Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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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.


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Commitment

Over the past few days it’s hit me squarely between the eyes that I have not been contributing enough to the online world. My excuse (and I’ve heard this from many product managers) is that I’ve been heads down on an intense product release and it’s sucking all my time and energy. While that is true, it’s no excuse.

Two things have jolted me back to reality and to a new desire to stop making excuses:

  1. Reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. This is an excellent book that lays out simple steps to become a person other people trust, especially online. I will write more about the book here soon.
  2. Listening to Tribes by Seth Godin. I downloaded the audio book and started listening on a run (podcasts and audio books keep me running a lot of miles these days; you can follow me on Daily Mile) and was instantly drawn in to his discussion on leading ‘tribes’ of people in areas for which you have passion. More on this later too.

This recent jolt has made me realize I’ve neglected my friends in the online world (no product release is worth that). For those of you who have me on your RSS feeds: Thank you and I apologize sincerely. For those who just happened to stop by, welcome to Lead on Purpose.

I started this blog (in 2007) to promote leadership principles in product management. This is an important discipline that does not get enough attention. I’ve hopefully added at least a drop to the bucket.

My commitment: For the next six months (at a minimum) I will write at least one post a week. I will continue to learn and share and identify blogs, books and people who are doing great things in leadership and product management.

My appeal to you: Keep me honest. Leave comments and let me know how you feel, even (especially) if you disagree. I’m blogging to learn, not to make money. Comments, criticism, advice and opinions are welcome here.

Thank you, and please check back; I will.


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What matters in 2010?

With just a few weeks left in 2009 you have no-doubt spent time thinking about the events of the past year and the growth and changes that have resulted.

What matters in 2010? Seth Godin, marketing guru and thought leader, did a cool project where he brought together more than seventy “big thinkers” to write the ebook What Matters Now. His purpose: “Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around.” Here are a few of the thought-provoking ideas:

“If you make a difference, people will gravitate to you. They want to engage, to interact and to get you more involved.” -Seth Godin

“Leadership is more than influence. It is about reminding people of what it is we are trying to build—and why it matters. It is about painting a picture of a better future. It comes down to pointing the way and saying, ‘C’mon. We can do this!'” -Michael Hyatt

“Here’s the final measure of your success as a speaker: did you change something? Are attendees leaving with a new idea, some new inspiration, perhaps a renewed commitment to their work or to the world?” -Mark Hurst

“The road to sustainability goes through a clear-eyed look at unsustainability.” -Alan M. Webber

“After a decade of truly spectacular underachievement, what we need now is less management and more freedom – fewer individual automatons and more autonomous individuals.” -Daniel H. Pink

“The future belongs to people who can spread ideas.” -Guy Kawasaki (read Guy’s ‘ten things to remember’)

“You can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free.” -David Meerman Scott

“You’re probably trying to change things at home or at work. Stop agonizing about what’s not working. Instead, ask yourself, ‘What’s working well, right now, and how can I do more of it?'” -Chip Heath & Dan Heath

“You grow (and thrive!) by doing what excites you and what scares you everyday, not by trying to find your passion.” -Derek Sivers

“Winning businesses have a common trait, an obvious and divisive point of view. Losing businesses also have a common trait, a boring personality alienating no one and thus, sparking passion from no one.” -John Moore

“My eyes have been opened to the value of regularly closing them.” -Arianna Huffington (on the value of sleep)

“The secret learned by technology providers is to spend less time providing services for citizens, and to spend more time providing services to developers…This is the right way to frame the question of ‘Government 2.0.’ How does government become an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to provide better services to each other?” -Tim O’Reilly

“Declare war on passivity. Hush the inner voice that insists you’re over the hill, past your prime, unworthy of attaining those dreams. Disbelief is now the enemy, as is the notion of settling. Get hungry — hyena hungry. Get fired up. Find your backbone, and your wings.” -J.C. Hutchins

Seth and his coauthors are trying to get five million downloads of the ebook. Help them out; you will be the beneficiary. Read Seth’s post about the ebook here.


