Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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Developing Your Team Purpose

Guest post by John Izzo, PhD and Jeff Vanderwielen PhD

Today’s product managers wear many hats and are required to be motivators, counsellors, mentors, and enforcers. It’s difficult to balance competing job priorities and some leaders do a great job of truly engaging with their teams. And many others, despite their best efforts, manage to motivate the top performers but can’t seem to get the whole team rowing in the same direction. We found that to create a common goal, it’s vital to ramp up your purpose as an organization. Here, we will share from our book The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good  how to develop and polish your team purpose statement.

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Turning your desires into purpose

Success depends as much on the desire of an individual as anything else. Hard work, persistence and intelligence also factor in, and depending on the endeavor, these may play a big role. However, without a burning inner desire, your chance of success is greatly diminished.

How do you channel your desires to successful outcomes? How do you turn your desires in to a burning purpose that will keep you going strong throughout your life?

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How to find your WHY

A key focus of this blog—from its beginning—has been purpose. Leading on purpose, working with purpose; doing things intentionally, doing things for the right reason. Though topics have led in various directions, the core focus has been purpose.

A word closely tied with purpose is why. Thanks to Simon Sinek, the word ‘why’ has become much more powerful. We’ve learned that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

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Creating a compelling culture

Whether you recognize it or not, the organization you work in has a culture. Big or small, every company has beliefs and values that drive its core philosophy.

Top leaders understand the importance of culture and work to ensure their organizations have a great culture. They have an abundance mentality and nurture their teams to grow and progress. They spare no expense in creating a compelling culture.

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How do you define your purpose?

Among the most important discoveries you will make in your life is finding your purpose—the reason for your being, the core principles you espouse, the intent for which you get out of bed every day.

Thinking about the life before you is one of the most important things you can do. Defining your purpose and planning for the future is key to your success. You need to articulate the purpose in your life.

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Leadership and confidence

Confidence is a key driver of effective leadership. The ability to both possess and exhibit confidence will have a measurable impact on your ability to lead well. Understanding what confidence is, and is not, will improve your leadership abilities.

Confidence is not arrogance. An arrogant person attempts to lift himself up and put others down. Every move is calculated to elevate himself, and make sure others know of his importance.

Confidence is not cockiness. A cocky person wants the world to know how good he is, and while not necessarily putting others down, he makes a big deal of himself.

On the other end of the spectrum, confidence is not passivity. A passive person knows he’s not that good and thinks everyone else is better. He goes along letting things happen to him, convinced he’s helpless to do anything about it.

So what does it mean to be confident? I like this definition from Dr. Craig Manning:

Confidence is a feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something. Self-confidence is a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgment. Many people confuse self-confidence with arrogance – they are very different behaviors. You cannot have too much self-confidence; store up as much as you can to help you in the difficult moments.

A confident person doesn’t hesitate when asked a question; the answer comes immediately. A confidence person is aggressive towards events (e.g. winning a sale) and things, but not aggressive towards people, at least in a negative way. A confident person doesn’t worry about whom she is and what she can do. This frees her up to do great things as a leader.

To learn more about how you can become a confident leader, I highly recommend Dr. Manning’s book The Fearless Mind: 5 Essential Steps to Higher Performance. Much of what I have learned about confidences comes from his book and from personal interactions with him.

Full disclosure: I know Dr. Manning and consider him a dear friend. His teachings and influence are making a considerable impact on my son’s efforts to become a championship ballroom dancer.

The Product Management Perspective: Confidence is an essential characteristic for product managers. PMs drive the product roadmap, which has a major impact on the overall success of the company. Their confidence is key to creating successful products.

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How can you make a positive perception?

Beyond IllusionsHow we perceive things shapes our lives. In the book Beyond Illusions: The Magic of Positive Perception, Brad Barton—a magician, athlete and all-around great guy—takes you on a journey of looking past illusions and forming positive perceptions that will change your life.

When we understand how we’re deceived, we have the power to no longer be enslaved by the illusions and misperceptions that create personal, social and business crises. This is how we achieve freedom.

Each chapter deals with a compelling topic, with humor and emotion. I literally laughed out loud reading some parts and shed tears in others. Brad’s ability to teach principles through stories is second to none. For example, he discusses the terribly difficult business crises of Tylenol and Jack In The Box to drive home the point that bad situations can lead to great opportunities.

Brad teaches, “Anything is a blessing – illness, accident, injury, bad luck – depending on how we respond to it and grow from it.” He illustrates this with a powerful story about his brother Will, who became a quadriplegic after a terrible accident. Will almost died (actually did die and came back), never gave up hope, worked hard and eventually was able to walk.

Brad tells his own story about overcoming tremendous odds to become a top college athlete. “Helping others is the best way to help yourself.” He also developed what he calls the Ten A’s, “the magic formula behind the power of positive perception.” They are: acceptance, acknowledgement, acclamation, action, approval, appreciation, appraisal, achievement, accessibility and allegiance.

Beyond Illusions is an excellent (and quick) read that will change your life. It will improve your leadership and your outlook.

The Product Management Perspective: Every product manager can benefit from the magic of positive perceptions. As the chief product evangelist you play a key role in keeping everyone engaged and optimistic about the work they’re doing. This book has valuable tools to help you win the fight.


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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Guest Post: Begging For Leadership Won’t Get You A Pocket Full of Change

By Kaity Nakagoshi

Change is inevitable and so is the resistance to change. People are often not welcoming of change unless it is implemented by leadership correctly. It’s natural that people become complacent with the status quo and perform rote tasks without giving their actions much thought. Change brings about fear of the unknown, which creates an atmosphere of unnecessary anxiety. That doesn’t have to be the scenario if employees understand the change, the strategies that will be used, and their role in accomplishing the goals.

