Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Success is not a zero-sum game

In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which one person’s gain is exactly balanced by another person’s loss. In games like chess, one person wins and the other loses. The win (+1) added to the loss (-1) equals zero.

Life in the business world at times feels like a zero-sum game. As you move up the ladder of success the number of positions decreases and the pressure to succeed increases. The situation can leave you feeling like the only way you can succeed is if someone else fails. While this sentiment may be common, it is wrong. In fact, most successful people freely admit they achieved their success with the help of others. The following resources substantiate my claim that success is not a zero-sum game:

According to Steve Farber — author of Greater Than Yourself — the only way for knowledge to truly lead to power in a person’s life is for that person to give it away. The reason this principle works is seemingly simple: “Everyone will want to work with you. And because of that you’ll be able to accomplish anything you set out to do.” Invest in relationships with other people and be clear on your intentions to make a difference in the lives of others. Promote their welfare, fortunes, success and capacity for achievement. Give away your knowledge, connections, experience, advice, life lessons and confidence. Hold others accountable for their commitments.

In his book The Speed of Trust, author Stephen MR Covey discusses the value that comes from trusting others. Trust is the very basis of the new global economy, and he shows how trust—and the speed at which it is established with clients, employees and constituents—is the essential ingredient for successful people and organizations.

Chris Warner and Don Schmincke, the authors of the book High Altitude Leadership describe what happens when people do not work together. The act of placing a higher priority on one’s own desires or “needs” than on the desires and needs of other people defines the word ‘selfishness.’ Selfish behavior robs companies of profits, reduces job satisfaction and weakens organizations’ culture. Overcoming selfishness is critical to effective leadership. This is done by crafting a compelling saga — language and actions that inspire passion for a strategic result. The compelling saga drives performance, inspires value-based behavior and provides strategic focus.

Author and blogger Art Petty offers 8 suggestions to improve your team’s problem solving skills. Problem solving takes teamwork, and in the process, everyone involved grows and improves. Art writes: “The best learning opportunities in the workplace occur when individuals or teams come face to face with a vexing problem.  These situations provide outstanding growth opportunities and a great chance to generate and implement innovative and creative solutions.”

What examples have you seen where working together and helping others leads everyone involved to increased success?


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers rely on others to help them succeed. The most successful products and services come from organizations where teams collaborate effectively. Product managers are (or should be) the catalyst for this success.


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Lift others

The best thing you can do to elevate yourself is to lift others: lift their spirit with a kind word, lift their hope with a positive reaction, lift their burden by helping them in times of need. The act of lifting others causes you to feel better and to improve.

Yesterday my friend Todd sent out a wish for his own birthday (via video on Facebook). His wish was that everyone would find at least one other person and make his or her day better. In his video he talked about hugging his stressed-out accountant and giving an extra big tip to a young lady at a restaurant; both simple acts that produced positive results.

Last night I listened to Dr. Paul’s interview with Steve Farber about the concept of helping others to be greater than yourself. It occurred to me that this principle is not only good for individuals who want to feel better and be happier, but it is also important for leaders who want to elevate their organizations to new levels. Ultimately it becomes cultural. When leaders go out of their way to help others, and they encourage their people to do the same, their organizations flourish.

Take a few minutes today to make a difference for someone else; leave a comment and let us know about your experience.

The Product Management Perspective: To some degree — because of the nature of the job — product managers work independently of each other. You have your products and your teams you work with (outside of the product management team), and it takes most of your time to keep things going. Even though you’re busy and have little to no extra time, it’s worth the extra effort to help others. Major dividends come from helping other PMs on your team. I recently worked with a group of product managers who are very busy and whose time is limited. However, they spend time as a team, share ideas and support each other in moving Product Management forward in their company. They lift each other in small ways that reap big returns. Look for ways you can do the same for your team.


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Effective leadership

This week’s posts on Lead on Purpose have been highly influenced by Steve Farber and his work in leadership. I had the honor of interviewing Steve on the Product Management Pulse yesterday. The conversation focuses on two areas:

  1. Extreme Leadership (“otherwise known as ‘real’ leadership”) and its odd mixture of fear and exhilaration. If the only reason you can think of to not do something is because it’s scary, that’s an indication that you should do it.
  2. Greater Than Yourself, Steve’s new leadership book. As leaders it’s your job to not just be helpful but to lift others above yourself. We discuss the three tenets of Greater Than Yourself:
  • Expand yourself
  • Give yourself
  • Replicate yourself

Steve gives excellent advice on becoming a great leader. Click below and enjoy the podcast:


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Book Review: Greater Than Yourself

greater-than-yourself“The real pay-off comes in the giving of the knowledge, not the keeping of it.” The long-standing saying ‘knowledge is power’ has been used in many contexts. According to Steve Farber — author of GREATER THAN YOURSELF: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership — the only way for knowledge to truly lead to power in a person’s life is for that person to give it away. The reason this principle works is seemingly simple: “Everyone will want to work with you. And because of that you’ll be able to accomplish anything you set out to do.”

