially about competition.

Today’s more collaborative, creative business models, on the other hand, require leaders with high emotional intelligence – business leaders who can build trust among their colleagues and employees.

The bottom line: if you want to make it as a real leader in today’s business culture, you’ve got to earn trust from those above, below, and beside you. Here are five key practices to help you do this:

1. Be vulnerable

On some level, trust comes from authenticity. If your people see you as an authentic, open, vulnerable human being, they’ll be more likely to trust you.

There’s a fine line to walk here, though. You don’t want to be naïve and set yourself up to be taken advantage of, but you do want to own up to your failures and be honest and humble. One way to do this is to let some of your personal life into your work – though, again, there’s a fine line to walk here. Another way to do this is to admit past or current mistakes, especially when mentoring your team members.

2. Don’t pass the buck

President Harry Truman was famous for the wooden sign on his desk reading “The Buck Stops Here.” One of the reasons Truman was able to build trust in those around him was that he wasn’t afraid to take responsibility for his decisions.

This should be one of your mottos as a trust-building leader. Yes, there will be times when other people will mess up, and you’ll have to deal with that. But if a decision ultimately comes down to you, make the choice, and then stand by the consequences – good or bad. If your team knows that you aren’t going to try to pass the blame to someone else, they’ll trust you more.

3. Stop micro-managing

Micro-management in the work place is a great way to tear down trust. That’s because trust is a two-way street. In order to feel trust for you, your team members also need to feel that you trust them. And if you’re constantly micro-managing their processes, they won’t feel that you trust them.

If you think you might possibly be a micro-manager, talk to others about this. Then, learn to step back and let your team members do their work. This may mean leaving room for failure, but it also means leaving space for others to learn from their mistakes.

4. Allow room for confrontation

As a leader, people will trust you more if they feel that they can bring up negative points about you, your team, a project you’re working on, or whatever. You don’t want to seek out confrontation, but you should leave space for healthy, professional confrontation that, in the long run, improves relationships.

You can create this culture by not shying away from the hard conversations with your team members. And you can create space for negative feedback by meeting with your team members on a regular basis. If you are confronted about a mistake, a choice, or something else a team member is unhappy about, listen to their complaints, take them seriously, and handle the confrontation as professionally as possible.

5. Tell it like it is

Talking in circles or constantly using subtext in your professional life is another way to break down trust. To build it up, practice telling it like it is. Open up; write a blog that others can see. For instance, we publish a blog for small business owners to help us earn trust from partners, small business owners, and our fellow team members.

This doesn’t mean you need to be tactless, but you do need to be direct and honest. If you have a reputation for directness and honesty, others will learn to trust what you say about yourself, your team, and your work.

Remember, building trust takes time, and it’s a very relational thing. You can have a great reputation for trust company-wide, but if you break trust with one person on your team, you’ll have to work hard to rebuild that person’s trust in you. This takes time and effort, but if you consistently put these five habits into practice, you’ll be a more trustworthy leader in general.

Daniela Baker from CreditDonkey is a small business blogger and social media advocate.  She studied journalism and new media. She has lived on three continents and collaborates closely with a select group of international publishers. One of her favorite quotes is: “Decisions are made by those who show up.”


The Product Management Perspective: Trust is the most important characteristic a product manager can possess. To effectively work with development, sales and other teams in your organization you must gain their trust. Trust is key to understanding your customers and your market. Trust is a two-way street: you need to carry out your tasks in such a way that the team members will trust you. You also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do. The five key practices listed above provide an excellent roadmap to developing trust with your teams.


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Lead by Example

Five Ways to Be Influential and Succeed with Your Team

Guest post by Tess Pajaron

At my former job, I had a boss who would consistently tell people how important it was to leave the office on time and balance work and life. Then, he would text in the evenings, brag about how late he stayed after everyone had left and go into the office each weekend. He did not lead by example and it made the workplace confusing, uncertain and ultimately stressful.

Being a leader can be difficult. You may have some employees who communicate differently than others, conflicts to overcome within your team and roadblocks that can stunt creativity. But in the end, when you lead by example, you set the tone for your team and create a culture in your department and office.

Here are five ways you can lead by example and influence your team to innovate and succeed every time:

1. Communicate Effectively

Open communication is one of the most important aspects of solid team cohesiveness. Solid communication starts by listening. When you as the leader listen to your team members, you in turn lead by example and demonstrate them the importance of listening each and every time. This skill of listening can be a challenge for some teams, but when you set the example and create a culture of listening to various opinions, ideas and feedback you give your team a forum to feel comfortable expressing their ideas. This has been shown to improve innovation among teams. When each person shares their opinion openly, ideas come together and everyone plays an important role in the outcome of the project.

