Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Creating a culture of persistence

We live in a world that makes it increasingly easy to justify failures and abdicate responsibility. Too often the news trumpets the reasons why certain groups don’t get what they want, and they showcase how those in authority are responsible for others’ shortcomings.

While there are certainly injustices in world today, successful individuals don’t let them affect how hard they work or what steps they take to progress. Capable leaders keep doing the right things for their teams and their customers. They persist through difficulties, and in the process, they create a culture of persistence.

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How you know you have a winning product

In many ways, creating new technology based products and services has become much easier in recent years. With mobile apps, software as a service (SaaS) and other new tools, the cost of turning ideas into real products has significantly decreased. What has not changed is the significance of deeply understanding the market your product will serve.

What is the key to knowing you have a winning product?

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Why great leaders are learners

Learning is one of the key tenets of leadership. Great leaders are learners. They read voraciously. They write and teach what they learn. Learning is as much a part of their life as eating.

Learning is key to coming up with new ideas that will improve your business and ensure success. Learning is the key to growth. Leaders who are learners ‘raise the tide’ for everyone around them. Learning is key to progress.

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What is the value in perseverance?

Throughout my life I’ve been a big believer in the value of hard work—it’s one of three lessons I was taught from my youth. Everyone who takes an idea and makes it into something valuable does it through hard work. Tied very closely to hard word is perseverance, continuing forward without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure.

The downside to hard work and perseverance is they take time. Good things don’t (usually) happen overnight, or even within a month or a year. Creating value, and creating meaning in your life, take time: time to start, time to build, time to realize the results. Continue reading


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Valuing the Differences of Others

Guest post by Dr. Andrew L. Thorn

I recently participated in two very different but similar meetings. The focus of each of the meetings was exactly the same, but the complexity of each group was completely different.

In one group, the people embraced a very similar philosophy and mindset on the proposed topic. The other group was filled with people who represented very different perspectives, viewpoints and backgrounds.

I gained a lot from both experiences, but after a while, I became very bored with the similar group. They definitely had every viewpoint from A to B well represented, but beyond that, it was hard to find any value. Unfortunately, we didn’t make much progress in accomplishing our purpose.

The diverse group challenged my thinking. There were view points represented that were difficult for me to comprehend because they were so different than my own. The meeting participants were energetic and courteous. They were not afraid to have their views questioned or examined by the others. They were very open to learning from the other group members.

Understanding Others

I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting with this diverse group and I left with a healthy appreciation and affection for each member. I never felt challenged to change my values, and as a result, I felt safe to open my mind to new ideas. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to examine the beliefs of others. Instead of judging them, I suspended my previous assumptions and allowed myself to see what they see. Because I was willing to extend this courtesy to them, they returned the favor to me.

I discovered that even though my values and opinions remained basically the same, my influence with my new friends increased. This dramatically affected our ability to work together. As a result, we made significant progress on our common interests.

 

Authentic Leadership

My experiences with these two groups reminded me of something my brother Larry taught me. Whenever we disagreed, he would say, “if we were all the same, there would be no need for all of us”.

This statement continues to guide my work. I understand that I am most effective when I surround myself with people who think and act much differently than I do. My association with friends of different opinions creates many opportunities to stretch my way of thinking.

Great leaders do not fear the fringes or the edges. They recognize that by creating space for all voices to be heard, they become an authentic agent of change. Because their influence is felt, their leadership is more highly regarded. When the point of decision arrives, they are seen as credible and trustworthy.

The Big Picture

Just because we learn to view things from a larger perspective does not mean that we must abandon our own values, it simply means that we learn to see what is going on in the complete system. When we do this, we create solutions that accelerate growth and development.

I realize that it is difficult to suspend our beloved biases and judgments, but it can be done without losing our individual identity, and a better solution almost always emerges when we do it. I invite you to consider the following questions:

How willing are you to consider viewpoints that are different from your own?

What benefits come from stretching to see the perspectives of others?

How do you feel when someone takes the time to see things as you see them?

Remember, the real point of leadership is not to change others, but to enroll them in a collaborative effort to achieve a common goal. You are free to draw the line in your personal values, most of us even expect you to do so and respect you when you do. When we become secure in who we are, we become more free about opening ourselves up to others, and that is when our effectiveness as a leader truly soars.

Dr. Andrew L. Thorn

Dr. Andrew Thorn is the founder of Telios Corporation and creator of The Telios Experience™.  He holdsa PhD in Consulting Psychology, a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching, and a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University.  Dr. Thorn is also the author of U-wun-ge-lay-ma: A Guide to Next-level Living and the upcoming book Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Whole? The Future of Meaning and Purpose.  He lives in Apple Valley, California with his wife Stacy and seven children.     


The Product Management Perspective: One of the highpoints of being a product manger is working with a diverse group of people. From developers, to marketers to salespeople, to executives, we get to work closely with all of them. Sometimes they challenge us; sometimes they make life miserable. If we are open to new ideas and willing to learn from others, our products will be all the better. As Dr. Thorn says, “a better solution almost always emerges when we suspend our beloved biases.” Enroll your team in a collaborative effort to achieve great products.


