Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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The No Complaining Rule

What is the cost of negativity? According to the Gallup Organization it costs the U.S. economy between $250 and $300 billion every year in lost productivity. Ninety percent of doctor visits are stress related, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number one cause of office stress is coworkers and their complaining, according to Truejobs.com.

In his book The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work, the author Jon Gordon provides answers to the cost of negativity and the benefits of focusing on the positive side of any situation. The No Complaining Rule imparts the benefits of being positive through a story (a business fable similar to his book The Energy Bus). Hope, the main character, is struggling at home and at work. Her company goes through a serious crisis that jolts her into realizing she needs to change her attitude and help others do the same. Through a series of events the author conveys the costs and problems associated with negativity and the benefits and opportunities for those who take a positive outlook on what life throws at them.

In the 1920s an author named Roger Babson interviewed the president of Argentina and asked him why South America, for all its natural wonders and resources, still lagged behind North America in terms of prosperity and progress. The president thought for a minute and said: “South America was discovered by Spaniards in search of gold but North America was settled by Pilgrims in search of God.” The intent made all the difference.

Too often organizations seek for the wrong thing. In The No Complaining Rule the author uses an analogy of tree roots and fruit. Too often people or companies focus on the fruit (results, profits, stock price, etc.), which is good to an extent and necessary for measurement and accountability. However, if they focus on the fruit too much at the expense of ignoring the root (people, culture, teamwork and spirit), then eventually the root dries up and so does the fruit.

Jon defines the ‘no complaining rule’ as follows:

Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their coworkers. If they have a problem or complaint about their job, their company, their customer, or anything else, they are encouraged to bring the issue to their manager or someone who is in a position to address the complaint. However, the employees must share one or two possible solutions to their complaint as well.

Toward the end of the story Hope discovers five steps to turn complaints into solutions and misfortune into fortune:

  1. Trust in a bigger plan.
  2. Find strength in adversity.
  3. Failure today leads to success tomorrow.
  4. The worst event in life is often a catalyst for the best.
  5. Positive or Negative. The choice is ours.

The book shows why having a positive outlook is worth all the work and will lead to success and happiness. The story is engaging and well worth the time and effort.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers often deal with negative team members, customers or executives. Occasionally it’s the product manager him/herself who has the negative attitude. Product managers can ill afford negativity given the immense effort required to produce and release products. Therefore, product managers must take the lead on ‘positivity’ (my word for making the best out of situations and encouraging others to do the same). If you find yourself working in a negative environment, take the lead and use “The No Complaining Rule” to initiate change.


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The Energy Bus


What does it take to run a successful organization?

There is obviously no one right answer to this question. However, positive thinking and energy are among the attributes featured in the book: The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon. The Energy Bus is a story (written in the style of other bestselling business fables) of George, who’s struggling at work and at home. His car breaks down, which forces him to ride the bus to work. He ends up on a bus with a driver named Joy. Joy is not the average bus driver; she helps her riders recognize and understand principles of success that affect every aspect of their lives.

The book presents principles, through George’s story, in an easy-to-understand format. The story has its banal moments, but it makes for an easy read, and more importantly provides a vehicle to deliver important principles in an understandable format. One of the key principles discussed is “contagious leadership.” When a person in a leadership role (or any role) exerts energy with the intent to motivate others, it’s contagious. To clarify this point the author gives five ways to “love your passengers” (or motivate the people you lead):

  • Make time for them
  • Listen to them
  • Recognize them
  • Serve them
  • Bring out the best in them.

The overall story of the energy bus is captured in the 10 rules for the ride of your life:

  1. You’re the driver of your bus.
  2. Desire, vision and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your ride with positive energy.
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  6. Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
  8. Love your passengers.
  9. Drive with purpose.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.

The book motivates its readers to focus on the positive, use the energy that comes from it to improve their production, and inspire others to do likewise.

The Product Management Perspective: Team energy is critical to the success of a product. When product managers focus on building up and inspiring their teams they will increase the energy that goes into all aspects of product development, and increase the likelihood for success.