Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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Help for product managers

I’ve noticed throughout my career as a product manager there are times when I have questions about what to do in certain situations, but am not sure who to ask. I recently found a new blog by Jeff Lash called Ask a Good Product Manager . Jeff wants to “make it easy for a product manager to ask a question, get an answer — or multiple answers — from other product managers, and then for that discussion to be captured for other product managers who have the same question.”

This site is new to me so I’m not (yet) making an endorsement. However, I love the idea of creating a place where product managers can ask questions and share ideas. Working as a PM can be lonely at times, so anything we can do to share and help each other… I’m all for it!


Ten principles of effective leadership

I recently read a post giving tips for efficient blogging. Tip 3 says readers love bullets, lists, and numbers. Reading that tip reminded me of a good leadership seminar I attended last year presented by Doug Wood. The topic was becoming an effective leader. He presented ten principles of effective leadership that will build desired results, relationships and quality of life. The following list describes each principle with my added observations:

1. Be a leader, not a victim: Do not blame others or look for scapegoats. Your ability to be a leader starts with mastering yourself. Shun the victim paradigm. (See Principle 5 from my recent article).

2. Beware of your blind spots: The key to teamwork is valuing others’ perspectives, and encouraging them to fill in where you have gaps.

3. Take care of important relationships: Treat others as though they are the most important thing. A Chinese proverb says: If you want one year’s prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years’ prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years’ prosperity, grow people.

4. Balance short- and long-term results: The ‘golden egg’ or the ‘golden goose;’ which do you protect? Both, but with balance.

5. Know and live your mission: Create a personal mission statement that is short, memorable, passionate, measurable and for which you become accountable.

6. Do what matters most – now: Do things that will make your personal life more meaningful, and do what it takes to move to a higher level of professional success.

7. Be a master communicator: Practice the 2:1 rule; listen twice as much as you speak. From listening comes wisdom.

8. Be a great team player: When you have disagreements or conflicts with others, try this approach: “you see it differently, help me understand.”

9. Commit one hour per day to personal renewal: Take time for spiritual, physical, and professional growth. A great leader takes care of him/her self.

10. Live with integrity: Live and lead in honesty and forthrightness; be true to your word.

As a side note, I was not able to find Doug Wood’s blog or website; here’s more information about Doug in hopes someone can help me contact him: He spent ten years teaching at the Marriott School of Management before moving to the private sector, most recently as a senior leadership consultant at Franklin Covey. He now works as an independent consultant, teaching business leaders around the globe how to align their long-term vision with their short-term goals. If you know where Doug has posted his ten principles (his website, blog, etc.) please let me know.


The power of text messaging

This past Sunday evening I was sitting comfortably on my sofa talking to my father on the phone, when my daughter (16 years old) came in and sat down. She had her cell phone in her hand and was looking at me like she wanted to talk. I finished up the call with my dad when she told me why she was sitting there. She told me that Gordon B. Hinckley, the president of our church, had died less than two hours earlier. She had received six text messages from her friends within the previous few minutes. While I was saddened by President Hinckley’s passing, I was amazed by how quickly word was spreading. I was impressed by the effects technology has on our ability to communicate.

That’s not the end of the story. The next morning I was eating breakfast and my daughter walked into the kitchen wearing a dress. I asked her why she was wearing a dress to school and she told me she was “dressing up” to honor President Hinckley’s life. She and her friends had texted each other and decided they would all dress up in “Sunday best” (girls in dresses and boys in white shirt/tie).

It turns out it wasn’t just my daughter and her friends, but thousands of students who had decided to dress up for school. And the way they all knew to do it was through the medium of text messaging. In a few short hours thousands of “kids” had made a decision about what to wear to school. The way teenagers communicate today (text messaging, chat, etc.) is impressive.

No less remarkable is the fact that teenagers would dress up in honor of a man who was 97 years old at his passing. Gordon B. Hinckley was a great leader and had the ability to connect with people of all ages. Check out the tributes coming in from around the world.

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Benevolent capitalism

By now you’ve probably seen a link to one of the many articles or blog postings writing about the speech Bill Gates gave yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. I read a pre-announcement two days go in The Wall Street Journal.

In his speech Mr. Gates talked about the growing divide between the worlds’ poor and wealthy. He’s concerned that new technology, health care, education and other advances are not within access of the poor. He said: “we have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well.” He stated clearly that he believes the system of capitalism is not broken; in fact, the self-interest behind capitalism had driven multiple innovations, but to harness it to the benefit of all will require the system be refined.

There’s a lot more to the speech, and much of it is captured in the WSJ article, which I recommend to your reading.

Over the years of my career I have not been a fan of Bill Gates or his company; in fact I have worked for a few companies that competed directly with Microsoft. So I’m about to make a confession that I thought I’d never make…I think Mr. Gates is right. I agree with the basic tenet that well-off people and companies need to find ways to extend their bounty to others who are less fortunate. As we create opportunities to help poor people we will not only get the benefits of seeing them improve their lives, but I believe we will find new avenues for business and revenue generation. To make this happen we need to open avenues between their world and ours.

A good friend of mine, Ross Kellyn Moore, is working on a program that will offer companies and individuals organized opportunities to take humanitarian excursions with their co-workers and/or families to places where they can spend time and energy working to help other people. These excursions will provide opportunities for people to see parts of the world they’ve never seen, and at the same time let them find ways to help others improve their socio-economic status. Ross is rolling out his program through CreationTree Coaching. Stay tuned to his site for further details.

Ross’ program may not be exactly what Bill Gates is calling for, but it’s a great idea that will catch on and, I believe, make a tremendous difference in the world. Taking small steps like these will lead to much bigger opportunities for people no matter their economic status.

Disclosure: I am a licensed coach with CreationTree Coaching


Trust is vital

In my experience working as a product manager I have learned that gaining and keeping the trust of the teams you work with is vital not only to the success of the product but also to your personal success. Product managers (and leaders in general) gain the trust of their teams by rolling up their sleeves and going to work.

This past week I had a great experience working with my team to define the requirements for a new product. This experience was new for me because my new team uses agile software development and I’m new to agile as a product manager. (I recommend Eric Kuhnen’s post on using agile to develop Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications.) We took a significant amount of time to discuss requirements for the new product. We discussed the problems the software will solve and how to make it easy and intuitive for our customers to use. Through the process I gained increased trust in my new team members.

The process of working together naturally builds trust and confidence with the other individuals. Whether it’s working with a team on product definition, strategizing with key executives on company direction, or laboring with family and friends on a humanitarian project, working and spending time together builds trust. And in any leadership role, trust is vital. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!