Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How do you build the right culture in your company?

People in countries, organizations and companies tend to behave in similar ways. The term culture has come to represent this idea: the way people think, behave or work. The culture of a company can have a major effect on the value—in terms of products and services—that a company provides to its customers.

A recent Gallup study analyzed data from more than 30,000 employees in various industries to determine what characteristics led to companies creating a high-performance culture that improves top- and bottom-line business metrics. The analysis revealed six crucial components on which companies should focus: Continue reading


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Why companies win by building relationships

For too many companies, business-to-business (B2B) customer engagement is dismally low. In most cases the people running the business don’t recognize the disengagement and don’t see it as a problem.

In his article B2B’s Win by Building Relationships, Not Selling on Price, author Marco Nink gives the following insight on the importance of building customer relationships:

Competing on price is a losing strategy, and Gallup research shows it’s an unnecessary one. B2B companies are more likely to be successful and secure in their customer relationships if they help their customers succeed. The more a B2B company helps its customers perform, the more essential it becomes. That kind of customer impact transforms B2B companies from vendors into vital partners.

To make a difference for your customers you need to help them improve performance and achieve their goals. Building solid relationships will not only help customers improve their performance, but will also increase their commitment to you. Listen to their feedback and build connections with the factors that drive their business.

Here are three simple tools that great leaders use to improve their working relationships:

  1. Listen: Leaders let other people talk and they pay attention to what they’re saying. They remove anything that would distract from their conversations and focus on what people are trying to convey.
  2. Understand: They appreciate what other people do and value their feedback. They know that taking the time to understand where people are coming from will pay dividends in the long run.
  3. Acknowledge: Leaders acknowledge the contributions of others. They are quick to give credit to others for their successes. They know that customers will be more motivated to use their products and provide value if they acknowledge their contributions.

Are you building effective relationships with your customers?


The Product Management Perspective: To effectively lead the product development efforts, product managers must build meaningful relationships with their customers. Listen to them, learn from them, put their feedback into the appropriate context, then move forward and make decisions that will improve the value of your products.


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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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Managing performers and potentials – 3 steps

Guest post by Kyle Lagunas

In a time when the workforce is increasingly transient, your ability to identify high-performing and high-potential employees—and that of your managers—is critical. And yet, many struggle to distinguish one from the other, negatively impacting their ability to develop and retain top talent. In many organizations, performance is the primary measure of an employee’s value in the organization. Star performers are promoted and rewarded, while diamonds in the rough become disengaged and move on.

Don’t get me wrong–you should definitely value performance. But if your end goal is to build a more robust talent pipeline (and it should be), performance can’t be the only point of entry. To that end, there are strategies that any manager can apply to develop high-potentials and high-performers effectively.

Step One: Identify

High-performers stand out in any organization. They consistently exceed expectations, and are management’s go-to for difficult projects. They take pride in their accomplishments, but may not have the potential (or the desire) to succeed in a higher-level role.

High potentials can be more difficult to identify, especially for line managers. That’s because most valuable attributes (e.g. stress management, adaptability, business sense) aren’t catalytic in entry-to-mid-level roles. Potential is subjective to what a company values, of course, but there are innate attributes that distinguish them from high-performers.

Line managers’ observations are often limited to the most obvious traits (time management, communication skills, attention to detail). By working with leadership, however, managers can profile the skills that ensure success in key roles—and be on the lookout for examples of both high performers and high potentials from day one.

Step Two: Assess

An established standard of the attributes and competencies of model employees is also an essential part of objective assessment. And though there’s a distinct difference between potential and performance, experts agree that employees should be assessed on competency in both.

Figure 1

Each category requires a different development strategy. With a clearer picture of who falls where, managers can make more informed decisions in how to effectively develop them. For example: High Po/ Low Per employees may need to improve their ability to perform consistently, or may be moved into roles better aligned with their natural abilities. And High Per/Low Po employees would be ideal candidates for soft skill development–or for roles that require more technical skill.

Step Three: Engage and Develop

The important thing about development and engagement strategies (especially for high-potential vs. high-performance employees) is to tailor your efforts to drive the results you want. Typical engagement strategies could look something like this:

Figure 2

Recognition is key for High Per/Low Po employees. They need constant encouragement and challenging assignments. Rather than promoting them to roles they don’t want (or aren’t ready for), give them the independence and engage them with projects that they can take full ownership of.

