Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Trust

The recent theme at Lead on Purpose is trust. This focus has come primarily from reading The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. He discusses the concept of building a trust account, which is similar to a bank account. By behaving in ways that build trust you make deposits, by behaving in ways that destroy trust you make withdrawals. The ‘balance’ in the account reflects the amount of trust you have at any given time. You have a unique trust account with every person you know, and all deposits and withdrawals are not created equal.

Trust is built or destroyed by behaviors. Covey teaches 13 Behaviors of high-trust people and leaders worldwide. These behaviors will increase trust and improve your ability to interact effectively with people in every aspect of your life. Here are the behaviors that will help you build trust:
  1. Talk Straight: Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand.
  2. Demonstrate Respect: Genuinely care for others. Respect the dignity of every person and every role.
  3. Create Transparency: Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Get real and genuine. Be open and authentic.
  4. Right Wrongs: Make things right when you’re wrong. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible.
  5. Show Loyalty: Give credit to others. Speak about people as if they were present. Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves.
  6. Deliver Results: Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Make things happen.
  7. Get Better: Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner.
  8. Confront Reality: Take issues head on, even the “undiscussables.” Address the tough stuff directly. Acknowledge the unsaid.
  9. Clarify Expectations: Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate them if needed and possible.
  10. Practice Accountability: Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable. Take responsibility for results.
  11. Listen First: Listen before you speak. Understand. Diagnose. Listen with your ears…and your eyes and heart.
  12. Keep Commitments: Say what you’re going to do, then do it. Make commitments carefully and keep them at all costs.
  13. Extend Trust: Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust.
Mastering the 13 behaviors requires a combination of character and competence. You can (and should) work to improve your abilities in each of these areas. Focus on the ones you consider to be your weaknesses and take the attitude that you will improve. Building trust is not something that happens overnight. As Warren Buffet said: “It takes twenty years to build your reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”


Study these principles, then master them. Study Covey’s book and practice the principles he so eloquently teaches. Every aspect of your life will improve.

The Product Management Perspective: Trust is the most important characteristic a product manager can possess. To effectively work with development, sales and other teams in your organization you must gain their trust. Trust is key to understanding your customers and your market. Trust is a two-way street: you need to carry out your tasks in such a way that the team members will trust you. You also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do. The 13 behaviors listed above provide an excellent roadmap to developing and extending trust with others.


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Trust and credibility

How do you effectively develop trust in your organization? Trust is built over time as you follow through with the promises you make. Your credibility — the quality or power of inspiring belief — grows in much the same way. The principles of trust and credibility are tightly linked and build on each other.

In his book The Speed of TrustStephen M.R. Covey defines the “4 Cores of Credibility” as foundational elements that make you believable, both to yourself and to others. The first two cores deal with character, the second two with competence:

Core 1: Integrity: Many equate integrity with honesty. While honesty is a key element, integrity is much more. It’s integratedness, walking your talk and being congruent, inside and out. It’s having the courage to act in accordance with your values and beliefs. Most violations of trust are violations of integrity.

Core 2: Intent: At the core of intent are motives, agendas and the resulting behavior. Trust grows when your motives are straight forward and based on mutual benefit — when you genuinely care not only for yourself, but also for the people you interact with, lead or serve.

Core 3: Capabilities: Your capabilities are the abilities you have that inspire confidence — your talents, attitude, skills, knowledge and style. They are the means you use to produce results.

Core 4: Results: Your results comprise your track record, your performance and getting the right things done. If you don’t accomplish what you are expected to do it diminishes your credibility. On the other hand, when you achieve the results you promised, you establish a positive reputation of performing, of being a producer.

Each of these cores is vital to credibility. They work together to build trust. The strength of your character and competence equate to the strength of your leadership.

The Product Management Perspective: Trust is vital to successful product management. Product managers create value for their co-workers on other teams (e.g. development, support, etc.) by clearly defining requirements, roadmaps and portfolios. Trust grows through meaningful interaction with your teams and consistent application of proven principles. Trust is a two-way street: product managers need to carry out their tasks in such a way that the team members can trust them. They (the PMs) also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do.