Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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Leadership styles for directing small teams

Leadership differs depending on the size of the group you’re leading. For most product managers, the people they lead work on different teams and the individuals they need to influence don’t report to them. Regardless of whether the people you lead (or should be leading) report to you, the need to lead soundly is important.

Understanding more deeply your style of leadership will help you lead more effectively. The work will go better, and you’ll enjoy it more.

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Are you building a great organization?

Whether you lead a classroom of school children or a major corporation, you should frequently ask yourself the question “am I building a great organization?” Why should you try to build a great organization? Because doing so is, for the most part, as easy as building a good one (see Good to Great chapter 9).

Here are five posts from Lead on Purpose that will help you build a great organization:

1. Taking leadership to the next level

2. The pursuit of something better

3. Developing a climate of trust

4. Leadership and collaboration

5. Becoming a decisive leader

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you have the opportunity to build great products and have a very positive influence on your overall organization. Your influence can go a long way to building a great company.


It’s the people

Everybody knows it, and yet too many executives, VPs, managers or other so-called “leaders” seem to forget: it’s the people that make the organization successful. It’s too easy to focus on the products or the projects and lose track of the people who are doing the work. Here are three quick tests you can take to determine whether, for you as a leader, it’s really about your people:

  • Commitment to the organization: Why do your team members work for your organization? Do they believe your vision? Do you inspire them? Are they sticking around only because the economy’s tough and they’re scared to look for another job? If they had a choice, would they work for you?
  • Career goals: What goals are your team members working towards in their current position? What drives them? Why do they get up every morning and come to work for you?  What are their career aspirations? What are you doing to help them advance? (Hint: if the answer is “nothing” they won’t stay with you long.)
  • Personal life: What do your team members like to do in their spare time? Where do they hang out? What are their hobbies? Are they married? How many kids do they have? And maybe the most important question…does their spouse like you?

If you can answer all of these questions (without having to ask), you care about your people. If not…you have some work to do. Your next presentation to the CEO isn’t nearly as important as the next meeting with your team.

The Product Management Perspective: Though it’s a bit different for product managers (because they don’t “manage” people), it’s still important to get to know the team members. The better you know them the more effective you will be at inspiring them to do great things. If they know you care they will definitely go out of their way to make you successful.


Guest Post: Meeting Mapping

Today’s post comes from Dave Gunby. Dave has coached and trained thousands to be more powerful and persuasive presenters.  He has worked with a wide range of business people and presenters from executives to individual technical performers. He has also taught presentation skills to MBA students for more than 17 years. He is the founder and principal of MINDimensions, a leadership training and facilitation company dedicated to assisting others to use their creative and communication abilities to their fullest.

idea-mappingTaking Idea Map notes in meetings is a great way to keep your notes organized, even when the meeting isn’t (that describes most meetings!). Taking notes this way does require some practice. Try it first during some less critical meetings before using it in important meetings. Why should you Idea Map your notes versus standard linear notes?

  • Organization. You can keep things organized according to the way you remember things and group discussion items.
  • Attention. Idea Maps use more of your brain (including the part more likely to daydream), so attention and concentration are improved. Colors, spatial placement and relationships, and images/symbols are the bailiwick of the right side of the brain. Words, numbers, lines, and analysis are the purview of the left side of the brain.
  • Memory. The more regions of the brain that are activated, the better our memory is.
  • Compression. Idea Maps use less paper and less space, so there is less to go in a file (or in the trash!). This is especially true after you’ve finished a couple dozen Idea Maps.
  • Fun. The fact is that Idea Mapping is more fun than linear notes. As John F. Kennedy said, “If I’m not having fun, I’m not doing it right.”

Here’s how to do it. Before the meeting starts, draw a central image representing the theme or topic of the meeting. Then add in a couple of main branches with main concepts on them that you know will be discussed. Make sure you leave space to add in other branches as there will always be some digression during the meeting. As people jump around from topic to topic, you will be able to keep the information organized in your Idea Map.

To be able to keep up with the meeting, here are some speed tips. Use a limited number of colors (or just one color and colorize it later – the Ted Turner approach!), and capture words only. You can add in pictures later. You would also be well served to get a large pad of sketch paper for meeting Idea Maps – they will need a little more space than maps you make for personal brainstorming purposes.

For more on presentation skills and Idea Mapping, check out the podcast Dave and I recently recorded on the Product Management Pulse

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers take in a lot of information every day. Use Idea Mapping to help you take in information more quickly in the many meetings you attend.