Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Cool idea!

I met this week with Bil Bowser to discuss his brain child called Noah’s, Your Place. I was highly impressed with the business he is building. His Noah’s concept brings together technology, real estate and entertainment into one slick, easy-to-understand concept.

In a nutshell, Bil and his team have taken ideas and experience gained from rental car companies and are using a similar model to rent out rooms to people for such things as weddings, parties and games. But what makes this concept even cooler is the technology behind it; Bil has created a scheduling system that allows people to go on-line, book the room they want, when they want it; after the transaction goes through they receive a code they use to get into the building and once inside the building into the room they have booked. They have access to all the amenities in the room (including HDTV, iMac computers, food, beverage, etc.) for the length of the sessions they have booked. When the session nears its end the lights dim to remind the people to wrap up, then they go out when it ends.

I can’t do it justice in a quick entry like this, so I encourage you to go to the Noah’s web site and check it out for yourself. I’m fortunate their first property happens to be in my home town. If you don’t live near Lindon keep a close watch because they are building several new properties in various states in the US. Bil’s leadership and focus will propel Noah’s to a household name within a few years.

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Break the rules

Dave Gunby is a professional trainer, a thought leader in the area of training trainers. I read a great quote today in his e-zine, which is also available on his MINDimensions web site. He quotes a story from Roger von Oech’s book A Kick in the Seat of the Pants:

When Columbus was at the Royal court in Spain, he asked the courtiers if they could get an egg to stand on end. They tried and tried but couldn’t get it to stand upright. He then boiled the egg and squashed it down. They said, “That’s not fair, you broke the rules.” He replied, “Everything is fair once you’ve done it.”

Columbus then went on to break some even bigger rules. When you are endeavoring to generate new ideas, whether solving old problems or creating new opportunities, you must be willing to break the rules. Make sure that your idea-generating session(s) include ideas that violate corporate policy (it’s always subject to change anyway), challenge well-accepted “norms,” and are just plain silly.

I’m not advocating breaking rules that will get you in trouble with the law (and I don’t believe Dave is either). However, leaders must be willing to take a hard look at long standing traditions or sacred cows and be willing to change them when necessary to improve results. It’s not easy, but always worth it.


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Live on purpose

One of the keys to effective leadership is being well-grounded in your personal life. A good friend of mine – Dr. Paul Jenkins (“Dr. Paul”) – has provided (and continues to provide) excellent life coaching. His work inspired me to write an article about effective leadership in product management that I titled “Lead on Purpose: How product managers lead teams to success” (it will be published in The Pragmatic Marketer in January 2008).

Dr. Paul does a weekly podcast you can access from Live on Purpose Radio, from his web site or on iTunes. His podcasts are inspiring and have helped me in many ways. I even recorded one with him; it’s called The Family Toolbox:


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Letting go

I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power. Learning and gaining knowledge is a passion of mine. One of my favorite quotes is by Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

There are so many great books, articles, blogs, newspapers and other sources of knowledge that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. During the past year the pile of books I want to read has been growing much faster than what I’ve been able to read.

Letting goI recently signed up for a speed reading course with Abundant Reading Systems. I’m about half way through the course and I’m already seeing improvements. My instructor, David Hinton, continues to press us to “let go” of comprehension while we learn techniques to increase our speed. That’s a difficult thing for me because understanding what I read is incredibly important to me. I’m finding, however, that as I let go at higher speeds (10-15k words per minute) I can comprehend much better when I slow down (1-2k wpm). Letting go is ultimately helping me to hang on.

It’s the same way in leadership settings. We cannot make other people do things we want them to do. We can lead with persuasion, by example, or with an iron fist, but we cannot force people to do what they do not want to do. Next time you find yourself in a situation where somebody will not do what you want them to, try letting go and see how things end up.


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Lead on purpose

Welcome to my blog! My reason for starting this blog is to open up discussions on being a leader in an organization (whether or not you have management responsibilities over other people). My experience has been in software product management. As a product manager you typically have no direct management over people on teams you work with and depend on. However, you count on those team members to work hard and do their part to get a product out the door; you must be persuasive, flexible, persistent and optimistic.

Working with people has become a passion for me. I am excited for the upcoming publication of my article Lead on Purpose: How product managers lead teams to success in the upcoming January 2008 edition of The Pragmatic Marketer magazine. This is my first publication and I’m pleased I have the opportunity to work with Steve Johnson and the team at Pragmatic Marketing to bring my thoughts to a public forum.

I invite you to read the article and give me your feedback. You can submit a post here or send me an email at mrhopkin [at] gmail [dot] com.