Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Building a Culture of Accountability

Guest post by Fred Halstead

 Accountability can be thought of as a punitive word with an implied threat-as in “I’m going to hold you accountable.” Yet, when you think about holding someone accountability, it is actually a measure of your respect for them and the high expectations you have for them.

Throughout the past 38 years, first as an executive search consultant and then as an executive coach, I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of executives. During those years, I began to see what leaders do that leads to accountable cultures. Consistently holding your people accountable is indeed a sign of respect. People who are respected, respond by respecting the person respecting them.

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Leaders Who Follow Rules

Leaders who follow rules have subordinates who do – Guest post by Jack Meyer

Great leadership skills are those that are developed over time. Although textbooks and classes can help you improve the kind of leader you want to be, it takes real-life practice and implementation to make you great. A successful leader has the trust of those under him or her and is supported by those subordinates. Without the respect of those who follow you, there will never be real greatness to your leadership. Developing that trust can take time, but once it’s developed there is nothing the whole cannot accomplish.

1. The Boss – Many people will have an attitude that they can do whatever they want because they are the boss. Although it may be true, it doesn’t mean that it’s the most productive way to act. Resentment among your subordinates can cause dissension within the ranks and can cause irreparable damage to the unit.

2. Realistic – Rules and guidelines need to be realistic for your subordinates. You don’t want to set them up to fail, but you don’t want to be too lax either. You’ll need to establish a firm set of rules without making the task too difficult to follow. Being hard on your subordinates doesn’t always work out for the best. However, you don’t want to be too lenient on what is expected of your team.

3. Respectful – Being respectful to your subordinates is an easy way to have respect reciprocated. Fear-mongering and power abuse don’t earn respect…they create fear. Many individuals will confuse one for the other, and it could create a hostile environment. Respect is earned from being a leader, not given from leading the unit. If you respect the boundaries of those under you, they will respect yours in kind.

4. Bending the Rules – Sometimes, being the leader has its advantages of being able to bend the rules to fit a certain circumstance. Although bending the rules can potentially improve the productivity of the unit in those circumstances, you don’t want to bend them too often. If a leader is seen as bending the rules on a regular basis, the subordinates will begin to do it as well. If everyone is bending the rules, then it begins to create chaos within the environment.

5. Set in Stone – Rules don’t have to be set in stone. Periodically, a revamp of the rules may be necessary to encompass technologies, living environments, and anything else that can cause contradictions within them. If more organizations took a yearly look at their rules for conduct, many issues could be avoided. One suggestion is letting the subordinates assist in create the new revamp of the rules. It gives them a sense of empowerment and shows that you trust their judgment. However, don’t give them too long of a leash. Let them assist you, but don’t let them do it for you.

6. Passing Responsibilities – Assigning a protégé to act as your team leader could help you keep order among your subordinates. If your organization is larger than five or six people, having a buffer may help keep the team focused. Like you, your team leader needs to be an example. You’ll need to have someone who can follow the rules and enforce them just as you would.

A true leader will guide subordinates by example. Following your own rules can set the tone of how your subordinates view you. They are more likely to follow the rules if they see that their leader has done so. Act as how you’d like your subordinates to act and a well-organized team can develop.

Jack Meyer is a freelance writer and regular contributor at www.nannybackgroundcheck.com/. He has a passion for various subjects like education, career and technology, Parenting etc.  If you have any questions email Jack at jackmeyers08 [at] gmail.com


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers play a key role in forming productive teams. Lead out in being realistic and respectful to your team members, and they will happily follow.


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Trust

The recent theme at Lead on Purpose is trust. This focus has come primarily from reading The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. He discusses the concept of building a trust account, which is similar to a bank account. By behaving in ways that build trust you make deposits, by behaving in ways that destroy trust you make withdrawals. The ‘balance’ in the account reflects the amount of trust you have at any given time. You have a unique trust account with every person you know, and all deposits and withdrawals are not created equal.

