Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Building effective communication channels

The word ‘channel’ has various and differing meanings. I grew up on a ranch, and we had to get water to the grass and to the cattle. My dad and grandpa built ditches and canals to channel the water to specific places for specific uses. We had three TV channels that brought news and content into our lives from the outside world. There were cables and wires to channel electricity, in the right amount, to lights, appliances and other devices.

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Why [brief]? Communicate with power

We live in a fast-paced world. We never have enough time to complete the agenda. The more we accomplish, the more the work seems to pile up. It gets overwhelming.

How do you deal with mounting stress? How do you keep your wits about you when the pressure to deliver intensifies? One method is to be brief in your communication.

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3 strategies to lead when you can’t mandate

Most organizations are made up of teams that work together to accomplish a common objective. Within those teams are individuals who are responsible for specific tasks. The combination of those tasks create the desired outcome. What is the secret to influencing others to work together effectively?

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Are you building a great organization?

Whether you lead a classroom of school children or a major corporation, you should frequently ask yourself the question “am I building a great organization?” Why should you try to build a great organization? Because doing so is, for the most part, as easy as building a good one (see Good to Great chapter 9).

Here are five posts from Lead on Purpose that will help you build a great organization:

1. Taking leadership to the next level

2. The pursuit of something better

3. Developing a climate of trust

4. Leadership and collaboration

5. Becoming a decisive leader


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you have the opportunity to build great products and have a very positive influence on your overall organization. Your influence can go a long way to building a great company.


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Becoming a decisive leader

“Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret.”

Authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath wrote the book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work with the following goals: “We want to make you a bit better at making good decisions, and we want to help you make your good decisions a bit more decisively. We also want to make you a better advisor to your colleagues and loved ones who are making decisions.”

The entire premise of the book is built around four principles the authors call the WRAP process:Decisive

  1. Widen Your Options
  2. Reality-Test Your Assumptions
  3. Attain Distance Before Deciding
  4. Prepare to be Wrong

To widen your options, ask yourself these questions: What are we giving up if we make this decision? What else could we do with the same time and money? Push for additional alternatives, for “this AND that” rather than “this OR that.” Find someone else who’s solved your problem, and learn from them.

To reality-test your assumptions, start by considering the opposite. Some companies have a formal process to prepare a case against a high-stakes proposal. Spark constructive disagreement within your organization. Find ways to bring real-world experience into your decision-making process.

As you make big decisions, take a step back and consider the larger impact. Use the 10/10/10 tool: how will I feel about the decision 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? What about 10 years from now? Look at your situation from an observer’s perspective. Focus on your core priorities and create a “stop doing” list to help you weed out time wasters.

No decision maker is perfect, so prepare ahead of time to be wrong. Consider a range of outcomes, from very bad to very good. Conduct a ‘pre-mortem’—“it’s a year from now, our decision has failed utterly. Why?” Do a ‘pre-parade’—“It’s a year from now. We’re heroes. Will we be ready for success?” Set ‘tripwires’—deadlines or partitions—to help you realize you have choices.

Finally, you have to trust in the process. “Bargaining”—horse-trading until all sides can live with the choice—will take more time up front, but it accelerates implementation. Making sure others are aware of your decision making process is key to team buy-in.

Decisive is a great read, filled with stories and examples of how to analyze things rapidly and make informed decisions quickly. I guarantee it will keep you interested and you will learn techniques for making decisions. The book is replete with great stories that will keep you reading and learning. Some of my favorites include:

  • David Lee Roth, lead singer of the band Van Halen, put an M&Ms clause in every contract. The clause demanded a bowl of the candy without any brown M&Ms backstage before every concert. Was he a spoiled rock diva or an operations expert?
  • What major decision did Andy Grove, president of Intel, make in 1985 that was a huge turning point for the company?
  • The CEO of Quaker (the oats company) made a major decision in 1983 that cost his company more than $1.5 billion by the time it all played out.
  • Why did Zappos, the online shoe store based in Las Vegas, offer its new employees $1000 (now up to $4000) to quit their job (at Zappos)? Why do they have one of the lowest employee turnover rates of any company?
  • Why did Kodak executives allow digital images to kill their company? What did the executives know years ahead of time that could have saved the company?
  • How did the product Rogaine emerge successfully from mistakes made in another product line?

If you read only one book this year, make sure it’s Decisive!


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers make decisions constantly. They get bombarded with figures and estimates all the time, and they need to make decisions and move forward. The book Decisive has opened my eyes to new, better ways of making decisions. This is a must-read for all product managers and product marketing managers.


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Leadership and balance

We all have more things to do in a day than the time needed to do them all. The key to moving forward without caving under pressure is maintaining balance in our lives. Effective leaders always find a way to meet the priorities of their life and their business. Here are three actions you can take right now to keep balance in your life:

Be realistic: To have balance in your life you have to be realistic. We all have more things we could do than we have time to do them. To maintain balance, look carefully at all the things that are important (i.e. “at the top of the list”) and then be realistic about what you can do given all relevant factors.

Be decisive: Don’t wait for things to happen. When you need to make a decision, don’t hesitate. After you’ve made the decision, put all you energy into getting it done.

Communicate: Make sure you communicate effectively with everyone involved. A big part of keeping balance in your life is making sure everyone is aware of your priorities. Don’t keep things inside; communicate openly with all the key people (family, friends, coworkers, etc.).

As you integrate these three actions into your daily life you’ll find yourself getting things done much more effectively. The anxiety that comes with having too much to do will give way to a bright outlook on life.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers balance a lot of priorities. With the exception of the CEO/President, there’s not a functional role (in most organizations) that has to interact more with others in the organization than product managers. You need to be proactive and balance the demands that come from all over the organization.