Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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Five ways to make yourself more valuable

In a down economy when things get tough, people get nervous. Some employees feel nervous about keeping their jobs. They get in the “hunker down” mode and do everything they can protect their job. Do you know anyone who behaves that way?

The people who are the most secure in their careers follow similar patterns of behavior. They understand competition exists. They recognize the steps they need to take to succeed. They manage their fears in the face of threats. They know life is a journey and look forward to every turn.

One of the keys to success is in understanding the value you bring to your organization and taking steps to increase it over time. The following five actions will help you increase your value and enhance your self-confidence:

  1. Improve skills and knowledge: Instead of hunkering down and running below the radar, take specific actions to improve your skills. Look for opportunities for training. If the company will not/cannot spring for it this year, look for learning opportunities online. Read books. Read blogs. Make an effort to learn new skills and practice them as much as you can in your current job. Remember the cogent words of Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
  2. Help others: One of the best antidotes to self-pity and fear is to help other people. When you make the effort to assist someone else to become better at what they do, you become better yourself. When you help others your confidence grows and you increase your value to those around you.
  3. Develop trust: People naturally want to surround themselves with people they trust. Developing trust takes time and consistent effort. Trust goes two ways: you need to behave in such a way that people will trust you will do what you say. And equally important, you need to trust others. Developing relationships of trust increases your value.
  4. Believe in yourself: As your skills increase, you gain more experience, you begin to understand your significance to your organization. Trials and difficult circumstances can diminish these feelings, but they should not. Believing in yourself, your skills, and your ability to succeed — without becoming arrogant — is a good thing. Never forget the people who have helped you increase your value along the way.
  5. Work yourself out of the job: This one may not make sense at face value. If you work yourself out of the current job, what will you do? The idea is to work effectively and close the loop on what you are doing. Think in terms of projects: each one has a beginning and an end. You plan what you are going to do, work at it and when it’s finished you move on to the next project. When your project is successful, it’s easier to land the next project. Jobs are the same way. Make your work so effective and make it run so well that anyone could step in and take over. As you do that you will automatically make yourself more valuable to your company, and they will have no choice but to promote you or find something more challenging for you to do.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you are in a unique position to create value. Your role lends itself to working with many people in different parts of the company and with customers and others external to the organization. Practicing the five actions listed above will increase your value to your company and accelerate your career growth. And when you work yourself out of the product management position, perhaps you’ll find yourself in an executive’s chair.

Disclosure: Many thanks to my good friend Steve Reiser for the initial ideas on this post.


Leadership and learning

A recent post on the HubSpot blog, Rick Burns suggests the most important internet marketing skill is learning. Rick makes a point that no one is an internet marketing expert yet, but the ones who are trying and learning along the way are quickly becoming the experts.

Leadership and Learning

If you were to choose the most important characteristic or aspect of leadership, what would it be? Is it possible to determine the (single) most important aspect of leadership? The answers to these questions will no doubt differ from one person to another, and from one leadership guru to another. However, like Rick points out in the context of internet marketing, one thing that seems to be a common trait in great leaders, regardless of the time or place they have lived, is a penchant for learning.

The pace of progress in the world today requires that leaders be learners. The following quote by Eric Hoffer speaks volumes: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

The salient idea in Ricks post is the importance of not being afraid to make mistakes. Becoming a leader does not happen over night. You will make mistakes along the way; everyone does. The key to your progress is losing the fear of making mistakes. Success requires making mistakes. According to Conrad Hilton, “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Persistence is the key to leadership.

The Product Management Perspective: The subject of learning should course through every product manager’s agenda.  Just when you think you understand a market or a product or a buyer persona, it changes. To keep up with the evolution of product management, you need to understand where it’s at and where it’s headed. Read blogs, books and magazines. Make it a point to be a learner. Talk to your teams about what you are learning; you will gain respect and be seen as the leader.

Image: Courtesy of Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics


The pace of change

Thanks to Dan for pointing me to this video about the fast pace of change. It takes about 5 minutes and will cause you to think differently about the world we live in. Hold on tight and pay attention!

The Product Management Perspective: The world of product management is changing too. Just when you think you understand a market or a product or a buyer persona, you blink and it changes. Product managers need to be engaged in learning. Keep learning; be happy for the things you have learned; don’t beat yourself up for the things you don’t know.

Take to heart the advice of Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future.  The learned usually  find themselves equipped to live in a world  that no longer exists.”


The reason I write

The last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about why I write my blog. I’ve given much thought as to whether it’s because of an incessant need to be heard or get my voice out. No doubt there are days when that’s the case. There are times when I want to be heard by others for whom I have a lot of respect. Please forgive me for my vanity.

After deep introspection I concluded that the reason I write is because it forces me to learn. I love learning! I crave the feeling I get when I discover a new author or find new information about some topic. The more I learn the more I realize how little I know, which drives me to learn more. I love the quote by Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” I never want to be ‘learned,’ but ever learning.

What are the reasons you write? If you have a blog please leave me a comment with a link so I can read what you write about.