Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Guest Post: Four Leadership Lessons from the Gym

By Pam Greene

In our modern society, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for those of us in leadership positions take time out for ourselves. The innovations that allow us teleconferencing, emails, and phone conversations wherever/whenever should increase our free time, but ironically, they’ve just turned our 40-hour work week into a 140-hour work week and caused us to ignore the most innovative, powerful tool in our leadership arsenal: our bodies.

I can also hear the collective sigh and eye roll now. Yes, I know; I’m not the first person to remind you that exercise is important and that you don’t do it enough. So I’m going to take lessons learned reading Michael’s posts here at Lead On Purpose and shift the paradigm a bit. What if I told you that working out regularly can actually make you a more effective leader?

It’s true. Taking 20 to 60 minutes every day to run, lift weights, play sports, do yoga, surf, or whatever else you enjoy can increase your productivity and energy, as well as just make you feel better – all crucial factors in leadership. Here are four examples why:

  1. Feel In Charge, Be In Charge

  2. Working out produces endorphins, chemicals in the brain that promote a sense of well-being and confidence. According to the Mayo Clinic, It also increases your body temperature, which can have a calming effect. Finally, it’s a far superior frustration vent than yelling at your assistant for messing up your Starbuck’s order.

    All these factors are doubly important for people in leadership positions. You feel better, thus allowing for grace under pressure, but you also appear to feel better, which has a huge impact on the people looking to you to guide them.

  3. Less Time Means More Time

  4. There are a host of physiological benefits to exercise that can actually improve productivity. Not only do the aforementioned endorphins give you a boost better than any cappuccino, but a solid workout promotes a good night’s sleep, which everyone knows makes your waking hours more productive.

    And you don’t need to spend hours in a gym for these benefits. A 2008 study from the University of Georgia showed increased energy from a mere 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, three times a week.

  5. Building Your Brain

  6. When I said it was important to take care of your body, I was also referring to the part that rests on your shoulders.

    Working up a sweat improves brain function, which is obviously crucial when you’re calling the shots. There are tons of studies backing this up, one of the most interesting being a 2006 joint study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vrije University in Amsterdam that saw cognitive improvements in exercising participants ranging in age from 15 to 71. Most of us know that exercise wards off the effects of aging, but as you can see here, it’s never too early to get those benefits.

  7. Lead By Example

  8. Another study from 2006, this one out of Leeds Metropolitan University in England showed that when office workers took time to exercise daily, their job satisfaction ratings improved 65%. This, of course, leads to improved productivity.

    How does this apply to you? Well, you may be fine on the job satisfaction front, but there’s a lot to be said for leading by example. Seeing that a role model takes time to look after him or herself inspires others to do the same. An edict to hit the gym may fall on deaf ears, but joining them on the court makes a huge impression – and it’s fun.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the two latest leaders of the Western World. Both George W. Bush and Barak Obama are daily exercisers. All that basketball and bicycling made for some good photo-ops, but it also helped them gain clarity and perspective when making some rather weighty decisions. If it worked for them, it just might work for you.

Pam Greene’s own journey to health and fitness started when a friend suffered through some health challenges. Realizing this was a wake up call to her to focus on her own health, she started learning about Fitness, Nutrition and Healthy Weight Loss. Pam now works for Beachbody, which provides Home Fitness Programs and Work Out Dvds including the well known P90X exercise program. Pam is passionate about sharing tips to help others eat better and exercise for better health.


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Book review: Killing Sacred Cows

Killing Sacred Cows

Killing Sacred Cows

Without writing anything else about this book, the title should at least have your attention. The disclaimer on the first page reads: “No actual cows were killed or harmed during the creation of this book.” The purpose of this book is to help you take a deeper look at the beliefs to which you’ve subscribed and determine which ones are true and which should be thrown out. The expressed purpose of this book is: “to defeat myths about money and prosperity that are severely limiting human power, creativity and production.”

