Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Why the Future is up to Us

We live in a fast-paced world where technology changes our lives daily. For some it’s invigorating. For others it’s intimidating if not terrifying. With news about AI (artificial intelligence) getting smarter and more accurate, self-driving cars and trucks becoming more reliable, and neural networks communicating directly with people’s brains, it’s easy to see how people are getting nervous.

That change is coming is inevitable. What we do with it and how we handle it will determine our future.

Whats the Future Continue reading


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How to Encourage Team Members to Lead

Guest post by Lindsay Traiman

Leadership plays a vital role in every company. To have a successful business, it is important that every team member is prepared to step up and lead when necessary. Forbes.com defines leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” By encouraging others to lead, you can more easily achieve company goals and create a nurturing, supportive work environment. Use the following strategies to encourage your team members to lead.

Educate your staff — Not everyone has innate leadership skills, but these skills can be developed. Offer guidance and leadership training to give your staff the confidence and tools they need to lead and inspire others.

Encourage shared leadership roles — Leadership does not come naturally to everyone, which can make it a difficult and scary experience for some. Ease your staff into leadership positions by first allowing them to share the role with yourself or other team members. Allowing people to co-lead projects reduces anxiety and creates a more positive leadership experience by giving team members someone to lean on for assistance.

Define the goal — Unclear goals can create huge obstacles for those attempting to lead a project. Be sure that you clearly define the task, objectives and goals when assigning a project to assist your team members in their leadership efforts.

Listen – Listening is a very important part of effective communication. Always listen to what your staff has to say. By listening, you can gain more insight into the things that motivate individual team members while also learning what goals they have for themselves.

Lead by example – As a leader, your team members look to you as a role model. There is no easier way to encourage others to lead than by leading them effectively. According to a Dale Carnegie study, 62 percent of engaged employees said their managers set a good example. By practicing what you preach in all aspects of your business, your staff will grow to trust you. Employees who trust that their managers are taking their leadership role seriously are more likely to go the extra mile to support the organization’s goals.

Value your staff – Always let your staff members know how important they are to the company. When you see your staff actually taking initiative and utilizing their leadership skills, be sure to recognize them and acknowledge their efforts. Your employees must be reassured that their hard work and leadership is vital to the company’s success.  A study by Bersin and Associates states that companies that provide ample employee recognition have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover rates than companies that don’t. A little appreciation truly goes a long way.

While it may not be easy to develop leadership skills in others, it is essential to the success of your business. Encourage everyone on your team to lead in order to help your company succeed.

Lindsay Traiman writes on behalf of Dale Carnegie Training, a company founded on the principles of the famous speaker and author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Today, the company offers leadership training and helps businesses and individuals achieve their goals. Visit Dale Carnegie Training online to learn more about leadership training.


The Product Management Perspective: Many of the strategies described here are key to successful product management. Product managers need to educate others (especially sales) about their products. They need to listen to the market and learn what makes potential buyers want to buy their products. They need to communicate effectively, both inside and outside the company. Perhaps most important, product managers need to value their coworkers and build trust with their organization.


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Guest Post: Leadership Lessons from a Kindergarten Class

Today’s post comes from Jim Holland. Jim’s passion is enabling product marketing teams. With over 20 years of technology experience, he has a fresh and unique perspective in guiding and managing product teams and has a knack for synthesizing conceptual ideas and turning them into reality. Enjoy the post and don’t hesitate to tweet your comments to Jim directly.

What can a classroom full of bright-eyed and energized kindergartners teach you about leadership? A lot!

My wife is a gifted Kindergarten teacher. She’s a tuned-in educator who engages each child with the attention of a ninja master. During the school year, I’ve been asked to come in and help, so I’m well acquainted with each personality in the group and the “good morning Mr. Holland” that accompanies each visit. Near the end of this school year, my wife asked if I could complete a project with her class. The project was to ask each student, and record the answers to: “What was the most important thing I learned in Kindergarten this year?” I decided to use this as research into the minds of 6 year olds and to see what leadership attributes the kids had acquired over the months.

