Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Are you an extreme leader?

“Extreme would not be extreme without fear. And fear would not be worth it without the love of the game.”

Are you an extreme leader? According to Steve Farber, author and business leadership expert, extreme leaders “approach the act of leadership as you’d approach an extreme sport: learn to love the fear and exhilaration that naturally comes with the territory.” To become an extreme leader you need to seek opportunities that will stretch you and ultimately cause fear. The fear defines the experiences that lead to extreme leadership.

To create the experiences that will strengthen your leadership, Farber recommend you take a Radical LEAP every day. LEAP is an acronym for the following: Continue reading


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Accelerating Leadership Development in the Workplace

Contributed by Global Knowledge

Today’s business recruiters face a growing concern over the future of leadership. This concern is certainly not unfounded – by the year 2020 over a quarter of the workforce will be aged 55 and over (compared to just 13% in 2000), and many of these will hold senior positions in their organization. Employers are therefore being faced with the sensitive task of bridging the skills gap in a bid to find new leaders to replace those who are heading towards retirement.

Accelerating Leadership DevelopmentJocelyn Bérard, Global Knowledge’s Vice President is one leader who is working diligently to steer organizations through the leadership predicament towards a green light solution. In his latest publication Accelerating Leadership Development: Practical Solutions for Building Your Organization’s Potential, Bérard identifies key ways in which employers can work to fill leadership roles, whether through leadership training or business development strategies.

According to Bérard, the book’s main purpose is to aid businesses to “speed up the process of leadership development [by making sure that they] have the right opportunities and infrastructure to retain that talent.” The publication includes a step-by-step approach to accelerating leadership development within the workplace, which seeks to lay the foundations for organizations to “identify talent gaps, select next-generation talent, determine leadership requirements and give them [employees] the tools they need to succeed.”

The publication also includes interviews with top international academics and executives from Europe and North America who offer sound advice on how to find, encourage and nurture emerging talent in the workplace.

In addition to his recent book, Bérard also regularly offers leadership advice in industry publications both online and in print. In a recent article on accelerating leadership development, Bérard identified two key strategies for organizations seeking to prepare for leadership succession:

1.  The 9-Box Grid

A core part of the solution is identifying potential leader candidates, this may be an employee who consistently produces work of a high standard and is skilled in every area of their role. One tool, which Bérard suggests organizations can use, is the nine-box grid that can be used to position potential leaders on a low, medium and high performance scale.

However, merely scoring employees with a performance rating is not enough to predict and rate potential leaders. Bérard identifies six factors that employees need to take into account in order to assess future leaders. These are:

  1. Cognitive complexity and capacity
  2. Learning orientation: self and others
  3. Drive and achievement orientation
  4. Motivation to lead
  5. Social and emotional complexity and capacity
  6. Personal and business ethics

These factors are believed to be essential in order to streamline the leadership assessment process.

2.  Carefully Identify Potential Leaders Through Diagnosis

Meticulously assessing a potential leader’s capabilities, competencies, experience and knowledge is essential in order to recognize strengths and identify room for improvement. Bérard says options for assessment could include “360-degree surveys or simulations, validated personality traits inventories, tailored knowledge, and an experience review interview or questionnaire.”

Using these four components to appropriately assess potential-leaders will give employers an accurate indication of whether a candidate is ready to make the leap of faith towards leadership training and development.

Author Note: Global Knowledge are IT and business training providers who organize a number of leadership development training events designed to offer practical solutions for building an organization’s potential. The next event will be hosted by Jocelyn Bérard on the 2nd December. Visit the website to find out more.


The Product Management Perspective: Many product management leaders face challenges with aging individual contributors on their teams. What makes this challenge even more difficult is the shortage of college programs focused on product management, which means new candidates need training and preparation beyond what they get in college to get started. Therefore, product management leaders must focus on not only finding people with the right skills to lead their products, but also on training them for their job. When hiring a VP or Director of Product Management, make sure your chosen candidate understands these aspects and will focus on developing leaders in your product organization.


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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.

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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.

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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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Why Sports Builds Leadership

Guest post by Jordan Spindler

Leadership is a personal trait that often proves elusive to many people, however is intimately related to personal success. Leaders are at the forefront of their fields; they are respected and quite often wealthy. Leaders also foster social change, and most of our cultural, social and economic progress is the result of leadership.

It’s no surprise that many people would like to acquire this trait and would like to see their children develop strong leadership skills. While leadership remains easy to define and identify, a consistent summation of characteristics that make an effective leader remains elusive. So, too, does the way to impart leadership to an eager young mind.

There are many institutions that propose to teach leadership in different areas, with varying success rates. There are even people who speculate that leadership is an innate trait, and therefore can’t be learned. However, there seems to be something of a consensus regarding the relationship between sports and leadership, at least as acknowledged by governments and industry.

