Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Are you a leader or a manager?

Business owners and entrepreneurs are often asked this leader vs. manager question regarding their management style. For many, these two words are synonymous; both are important for motivating people to work towards a common goal. Each is different, yet both roles have their place in a well-functioning organization.

Leader or Manager Continue reading


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Leadership and motivation

So much productivity is lost in businesses because the people who are hired to do the work are not motivated or even worse are demotivated to give their best effort. Have you seen this in your organization?

What is the root cause of this lack of motivation? In some cases it’s because people are afraid to take risks. They worry about the consequences of their actions; in many cases they fear repercussion from their boss. However, in increasingly more organizations, the lack of motivation stems from a lack of leadership from within. Continue reading


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The importance of leadership in effective management

There are many elements that make a good manager, however, one of the critical qualities is leadership. Leadership and management must go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing. Leadership and management are complementary, but it is important to understand how they differ.

Leadership is about vision and innovation, whereas management is about maintenance of excellent standards. A leader innovates and a manager administrates on the innovation. A leader focuses on individuals and inspires them, a manager focuses on systems and structure. A leader always has their eye on the horizon, whereas a manager should be watching the bottom line.

While it is important to be aware of the difference between management and leadership it is vital to understand that a good manager is also a leader. In the infographic below we explore the elements that make a good manager, leadership being a principle feature of good management. Continue reading


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Improving management effectiveness

One of the primary themes of Lead on Purpose is leading effectively regardless of whether you are in a position of authority – in a ‘management’ position. That will continue to be a primary topic for this blog. However, I was recently introduced to a new tool that will help managers and leaders of small to large groups direct their teams more effectively. The tool is called ThEME.

ThEME

Elizabeth Haas Edersheim and her team created the ThEME tool to connect you to the “greats of management.” It is an interactive tool for accessing the wisdom and practical experience of great management thinkers and practitioners – both the gurus of the past and today’s pathfinders. Its integrated framework of the elements of management effectiveness provides users easy access to quotes, video clips, anecdotes, and exercises on any element of management.

Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:

“Good is the enemy of Great.” –Jim Collins

“Don’t confuse motion with progress.” –Peter Drucker

“The societal disease of our time—short-term thinking.” –Warren Bennis

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me…Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters to me.” –Steve Jobs

The ThEME tool will help you gather the specific information you need to manage effectively.


The Product Management Perspective: If you are leading a team of product managers, set clear goals and make sure your team knows what’s expected of them. Product management focuses on releasing the right products to the right markets at the right time; set both financial and operational goals for your product line. Build strong relationships with your team. They need to know, without any hesitation, that you have their backs and will do everything you can to help them succeed. Build relationships of trust.


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Guest Post: Confidence in management

By Dominic Wake

Confidence in management is falling – can you stop the rot?”To see yourself as others see you” – that’s the general premise of the 360-degree feedback process.

Managers across the world certainly struggle when it comes to working out how well they are doing. The politics of the workplace, the lack of willingness for employees to give an honest assessment of their management style or business behaviors means that many organizations are left with ineffective managers in place. A management style unsuited to a business can do more harm than good in the long-run – yet 360-degree feedback can be a pivotal tool in inspiring positive change, letting you tailor your training to precise needs.

A 360-degree feedback evaluation uses information from peers, subordinates and supervisors to put together an overall assessment. As the feedback received by fellow peers is anonymous it promotes more of a positive performance review process. This is because the manager (or employee being reviewed) will not know who said what about him or her that may lead to unnecessary hostility and resentment in the workplace.  The input is very valuable since it gives the person receiving the input a much more complete perspective on their performance and on areas where they can improve their skills.

Unfortunately however, despite these benefits, many businesses are yet to wake up to the benefits which 360-degree feedback provides. A recent survey conducted by ETS found that employee confidence in management is falling. Almost half of the 500 workers it sampled (43%) felt that they are better people managers than their own boss and 23% say that management standards are getting worse. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of employees (22%) don’t think their boss has adequate people management skills.

Employees highlighted the need for managers to receive formal feedback from direct reports. Despite 91% saying that this would be valuable, just 42% of employees are currently invited to provide feedback to their manager as part of their appraisal or through 360-degree feedback.

Line managers play a crucial role in the success of any business by driving the performance level of teams. In the UK it’s common to see high-performing people promoted into management positions without the skills, desire or support to manage a team. Communication skills and the ability to provide constructive feedback are key development areas for managers. After all, companies that fully understand the importance of a manager’s role in driving performance prioritize training and development to help managers be more effective.