The project was fun, the one-on-one discussions great and the content was included in each student’s journal for them to keep. Below are the responses and how often they were mentioned without any coaching on my part:

  • I learned how to Read (4)
  • I learned my A-B-Cs (4)
  • I learned more about mathematics (3)
  • I learned why we should wash our hands (1)
  • I discovered the library and books (2)
  • I learned we have RULES (1)
  • I learned respect for my teacher (4)
  • I learned Fire Safety (1)
  • I learned how to make friends and to share (5)
  • I learned about Art (2)
  • I learned computer skills and terminology (2)

While this project would create a lot of input for how to sense your markets and how to interview one-on-one, I want to share some leadership qualities that each of us should possess – qualities learned in Kindergarten.

Your ABCs and 123s – From the first day of Kindergarten, great teachers assess individual needs, capabilities and prepare materials, activities and learning experiences for each student. As leaders, we need to follow the same by actively assessing the capabilities of each team member, understand their personalities, strengths and challenges and identify ways improve their contribution. As with any good Kindergarten teacher, when was the last time you conducted an assessment or gap analysis of each team member? As a leader do you have regular (formal and informal) one-on-one discussions with your team? These are not performance reviews or interrogation sessions, but time allocated to listening, understanding and addressing issues while building confidence and educating. Do you hold regular sessions to build business, corporate or other knowledge? I’m not talking about boring staff meetings. I’m talking interactive sessions where you or others members of your team lead sessions on topics that were identified by you or the team.

Washing Your Hands – Kindergartners learn, if you don’t want to get sick or spread germs, you should wash your hands regularly. Every leader has to create, maintain and show integrity. Are you the type of leader that passes “germs” to his team and organization with negative comments about individuals and management? Do you build integrity by maintaining individual, team and corporate confidentiality? Are you keeping your “hands clean” so the team trust and relies on you?

Rules – Kindergartners as well as leaders learn that rules are established as a pattern of consistency. Are there rules or guidance that you have established with your team? Do you set the example by following the team, department or company guidelines without failure? Kindergartners know the consequences for breaking the rules include removal of privileges or the dreaded visit to the principal’s office. As a leader you have to set and maintain realistic expectations and “rules” for your team.

Fire Safety – a colleague once commented; “never burn a bridge, for you might have to cross the river again and walking over rushing water is easier than swimming through it.” As leadership, we have to create and sustain relationships with individuals, teams, executives, customers and perhaps shareholders, investors and industry analysts. Leadership isn’t just about directing a group of people, projects or things. It’s about open communication that creates credibility for you and your team. Create “fire safety” in your team by looking for ways to improve team communication that will lead to better internal and external collaboration.

Sharing – Kindergartners recognize one of the most important aspects of class (team) dynamics is learning to share and making friends. As a leader, are you building the team by sharing knowledge, insights, corporate shifts, and changes with the team. What methods do you use to socialize new information? Do you send a few emails late on Friday afternoon, or actively interact with the team and share? Do you build awareness and share the success and challenges of your team’s accomplishments with senior management? If not, why not? Even a kindergartner knows you need an advocate who’s willing to stand on your behalf.

My experiences this year with my wife’s Kindergarten class have given me some great insights into how leaders can assemble or build teams by learning each personality, assessing specific needs, creating a plan to teach and share and building others by involving the strengths of the team to accomplish the goal.

If you like the post, please comment. If you’d like to connect with Jim, he may be reached on Twitter at jim_holland or drop him an email at jbhprivate[at]gmail[dot]com.


The Product Management Perspective (as Mike would say): Each leader must understand and apply his team’s personality, capabilities and business experience to build and execute successfully. Using the Kindergarten approach may simplify daily leadership and create new levels of credibility and visibility for your team.


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Announcing new Product Management association

Announcing the Utah Product Management Association (UPMA): If you live in the Utah (USA) area we would love to have you join us for this upcoming event. If you live outside of the Utah area (which admittedly applies to most of you) please help us spread the word to any friends, colleagues or contacts you know in the area.

upma-banner3

Utah Product Management Association

Welcome to the inaugural Utah Product Management Meeting

Thursday March 26, 2009 6:00pm to 8:00pm

We are pleased to announce the formation of the Utah Product Management Association (UPMA). The UPMA is being created to provide education and networking opportunities for product managers and product marketing managers in Utah and surrounding states.