Trust is built or destroyed by behaviors. Covey teaches 13 Behaviors of high-trust people and leaders worldwide. These behaviors will increase trust and improve your ability to interact effectively with people in every aspect of your life. Here are the behaviors that will help you build trust:
  1. Talk Straight: Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand.
  2. Demonstrate Respect: Genuinely care for others. Respect the dignity of every person and every role.
  3. Create Transparency: Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Get real and genuine. Be open and authentic.
  4. Right Wrongs: Make things right when you’re wrong. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible.
  5. Show Loyalty: Give credit to others. Speak about people as if they were present. Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves.
  6. Deliver Results: Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Make things happen.
  7. Get Better: Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner.
  8. Confront Reality: Take issues head on, even the “undiscussables.” Address the tough stuff directly. Acknowledge the unsaid.
  9. Clarify Expectations: Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate them if needed and possible.
  10. Practice Accountability: Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable. Take responsibility for results.
  11. Listen First: Listen before you speak. Understand. Diagnose. Listen with your ears…and your eyes and heart.
  12. Keep Commitments: Say what you’re going to do, then do it. Make commitments carefully and keep them at all costs.
  13. Extend Trust: Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust.
Mastering the 13 behaviors requires a combination of character and competence. You can (and should) work to improve your abilities in each of these areas. Focus on the ones you consider to be your weaknesses and take the attitude that you will improve. Building trust is not something that happens overnight. As Warren Buffet said: “It takes twenty years to build your reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”


Study these principles, then master them. Study Covey’s book and practice the principles he so eloquently teaches. Every aspect of your life will improve.

The Product Management Perspective: Trust is the most important characteristic a product manager can possess. To effectively work with development, sales and other teams in your organization you must gain their trust. Trust is key to understanding your customers and your market. Trust is a two-way street: you need to carry out your tasks in such a way that the team members will trust you. You also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do. The 13 behaviors listed above provide an excellent roadmap to developing and extending trust with others.


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Book Review: The Right Leader

“How we go about doing the things we choose to do or are called upon to do is what makes a leader the right leader.” In his book The Right Leader: Selecting Executives Who Fit, author Nat Stoddard (with help from Claire Wyckoff) investigates the complex topic of assuring smooth executive transitions, with their primary focus at the CEO level. When a CEO does not work out for a company — which usually happens within the first 18 months — the primary reason is rarely the individual’s lack of competence; most often the problem is a result of the wrong fit.

The first section of the book focuses on finding executives who “fit” the organization. The author presents a methodology to define, measure and clarify corporate cultures to gain a clear understanding the impact they will have on a new leader’s changes for success or failure. He discusses ways to determine abilities, personality and character and map those to the company’s need and corporate culture. He develops what he calls the “universal character traits of leaders”:

Traits of personal humility: Courage, caring, compassion, respect, acceptance, kindness, optimism, gentleness, teachability and patience. He groups these as ‘private traits’ of leadership.

Traits of professional will: Integrity, persuasion, knowledge, communication, discipline, honesty, self-control, fairness, responsibility and consistency. He dubs these ‘public traits’ of leadership.

Mr. Stoddard shows how leaders not only need to possess these traits, but also keep them in balance.

The author discusses at length the complex selection methods and provides insight into fixing flawed selection processes. He discusses succession planning in detail and provides structure and practice for reducing the risks of leadership failures and ensuring that new executives have the abilities, personalities and energy to match the business needs of the organization.

If you are in the position of vetting candidates for top-level executive positions this book is a must-read. You will gain ideas and insights into finding the right leader for your organization and preparing for the complexities of succession planning. If you are not in this position, you will learn much about what it takes to become the right leader. The book cites many references to the author’s company and consulting services, which at times seems more self-serving than helpful. However, Mr. Stoddard’s experience and frequent metaphors and parables provide readers with much to learn about improving their leadership skills.

A Perl of wisdom: “The ‘right leader’ is always a trusted leader.” Whether you’re a CEO or an intern, you have the opportunity to lead. The efforts you make to become the trusted leader in your organization will pay dividends in the future regardless of the position you hold.


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Guest Post: Talk is Cheap!