Killing Sacred Cows was written by Garrett B. Gunderson and is now a New York Times Best Seller. Gunderson discusses nine “myths” that have “crippled our nation for generations:”

Myth 1-The Finite Pie: He describes the commonly held view that the world has limited resources. If you want something you need to take it from someone else. In reality, he says, there’s enough for everyone, and the more people work the bigger the pie gets; there will be more for everyone.

Myth 2-You’re in it for the Long Haul: Gunderson addresses what he calls “the 401(k) hoax” proposition. Most people look at the wealth they are accumulating to use “some day” and most people are afraid to use it even after they retire. He says that cash flow is a better measure of net worth. This topic gets quite deep and controversial; it will make you think.

Myth 3-It’s All About the Numbers: He claims most people think wealth is all about their bank balances and investments. Wealth is really about doing what you enjoy.

Myth 4-Financial Security: Gunderson says that most people think financial security comes from a paycheck and benefits. In reality, he says, true security can only come from within.

Myth 5-Money is Power: Many people think that the more money they have the more powerful they become. This myth is destructive because it’s not about the money itself, but the value it represents. People who put more value on the money itself than the people who create the value will self destruct.

Myth 6-High Risks = High Returns: Garrett says that believing high returns can only come from taking risks is a myth. He describes the importance of investing according to your Soul Purpose, which will provide lower risks and higher returns. He emphasizes the importance of investing in ourselves.

Myth 7-Self-Insurance: Most “experts” on insurance tell you to spend as little as possible on insurance. Gunderson recommends getting as much insurance as possible.

Myth 8-Avoid Debt Like the Plague: Most people are taught to avoid debt. Gunderson distinguishes between debt and liabilities, and good vs. bad liabilities. If you borrow in the right way and for the right things you create tools that will help you prosper.

Myth 9-A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned: The myth here boils down to spending money for value. If you skimp on quality to get a better price you end up paying more. When you spend money on products and services you are actually voting for them. You should buy the things that based on their value, not their cost.

One of the great things about his book is it’s chock full of quotes. Some of the quotes are used to illustrate specific myths and how they are perpetuated over time. Many others add credibility to the author’s assertions. Together with the quotes and anecdotes, the pithy ideas presented offer a soul-searching re-examination of why you do what you do. You will take a hard look at your behaviors and tendencies, and will likely make important changes as a result.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers do not typically deal with financial matters in their company; however, the ideas promoted in this book apply nicely. Product managers need to regularly review how things are going and make changes. What are some of the “sacred cows” we worship in product management that we might need to kill?


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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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Schedule accomplishments

Most people have more work to do than they have time to finish. In many cases there’s an endless array of work (or busywork) that gets in the way and takes up time that could be used more productively. Quite often the more trivial things get in the way of the more important things, which drains energy and decreases productivity.

I found a simple, yet powerful statement on Mark Sanborn’s post Ten Things to Improve Your Life Today: “schedule accomplishments, not activity.” How often as leaders do we schedule the activity that needs to happen, but leave out what we need to accomplish? I’ve seen this tendency among product managers (including myself) to write down what will happen, not the results. A few examples might include:

  • Write the new PRD for (product name)
  • Visit three customers in August
  • Discuss market trends with management team.

While it’s better to schedule something than nothing at all (that surely leads to failure), would it not be more effective to schedule time to accomplish the desired result than simply to schedule time do the activity that leads to the result? If you schedule accomplishments, the needed activities are automatically implied. You will focus your efforts on the final results, rather than spend time “working” on things that may or may not lead to that end. Here’s and example of how you might change the statements above to focus on accomplishments:

  • Review PRD with team and obtain their approval
  • Get enough customer feedback in August to determine best solution for (product problem)
  • Obtain approval from management team for new product proposal.

Accomplishing work of any significance will always require doing activities. However, scheduling the results will lead much more directly to the desired outcome.


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Where are you most effective?

If you are like me you find yourself with more on your plate than you can handle. With all the things we have going on in our busy lives it seems impossible to do all we want to. Sometimes it’s tough to get any one thing done. Technology is great, and it’s supposed to help us, but it can get in the way of productivity.

On the Tuned In blog Phil Myers has a great post on managing your time effectively. Read his remarks in How do you manage your time?