Glen Mella

Glen Mella

The inaugural meeting of the UPMA will feature Glen Mella, President and Chief Operating Officer of Control4. Glen has a rich history working for organizations such as TenFold, Novell, WordPerfect, Dial Corporation, and Frito-Lay/PepsiCo. Glen will discuss his product management and marketing background, how he got to where he is today, and lessons he learned along the way. His insights will go a long way in helping the attendees learn from his success in developing ideas from product concepts to entrepreneurial opportunities and into financially viable businesses. He will also share what key knowledge, values, and traits, are important to being successful in product management, and beyond as well as some of the best practices he has observed in product management.

We invite you to come and listen to Glen and network with other product management and marketing professionals. Expand your network and be a part of this new organization that will take Product Management to a new level in Utah and the surrounding states.

Please forward this message to all your friends and colleagues who might be interested in attending this event and participating in the UPMA.

Date: Thursday March 26, 2009, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Location:
Noah’s
322 W. 11000 S.
South Jordan, UT 84095
(800) 696-6247

Agenda:
6:00pm – Registration/networking/refreshments
6:30pm – Discuss UPMA organization, solicit topic/content ideas
7:00pm – Glen Mella
8:00pm – Wrap-up/networking

More information is available at Utah Product Management Association

We look forward to seeing you at the inaugural UPMA meeting.

registernow


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Embrace and apply

Think about the last training or career development session you attended…how long did it take to put into practice the things you learned? Conversely, how long did it take to forget the details of the information conveyed in the training?

No matter how good a training session or how compelling the information conveyed, if you do not agree with what you’ve learned, or you do not have a way to apply it, you will not gain the true benefits promised. The dual concepts of embrace and apply are critical to the practical application of any training or educational programs. To convince participants to embrace the subject matter taught in a training session, it must be compelling and applicable to their daily lives. The presenter must establish credibility with the attendees and deliver the content effectively, thus creating a need for them to adopt it.

Once participants have embraced the concepts it is essential they apply them; the more quickly the better. If possible the company or people responsible for the training should have a follow-up mechanism through which they can provide additional services and direction. Many companies are skilled at delivering compelling training, but lack the resources or abilities to help their customers implement the training they have received. In such cases the participants are left to their own to implement what they have learned, or they find another company/person who can help them implement it. Helping others implement what they have learned presents a great opportunity forindividuals and services companies to increase the value of the training.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers play a key role in helping their teams to embrace product vision and direction. In many cases they also have to help executives do the same. They must learn to present their roadmaps with passion and work to convince their teams they’re headed in the right direction. When the teams are on board they will apply their efforts to creating and launching successful products.


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Motivating leadership

The number of leadership blogs that take up space in my feed reader is growing. Two recent posts struck a chord with me:

In his post The Opportunity to Influence, Mark Sanborn points to the passing of the torch from Mark Spitz to Michael Phelps. Mark quotes Spitz’s comment that Phelps now has the burden to inspire youth. Mark goes on to say: “Maybe Spitz’s comment was taken out of context or incomplete as quoted. I hope so. He seems like a good egg, so I’m puzzled about why he’d think he had to inspire anyone and secondarily why he considered that a burden.” Building up others should never be seen as a burden; it’s an opportunity that drives people to become leaders.

The second post is from Art Petty: Back to School. Art discusses the exuberance shown by many children as they head back to school after summer break. They love learning and it shows on their faces. Art makes the point that many working adults lose the fire to learn when school is over and they get into the work routine. He says:

One of the things we often lose as busy working adults is that sense of excitement about learning. It’s easy to let years and even decades slip by and focus on everything but our own self-development.  Sure, we attend mandated training in our company and possibly even the periodic seminar to earn the Continuing Education Units (CEUs) mandated by our professional certifying organizations.  Unfortunately, neither of those formats creates the exhilarating sense of learning and discovery that we may have had at some time earlier in our lives, but lost along the way to becoming responsible adults.

Art gives a list of activities that will help to rekindle your love of learning. It’s well worth the read.

Taking the opportunity to really have a positive influence on others and pursuing education with a determined attitude will help us on our course of continued motivating leadership.