The earliest mistakes you make in your career are often the most memorable and where you learn the most. In one of my first product management roles, I was delighted when a C-level executive tasked me to lead an important and urgent project and assemble a team for it.
I called a meeting together with people from the marketing, engineering, and design teams. I gave what I thought was a rousing speech, in which I asked that they drop whatever they were doing and commit themselves to this new project — it was of great importance to the c-suite, so it should be our top priority.
It’s difficult (if not impossible) to quantify what it takes to develop a productive and successful product team. Every product is unique, and every company does things differently. From a distance it may seem that there’s no process or methodology to create a high-performing product team.
Developing great products entails teams of people working together. With the proliferation of product roles in recent years it has become more important for product teams to function well together and collaborate effectively with other teams and individuals in the organization. Increased focus on building great teams is desperately needed in today’s fast-evolving technology world, yet for too many companies it’s not a high priority.
What does it take to develop a group of disparate individuals into a high-performing product team?
You’ve nailed the vision, and built the foundation of trust, now you need to motivate your teams. The success of your product depends on the work they (engineering, UX/design, marketing, sales, etc.) do. In nearly all cases, the individuals on whom you depend for this success do not report to you. That’s why motivating and influencing become some of the most important things you do as a product manager.
What are the key elements to motivating and influencing your teams?
Like many of you I like to take time at the end of the year to review what transpired and evaluate how I did—and that includes my blog. One of the things I do is review my top posts to find out what’s working and why.
I’ve been thinking lately about how to motivate people and inspire them to step up, to take action, to do great things. I see so much opportunity for people, and yet so little motivation to make a difference.
So what is the root cause of the lack of inspirational leadership? Too many people are afraid to take a risk, to step outside of their comfort zone, to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. The focus on what they can do within their comfort zone, not on why they do it and why they can make a difference.
We all know people who inspire us, who encourage us—through their actions and example—to work hard, to persevere through difficult circumstances. What’s their secret? How do they persuade others to do great things? While every circumstance is different, leaders find ways to inspire the people they lead.
Here are five factors that, if understood and applied, will increase your ability to inspire your team members: […]
The original idea for starting Lead on Purpose was a recognition that product managers have the need to lead (inspire, motivate, guide) people who do not report them. Their success depends, to a large extent, on people in other parts of the organization. The PMs who take a leadership approach to their job have the most success.
The leadership role of the product team (PM, PO, PMM, UX) is critical to the success of any organization. Much has been written about where product management should report. The most common departments for product management reporting are marketing, engineering/development and directly to the CEO. Different factors such as the size of the organization play a role in where the product team reports.
Regardless of where the product team reports, the leader of the product team (the “product executive”) plays a key role in the success of the company. They play a crucial role in enabling their teams to succeed at leading product direction. Here are five rules that will help product executives effectively lead their teams:
Build the people on your team: First and foremost, the product exec needs to develop the people in his or her organization. Hire competent people who can do the work effectively. Give them opportunities to grow. And most importantly, support them in their endeavors to not only produce successful products but also to grow and develop in their careers. Work with them to set goals and measure their progress. Understand what motivates them. This takes time and effort, and it’s definitely not easy, but it’s the most important part of a product executive’s job.
Develop trust: Tied closely to building your team is developing relationships of trust with the people on the team. Team members thrive when they know their efforts are appreciated and their work is meaningful. They step up to greater challenges when they know someone has their back. They will go beyond what they thought they could do and have greater results when they know their work will be appreciated and rewarded. Building trust is the key to building a great team.
Represent the product team: As the product exec you need to promote the interests and needs of the product team to the rest of the company. Make sure your team has adequate budget to do their work (somehow this aspect seems to get overlooked; PM never has enough budget for travel and other key responsibilities). Be their advocate to the executive team, the sales team and others both in and outside of the company. Gaining a seat at the executive table (i.e., having key influence in the company) should be a high priority for product executives.
Cultivate stability: Creating great products takes time and consistency. The best way to build an effective team is to create an environment where people want to work. Spend time with your team both in and outside the office. Travel with your team members; the best relationships are built on the road. As the leader of the product team, make sure they know that the team is your first priority. Show it by your words and by your actions.
