Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

1 Comment

Five championship strategies

One of the most amazing sports records in the history of all sports is 401 wins and 9 losses. This is the career record of Larry Gelwix, coach of the Highland High rugby team (Salt Lake City) for more than three decades. This team was featured in the recent movie Forever Strong. Larry recently recorded a podcast with my friend Dr. Paul on Live on Purpose Radio. During this conversation Larry shares the strategies that have made his teams successful through the years.

What struck me the first time I listened to this podcast is how beautifully these principles apply to product management, to leadership and to life in general. They have obviously worked for Larry and his rugby teams throughout the years.
Here are the five championship strategies:
  1. Choose what team you’re going to play for. Decide what ‘jersey’ you’re going to wear in life, in love, in business, in relationships. Where is your loyalty? Where is your heart? Figure it out, make a decision and don’t look back.
  2. Don’t play with snakes. Every situation has a right and wrong; choose the right.
  3. Hit the field running. Attitude and effort are more important than natural ability. Attitude and effort are more important than natural smarts. Attitude and effort separate the champs from the chumps. Attitude follows behavior; if you want to change your attitude, change your behavior.
  4. Expect to win. Larry spells ‘win’ as an acronym, W.I.N., which stands for “what’s important now.” Look at every situation and ask, “what do I need to accomplish?” Then ask, “what’s important now?” We need to look ahead and have goals for future success, and make choices right now that take us in that direction.
  5. Focus on the final score. Focus on the end game; focus on who you want to be; focus on what you ultimately want to achieve. In life we all write the script of the final person we want to be. If my final score is who I want to be — a man or woman of integrity, of honesty, of virtue, of hard work, of ethics — then I can sustain setbacks and difficulties that come.

Living these five championship strategies will make an incredible difference in your success. As Larry says: “these strategies work!” He has proven this as a coach and as a successful CEO. Don’t miss this podcast; you’ll be glad you listened.


Value comes from work

Have you ever noticed that (in most cases) when you receive something for free you put less value on it than you otherwise would? This is especially true when the ‘gift’ comes from a person or entity with whom you have no relationship. No doubt you are thankful to have something new and have the opportunity to use it for its intended purpose, but after a few days or weeks have passed the value is usually gone. A few examples will illustrate:

  • Children and toys: When parents give a child every toy she wants, she gets bored with them and they end up scattered all around the house. Every time they take her to a store she cries for the new toy. Conversely, a child who has assigned chores that result in the right to buy a new toy will value the toy and wear it out playing.
  • Teenagers and cars: When parents buy their teenager a brand new car for his 16th birthday, he’s no doubt happy to have the car, but too often doesn’t take good care of it and crashes it or burns up the engine (or does something else to ruin it). On the contrary, when a young man works, saves the money and buys his own car, he takes great measures of care for the car.
  • They family business: Too often when it comes time to pass a family business the next generation the recipient is not prepared. When this happens it’s usually because he or she has not carried the responsibility of the business and does not have the work ethic his or her parents had. Too often the business fails because the heirs did not learn the value of hard work. Granted, in many cases the hard-working parents who created a successful business took the time and effort to teach their children to work and the transition goes smoothly, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

If you really want to value something you have to work for it. Ultimately you will not find joy in what you do without working diligently, and you cannot achieve success without making a concerted effort. As Vince Lombardi so eloquently said: “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

For me it’s simple: when you invest your time and your own money, talents, resources and effort into creating or improving some thing, you value the end results. It’s simple but true.

The Product Management Perspective: Nothing comes easy in product management. However, when PMs work diligently, and effectively with their teams, they find satisfaction in the resulting success of the products, and ultimately the company.

Leave a comment

Leadership and endurance

Success is a marathon, not a sprint. The only way to truly prepare for a marathon is to train, to practice, to run. You need to get out on the road. You need to put in the miles. It takes time, it takes effort, and sometimes it hurts a lot. As the marathon runner Juma Ikanga said after winning the New York Marathon: “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.” You can want to win more than anyone else in the world; yet if you do not want to put in the work to prepare, it will not matter.

A great example of enduring leadership was Samuel Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. From as early as 1765 Adams called for America’s split from England; a decade before the Revolutionary War started. A recent IBD article illustrates the important qualities of strength and courage that helped Adams not only endure but also succeed: “Samuel Adams’ success came from his willingness to work tirelessly for the cause of liberty. Politics was a kind of ministry for him, and that kind of dedication makes a difference.”

