The word ‘channel’ has various and differing meanings. I grew up on a ranch, and we had to get water to the grass and to the cattle. My dad and grandpa built ditches and canals to channel the water to specific places for specific uses. We had three TV channels that brought news and content into our lives from the outside world. There were cables and wires to channel electricity, in the right amount, to lights, appliances and other devices.
Work Happy Now! Guest Post by David Bradford, author of Up Your Game
All of our life successes are defined within the context of their impact on people; namely ourselves first, then impact on family, community, and globally. Without people, on a small scale or large, no innovation in technology would be of significant value. Without people our lives lack depth, connection, and passion.
The Power of Personal Relationships
Two of the most talented people I have ever interacted with are Bill Gates and Gary Kildall. Gary Kildall and Bill Gates have had arguably the most profound impact on the history of personal computing of any two people except possibly Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They defined the age of personal computing, and their contributions continue to have a major impact on business in the twenty-first century.
Why is Bill Gates one of the richest men on planet Earth and Gary Kildall a forgotten footnote in the annals of the computer industry? The fundamental reason is that Gates and Microsoft were about developing relationships that enabled them to secure an agreement to supply the desktop Operating System for the IBM Personal Computer and Kildall did not. Why? What factor impeded the “Inventor of the P.C. Operating System” from securing the most important contract in the history of the computer industry, yet permitted Mr. Gates to secure the same?
For too many companies, business-to-business (B2B) customer engagement is dismally low. In most cases the people running the business don’t recognize the disengagement and don’t see it as a problem.
In his article B2B’s Win by Building Relationships, Not Selling on Price, author Marco Nink gives the following insight on the importance of building customer relationships:
Competing on price is a losing strategy, and Gallup research shows it’s an unnecessary one. B2B companies are more likely to be successful and secure in their customer relationships if they help their customers succeed. The more a B2B company helps its customers perform, the more essential it becomes. That kind of customer impact transforms B2B companies from vendors into vital partners.
To make a difference for your customers you need to help them improve performance and achieve their goals. Building solid relationships will not only help customers improve their performance, but will also increase their commitment to you. Listen to their feedback and build connections with the factors that drive their business.
Here are three simple tools that great leaders use to improve their working relationships:
- Listen: Leaders let other people talk and they pay attention to what they’re saying. They remove anything that would distract from their conversations and focus on what people are trying to convey.
- Understand: They appreciate what other people do and value their feedback. They know that taking the time to understand where people are coming from will pay dividends in the long run.
- Acknowledge: Leaders acknowledge the contributions of others. They are quick to give credit to others for their successes. They know that customers will be more motivated to use their products and provide value if they acknowledge their contributions.
Are you building effective relationships with your customers?
The Product Management Perspective: To effectively lead the product development efforts, product managers must build meaningful relationships with their customers. Listen to them, learn from them, put their feedback into the appropriate context, then move forward and make decisions that will improve the value of your products.
Essential Leadership Traits in the Successful Small Business Owner — Guest post by Linda Forshaw
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John Maxwell
In the course of an ordinary working day, a small business owner might wear many hats, but rarely is there one as important as that of leader. All businesses, no matter their size, require a strong leader at the helm. The temptation of the small business owner may be to get “stuck in” and adopt a role as a pseudo employee. While there is merit attached to not being afraid to get your hands dirty, in essence to lead by example, the smart small business owner will place a greater emphasis on a wider leadership strategy.
Communication must be crystal clear
Having a clear vision is essential, but communicating that vision is an absolute must. Providing employees with a roadmap of where you want to be helps everyone to stay on the same page; to keep track of the bigger picture and work consistently toward achieving it. A lack of clarity filtered down from above will only ever lead to missed opportunities and ultimately spell trouble for the small business owner.
Strong relationships have a very long reach
Solid relationships lie at the very core of the operations of any successful small business. To listen to others is a vital skill, but it is also imperative to understand and to acknowledge what others are saying. People are the greatest resource in any business, so engaging in a meaningful dialog with employees, customers, and other persons of importance is a fundamental part of building relationships in the vein of strong leadership.
The best kind of culture comes from above
Most people will understand the destructive nature that can result from a culture that focuses almost exclusively on backstabbing and blame. The strong small business owner will set an example of trust and cooperation. The best place for a positive company culture to come from is from the top down. Passion, compassion, energy, and motivation – they are all an essential part of a solution-centric attitude that is best served from above.
Give them room to grow and you will prosper
As the old adage goes, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” To put it into a more modern context, the most successful of small business owners inherently understand the potential value of contributions that are made by others. The only way to benefit from such contributions is to allow them to happen in the first place. You never really know where the next great idea will come from, and if it comes from one of your employees, you want to be the one to hear about it first.
How will you lead today?
Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. The leading contributor to DegreeJungle, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay
The Product Management Perspective: Successful product managers build strong relationships with people, both inside and outside the company; clear communication is key. PMs, like small business owners, need to listen to others, and work with them to release successful products.
Tomorrow marks the five-year anniversary of the day I started Lead on Purpose. It all started because of an invitation to publish an article in The Pragmatic Marketer (Jan 2008). I wanted an outlet to write about how you can lead regardless of your position or title. Five years has flown by and blogging has become a part of my life.
Writing this blog has been a great learning experience for me. On this anniversary I want to share a few of the key lessons I’ve learned about blogging and life:
Keep it short: Say what you want to say in a few words as possible. (I haven’t always done this.)
Leaders are learners: Take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn new things.
Producers prosper: Those who work hard to build, design, create or imagine new things are called “producers” and they always prosper.
Relationships are key. Spend time building relationships with family, friends and coworkers. Leadership is a relationship.
Trust is vital: Gaining and keeping the trust of those with whom you interact is vital to your success.
Lead with integrity: If you want to enjoy more success in life, live with integrity, lead with integrity.
Many thanks to all of you, the readers, and a special thank you goes to those who have actively participated through comments and guest posts. Here’s to another five years!
The Product Management Perspective: I love product management! I’ve spent the last 12 years working in product management in one form or another. Interacting with you – the product management professionals of the world – is what keeps me going, encourages me to continue writing and stokes the flames that make learning and growing so satisfying.
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
By Maria Rainier
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.