Greater Than Yourself follows the increasingly popular genre known as the “business parable.” What sets this book apart from others in the same genre is the main character: Steve Farber himself. Steve wraps himself and his love of guitars into the story from the beginning in combination with a cast of fictional characters that add color to the story. He draws you in to his adventure of finding the original owner of his new guitar, and through the adventure teaches you the power that comes from helping another person to become greater than yourself. The story is so compelling it keeps you reading and the combination of real and fictional characters helps you learn how to apply the principles to your own life.

The story gives character and life to a principle of truth that has existed for centuries: the more you lift others the higher you will go. This concept comes to life through the greater than yourself (GTY) framework and is fleshed out through several examples of GTY projects. The following elements combine to create the GTY framework:

  • Expand yourself: “You expand yourself in order to give yourself to others.” Shift your perspective from isolated to connected, from alone to interdependent, from me to us. Take a personal inventory of the things you do well, experiences and life-lessons that have taught propelled you to your current position and determine what you can to improve the quality and depth of your current knowledge.
  • Give yourself: “Act instead of just watching others act or hearing about it in the news.” ‘Philanthropize’ your life. Invest in relationships with other people and be clear on your intentions to make a difference in the lives of others. Promote their welfare, fortunes, success and capacity for achievement. Give away your knowledge, connections, experience, advice, life lessons and confidence. Hold others accountable for their commitments.
  • Replicate yourself: “Pay it forward, and demand that those you teach pay it forward, as well.” Ensure that your GTY efforts expand far beyond your own relationships. Challenge everyone you know to practice GTY in their professional and personal lives. Share your successes and failures with others so they can learn from your experience.

Greater Than Yourself combines a interesting story backed by a compelling idea that will absolutely make a difference. The story inspires you to keep reading and the principles come to life in such a way that you can truly grasp how to apply them in your own life. If you want to “lift all the boats” around you, read Greater Than Yourself, apply its principles personally and make someone else greater than yourself.

You can follow Steve Farber’s own GTY project at greaterthanyourelf.com, and if you’re brave enough you can add your own story to the site.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers become leaders by helping others. Using Greater Than Yourself as a model, product managers can truly build peers and people on other teams, resulting in great products that people want to buy.


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The LOVE of leadership: Value

As discussed in a previous post, the practice of love in the context of leadership is both powerful and necessary. Steve Farber describes this clearly in his audio book Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. What does it mean to love the people you lead? My definition for the acronym LOVE embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results:

  • L – Listen
  • O – Observe
  • V – Value
  • E – Experience

The word ‘value’ has many meanings and is often used as a noun, suggesting worth, importance or significance. In the context of the love of leadership, however, ‘value’ is a verb, meaning the act of appreciating, respecting or esteeming others. It connotes a desire to understand others and give regard to the qualities they possess, while at the same time having patience with their shortcomings.

think-big-act-smallIn the context of leadership, you need to show appreciation for the people you serve. Attaching importance to their positive traits and actions becomes a powerful motivation for progress. The book Think Big, Act Small by Jason Jennings provides great insight into specific actions that help companies keep the start-up spirit alive. “We think big but we act small. When big companies start acting big they get in trouble.”

The principles espoused in this book remind us of the great importance of getting the right people in the company and ensuring they feel appreciation, respect and value from their leaders. Mr. Jennings states:

While studying the nine companies that do a better job of growing revenues than all other companies, we were constantly reminded that each has taken on the modest and humble personality of its leadership. These are truly inspired, collegial, group endeavors where the momentary accomplishments of individuals are overshadowed by the consistent, long-term achievement of a team that’s gently and deftly kept on course by a humble leader (p. 25).

The actions of these leaders inspire great results from the people in their organizations. Do your actions elicit similar behavior?

Value the people in your organization — who they are, what they do and why they give so much — and in turn those people will create great value for your organization.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers work closely with people from different parts (i.e. teams) of the organization. When you interact with other teams, make the effort to understand what they do and why they do it. Value their efforts. When they feel that you care about their contributions they will trust you and will work hard to achieve a common goal. Love the people you work with and inspire them to succeed.