Alternately, while High Po/Low Per employees are hungry for more high-impact work, they need seasoning. On the job training is a great way to accomplish this, especially when pairing them with high performers. As they develop a stronger understanding of the organization and their role in it, give them projects to manage, new hires to train, and offer cross-training opportunities.

Set Your Line Managers Up for Success

Your line managers are the gatekeepers to your talent pipeline, and they’ve got their work cut out for them. While most will have some natural ability in identifying, assessing, and engaging performers and potentials, few will be adept at all three. If you want to improve your ability to retain top talent, it starts with your line managers. Set them up for success, and invest in their development.

About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice—an online resource for HR software comparisons. He reports on trends, technology, and best practices in talent management, with work featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Information Weekly, and the NY Times.


The Product Management Perspective: Most product managers do not manage teams and may not have much input into hiring procedures. However, you can have an influence on the type of talent your organization hires by recommending people you know and trust. You can also can also affect the hiring process by asking to be included on interview panels and being proactive in giving input to the process.


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Book Review: The Three Laws of Performance

Three Laws of Performance“One of the flaws of management in this day and age is that we fragment accountabilities and then everyone focuses on their own piece.” In The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life, authors Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan discuss laws that govern individual, group and organizational behavior. They lay out a framework to help leaders at any level envision a positive future filled with success, based on the Three Laws of Performance:

  1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them. The first law addresses why things occur to people and how taking the time to see things from their perspective changes their behavior. There are two elements: performance and how a situation occurs. “These two are perfectly matched, always, with no exceptions.”
  2. How a situation occurs arises in language. How a situation occurs is inseparable from language. “Language is the means through which your future is already written. It is also the means through which it can be rewritten.”
  3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people. Future-based language, also called generative language, has the power to create new futures, to craft vision, and to eliminate the blinders that are preventing people from seeing possibilities. The most powerful language comes through declaration. Whether itʼs about standing for human rights, or putting a man on the moon, or signing the Declaration of Independence, generative (future-based) speaking causes new realities to come into being.

This book is especially pertinent to those seeking to grow their leadership skills and capabilities, but feel they are so far behind that it’s not worth the effort to even try. Zaffron and Logan show you how to change your mindset and use future-based language to become an effective leader.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers spend much of their time looking toward the future; they speak “future-based language” when discuss markets and write requirements. I recommend you read this book to learn more about the science of future-based language; it will help you hone your skills as a forward-looking market expert.


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A new Leadership Development Carnival

The Lead on Purpose blog is featured in the November Leadership Development Carnival of Dan McCarthy’s Great Leadership blog.

The latest Leadership Carnival brings together links to more than 30 fresh posts on topics such as mentors and role models, leading teams and maximizing your performance. You’ll find posts from great bloggers such as Wally Bock, Steve Roesler, Chris Young and others. The Leadership Development Carnival is a great way to expand your leadership knowledge and get to know the bloggers who are making it happen.


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Leaders’ focus

Successful people are driven to increase their performance and expand their abilities. They understand the need to work hard in areas for which they have great passion.

Regardless of how many things you want to accomplish, you must focus on the most important and let other things — which in the right context may be very good things — go by the wayside. Tom Peters sheds an interesting perspective on focus with the following quote:

Leaders focus on the soft stuff — people, values, character, commitment, a cause. All of that was supposed to be too (indefinable) to count in business. Yet it’s the stuff that real leaders take care of first. That’s why leadership is an art, not a science.

What do you feel are the most important things you should focus on? Where is your time as a leader best spent? Please leave a comment and let’s have a conversation on how leaders can best focus their time and attention.


The Product Management Perspective: For product managers, ‘focus’ can seem fleeting at times. More than just about any role at any company, product management requires interaction with and touches into every other department in the company. Focusing on deliverables can seem futile. However, to the extent you focus on the ‘soft stuff’ suggested by Mr. Peters, you will find your ability to complete your work will improve and will hasten. Working effectively with others leads them to trust you and to work harder and more effectively for your cause.

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