2. Practice What You Preach

Great leadership is done with integrity and honesty. When you practice the same good habits that you preach to your team members, you show integrity in your actions and become more trustworthy. Walking the talk goes a long way with employees when it comes to how much they respect what you have to say. When you do the opposite of what you request of them, for example not leaving the office on time and working weekends, your employees begin to doubt your leadership and wonder if they should be doing as you say or as you do. This can create a sense of confusion and quickly drive a team apart.

3. Empower Through Delegation

You brought your team together because you, or someone else in your organization, trusted in your employee’s ability to help your organization. Delegating out tasks hands over this trust and shows your team that you believe in their capabilities. If you do everything yourself, you are not leading by example but instead you are sending a signal that their input does not matter and that it is your way or no way. To have the most success, engage your team by providing them tasks to accomplish and lead by being a resource of information to help them accomplish what they are capable of.

4. Share Responsibility

A certain sense of humility goes in to leading a team well. When you discuss openly, you may find that you are wrong. Being able to admit that you are wrong for the greater good of the project and team success is a prime case of leading by example. When you can do this, you also allow your team to feel as if it is acceptable when they are wrong on an idea making them feel more comfortable with their creativity and idea generation. These ideas help fuel innovation, so sharing responsibility and being proactive in coming up with the best solution for the project as a group is essential.

5. Set Goals

Finally, having an end goal in sight that every member of the team is working toward will help you to lead toward that goal. This will allow you lead by example as you work hard toward the end goal. When your team sees you working hard toward the end goal, they in turn will do the same.

Leading by example can be difficult but using these five tips can make you a more influential leader. This is what will make you and your team a success.

Tess Pajaron is part of the team behind Open Colleges. She graduated in Business Administration with a major in Management. When not working, she loves to travel and discover new places and cultures. She can also be found on Cerebral Hacks, where she regularly contributes articles about psychology.


The Product Management Perspective: The five ideas above are all important aspects of successful product management. One of the key ideas from my perspective is building trust. Product managers who trust the other teams to do their job, and work/act in ways that allow others to trust them, have much more success with their products.


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Three winning words

December is a great time of year. Most people go out of their way to be a little kinder and a bit more open to what others are thinking. Regardless of religious beliefs most people seem more open to talking to their neighbors and cutting people slack for things they would not consider at other times during the year.

There are many things that contribute to the feelings that abound during the holiday season; however, given the focus of the Lead on Purpose blog, the following three words seem most applicable:

  • Trust: The word trust has bi-direction meaning and only works when flowing both ways: you have to depend on other people to do what they say they will do; and you have to work, act and believe so that others will confide in and depend on you. People who live and behave in such a way that others can confide in them understand the importance of trust. Take inventory of the people you trust and the people you feel trust you. Do everything in your power to make word ‘trust’ part of your persona.
  • Integrity: The word integrity has deep meaning and is often intermingled with words like honesty and truthfulness. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know right from wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequences, is the hallmark of integrity.
  • Positivity: The word positivity suggests the act of being positive; engaging in positive activity. It’s a word that implies action and effort put forth to improve your circumstances. Positivity does not mean arrogance or hubris, but a quiet, inner self-confidence that — regardless of the circumstances — inspires people to keep moving forward. People who are optimistic about the future and take a positive attitude whenever possible find success in ways other people will never know. It’s not magic, but a law of nature: optimism leads to success.

Take some time to ponder and apply these three winning words and without a doubt you will find applicability in your own life.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2011! Take time to enjoy the Holiday season and rejuvenate for the year ahead.


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Trust

The recent theme at Lead on Purpose is trust. This focus has come primarily from reading The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. He discusses the concept of building a trust account, which is similar to a bank account. By behaving in ways that build trust you make deposits, by behaving in ways that destroy trust you make withdrawals. The ‘balance’ in the account reflects the amount of trust you have at any given time. You have a unique trust account with every person you know, and all deposits and withdrawals are not created equal.