Remove roadblocks: Every team runs into problems. Effective product executives look for ways to remove or lessen the impact of problems that arise. Do everything you can to make sure your team members are working effectively.
The product executive is key to the product team’s success. A team with a capable product leader will create great products and generate success for their organization. Lead on purpose at the executive level.
— The Product Management Perspective: Product leaders can and should exist at all levels of the organization. Regardless of your role, work and behave like the “product executive” and you will be pleased with the results.
Special thanks to Jim Holland for his contributions to this post
If you’re like most managers, you know how hard it can be to inspire and motivate your employees. What’s more, with so many different personality styles on your team, finding leadership tactics that work across the board can be a challenge. Fortunately there are a huge amount of resources out there that can help you become a more successful leader. Here are ten of the most proven tactics that have helped countless managers inspire their team to achieve greatness each and every day:
Be a positive thinker. Every great manager knows that it’s impossible to create a positive work environment if they aren’t positive themselves. No matter how much pressure you feel as a leader, always make sure you think positive and visualize success. That way your team will be inspired to follow suit.
Set clear goals. Making sure your employees understand what’s expected of them is your first step toward success. Set goals that are clear, reasonable and attainable. And stay committed to helping your team members achieve them.
Grow your skills. Just because you’ve reached the management level doesn’t mean you’re done with your training. In fact, by keeping your skills fresh you’ll be able to engage more effectively with your employees who are out in the field. Take classes, attend seminars and join discussion groups to make sure your skills stay up to par.
Be innovative. Following the crowd and being a “yes man” is one of the worst mistakes a manager can make. Be true to yourself and present your own ideas confidently. You’ll be seen as an innovator and not just someone who goes along with the group.
Take responsibility for your failures. Yes, even managers are known to make mistakes. Never blame your failure on your team – you’ll lose integrity immediately. By showing that you’re just like everyone else, you’ll build trust with your group.
Be analytical. As a manager, it’s vital that you have the facts before you make any big decisions. By analyzing the details, you’ll have the right amount of knowledge to set and attain achievable goals.
Learn to communicate. Since there are so many different types of people on your team, it’s vital to know how to bring out the best in everyone. Learn who the introverts and extroverts are, and adapt your communication style to theirs.
Lead but don’t manage. It’s vital to inspire your team to perform by example and not tell them exactly what to do. By enthusing and motivating your group, they’ll be passionate about achieving success on their own.
Respect your team. A good manager always puts the needs of his or her team first. When you do this your team will know that you have their back and will go above and beyond to work hard for you. If there’s a performance problem with an individual, never call them out in public – and never pit employees against one another.
Focus on the client. Since serving your clients is the most important part of your business, be sure you always put their needs first. This will help create a customer-driven organization and will help build longevity between your company and your client’s business.
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where recently she’s been researching different social work degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
The Product Management Perspective: The ten actions above are important for successful product leadership. If you are leading a team of product managers, pay special attention to the following: #2: Goals point you and your team to the future. 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. #4: Being innovative ties closely with understanding your markets; be the market expert for your product line. #9: it’s all about relationships; your team needs to know, without any hesitation, that you have their backs and will do everything you can to help them succeed. Build relationships of trust.
People feed off the enthusiasm of those around them. Leaders who love what they do and show it by their expressions, actions and tone, endear themselves to those around them. Seth Godin is spot on in his recent post about why this is not the time to ask for money. He says: “Attention can be worth more than money. Enthusiasm is priceless.”
Exercising enthusiasm takes hard work. Vince Lombardi said it well: “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Enthusiasm leads to success only after a lot of hard work and persistence. The news is largely negative these days, but don’t let that stop you from being happy about the good things in life, or passionate about your favorite team, or excited about the successes of your family and friends. When times are tough, look for the positives and focus on helping others see them. Others will come to you for advice and look to you for leadership.
The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to find ways to motivate the teams they work with. Lead on Purpose is all about finding ways to lead and inspire other people — over whom you have little or no managerial authority — to do things better and faster than they thought possible. The ‘rah-rah’ cheer leading approach will not fly, but the focus and work will. Remember Lombardi’s quote.
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
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:
You’re the driver of your bus.
Desire, vision and focus move your bus in the right direction.
Fuel your ride with positive energy.
Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus.
Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
Love your passengers.
Drive with purpose.
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.