Like the pre-Revolutionary times in which Adams lived, succeeding in today’s world requires endurance and perseverance. Success does not come overnight; it comes after months and years of hard work. Only after pushing through the difficulties we face will we achieve true success.

The Product Management Perspective: Product development cycles can seem long and arduous at times. As a product manager you need to exercise patience at the same time you persuade others to work hard and work effectively. There are days when it seems like nothing will ever come together the way it needs to. However, those who persist always achieve success.


The LOVE of leadership: Experience

The practice of love in the context of leadership is both powerful and necessary. Steve Farber describes this clearly in his audio book Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. What does it mean to love the people you lead? My definition for the acronym LOVE embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results:

  • L – Listen
  • O – Observe
  • V – Value
  • E – Experience

The word experience functions as both a noun an a transitive verb. Among the noun definitions is: direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge. The verb definition includes: to learn by experience. Both emphasize the need to engage in the activities and efforts of others. They imply action. The act of experiencing connotes an exertion of effort on the part of the leader to work on a level that the people they lead (or manage) will see them functioning at their level. This will help them gain confidence in the motives that drive their leader.

Trust is a key factor of success in every organization. As a leader you need to conduct yourself in a way that the people whom you lead will trust you. By the same token, you need to trust the people you lead to do what they say they will do. As you experience their work you will gain insight into what motivates them to do great things and they will trust you and discern your integrity.

practical-lessons-in-leadership1Leaders who spend time with their people get to know their them on a deeper level. This goes both ways. In their book Practical Lessons in Leadership, the authors Art Petty and Rich Petro provide excellent insight into what attributes make a great leader. Among the most important is getting to know your team. You come to know what your people want. They start seeing you as someone who cares about their ideas and careers. They want to work for you and will give their best effort.

Noting that many managers do a lousy job of spending time with their associates, Petty and Petro point out the importance getting to know them:

Nothing is more important (after understanding your mission) than providing quality time to your associates in both group and one-on-one settings. Your willingness to meet with your team and to invest your time in listening to their ideas, issues and concerns is an important tool for building your leadership credibility. The perception that ‘you care’ is powerful and priceless (p. 80).

Your ability to experience ‘a day in the life of’ the people you lead will differ depending on the size of your organization. In large organizations the CEO cannot meet with and know every employee. However, with new technology and honest effort, leaders can communicate their concern and connect with everyone who works for them.

Take action to experience life on the floor or in the cubicles of the people in your organization. Gain a deep understanding of what they do and what motivates them. Your efforts to feel what your people feel will result in unity of purpose and energy in your organization.

This is the last post in the series The LOVE of leadership. Your comments, critiques and analysis are welcome. Please leave a comment with your take on the role love plays in leadership.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers work closely with people from different parts (i.e. teams) of the organization. When you interact with other teams, make the effort to experience what they do and why they do it. Work diligently to understand how things look from their vantage point. And when you make decisions, keep in mind how the results will influence other people. Love the people you work with and inspire them to succeed.


Knowledge is power

To what do you attribute your success?

This question was answered in a very interesting fashion on a recent podcast Rock to the Top. Dr. Paul interviews Dayna Steele, a lively author and former rock-n-roll disk jockey in Houston. In the interview Dayna talks about meeting and associating with rock stars like Jon Bon Jovi, Sammy Hagar and other great rock legends. She provides interesting insight into their lives, how they think and what drives them.

In her book Rock to the Top Dayna talks about what drives these famous rock stars to be successful. What most caught my attention was her answer to the question posed above. She used Gene Simmons, from the band Kiss, as an example: Gene said he attributes his success to his ‘voracious’ reading habit; he reads every chance he gets. Dayna then quoted Fortune article she’d read where Warren Buffett said the same thing. Two very different people, both successful in very different ways, who attribute their success to their appetite for reading and gaining knowledge.

On a related note, George Ambler talks about the importance of taking time to stop and think. George points out that setting aside time to think is critical for effective leadership. Scheduling time to think allows the mind to tune in to the important nuggets of knowledge and filter out the non-essential and potentially detrimental thoughts and ideas.

The third item in the five factors of leadership asserts that knowledge is power, when it is applied. When the knowledge is applied it increases the success of the person applying it as well as those whom he/she leads.

Consequently, success comes from combining three important aspects of knowledge:

  • Reading: Acquiring new ideas
  • Thinking: Reflecting on the impressions gained through reading
  • Acting: Applying the knowledge gained through effort and hard work.

To what do you attribute your success?