Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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The right people

One of the common threads throughout Lead on Purpose is that people are assets. Their skills, knowledge, intellect, character and integrity provide the primary value to their company. Every positive outcome that transpires in any organization is a result of efforts of the people therein. Technology and automation certainly improve the work people do; however, no tools or equipment will ever replace the people in a successful organization.

Recently I decided to re-read (actually listened to) to the classic business book Good To Great by Jim Collins where he discusses, among other things, the value of people. Collins makes an important distinction with regard to the people in an organization: you need to get the right people. He discusses five levels of leadership, focusing specifically on Level 5 Leadership and the value it brings to companies. All of the good-to-great companies had Level 5 leaders who focused on getting the right people into the company (“on the bus”) and into the right positions on the team (“right seat on the bus”). Collins identifies three practical disciplines for hiring the right people in your organization:

  1. When in doubt, don’t hire—keep looking
  2. When you know you need to make a people change, act
  3. Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.

Hiring the right people into key positions in your company not only improves the value of the outcome in in those areas, but it also provides leverage to hire additional “right” people; this because successful people generally like to associate with other successful people. The decisions your organization makes about the people it hires will undoubtedly be among the most important.

The Product Management Perspective: The role of product management is a key role in every organization. If you have responsibility for hiring product management or product marketing professionals, take the time to find the right people. Be rigorous in your search and interview processes and put your best PMs on your biggest opportunities.

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Invest in the real assets – the people

People are Assets

In most organizations the word “asset” is linked to their technology IP, products or other items that end up on the balance sheet. The traditional accounting equation drives this mindset. So it’s no wonder that when organizations plan their investments they focus on improving their traditional assets and their bottom line.

In my recent article published in The Pragmatic Marketer I assert that in any company or organization, the real assets are the people. Their intellect—along with personality, skills, knowledge, character, integrity, and other things collectively referred to as “human life value”—create the true value in any organization.

When it comes to investing in the company or organization, it makes sense to invest in the real assets – the people. For most organizations, investing in people requires a change in mindset. Norman Wolfe wrote a great post called The Challenge of Investing in People. He says:

In every business, at the end of the day it is the people who produce results (I have yet to see a machine or a process produce anything without people). While it is easy to see expenditures in the “feel good stuff” as wasting resources, the real challenge lies in the difficulty to determine if the investment will produce the result. The proof is in the results, but how do I know that my investments will in the end improve results.

What examples have you seen where organizations invest in their people? What results have you observed?