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Top 100 leadership blog

Top 100 blogsThe Daily Reviewer has name the Lead on Purpose blog one of the top 100 leadership blogs. It is a tremendous honor to be named to this list with other great blogs such as Seth’s Blog, Management Excellence, The Best Horse Sense (a personal favorite since I grew up on a ranch), Great Leadership, the Tom Peters Weblog and many other great leadership blogs. In their own words:

The Daily Reviewer selects only the world’s top blogs (and RSS feeds). We sift through thousands of blogs daily to present you the world’s best writers. The blogs that we include are authoritative on their respective niche topics and are widely read. To be included in The Daily Reviewer is a mark of excellence.

Full attribution for this honor and the success of Lead on Purpose go to the following:

  • You, the readers: Your participation in the discussions and the content of the guest posts by several have significantly contributed to the success of this blog.
  • The product management perspective: Leadership is a crucial element of successful product management, and product management & marketing are key roles in successful companies. The combination is powerful and has meaningfully contributed to the success of this blog.

I give a heart-felt thanks to all for your part in helping Lead on Purpose win this award.

- Michael Hopkin


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Addressing the cause

I’m away this week, so I “pre-loaded” my blog with a link to a great post.

Too often we deal with the symptoms of a problem instead of dealing with the problem head-on; Seth Godin calls this “bear shaving.” If you are spinning your wheels and not making the progress you desire, perhaps you are focusing in the wrong place. Take a look at Bear shaving for more insight.


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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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Self leadership

Amidst all the talk of leadership and leading others, the importance of self leadership is often forgotten or downplayed. ‘Self leadership’ connotes attitudes and behaviors that lead individuals to a happier, more productive life. During difficult times, when you are stressed by world news, the economy, work or the lack thereof, the human tendency is to grasp for anything that will pull you up. The key to surviving and thriving through difficult times is self leadership. The following actions positively effect progress towards self leadership:

  • Give service: The best way to help yourself is to help others. Whenever you lend a hand to someone else you inevitably help yourslf. This works not only in your neighborhood, but also in cyberspace. Jim Connolly validates this principle in a recent post about three of the biggest names in blogging. He says the key to their success “is all about one word, contribution.” When you willingly give of yourself, without expecting something in return, great things will happen.
  • Be creative: Synonyms such as inspired, resourceful and productive describe the actions of creativity. Even in the worst of times you can always find ways to be creative, and that outlook will help see the world in a different, more positive light. Take action, but before you do pause and envision how your creativity will make a difference, then be creative on purpose.
  • Solve problems: Look for solutions, not excuses. Problems abound, which means opportunities for solutions are abundant. When faced with problems, don’t limit yourself to obvious solutions. Seth Godin illustrates this point beautifully in a recent post where he tells how the telephone destroyed the telegraph. Speaking of the people that developed the telephone he said, “they solved a different problem, in such an overwhelmingly useful way that they eliminated the feature set of the competition.”
  • Think positive thoughts: In all situations, every time, the optimistic approach will benefit you. Things will not always work the way you want, but by viewing them through a ‘positive lens’ you will always end up better off.
  • Be confidently humble: The words ‘confident’ and ‘humble’ are rarely used together. Confidence is often associated with arrogance, and humility with weakness. However, the positive behaviors associated with each, in combination, lead to powerful results. Rather than thinking of confidence as arrogance, think instead about words like self-assured, certain and secure. You know where you’re headed and you know you will get there. Rather than with weakness, associate humility with self-effacing, unassuming behavior. Give others credit. Inspire others through your willingness to build them up.

Pushing forward through tough times can seem anywhere from difficult to impossible. Instead of wringing your hands and spending energy worrying, take steps toward self leadership and you’ll be amazed where you end up.


The Product Management Perspective: To lead people on teams over which you have no authority requires a special kind of leadership. As a product manager, your ability to create great products will, to a large degree, depend on your ability to inspire others and gain their trust. Your ability to do this will be greatly enhanced through actions that inspire self leadership.

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