Not just any sport will do, however. Team participation is often cited as an important aspect in using sports to develop leadership skills. In fact, team participation is often more important than the physical component, as a search through the biographies of the captains of industry will show: few of them were High-School Quarterback. They all were on some team, however.

Sports are highly competitive, and their nature is to push enthusiastic participants to achieve more than their rivals. In fact, the basis of competitive sports is rivalry, and it is in this competitive atmosphere of team sports that pushes people towards “taking one for the team”, and fostering team spirit. It is within the cohesion of a team that a captain will stand out and acquire the position of leader.

This doesn’t mean that people who participate in relatively individual activities such as jogging or weight lifting can’t use their chosen sport to improve their leadership skills. For example, one of the benefits of indoor cycling is that you can communicate with fellow spinners while working out, and help build a team. Organizing teams will help motivate the members to get more out of their routine as well as provide leadership opportunities for the team.

Competition is one of the bases that produces leadership, which is why the University of California hosts Leadership Competitions along with other institutions that foster leadership, such as the Rotary Clubs. Competition is a motivating factor in human psychology, and one of the traits of leadership is the ability to motivate people to challenge themselves and meet goals.

Competitive team sports creates and environment where people have to work together in order to achieve their goals. Team spirit and the ability to work with others is an essential part of being a leader. An often overlooked part of leadership is the ability to work within a team, which also means listening to other people and understanding different points of view. Someone who can’t play for the team cannot hope to lead it.

The teams and competition of sports are an analogy of the teams of coworkers and competing businesses that leaders must face in the world. The skills learned in each are valuable in the other. If you’re looking to build your own leadership skills or those of your children, consider taking on an exciting and challenging sport today.

Jordan Spindler is a freelance writer and avid fitness enthusiast. His health and fitness articles have been published in a number of national news publications, including the Houston Chronicle and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is a graduate of the University of California Riverside, and although his degree is in English, his passions are fitness and self-improvement.


The Product Management Perspective: The teamwork aspect of sports fits nicely with product management because product managers are usually very competitive. Use that competitive drive to not only become a great team player, but also the team leader.


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Essential Leadership Traits

Essential Leadership Traits in the Successful Small Business Owner — Guest post by Linda Forshaw

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John Maxwell

In the course of an ordinary working day, a small business owner might wear many hats, but rarely is there one as important as that of leader. All businesses, no matter their size, require a strong leader at the helm. The temptation of the small business owner may be to get “stuck in” and adopt a role as a pseudo employee. While there is merit attached to not being afraid to get your hands dirty, in essence to lead by example, the smart small business owner will place a greater emphasis on a wider leadership strategy.

Communication must be crystal clear
Having a clear vision is essential, but communicating that vision is an absolute must. Providing employees with a roadmap of where you want to be helps everyone to stay on the same page; to keep track of the bigger picture and work consistently toward achieving it. A lack of clarity filtered down from above will only ever lead to missed opportunities and ultimately spell trouble for the small business owner.

Strong relationships have a very long reach
Solid relationships lie at the very core of the operations of any successful small business. To listen to others is a vital skill, but it is also imperative to understand and to acknowledge what others are saying. People are the greatest resource in any business, so engaging in a meaningful dialog with employees, customers, and other persons of importance is a fundamental part of building relationships in the vein of strong leadership.

The best kind of culture comes from above
Most people will understand the destructive nature that can result from a culture that focuses almost exclusively on backstabbing and blame. The strong small business owner will set an example of trust and cooperation. The best place for a positive company culture to come from is from the top down. Passion, compassion, energy, and motivation – they are all an essential part of a solution-centric attitude that is best served from above.

Give them room to grow and you will prosper
As the old adage goes, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” To put it into a more modern context, the most successful of small business owners inherently understand the potential value of contributions that are made by others. The only way to benefit from such contributions is to allow them to happen in the first place. You never really know where the next great idea will come from, and if it comes from one of your employees, you want to be the one to hear about it first.

How will you lead today?

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. The leading contributor to DegreeJungle, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay


The Product Management Perspective: Successful product managers build strong relationships with people, both inside and outside the company; clear communication is key. PMs, like small business owners, need to listen to others, and work with them to release successful products.


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Leadership and Teamwork

Sports metaphors are everywhere in the workplace, but there’s no denying that the leadership and teamwork skills found in the sports setting teach important lessons. One approach to coaching that is rapidly gaining popularity is what is known as the Double-Goal Coaching Philosophy: emphasis is placed not only on winning, but also on team members’ learning and self-improvement.

