Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Self-improvement

As 2008 comes to an end many will take time to review the events of the year, assess their progress and set goals (or New Year’s Resolutions) for 2009. This has been one of my annual traditions for many years, with varying degrees of success. It is easy to write a list of objectives for the year; but a bit of time goes by and things get in the way, and before you know it the year is gone and you have made no progress toward the improvements you planned at the beginning of the year.

Does this ring true? For many years this was my experience. However, last year I had a breakthrough that made 2008 my most successful year ever, and I want to share the experience with you.

In late 2007 I had an inspiring conversation with my friend Dr. Paul (quoted often on Lead on Purpose) about relationships. He taught me there are five key relationships that drive human behavior, listed here in priority order:

  1. God – Our Deity (whomever we worship as a higher power)
  2. Self – Me (I have a relationship with myself as an individual)
  3. Family – Spouse, children and extended family (this is the hierarchy of importance)
  4. Others – People in general (any other person not listed above)
  5. Things –  Non-living objects (such as money, material possessions, etc.)

He helped me understand the importance of each of these relationships and how they affect my life and my actions. I discovered that the effort put forth to develop these relationships will–to a large extent–determine my individual happiness.

Our conversation created an aha moment for me. I saw the need to prioritize my life in a way to promote the actions that would result in the types of relationships I really wanted in my life. That’s when I realized I needed to formulate my goals based the five key relationships.

At the beginning of 2008 I created categories based on the relationships and set three to five specific goals for each category. I will share the categories I set with examples of the goals I set for each (my specific goals are private and closely held):

  • Heavenly Father (God): I set specific goals to help me improve my spirituality and live my religion more fully.
  • Self: I set specific goals to improve my health and education and to use my time for effectively.
  • Family: I established three sub-categories — wife, children and extended family — and set specific objectives for each category.
  • Other People: I set specific goals that would help me build my network of friends and associates, and reach out to people I did not know. One specific goal I set was to write in my blog at least two times per week. This one goal has been the foundation for the success of my blog.
  • Things: I created two sub-categories — work and other — and set appropriate goals for each.

After I finished writing the goals I printed the document, cut each category out separately and pasted each in a place where I would see them often. A few went on the wall in my office, some on my night stand and one in a book I read/reference often. Putting them in conspicuous places kept the goals at the forefront of my mind; I didn’t forget about (most of) them at all during the year.

An important aspect of self-improvement is evaluating your progress on the goals you have set. With that in mind, I took time to evaluate each of the goals I set for 2008 with a best-estimate of how close I came to meeting the goal. I gave each goal a score (percentage) and then calculated an average score for each category. This was a difficult task as some things are hard to measure and some fell out of context (e.g. I changed employment mid-year). However, I can measure my progress and see the results of taking the time to plan and follow through. My highest category score was 96% and my lowest was 43%; my overall average was 75%.

If I look at these scores based on the traditional educational scoring (at least in the US), 75% is a solid C; not exactly what I would have called “acceptable” back in the day. However, when I compare the goals I set to what I was doing before 2008, I can honestly say I have made significant progress. I have learned a great deal about myself and my ability to do more than I ever thought I could. My new goals for 2009 raise the bar substantially. I am happy with the process I have established for my own self-improvement and recommend it to you wholeheartedly.


The Product Management Perspective: If you are a product manager you are most likely a driven individual who works hard and are determined to succeed. Take time to set applicable goals that will help make your success (and your products) repeatable and predictable.

I want to wish all my readers a Happy New Year. May you prosper in 2009!


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Top five posts of 2008

The Lead on Purpose blog had its first birthday/anniversary earlier this month. During 2008 the blog’s readership has grown substantially through a combination posts about leadership and product management. The following five posts were rated the most popular by readers of Lead on Purpose:

  1. Product manager responsibilities: This post discusses the difference between product owner vs. product manager. It also discusses the responsibility for product managers to create internal productroadmaps.
  2. Five factors of leadership: Product managers have the responsibility to get products out the door on time, with high quality and under budget. However, the people they rely on to get the job done do not report to them. This post identifies five factors that, if understood and applied, will improve the leadership role of product managers.
  3. Ten principles of effective leadership: This post discusses ten principles of effective leadership that will build desired results, relationships and quality of life.
  4. Five stages of problem solving: Well-written problem statements help product managers communicate both the difficulty faced in the market and the potential reward for solving problems. Market problems create opportunities for people and companies who can find ways to solve them. This post gives five steps to help you indentify problem statements clearly and help identify solutions.
  5. Three reasons to visit customers: Professionals working in any industry want to understand the markets to which they sell and the people who are buying their products and services. This post identifies three key reasons why customer visits are not only good but also vital to a company’s success.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers have a great opportunity to become key leaders in their organizations. The Lead on Purpose blog is dedicated to promoting leadership through the discipline of product management. Thank you for making 2008 a great year!


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How to get along

There seem to be a lot of stories flying around the media about people bickering, fighting or otherwise not getting along with each other. While such situations might help spark a political campaign, they do nothing for people trying to progress and become more successful. It’s especially important learn how to get along with your boss and co-workers. On his Great Leadership blog, Dan McCarthy writes about 10 ways to get off on the right foot with your new manager. He makes the assumption that the new manager is a good, competent leader and not a jerk. Here’s the list of ten (without detail; check out Dan’s post for the meat):

  1. Be good (both doing good things and good at what you do)
  2. Be proactive about introducing yourself
  3. Exhibit behaviors that are appreciated (enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, initiative, and good judgement)
  4. Clarify expectations up front
  5. Help your new manager learn
  6. Try to minimize how many times you say “we tried that before and it didn’t work”
  7. Be VERY open to change
  8. Learn about your new manager
  9. Watch your manager’s back
  10. However….. don’t be a blatant suck-up.

Working for a new manager/boss/leader provides a great opportunity to shine, to model things (including your career) the way you’ve always wanted them to go. Take the opportunity to form new relationships and make most out of new circumstances.


The Product Management Perspective: Dan’s advice is significant for product managers. They not only have to manage up to their boss, but also horizontally, with managers of other teams on whom they depend for success. The ten steps listed above work equally well in both cases.