Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

It’s the people


Everybody knows it, and yet too many executives, VPs, managers or other so-called “leaders” seem to forget: it’s the people that make the organization successful. It’s too easy to focus on the products or the projects and lose track of the people who are doing the work. Here are three quick tests you can take to determine whether, for you as a leader, it’s really about your people:

  • Commitment to the organization: Why do your team members work for your organization? Do they believe your vision? Do you inspire them? Are they sticking around only because the economy’s tough and they’re scared to look for another job? If they had a choice, would they work for you?
  • Career goals: What goals are your team members working towards in their current position? What drives them? Why do they get up every morning and come to work for you?  What are their career aspirations? What are you doing to help them advance? (Hint: if the answer is “nothing” they won’t stay with you long.)
  • Personal life: What do your team members like to do in their spare time? Where do they hang out? What are their hobbies? Are they married? How many kids do they have? And maybe the most important question…does their spouse like you?

If you can answer all of these questions (without having to ask), you care about your people. If not…you have some work to do. Your next presentation to the CEO isn’t nearly as important as the next meeting with your team.

The Product Management Perspective: Though it’s a bit different for product managers (because they don’t “manage” people), it’s still important to get to know the team members. The better you know them the more effective you will be at inspiring them to do great things. If they know you care they will definitely go out of their way to make you successful.

2 thoughts on “It’s the people

  1. I agree that the questions addressed in your article are easily answered if you have invested the time to listen to your employees. When inspired most employees like to share stories about their goals and life outside of work. The ability to listen and relate to them developes stronger relationships and a genuine loyalty.

  2. Hi Michael, I like your blog and found an interesting extension to it that a colleague of mine recently wrote. His idea, like yours of employees to product, is that the people, and their training, must be foremost on any project, and basically foremost to any project as the project will inherently be unsuccessful without good people on it. I thought you might like to check it out here: http://bit.ly/qODalW .

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