Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Book Review: Trust Agents

“Trust agents have a desire to connect good people together.” Making connections and gaining people’s trust is the premise of the book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust. The authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith bring together a lot of great ideas that really strike a chord when you read them. I like the authors’ definition of trust: confidence and faith. Most of the ideas in the book are pretty obvious, such as “when you treat people well, they treat you well back.” However, the way Brogan and Smith weave the obvious ideas together is genius.

The authors focus on six characteristics of Trust Agents:
  1. Make your own game: There’s an established way to do things and a game changing way to do things. By making your own game and forcing your competitors to keep up, you leave them at a disadvantage at every turn.
  2. One of Us: Being One of Us is about belonging. Being seen as connected with others is very useful in any people-facing job. If you act like a good citizen, people will trust you.
  3. The Archimedes Effect: This is about understanding and using leverage. The Web is a great tool for leveraging the power of what you do. Leverage means never having to re-invent the wheel; it never goes out of style.
  4. Agent Zero: Trust agents are at the center of their networks. They connect people together and use their influence to find resources and complete projects faster. They work in positions that connect internal teams, external colleagues and more. “Have a wide network and you’ll never be in need of work.”
  5. Human Artist: This is about people skills, it’s about developing understanding of people you interact with. “In social media, human is the new black. People are the next revolution, and being active on the human-faced Web is your company’s best chance to grow its business in the coming years.”
  6. Build and Army: Leaders aren’t just good at doing their job, they help others grow and organize people’s skills to their command when necessary. Think of the army as a group of people you inspire and lead to do great things together that could not be accomplished otherwise.

The book is chock-full of sidebars with actionable ideas. For example, the first one (on page 11) gives you tools to help you get more involved in the Social Web. Others help you learn how to build relationships, leverage your position within your organization and make friends online. These short excerpts drive home the important points and give you a jumpstart to becoming trusted online.

Ultimately, to become a trusted “you need to be liked, and you start becoming likable by being worthy of being liked. Be kind. Be patient. Be humble, on time, and generous. Be that person you would like to be friends with. Likability and the related trait, intimacy, is one of the biggest factors in trust, and it’s also one of the easiest to develop with people online.”

It’s difficult for me to do justice to the quality and value of this book. The only way you will know what I’m trying to convey is to read the book. I HIGHLY recommend it!

The Product Management Perspective: Nothing you do as a product manager is more important than being trusted. Take the necessary time to build relationships with the people you depend on to get your products out the door. While this book focuses primarily on building relationships online, the principles fit very nicely into the world we live in as product managers. I highly recommend it for your library.

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Over the past few days it’s hit me squarely between the eyes that I have not been contributing enough to the online world. My excuse (and I’ve heard this from many product managers) is that I’ve been heads down on an intense product release and it’s sucking all my time and energy. While that is true, it’s no excuse.

Two things have jolted me back to reality and to a new desire to stop making excuses:

  1. Reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. This is an excellent book that lays out simple steps to become a person other people trust, especially online. I will write more about the book here soon.
  2. Listening to Tribes by Seth Godin. I downloaded the audio book and started listening on a run (podcasts and audio books keep me running a lot of miles these days; you can follow me on Daily Mile) and was instantly drawn in to his discussion on leading ‘tribes’ of people in areas for which you have passion. More on this later too.

This recent jolt has made me realize I’ve neglected my friends in the online world (no product release is worth that). For those of you who have me on your RSS feeds: Thank you and I apologize sincerely. For those who just happened to stop by, welcome to Lead on Purpose.

I started this blog (in 2007) to promote leadership principles in product management. This is an important discipline that does not get enough attention. I’ve hopefully added at least a drop to the bucket.

My commitment: For the next six months (at a minimum) I will write at least one post a week. I will continue to learn and share and identify blogs, books and people who are doing great things in leadership and product management.

My appeal to you: Keep me honest. Leave comments and let me know how you feel, even (especially) if you disagree. I’m blogging to learn, not to make money. Comments, criticism, advice and opinions are welcome here.