Trust is built or destroyed by behaviors. Covey teaches 13 Behaviors of high-trust people and leaders worldwide. These behaviors will increase trust and improve your ability to interact effectively with people in every aspect of your life. Here are the behaviors that will help you build trust:
  1. Talk Straight: Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand.
  2. Demonstrate Respect: Genuinely care for others. Respect the dignity of every person and every role.
  3. Create Transparency: Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Get real and genuine. Be open and authentic.
  4. Right Wrongs: Make things right when you’re wrong. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible.
  5. Show Loyalty: Give credit to others. Speak about people as if they were present. Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves.
  6. Deliver Results: Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Make things happen.
  7. Get Better: Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner.
  8. Confront Reality: Take issues head on, even the “undiscussables.” Address the tough stuff directly. Acknowledge the unsaid.
  9. Clarify Expectations: Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate them if needed and possible.
  10. Practice Accountability: Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable. Take responsibility for results.
  11. Listen First: Listen before you speak. Understand. Diagnose. Listen with your ears…and your eyes and heart.
  12. Keep Commitments: Say what you’re going to do, then do it. Make commitments carefully and keep them at all costs.
  13. Extend Trust: Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust.
Mastering the 13 behaviors requires a combination of character and competence. You can (and should) work to improve your abilities in each of these areas. Focus on the ones you consider to be your weaknesses and take the attitude that you will improve. Building trust is not something that happens overnight. As Warren Buffet said: “It takes twenty years to build your reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”


Study these principles, then master them. Study Covey’s book and practice the principles he so eloquently teaches. Every aspect of your life will improve.

The Product Management Perspective: Trust is the most important characteristic a product manager can possess. To effectively work with development, sales and other teams in your organization you must gain their trust. Trust is key to understanding your customers and your market. Trust is a two-way street: you need to carry out your tasks in such a way that the team members will trust you. You also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do. The 13 behaviors listed above provide an excellent roadmap to developing and extending trust with others.


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Lead with integrity

One of the most important characteristics of leadership is integrity. Integrity is a “steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.” It means you are true to your word in all you do and people can trust you because you do what you say.

The word integrity has deep meaning and is often intermingled with words like honesty and truthfulness. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know right from wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequences, is the hallmark of integrity.

Integrity builds character, which creates the foundation of great leadership. Coach John Wooden said it well: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Live with integrity; lead with integrity.


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Real-world examples of customer service

customer-serviceWorking as a product manager has at least one interesting side effect: you become keenly aware of customer service in nearly every aspect of your day-to-day activities. At the end of the day, happy customers spread the word about your products and services and you get more happy customers. So when you go into a store you can’t help but gauge the level of customer support you receive. It’s a blessing and a curse.

Last month my family had an experience that tested the level of customer service at several companies. More than six months ago we booked a trip to Orlando to have a long overdue family vacation. We had the flights, the hotels (yes, plural…I’ll come back to that) and six days of fun planned at Universal Studios and several other theme parks. The winter had drawn on and the weather in Orlando was looking great. Then, four days before we were going to leave, my son — who was at his first baseball practice of the season — was struck on the bridge of his nose with a baseball. A few hours and an X-ray later we learned that he had broken his nose in three places. The prognosis: surgery on Friday, the day before we were to fly to Orlando.

Without holding too much expectation for positive results, I started calling the different companies through whom we had booked our trip. The first was the company who months earlier had called us and convinced us to take a “fully paid” 4-day, 3-night vacation in Orlando — Hilton Grand Vacations. After having already paid around a $100 to get a room big enough to hold my family, they wanted to stick me with a cancellation fee. After talking to people at several different levels they finally agreed to only charge me $20 to cancel. “But,” they said (with a smile I’m sure), “when you’re ready to rebook, just call us and we will get you back into the [third-tier] hotel and we will reschedule your appointment to sit through our painful presentation on why you should spend a lot of money and buy into our resort” (my emphasis added).

Next I called the Marriott hotel. We had booked four nights with them and by the time I called them we were about two hours past the “no cancellation” deadline. When I explained the situation to the customer service agent, she immediately called another person who, without any questions beyond what was necessary to understand our situation, immediately approved the full refund of our points with no obligation to rebook with them. Two days later, all the points were back on my account.

I then called Delta Airlines to cancel our flights. I spoke to a guy who said that if we could get a letter from our son’s doctor stating that he cannot fly because of his injury, they would refund our tickets. What surprised me even more was that they agreed to refund money when I had paid for the tickets with miles. He told me it would take about a month. I called them two weeks ago to see how things were progressing and found out the first guy I talked with had not sent request through to the refund department. The lady I spoke with was very kind and told me to fax the ticket numbers and a copy of the email I received confirming the refund and they would take care of it. About a week later I received an email from another customer care agent saying he regretted to inform me that Delta would not send me a refund as refunds for the type of tickets I had purchased are only offered in the case of “death or imminent death of an immediate family member.” However, for this one time, he said, Delta will give us a credit towards another flight. I called today and confirmed I can rebook an equal or lesser fare at no charge. Not bad.

Finally, when my wife called Universal Studios to tell them about our change in plans, they were very accommodating. They asked her if we were planning to come later in the year; when she told them that was the plan they said we could use the tickets later with no fees. They reimbursed us for all the date-specific upgrades we had purchased. They have simply made me a happy customer.