In the world of business management, the game is played for keeps, but not all employees respond exclusively to a win-lose attitude. Follow these tips to promote a successful workplace that motivates team members and ultimately drives up productivity and profits.

Find out what motivates individuals

Monetary rewards are de rigeur in many competitive companies, but sometimes a bonus isn’t what motivates individuals. Perhaps it’s a little more time off, more responsibility, more rewarding work, or the chance to work collaboratively on a new project. You won’t know until you ask.

If you have a team, it’s important that they are able to work together – try some team building exercises such as lunches and other fun activities to ensure that there is a level of trust and respect between the various members of your team.

Avoid micromanaging

Nothing discourages initiative and strategic thinking like a hovering, critical manager. A middle ground can be maintained between complete freedom and micromanagement, but each employee requires a different balance. Getting to know your employees and the way that they work is essential. One useful exercise can be to do a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) exercise with your team – this will allow you to identify strengths, weaknesses and different approaches to working life which will help you manage effectively.

Reward personal improvement

Do you want better employees? The best option is to encourage the ones you have. Not only does this approach build stronger workplace relationships, but it also gives employees a bigger stake in their own work, increasing levels of motivation. You could consider introducing ‘employee of the month’ systems or simply giving additional holiday time for overtime worked.

The Double-Goal Coaching Philosophy’s emphasis on being a leader that encourages personal development will not only build morale and motivation among your team, but benefit your bottom line, too.


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. By implementing these principles, you will find your work to be much more enjoyable and the outcome much more attractive.

Full disclosure: The ideas for this post were influenced by duedil.com.


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Book Review: The Fearless Mind

“When we learn how to cultivate a fearless mind, we can achieve whatever we set out to accomplish.” According to Dr. Craig Manning, author of The Fearless Mind: 5 Essential Steps to Higher Performance, a ‘fearless mind’ is achieved when we have cleansed ourselves of the barriers that prevent us from reaching our greatest potential. We do this by learning to accept what we have control over (and what we do not). When we understand this we are able to channel our energy into mastering those aspects that we have direct responsibility for, and not wasting energy (emotional, mental, or physical) on those things that are outside our control.

Dr. Manning played tennis throughout his youth, in college (on scholarship) and as a professional. However, through an interesting series of events – which he describes in the book – he discovered his true passion was helping others become masters of their sport. He’s helped athletes in tennis, skiing and track and field become champions. In the book he uses stories from sports to help people in any profession achieve much higher levels of performance.

The Fearless Mind helps you master those aspects of your life that you can control. Dr. Manning takes you through five steps to help you achieve higher performance:

Step 1 – Motivation: The will to keep trying, and the will to win are critical to success. Motivation is fixed in behavior, and behavior is rooted in one of two forms: task or ego. Task-oriented behavior is focused on performance, here and now. Ego-oriented individuals focus on how outcomes affect their self-worth. Motivation is guided by one of these two outcomes. Task-oriented behavior is the key to becoming a master.

Step 2 – Anxiety: Anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” When we don’t feel like we have control, anxiety increases significantly. Is anxiety bad? Not if we learn how to channel it positively. It can provide us with the energy to get things done much more quickly and efficiently.

Step 3 – Concentration: Concentration is referred to as “attention control” or the discipline to focus on what is relevant, and ignore everything that is irrelevant. Concentration is absolutely critical to becoming a championship athlete or master of whatever you endeavor to achieve.

Step 4 – Confidence: Confidence is a feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something. Self-confidence is a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgment. Many people confuse self-confidence with arrogance – they are very different behaviors. You cannot have too much self-confidence; store up as much as you can to help you in the difficult moments.

Step 5 – Decision Making: “No individual is destined for greatness. We achieve high performance only through hard work…and a fearless mind.” Making correct decisions is important at every stage of development, whether you’re an athlete or a CEO. Becoming disciplined at task-oriented behavior will instill within us the ability to make correct decisions at every point along the way. Disciplined decision makers become masters.

These principles will set you on the course to success. I highly recommend this book to help you gain mastery over your life. Dr. Manning’s five steps will help you focus on what you need to change to become a master. Don’t hesitate, get a copy of the book and begin developing a fearless mind.

Full disclosure: I know Dr. Manning and consider him a dear friend. His teachings and influence are making a considerable impact on my son’s efforts to become a championship ballroom dancer.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers deal with a myriad of tasks and distractions every day, and the sheer volume often seems overwhelming. Can you become a ‘master’ product manager? Yes, you can if you focus on the right things. The “right things” will differ from one product (or company) to another; the key is having a fearless mind and being a fearless leader. The five steps in The Fearless Mind will help you master the role of product manager. As a side note, I highly recommend Dr. Manning’s podcast on Live on Purpose Radio.

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