Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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How the workplace is changing

Today’s workforce is working from home more and more. This trend is growing and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. A recent study from Polycom shows that almost a full third of employees around the globe are regularly working remotely, and almost two-thirds have some sort of flexible work schedule. Clearly the concept of the workplace is changing both rapidly and dramatically.

Work Remotely Continue reading

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Flexibility and letting go

For the past several months I’ve been immersed in the experience of working with top designers and learning how to take their work, write relevant requirements at breakneck speed and work closely with development to build our new products. We’re essentially changing the focus of the product from enterprise to consumer. Talk about a learning experience! It’s been nothing short of transformational.

The key for me has been a willingness to let go of past working habits — procedures I was very comfortable with — and embrace new ideas. One quick example: my main product serves a two-sided network. Four months ago, the “customer” (in my mind) was the paying/enterprise customer. Today that view has completely changed. Now the ‘customer’ is the end user (sometimes called ‘consumer’) who comes to the web site to use the free service. My product management focus has shifted significantly to the experience of the end users. The change has resulted in an entirely different product that (two weeks into the beta) is showing positive signs.

Letting go of old habits and ideas is not easy and requires flexibility. Those who are open to change learn to trust themselves and others. Watch for opportunities to try new things and be flexible as you go. Letting go of old beliefs can lead to new visions.

The Product Management Perspective: See above (and, of course, don’t get set in your ways or the change will be painful).

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Three steps to the next big opportunity

One of the keys to career progress (advancement) is identifying and taking advantage of new opportunities. Most of the time the new opportunities are not obvious; after all, when things become obvious they are usually past the “opportunity” stage. The crucial habit for progress is watching, learning and becoming aware of trends and changes going on around you. Here are three steps to help you prepare yourself for the next big opportunity:

  • Demonstrate flexibility: The word ‘flexible’ has various meanings; in this context think of ‘willingness.’ Be the person at your company who is willing to do new things, like taking on the project that nobody wants. Don’t balk when things don’t go the way you want them to go.
  • Get out of your comfort zone: Face it, progress never comes without some level of discomfort. Look for ways you can improve your skills in new areas. Think of something you never would have considered and do it; even if it’s riding a bull.
  • Work with people: The only way to progress in this life is to work with other people. The teams that have people who work together win. Even in so-called “individual sports” such as running, race car driving or gymnastics, the athletes depend on many other people for their success. Be open and humble enough to learn from other people, and be willing to help others any way you can.

At the end of the day (or week, month or year) you are responsible for your progress. You need to take the steps. You will surely find many along the way who are willing to help you; take advantage. But don’t wait for them to bring success to you; that will never happen. Make the effort; take the steps.

The Product Management Perspective: The ideas for this post came from a question posed to me about how an engineer can become a product manager. Following these three things will help you progress from your work as an engineer (or support or SE or any other job) to becoming a successful product manager. And for you who are product managers, look for people who are trying to make the shift and reach out and help them. You’ll find satisfaction in knowing you helped someone else, and doing so will benefit your career.