When I called today to rebook our trip, which hotel do you think I called? You guessed right: Marriott. The service agent took extra steps to make sure I was able to get the room I wanted. It was so easy! Seven nights at the Marriott; no third-rate Hilton and definitely no painful presentation.

My experiences with these companies highlight the importance of having solid customer service. They illustrate the significance of showing leadership in improving customer service. I have highlighted specific examples of how companies treat their customers — for the whole world to read no less! And I’ve seen many other bloggers do the same.

In today’s social media driven world, it’s more important than ever to treat your customers well and provide excellent service. If you do not, a negative message will get circulated and it will hurt your business.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers have many customers, both internal and external. You can’t please them all; however, if you will be diligent in communicating openly and honestly with them you will find they trust you, and even though you may not put that key feature they need in the next version of your product, they will stick with you. It’s one of those intangibles in the business world that’s difficult to describe but easy to see. The more you genuinely strive to serve your customers, the more they will buy from you.


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The spirit of determination

US President Abraham Lincoln was an excellent example of determination. Though he lost businesses and fought bankruptcy, he never quit. Though he lost many elections, he never lost sight of his goal of becoming president. Though he was adamantly opposed by many, he stuck to his principles and lead the country through a tremendously difficult time. He was a man of integrity. He never gave up. He persevered. He showed extreme resolve.

I honor Abraham Lincoln on his 200th birthday. The following are a few of my favorite quotes attributed to Honest Abe:

“Things may come to those who wait, but only what’s left behind by those that hustle.”

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”

“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

“Perhaps a man’s character was like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.”

“Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.”


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager, your determination to work effectively with other members of your team will make all the difference.


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Envision the outcome

What attribute most distinguishes leaders from non leaders? According to James Kouzes and Barry Posner it is “being forward looking — envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future.” Their article To Lead, Create a Shared Vision — published in the January 2009 Harvard Business Review — derives its conclusions from extensive research through surveys and interviews. Their survey asked what traits people look for and admire in a leader and what traits they look for in a colleague.

The number one requirement of a leader, honesty, was also the top-ranking attribute of a colleague. But the second-highest requirement of a leaders was that they be forward looking. They need to present a vision for the future that not only embodies their view of the outcome, but also includes reflects the aspirations of their constituents (i.e. the followers). Therefore, leaders must spend time reading networking with other leaders — developing and absorbing ideas as they grow — and also mingling with constituents, taking their feedback and making them a part of the outcome.

My friend Greg Strouse sums it up nicely: “Here’s your lesson. Education is nice. Experience is nice too. As for me I’ll bet on the person with vision, passion and that magic touch every single time.” Vision, passion and the “magic touch” allow leaders to look into the future and provide direction while at the same time including the people who will be most affected by their decisions. (Note: Greg’s quote comes from his post Remembering Bonnie, a moving tribute to his wife who passed away in September ’08.)


The Product Management Perspective: By its nature product management requires a high degree foresight. As the leader of the product it is the product manager’s responsibility to envision the outcome. In the process you include people from other teams in decisions and invite them (by your actions) to share in the results.


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Three timely words

December is a great time of year. Most people go out of their way to be a little kinder and a bit more open to what others are thinking. Regardless of religious beliefs most people seem more open to talking to their neighbors and cutting people slack for things they would not consider at other times during the year. If only it could be this way all year long….

There are many things that contribute to the feelings that abound during the holiday season; however, writing about all of them would be futile. Given the focus of the Lead on Purpose blog, the following three words seem timely and fitting:

  • Trust: The word trust has bi-direction meaning and only works when flowing both ways: you have to depend on other people to do what they say they will do; and you have to work, act and believe so that others will confide in and depend on you. People who live and behave in such a way that others can confide in them understand the importance of trust. Take inventory of the people you trust and the people you feel trust you. Do everything in your power to make word ‘trust’ part of your persona.
  • Integrity: The word integrity has deep meaning and is often intermingled with words like honesty and truthfulness. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know right from wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequences, is the hallmark of integrity.
  • Positivity: The word positivity suggests the act of being positive; engaging in positive activity. It’s a word that implies action and effort put forth to improve your circumstances. Positivity does not mean arrogance or hubris, but a quiet, inner self-confidence that — regardless of the circumstances — inspires people to keep moving forward. People who are optimistic about the future and take a positive attitude whenever possible find success in ways other people will never know. It’s not magic, but a law of nature: optimism leads to success.

Take some time to ponder these three timely words and without a doubt you will find applicability in your own life.

I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2009! Take time to enjoy the Holiday season and rejuvenate for the year ahead.

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