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The LOVE of leadership: Observe

As discussed in a previous post, it might make some uncomfortable to use the word ‘love’ in the context of leadership. However, the practice of love in the context of leadership is both powerful and necessary. Steve Farber describes this clearly in his audio book Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. What does it mean to love the people you lead? My definition for the acronym LOVE embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results, and includes the following actions:

  • L – Listen
  • O – Observe
  • V – Value
  • E – Experience

tuned-in2A key to success in any vocation is gaining deep insight into the market(s) you are serving. Product managers and marketers know the importance of understanding their market. In their book Tuned In, authors Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott offer the following advice:

Product managers, executives, and marketers regularly meet with people in the marketplace and observe how those people do business or go about their lives. These observations provide insight into the full scope of the problems and the usage requirements and significant obstacles to adoption of any proposed solution. The most important thing they do is to live in and observe the prospect’s world.” (Emphasis added)

In the context of leadership, you want to gain a deep insight into the people you serve. Observing behaviors and actions leads to understanding. These observations come during meetings, at events, and by spending time one-on-one with the people in your organization. A tight correlation exists between listening and observing. As a leader, the two actions combine to strengthen relationships and build trust among those whom you lead. When you observe others, practice the following actions:

  • Learn specifics: Watch how people act. Determine why they do certain things in a given circumstance. Learn as much as you can about what drives people to the successful behaviors promoted by your organization. The more you learn the better prepared you are to increase success.
  • Show intent: Be honest in your desires to learn about the people you serve. The last thing you want is for anyone to think you have ulterior motives. Fix in your mind the end goal of truly understanding the people and let that behavior show through during your discovery process.
  • Develop trust: Take action that will show others you mean what you say. Encourage them to share their feelings and ideas and show genuine interest in who they are and what they believe in. Show confidence in their ability to do what they say. Be true to your words so they will trust what you say and what you do.

Successfully observing others and understanding what drives them will require effort. Your love and appreciation for them will increase, your organizational effectiveness will increase, and your bottom line will grow.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to love their customers. One of the best ways to understand what motivates customers is to observe how they use your products. Watch what they do, listen to what they say and use that information to improve your products. Remember this great advice from Greg Strouse: don’t fall in love with your products or technology. Love your customers and what you can do to help them succeed.


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The LOVE of leadership

The English word ‘love’ has at least four different meanings: strong affection, warm attachment, attraction based on sexual feelings and a score of zero in tennis. Compared to many other languages, the English word ‘love’ is passive. The Greek word agapé (noun) describes a more unconditional love rooted in behavior toward others without regard to their due; more action-based than the English word. The Greek definition most closely describes the feelings and actions leaders engage in; the other meanings can no doubt be pursued on other blogs.

It might seem odd to speak of love in the context of leadership. However, if you have ever read or listened to any of the works of Steve Farber you will understand the connection. Several years back Steve released an audio book called Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. In this excellent recording Steve delves into the details of what it means to be a leader. He describes extreme leadership as “the dynamic interplay of fear and love, two of the most powerful forces in the human experience.” Extreme leadership is something you choose on purpose, with the intent of accomplishing something beyond what most people are willing to do. As you consider the word love in this context you will come to appreciate its importance to leadership.

What does it mean to love the people you lead? What are the behaviors or actions you should practice to bring out the best in the people you lead? After listening to Steve’s Extreme Leadership and contemplating what I have observed in leaders, I developed an acronym that embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results. These concepts are not new but are hopefully organized in a way that will be easy to remember and use in your daily activities. The acronym LOVE stands for the following actions:

  • L – Listen
  • O – Observe
  • V – Value
  • E – Experience

These attributes promote a healthy environment and motivate people to their best and most productive activities.

Rather than writing an extremely long blog post to address these actions thoroughly, I will deal with each individually in upcoming posts, and will include the links to each post here. Please leave your comments and let me know the attributes you have seen in great leaders.

[Update]

The LOVE of leadership: Listen

The LOVE of leadership: Observe

The LOVE of leadership: Value

The LOVE of Leadership: Experience


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to love their team and customers. Sure, it sounds weird, but in the context of the way love is described above, it makes perfect sense. You need to spend time with the people in development, sales, operations and other groups that share responsibility for the success of your products. You need to value your customers, work to understand their needs and anticipate their future buying habits (this applies to non-customers as well). The efforts you put forth and the actions you take will send a strong message to others about who you really are as the product manager and how you feel about them.

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