Effective leaders need to understand that their primary responsibility is to infuse confidence in employees and ensure that they also have the ability to assume the new responsibilities. Equally important is that employees are instilled with the mind-set that they are capable of successfully executing the change strategies for themselves and their organization.

A successful leader who leads by example and keeps his promises will gain the trust and loyalty of his employees. Valued employees are more willing to contribute to the organization’s success when they believe they have a stake in it and are motivated by their own accomplishments. Toyota is a prime example of this mindset – their engagement approach gets employees involved via quality control improvement at all levels of the organization.

Toyota Case Study

The president of the U.S. based Toyota Corporation was reminded of the importance of employee engagement to organizational success when a factory dilemma occurred. Although Toyota’s leadership style promotes employee involvement, the working environment of one of their factory sites was not motivating its front-line workers. They failed to suggest quality control improvement that is inherent in “Kaizen.”  Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy of continuous incremental improvement in life that Toyota has incorporated into its leadership style.

The Toyota president’s decision to hold weekly meetings with the front-line workers to openly discuss their concerns demonstrated his leadership commitment. He learned that the lack of motivation was attributed to various workplace inadequacies; some of them as basic as poor lighting in locker rooms. As the meetings continued, the workers became more vocal and their grievances more complex. It was revealed that a critical factor for the lack of motivation was the absence of encouragement to participate in quality control improvements for the products they created every day. When the changes were made to remedy the workplace inadequacies, the result was a success, due in part to appropriate business process management practices, and an overall acceptance of “Kaizen”.

Train. Evaluate. Repeat.

Thorough training in all phases of the workflow process and an understanding of the purpose drive organizational change success. Once processes are in place, continuous evaluation is necessary to verify that workers are following procedures as designed, proficiency levels are monitored, and accountability is present based on clearly defined expectations. An exemplary leader immediately assesses any glitches with feedback from his staff and re-evaluates the process to implement improvements A.S.A.P., upon which further assessment is necessary so that additional adjustments can be made if necessary.

Basic economics: Supply and Demand

An effective leader successfully executes her organization’s processes to ultimately meet the demands of customers by focusing on what they really want and providing those goods and services. A product that is of high quality, delivered on time, with quick and effective handling of customer complaints, will enhance customer satisfaction. What matters to the customer should be incorporated into the change process and measured for its effectiveness by customer feedback, retention rates, and growth.

Communication is key

Successful communication means that dialogue must flow in all directions in order to build trust at all levels – between senior level management, middle management, supervisors and frontline workers. As noted in the Toyota example, bottom-up communication is equally important as top-down communication in preventing dissension or the perception of favoritism and distrust.

Management and leadership are not synonymous

Well managed organizations do not necessarily perform at an optimum level. Organizations that are high performing have a successful leadership structure in place that is committed to the business process, change management, and the traditional functions – budgeting, organization, planning, problem solving and staffing. Effective leadership establishes the organization’s vision and sends it in a clear direction. It also inspires and motivates its employees, aligns key personnel for collaboration, and creates an atmosphere that is conducive to cooperation. Priceless leadership is the “heart and soul” of the organization and the management system is the “brain.” Both are essential for optimal performance.

There are many different leadership and management styles, some of which are arguably better than others. More importantly, a successful leader must be able to “morph” their leadership style into the most effective for the given situation, while continuing to guide the organization toward successful change.

The University of San Francisco, in partnership with University Alliance, has provided this article. The University of San Francisco offers higher education opportunities through a variety of online master certificates, including business process management. To see additional information please visit http://www.usanfranonline.com

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Book Review: The Power of Who

The Power of Who

“Fear of failure keeps more people stuck in the safety of the status quo than anything else.” Who are the people in your network that can help you break out of the status quo, land your dream job and live the life you love? In his new book THE POWER OF WHO!: You Already Know Everyone You Need To Know, author Bob Beaudine helps you answer this question. Bob Beaudine is recognized as the top sports/entertainment search executive in the U.S. with significant experience helping people to secure their “dream job.” In The Power of Who he helps you identify who the right people are and what you need to do to succeed.

You already know the people you need who can help you achieve whatever it is you are striving to achieve. Bob calls these your “Who” friends, people who can help you achieve your goals much more quickly than you could ever do it on your own. The problem most people have is they focus on the “what” (what they want to achieve) and not the “Who” (who could help, who could open doors). The people in your “Who” network are the most important because they help you:

  • Find your purpose
  • Define your objectives
  • Reach for your dream
  • Fulfill your ambitions
  • Achieve your goals.

Discovering your “What” in life is the next step. What do you want to do? Answering this question and pursuing it through help from your “Who” network will lead you to accomplish more than you ever dreamed. Are you struggling to define the “What” in your life? Most people never get what they want for three reasons:

  • They don’t ask
  • When they do ask, they ask the wrong people
  • When they ask the right people they ask too vaguely.

Without action, all great ideas are useless. The people who act on their ideas are in the minority. Successful people — those who act on their ideas — share five important traits:

  • They start
  • They are not discouraged by obstacles
  • They turn mistakes and so-called failures into stunning success
  • They maintain self-discipline
  • They stick to it

The power that comes from tapping into your known network is all you need to achieve your dreams. To continually build on your successes you need to help others achieve their dreams. The great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help others get what they want.” I highly recommend The Power of Who to help you identify the people (“Who”) and things (“What”) that will help you achieve great success.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you are responsible for leading the team to create products your market will buy. “The smart people know that the best products aren’t sold; they are bought.” Tap in to The Power of Who to make sure you are creating products people want to buy.