Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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Arm the Messenger: Helping Your Team Talk Business

Guest post by Allison Rice

Imagine you are at a networking event with several of your employees, enjoying an appetizer and mingling with other small business types, when suddenly you overhear one of your own team members struggling to explain what, exactly, your business does and how you do it. Would you be embarrassed? Of course you would.

But scenarios like this don’t have to happen. Instead, you can arm your team with the information necessary to talk about your business in the outside world. After all, word of mouth is the best advertisement for any business — and happy team members who can readily discuss how the company works are a sure sign of success.

Find out how much everyone knows

First, find out where your team stands in terms of discussing business affairs. Arrange a meeting with the entire company, from college interns to managers and partners, and give everyone a simple worksheet of questions to answer. Don’t tell them before the meeting what the meeting will be about or you won’t get a true picture of how much training is needed.

What should everyone know?

The worksheet should include questions that you would want your team to be able to answer in a variety of business situations. Whether an employee is attending a networking function or encouraging a new client to consider your product, he or she should be able to speak candidly about what your company offers and have a general idea about everyday processes. The classic questions of who, what, when, where, how and why make a good starting point. For example:

What Does the Company Offer?

This question seems simple enough, but often employees and managers don’t have a clear answer. Narrow it down to specifics with the following hints:

  • Is it considered to be a product or service?
  • What makes the product or service unique?
  • What kind of competition exists in the market, both locally and nationally, for this product or service?
  • Does your company include “perks” or benefits with its products or services? (For example: a hair salon offers a 10-minute scalp massage with each wash and haircut.)

Who Might Benefit From What the Company Offers?

Understanding the demographics of the company’s product or service is also important. Make sure your team knows about the qualities of your ideal client, such as:

  • The company’s target age range
  • Target educational and/or economic status
  • Gender, if applicable

How Does Your Company Deliver?

How your company delivers a marketing message, or navigates today’s economy, is important. What do your employees know about your marketing efforts?

  • Mass Media: Does your company use television, radio or live events to deliver a message?
  • Websites: How does your company’s website work? Is it possible to purchase your product or service on the web?
  • Social Media: What social media tactics does your company use?
  • “Old School” Methods: Does your company send out brochures and/or fliers, hang posters or mail newsletters?

Why Has Your Company Thrived?

The “why” portion is a chance to share the philosophy of your company: its history and its current mission. While you might not think people will ask about these matters, this is important information that each employee and business owner should have.

Where Can Someone Get More Information?

This should be a no-brainer, but make sure everyone on the team is aware of all the different places a potential client can find out more, such as:

  • The company’s website or email address
  • The company’s storefront(s)
  • The company’s contact information

When is the Best Time to Get in Touch?

Answering this question could be as easy as relaying the business hours, but, if you have a website that offers purchasing, a client would need to know that the product or service is available any time.

Follow up the worksheet session

After you give your team the worksheet and let them fill it out, you’ll be able to see how much, or how little, everyone knows. You’ll also be able to notice any similarities in the answers. If the answers are not similar at all, that means there’s more training to be done. Sharing the same company information is important. If you find that your team didn’t respond in the way you wanted, it might be time to schedule a training session or two and get everyone on the same page.

Remember, every single employee within the company is likely to be delivering your message to the outside world at some point, so it’s important to figure out what the message should be and make sure it’s understood by everyone.

Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of promotional marketing pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers play a key role in ‘arming’ the company with product messaging, especially in answering questions about what the company offers. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone in the company knows what your product will do for your customers. Take advantage of every opportunity to share the value of your product and get your coworkers excited about how it helps your customers.

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Trust in business

One of the things I’m finding as I continue to read The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey is the abundance of leadership quotes he has included in the book. They give excellent insight into the importance trust plays in your success. The following quote points out the importance of trust in business:

You can’t have success without trust. The word trust embodies almost everything you can strive for that will help you to succeed. You tell me any human relationship that works without trust, whether it is a marriage or a friendship or a social interaction; in the long run, the same thing is true about business, especially businesses that deal with the public.

Jim Burke, former Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson

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Crucial Conversations

In many Crucial Conversationssituations, especially when it comes to leadership, what we say can make or break the outcome. Such is the premise of the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high. What we say, and the way we conduct ourselves at certain, critical times determine our success or lack thereof.

Crucial Conversations was written by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler who have formed a company called Vital Smarts to provide training that helps teams and organizations achieve high results. I have not taken their training, but based on this book, and the corporate case studies, their courses no-doubt help organizations produce better results.

The authors define a crucial conversation as “a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.” They give examples of many different situations where the conversations are crucial; it’s not just in high-stakes business.

When we face crucial conversation we can do one of three things:

  • We can avoid them.
  • We can face them and handle them poorly.
  • We can face them and handle them well.

The book focuses on ideas and techniques we can use to handle crucial conversations well, gain the trust of those with whom we interact, and improve our ability to communicate with others. I have noticed a marked improvement in my own interactions with others since I read this book. If you find yourself in a situation where you depend on working with, living with or interacting with people, and you rely on those interactions, this book will be of great help.


Winners Never Cheat

The first time I remember hearing the name Jon M. Huntsman was when I was a boy and he was talking with my father about leasing some land in the mountains of northern Utah. The deal never went through (I never did find out why), but Mr. Huntsman has sent my father a Christmas card every year since that time.

In his book Winners Never Cheat: Everyday Values We Learned as Children (But May Have Forgotten), Jon M. Huntsman writes about principles that build common people into leaders. The following are some of the values discussed in his book:

  • There are no moral shortcuts in the game of businessWinners Never Cheat
  • Attributes of true leaders include integrity, courage, vision, commitment, empathy, humility and confidence; the greater these attributes the stronger the leadership
  • Leadership is a privilege
  • Leadership is dictated by moral decisions; north is always north; south is always south
  • When a handshake is given, it must be honored—at all costs; your word is your greatest asset; honesty is your best virtue
  • In every walk of life we must believe we can succeed, or by definition we already have failed
  • It is courage, and not the title, that separates genuine leaders from the pretenders
  • Get mad, not even
  • Everyone wants to be valued, to know they count
  • Two rules in the Huntsman family: 1) Check your ego at the door. 2) Be a cheerleader for each other
  • All companies—public or private—must create a culture in which employees come first and are treated royally…they always return the favor
  • Giving enriches one’s heart and soul—and it’s contagious
  • Make the underpinnings of your life a string of f-words (at least, phonetically): family, faith, fortitude, fairness, fidelity, friendship and philanthropy

Mr. Huntsman demonstrates how living by these values lifts people to a higher level. As we help others and lift them up, we are lifted up in the process. His book inspires me to be a better man and a better leader. And while it’s obvious that Jon Huntsman’s life has been built around the principles he promotes in his book, he does it in a way that is not self-serving or arrogant. His book is great in so many ways.

What are your thoughts about this book? What other books have you read that teach principles of leadership? I’d appreciate you leaving a comment!