Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How leaders rise above the distractions

The corporate world is full of distractions. Many companies go to great lengths to provide workers with the tools, culture and environment to work productively, but workers still form habits that are killing their productivity. Texting, social media and email provide a constant stream of distractions. According to Challenger, Gray and Christmas, employees participating in March Madness (the NCAA basketball tournament)—between filling out brackets and watching games online—could cost a total loss of productivity approaching $4 billion.

How can leaders deal with workplace distractions effectively? How do individuals avoid interruptions and stay focused?

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Why you need a Life Plan

To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Are you drifting in your career or your life? Do you have unmet goals or life-long aspirations you’ve failed to achieve? If so you’re not alone. You know where you want to end up, but why is so difficult to get there?

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How to stop drifting and start living forward

Why do we sometimes drift off course and get caught up in meaningless activity? We see people wandering at all levels, even CEOs at times. The need to stay focused and produce seems obvious, yet our efforts to create opportunities too often fall short.

Drifting

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Do you expect to win?

The people I consider successful all have at least one thing in common…they expect to win. They see themselves as winners and whatever they put their minds to they accomplish. Their ‘win’ does not always happen in the way they initially intend, but in the end they succeed.

One such example, who’s had a positive influence on me since I met him last August, is Monte Holm. Continue reading


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Focus on what’s most important

You get results based on the things you focus on most intently.

Most people are driven to increase their performance and expand their abilities. They understand the need to work hard in areas for which they have great passion.

Regardless of how many things you want to accomplish, you must focus on the most important and let other things — which in the right context may be very good things — go by the wayside. Tom Peters sheds an interesting perspective on focus with the following quote:

Leaders focus on the soft stuff — people, values, character, commitment, a cause. All of that was supposed to be too (indefinable) to count in business. Yet it’s the stuff that real leaders take care of first. That’s why leadership is an art, not a science.

Focus on what you want to achieve. The results will speak for themselves.


The Product Management Perspective: Product management takes complete focus. Recently a friend told me his company’s CEO decided that their engineering managers would also be responsible for product requirements and roadmaps. Their (few) ‘product managers’ will only focus on marketing their products.

It’s never easy to predict how things will turn out in the future, but if I were a betting man I would NOT bet on this move. They will lose focus on what the product means to the market/people who use it. For a product to succeed, you need to have someone—a product manager—completely focused on its success.


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Sharing the success

The word “sharing” is one you won’t find used very often in business. Competition has increased in every market and those who succeed have to spend time, money and effort to win. And winning itself has become the end game for too many people.

There’s nothing wrong with winning, and if you go into business (or anything for that matter), you need to focus on succeeding. However, success at all costs is not worth the price. If you place all your focus and desires on winning you will ultimately lose – friendships, relationships, and possibly even your sanity.

UNLESS you focus on helping other people win. You need to have the vision, and have a huge desire to succeed, and then help other people win as you go. You need to share your vision of success with others and help them find the desire and drive to succeed.

Here’s simple way to help others succeed: once a week for the next three months write a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn. Make sure your endorsements are meaningful and sincere, and be creative in the ways you give praise. You will make a lot of people happy and will help them in their careers. You will see the value you’ve created for others as they respond in kind.


The Product Management Perspective: Good product managers know their success depends on the work – and success – of others (dev, QA, support, etc.). One of the best (and easiest) things you can do is acknowledge the contributions of others on the team. Make sure the VP of engineering knows how much you appreciate the developers working on your products. Tell the VP of sales how the account manager helped you with a customer. You get the picture. Make sure you’re generous in sharing success with your teams.


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What matters in 2010?

With just a few weeks left in 2009 you have no-doubt spent time thinking about the events of the past year and the growth and changes that have resulted.

What matters in 2010? Seth Godin, marketing guru and thought leader, did a cool project where he brought together more than seventy “big thinkers” to write the ebook What Matters Now. His purpose: “Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around.” Here are a few of the thought-provoking ideas:

“If you make a difference, people will gravitate to you. They want to engage, to interact and to get you more involved.” -Seth Godin

“Leadership is more than influence. It is about reminding people of what it is we are trying to build—and why it matters. It is about painting a picture of a better future. It comes down to pointing the way and saying, ‘C’mon. We can do this!'” –Michael Hyatt

“Here’s the final measure of your success as a speaker: did you change something? Are attendees leaving with a new idea, some new inspiration, perhaps a renewed commitment to their work or to the world?” –Mark Hurst

“The road to sustainability goes through a clear-eyed look at unsustainability.” –Alan M. Webber

“After a decade of truly spectacular underachievement, what we need now is less management and more freedom – fewer individual automatons and more autonomous individuals.” –Daniel H. Pink

“The future belongs to people who can spread ideas.” –Guy Kawasaki (read Guy’s ‘ten things to remember’)

“You can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free.” –David Meerman Scott

“You’re probably trying to change things at home or at work. Stop agonizing about what’s not working. Instead, ask yourself, ‘What’s working well, right now, and how can I do more of it?'” –Chip Heath & Dan Heath

“You grow (and thrive!) by doing what excites you and what scares you everyday, not by trying to find your passion.” –Derek Sivers

“Winning businesses have a common trait, an obvious and divisive point of view. Losing businesses also have a common trait, a boring personality alienating no one and thus, sparking passion from no one.” –John Moore

“My eyes have been opened to the value of regularly closing them.” –Arianna Huffington (on the value of sleep)

“The secret learned by technology providers is to spend less time providing services for citizens, and to spend more time providing services to developers…This is the right way to frame the question of ‘Government 2.0.’ How does government become an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to provide better services to each other?” –Tim O’Reilly

“Declare war on passivity. Hush the inner voice that insists you’re over the hill, past your prime, unworthy of attaining those dreams. Disbelief is now the enemy, as is the notion of settling. Get hungry — hyena hungry. Get fired up. Find your backbone, and your wings.” –J.C. Hutchins

Seth and his coauthors are trying to get five million downloads of the ebook. Help them out; you will be the beneficiary. Read Seth’s post about the ebook here.

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