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The Bright Side of Failure

Guest post by Matt Herndon

Most of us look at failure as a negative occurrence. Surely if we fail at something, that’s a sign of weakness. But even the most successful people in the world have had their failures. Remember when Michael Jordan decided to play baseball? While it wasn’t his greatest success, he was able to turn it into just another lesson learned during a long and prosperous career. To quote the basketball legend, “I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

No one likes to fail. When you put extensive time, energy and effort into attaining a goal, missing the mark can certainly smart. You can’t, however, always avoid failure. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you simply can’t reach that mark or accomplish that sought-after goal. It’s important to remember that while failure doesn’t bring with it the accolades and congratulations that accompany success, failure in and of itself isn’t a total loss. If, instead of allowing yourself to wallow in self-pity, you think critically about your failure, you can turn this seemingly negative situation into a valuable learning opportunity.

Goal Re-Evaluation
Particularly if you’ve failed not just once, but numerous times recently, failing once again could be just the prompt you need to re-evaluate the appropriateness of the goals you’ve set for yourself. For example, if you’ve applied for every job under the sun and keep getting the same “thanks but no thanks” response, it may be a sign that your goal isn’t a reasonable one. Perhaps if you still wish to reach your goal, you may need to look into earning a master’s degree or gaining a little more entry-level experience in the field. If you allow yourself to learn from this failure and use it as a cue, you’ll substantially increase your chances of making your next batch of applications more successful than the first.

Opportunity for Analysis
On some occasions, it isn’t that the goal you’ve set is unreasonable, but instead that your method of trying to reach that goal could use some work. Anytime you fail, you’re presented with a valuable opportunity to analyze the situation. To reap the benefits of this chance for careful analysis, consider specifically why you failed and try to determine what you could’ve done to eliminate this failure catalyst. The next time you find yourself working toward a similar goal, keep in mind what you’ve learned and modify your flight plan, improving your chances of enjoying a different outcome.

Character Building
Succeeding is great, but it doesn’t offer the same opportunity for becoming a better person that failure affords. Any time you fail, you’re presented with an opportunity to hone your character. Because failing gracefully requires you to employ self-restraint, class and dignity, not reaching a goal presents the opportunity to exercise these positive character traits, allowing you to become better at exhibiting a level of grace that will ultimately get you much further in life.

Sweeter Success
Just as you don’t appreciate the heat of summer as much without the cold of winter, you won’t really appreciate success as fully if you never feel the burn of failure. To ease the pain associated with failure, remind yourself that when you do ultimately reach your goal-–which you will if you continue to exhibit the dedication and focus that have already served you so well-–it will feel even more sublime than it would have had you reached it on your first attempt.

There’s no way to completely prevent failure. Instead of allowing unsuccessful attempts at reaching goals to leave you burned and jaded, view these misses as opportunities for learning and growth. In doing so, you can retain your positive outlook and hone your skills.

Matt Herndon (@Just_Matt_) lives in Indianapolis with his wife and children. He has been studying and writing about leadership development and organizational communication since he began his undergraduate work in Upper East Tennessee approximately 20 years ago.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers are known widely as driven individuals. But as with any other job, not every product succeeds and not every release goes as planned. When failures happen (and we all know they will), we need to take Matt’s advice and learn from them. The more willing we are to learn from failures, the more success we will have with the next product or new release.


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Hire your replacement

Leaders at successful companies focus significant time and resources to hire the right people. The money and effort they spend pays big dividends as the company progresses and matures. The companies that excel at hiring the right people seem to take this one step further: at all levels the leaders hire people whom they can groom as their replacements. This may seem at odds with conventional thinking; generally, most people at most companies do not think about what the company will be like when they leave. However, those who really ‘get it’ make hiring better people than themselves a priority.

The importance of focusing on your replacement cannot be overstated. Following are three actions that will help you focus on successfully developing replacements:

  • Hire the right people: When you select candidates to interview look for people who have the skills and the personality to grow into your position. When making hiring decisions, look for and hire individuals who have the potential to do the job better than you can do it.
  • Train them: Hire the right people, then provide the training to accelerate their growth. Spend money on developing skills that will drive the results your company is seeking. Don’t let the cost of training deter you from training your people. Stephen M.R. Covey drives this point home nicely in his book The Speed of Trust:
I’ll never forget what one CEO said about the risk of investing in a focused training initiative for his company. Someone asked him, ‘What if you train everyone and they all leave?’ He responded, ‘What if we don’t train them and they all stay?’
  • Give them opportunities to grow: Once you hire the right people and give them the training they need, provide them with opportunities to learn and grow. Do not hold on to the most important tasks yourself. Give your team members new opportunities even if it means letting go of your pet project.
One of the key side effects of focusing time and effort on your replacement is your own growth. When you help others learn, you learn more. When you help them hone key skills, your skills improve. You cannot help others progress without advancing your own position. The more you increase the value of others the more your value increases.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers are most often leaders by nature; however, they most often do not have anyone reporting directly to them. These principles still apply because, as a PM, you are a member of the team and have influence on the people who are hired on to the team. Leaders of product managers do themselves and their company a favor by hiring people who will eventually replace them and be more successful than they have been. It’s all about progression: the more you help others progress, the further you go.