Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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What makes a learning organization?

Amazon, Intuit, Airbnb, Disney, FedEx and Uber…what do these companies have in common? They know their customers. They don’t just know about their customers, they know why their customers ‘hire’ them and their products to do specific jobs.

All of these companies are learning organizations. At their core is a deep desire to know why people and companies spend their money to purchase their products and services.  They know the importance of constant learning, they know what they are competing against.

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How to create a culture of innovation

Disruptive and incremental innovations: How to ascend the ladders and avoid the snakes

Guest post by Gaia Grant and Andrew Grant

Current realities are harsh. Whereas once it was enough to bring out slow incremental improvements, to give time to trial new products, services and ideas and test the market, innovations now need to be rapid and radical. And the competition is fierce.

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How can leaders use 360-degree feedback to boost employee engagement?

Guest post by Steve Brown

One of the popular approaches to improving performance and employee engagement is to set up 360-degree reviews. With this process, a person gets feedback from their peers, as well as their manager. Management people also get feedback from the people who report to them. The fact that you receive performance feedback from many directions is why it’s termed 360-degree feedback. While many companies have achieved good results with this system, others have failed. Here are some steps for understanding and using 360-degree feedback effectively. Continue reading


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Do hard things

What does the statement “do hard things” mean to you? In its most simple form the statement can be broken down as follows: the word ‘do’ connotes action or “bring to pass;” the word ‘hard’ (in this case) means challenging or perhaps difficult; and ‘things’ can be any action, task, job or responsibility of your choice. However, there’s much more to this statement than its simple form. Doing hard things means intentionally taking action toward something that you know will not be easy, and yet the end result will far exceed the effort you will exert the pain you will suffer.

Knowing the road will not be easy, why should you do hard things? One reason stands out in my mind: doing hard things instills in you a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that you can do what you say you will do. You build self-worth from which the desire for continuous improvement springs.

St George MarathonMy most recent “do hard things” project was to run a marathon in 3:30 (three hours thirty minutes). I set the goal more than a year ago and determined to carry it out after being accepted to the St. George Marathon last spring. My previous best at St. George was 4:03 and my overall marathon PR (personal record) was 3:43. So, I knew my goal would be challenging. I trained hard running an average of 35 miles per week for 18 weeks. I improved my diet and nutrition, learned what I could do to improve my endurance, and studied the race course to set a strategy for averaging a pace of eight minutes per mile. The marathon runner Juma Ikanga said after winning the New York Marathon: “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.” I knew I had to prepare well if I were going to ‘win’ my race (i.e. reach my goal).

Fortunately everything came together as planned. The day was picture perfect and the race went as planned. I finished in 3:30:31. The training was hard. The race was hard. The last five miles were especially grueling. However, the feelings I experienced during the entire process, and especially after the race, were incredible. It was a great sense of accomplishment.

With that said, one additional — extremely important — aspect of doing hard things is this: make sure you have support from people who care about your success. Without my support team there is no way I could have reached my goal. I would not have succeeded without help from the following:

  • God, for giving me everything I have.
  • My dear wife Debbie, who despite thinking I was crazy for running a marathon, gave her complete support and encouragement to me throughout the entire process.
  • My children for not hugging me after I would come home from a training run, but who always hugged me after I showered.
  • My sister Jen for running several long training runs with me, and pushing me during the race.
  • Other friends and family for continually asking me how the training was going and giving me encouragement along the way.
  • Golden at the Runner’s Corner for convincing me to try a new, much lighter pair of shoes. He promised I’d gain at least five minutes during the run. I think it was at least ten.
  • Duane Newman for helping me understand the course and map out a pacing strategy for the race.
  • Many others who have encouraged me along the way.

Running the St. George marathon was an awesome experience and confirmed what I already knew: I can do hard things.

I recommend always having a “do hard things” project on which you are working. Doing so will provide continuous learning and motivation. Don’t shy away; do hard things.


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Lift others

The best thing you can do to elevate yourself is to lift others: lift their spirit with a kind word, lift their hope with a positive reaction, lift their burden by helping them in times of need. The act of lifting others causes you to feel better and to improve.

Yesterday my friend Todd sent out a wish for his own birthday (via video on Facebook). His wish was that everyone would find at least one other person and make his or her day better. In his video he talked about hugging his stressed-out accountant and giving an extra big tip to a young lady at a restaurant; both simple acts that produced positive results.

Last night I listened to Dr. Paul’s interview with Steve Farber about the concept of helping others to be greater than yourself. It occurred to me that this principle is not only good for individuals who want to feel better and be happier, but it is also important for leaders who want to elevate their organizations to new levels. Ultimately it becomes cultural. When leaders go out of their way to help others, and they encourage their people to do the same, their organizations flourish.

Take a few minutes today to make a difference for someone else; leave a comment and let us know about your experience.

Do you want to improve your team’s performance? Jim Harris can give your team a motivational speaker in Toronto that can help. This will lead to all sorts of positive impacts to your life, and business.

The Product Management Perspective: To some degree — because of the nature of the job — product managers work independently of each other. You have your products and your teams you work with (outside of the product management team), and it takes most of your time to keep things going. Even though you’re busy and have little to no extra time, it’s worth the extra effort to help others. Major dividends come from helping other PMs on your team. I recently worked with a group of product managers who are very busy and whose time is limited. However, they spend time as a team, share ideas and support each other in moving Product Management forward in their company. They lift each other in small ways that reap big returns. Look for ways you can do the same for your team.


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Compelling questions

The combination of difficult economic times and the year-end has caused serious introspection by many. In a recent post, Mark Sanborn poses 14 questions leaders ask themselves. These questions are appropriate (and important) for leaders and for anyone who is working to improve his or her life. I highly recommend you take a few minutes to read through the questions, answer them directly, and resolve to make changes based on your answers. It will be well worth your effort.


The Product Management Perspective: Question 8 in Mark’s post is especially fitting in the context of product management.