Although 360-degree feedback can go some way in providing a solution to a business management needs, it is not without its critics. It has often been claimed that the anonymity it provides means that follow-up questions or clarification on certain topics or issues raised is impossible. This lack of clarity means that some managers may not be able to make changes to their work practices. Another criticism leveled at 360s is that the politics of the workplace can lead to those people participating conspire make a manager look better, or worse, than they actually are.

What is clear though, is that 360-degree feedback offers something to managers that standard appraisal surveys don’t. With proper training and support, this system has a positive aspect in management performance. After all, providing consistent improvement in organizational production is the goal of any business – support your employees and you’ll also be supported.

Dominic Wake is Director of ETSplc where he is responsible for leading human resource projects across performance management, development and engagement.


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you can have important effect on the information that gets sent back to line managers and executives. Because PMs are typically “in the know” about many things that happen in the organization, you have a great opportunity to share information and do it in a way that will significantly help the organization. Don’t hold back information when you know people need to hear it. Have the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said.


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Five must-read blogs

Today’s post focuses on five blogs that have been great resources for me. These blogs and their authors have not only shaped my thinking but also inspired me to dig deeper and work harder. These are great blogs and I highly recommend you click through and spend some time learning from their authors.

Leadership: One of my favorite leadership blogs is Art Petty’s Management Excellence blog. Art writes about all things leadership, and he does a great job of explaining key points in a practical way.

Purpose: One of the most positive people I know is Dr. Paul Jenkins (“Dr. Paul”). His Parental Power courses are second to none, and his Live on Purpose podcast is a source of constant inspiration to help you evaluate and improve your life.

Product Management: If you want to learn about product management and understand it from a leader’s perspective, you need to read Jim Holland’s PM Tribe blog. Jim does a great job explaining principles in a way that’s easy to understand and apply to your situation.  Full disclosure: I worked for Jim in the past and consider him a mentor for life.

Product Marketing: April Dunford specializes in introducing new technology to the market. Her Rocket Watcher blog covers key aspects of taking products to market, both in startups and in large companies. Here wit and humor make it fun and a must-read for anyone interested in marketing.

New (to me): One of the newer blogs I’ve come across recently is We Move Together by Michael Hurley. The tagline is Thoughts and Observations on Leadership & Teamwork. From what I’ve read so far I’m impressed with Michael’s ability to tell stories in a way that inspires you to improve.

These are just five of many that have made a big impact on my life. Please leave a comment and share the blogs you like and the authors who have inspired you.


The Product Management Perspective: There are many great resources for learning about product management and improving your skills. The key is spending some time each day learning and networking with other PMs, marketers and dev gurus.


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Book Review: Lead Well and Prosper

lead-well-and-prosper“‘I don’t have time’ is the most frequently used excuse for incompetence.” According to Nick McCormick, author of LEAD WELL AND PROSPER: 15 Successful Strategies for Becoming a Good Manager, by focusing on specific strategies you will use your time more effectively and improve your leadership capabilities.

Nick points out that management is in a state of crisis. Regardless of the numerous books on leadership and management, “we managers can’t seem to get it right.” This problem has lead to a cottage industry built upon ridiculing management — a comic strip, a TV show and numerous other outlets.

The book highlights 15 successful strategies to help managers improve their effectiveness:

  1. Adopt a serving attitude
  2. Teach
  3. Provide honest and timely feedback
  4. Share information
  5. Listen
  6. Treat people like human beings
  7. Set goals, plan and execute
  8. Learn
  9. Do the right thing
  10. Embrace the uncomfortable
  11. Clean up your own house first
  12. Persist
  13. Do what you say you’ll do
  14. Always follow up
  15. Plan your week

Lead Well and Prosper is a quick read with valuable information. The strategies are not new and have been written about in much more detail by numerous authors. However, the book’s organization makes it a valuable tool to help struggling organizations improve the capabilities of their management teams. If your organization is mired in mediocrity, your people will benefit by reading this book.

The book is organized into short chapters by strategy. Each chapter opens with dialog from fictional characters that help the reader understand how not to apply the topic for that chapter. At the end of each chapter is a concise list of “dos” and “don’ts” that apply to the strategy, and immediate actions the reader can take to apply what was taught. With these iconic helps you can easily grasp the main themes in under an hour.

The Product Management Perspective: Like other leadership books reviewed here, Lead Well and Prosper provides useful direction for product managers working hard to lead their teams to success. Nearly all the strategies can be applied to making you more effective in your work as a product manager, and building your credibility as a leader. It’s worth a self-evaluation to assure you are doing the basics (as described in this book) well.