Thank you, and please check back; I will.

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Social media summit

This past week I had the pleasure of attending a social media summit. This half-day event included three speakers: Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation and Julien Smith and Chris Brogan, co-authors of Trust Agents. The presentations were excellent. I had the privilege of spending a few minutes talking with Chris; he was an absolute gentleman. Though the talks were fast and furious, I wrote as fast as I could on Twitter and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you:

From Chris’ talk:

  • @chrisbrogan giving a new presentation: mindset (babymind), business, currencies, trust
  • People who grew up on the “will click anything” web are poised for success – they’re not afraid of breaking things
  • most of us are in relationship businesses but we don’t know it
  • @chrisbrogan “community is my favorite business tool”
  • tell stories, use human interaction to get your message out
  • “stories sell things in a way your stupid copyright never will”
  • @chrisbrogan promotes others twelve times more than he promotes himself; when he needs help from others it comes immediately
  • blogging is @chrisbrogan ‘s way of letting people get into his head
  • One of the biggest mistakes we make on the web is we forget to ask about the ‘other person’
  • from @chrisbrogan “small, private communities are where some really cool things are going to happen in the next few years”
  • The real opportunity is to switch from “recipes” to “restaurants” – take the info you’re learning and put it to work to gain
  • 3 things to pay attention to: 1) mobile (not just a “Foursquare” checkin)
  • 3 things to pay attention to: 2) private networks/communities (cermo, others) – not Farmville
  • 3 things to pay attention to: 3) Social CRM – a real opportunity to get closer to both the dollar and the customer
  • a question to ask yourself: “how can I be helpful faster” @chrisbrogan
From Julien’s talk:
  • Quotes from @julien “The channel is forever” “controlling you future means controlling the channel”
  • “Build a network *before* you need it” “A network doesn’t just help you with jobs, it makes you happy”
  • Networks dissipate over time; you need to be consistently working to improve them over time
  • “Building a tribe is critical” you need to offer people a place where people gather and care – @julien
  • “pattern breaking” every time you create an emotional response people remember you
  • the Internet is the best (only?) place where you can convert social capital to monetary capital … @julien
  • @julien recommends the book Connected – http://amzn.to/aFCKU7
  • More from @julien: “be the lead goose” if you become the lead goose, everyone will follow you; you will help your network #leadership
Unfortunately I didn’t start taking notes during Mitch’s talk (he went first).

My #1 takeaway from the conference was this: the more you give to others and look out for their best interests, the more you’ll get back in return.

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Taking chances

I’m out camping in the mountains this week, far away from the connected world, so I “pre-loaded” my blogging gun with a link to a great post.

Today’s link comes from Chris Brogan. Chris writes about the importance falling plays in learning to fly. You have to take chances to succeed, to get to new levels. Take a few minutes and read On Falling and Flying.


Create value for others

If you want to succeed, create value for other people. This principle has been taught by many leadership gurus and success coaches for decades.

My friend Dr. Paul discusses the concept of creating value for others in a recent podcast episode. If you get really clear about what you love and what you do well, and you share it with others and create value for them, it will come back to you. Here’s a short clip from that interview that illustrates this point:

Another great example of creating value for others is Chris Brogan. Chris has one of the most popular blogs on the Internet, and a tremendous following on Twitter. In an recent post by another great example of creating value — David Meerman Scott — Chris shares one of the secrets to his success: “the number one thing I do with both Twitter and blogging is I’m helpful.” He finds information that’s useful to his readers/followers. He asks questions and engages people in his conversations. Chris focuses on helping others, and in doing so increases his brand and his value. Check out the interview on David’s blog.

This concept is not a secret. It’s not magic. It’s not only available to really popular people like Chris, David or Dr. Paul. Creating value for others is a principle that works if you go about it with the real intent to help others. Make it real and you will lose yourself in the fun of creating value for others.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you create value for customers through creating great products. You create value for your teams by providing requirements they understand and a product direction they trust. To the extent you focus on helping others with whom you associate, you will help yourself.