Make communication with employees your priority during times of economic adversity

By Albert J. Weatherhead

If you’re a business leader, you don’t have to confront tough economic times alone.  You have incredibly knowledgeable and highly motivated consultants at your beck and call.  These experts are chomping at the bit to help you emerge from the current economic adversity stronger and ready to hit the ground running when the economy brightens.

This consulting resource is none other than your employees – and it won’t cost you an extra cent to take advantage of their expertise and tap their limitless good will, because talk is cheap

All you have to do is ask!

Using communication and collaboration to overcome and transform adversity is a topic I cover extensively in my book, THE POWER OF ADVERSITY: Tough Times Can Make Your Stronger, Wiser, and Better.   And I can assure you that the advice I share with you today has stood the test of time…

It helped me inspire my Weatherchem team to create the original Flapper® dispensing closure. Over 150 companies, including Durkee, Cremora, San Giorgio, Ronzoni, and McCormick, now use the entire line of Flapper products, and Weatherchem continues to lead the industry in offering the widest, most innovative array of closure products.

This advice also worked for me almost 50 years ago, when, at the age of 30, I was working for my father at the Weatherhead Company, a manufacturer of military ordinance, automotive and aviation parts, and gas control devices and storage products…

Economic Adversity Builds Walls for You To Tear Down

It was 1960, and members of the AFL-UAW Local 463 union negotiation committee led by its president, John Allar, were threatening to strike the Weatherhead Company over a wages dispute.  We employed 600 people in a million square foot factory so vast that a railway track ran down the middle.

I said to Allar, “Rather than be at each other’s throats as we sink, let’s work together – collaborate – and figure out how we’re going to get out of this mess…”

In other words, I was ready to tear down the walls that separated the union and management, because I understood that we needed each other to survive.

Unfortunately, my gesture was rebuffed and the union decided to strike.

That first day, I made sure I was there by 6:00 AM, before the union pickets. They arrived to see me busy changing a flat tire on a truck.

“Oh, look, he’s finally doing some manual labor,” the union reps taunted, but I could see the look of respect in their eyes (and more important, in the eyes of the union rank and file setting up to walk the picket line).

I had captured their attention and interest, and primed them to communicate and collaborate with me.

What was my strategy?  One way or another, I was determined to turn the walls between us into a bridge that could span our differences. From that very first day, I walked that picket line with my striking employees, engaging them in conversation whenever I could.

My staff watching from the factory’s executive suite, was worried the picketers would take a baseball bat to me, but nobody did, because I kept them talking.

And yes…

Talk is cheap, but it is also invaluable in building trust between

management and employees when economic times are hard.

In the end, the strike was settled on the terms I established – because the union came to see that my terms were the right terms for our mutual success… and because I kept us talking.

Now let’s return to the present economic mess we’re in…

Concerning the auto industry debacle, do you understand why Congress had the top executives come to Washington to participate in hearings, but didn’t call in the car companies’ union negotiating committees to hear their side of things?

For that matter, why didn’t Congress have the smarts to invite a contingent of assembly line workers to share viewpoints from the factory floor? (Those hard-working, blue-collar folks would probably have put forth the most valuable testimony of all!)

Don’t you make the same mistake: Tear down the walls and talk to your employees.  Discover what’s running through their minds, and be sure to let them know what you’re thinking – and that you want their help because you’re all in the same boat.

Successful management – in a good economy or a bad one – is more like taking a pulse than taking inventory, because beyond all the mechanics of the place, every business is a collective human endeavor.

And what separates humankind from all the other creatures is our ability to talk, so always, always communicate with your employees.

Ask: How can we improve this place? What’s wrong here? I guarantee you will get more valuable information in just a few hours than you could possibly act upon in a year!

It worked for me half a century ago on the picket lines in front of my father’s company …

It worked far more recently to help me build Weatherchem into a multimillion-dollar manufacturing company that has provided me with the means to be a major philanthropist, endowing hospitals, universities, and charities that offer valuable help to thousands of people.

You too can leverage economic adversity to strengthen and revitalize your business so

that you’ll be well positioned when financial prosperity once again returns, which I’m confident it will.

Just remember… Talk may be cheap, but it’s also priceless when it comes to building camaraderie, respect, energy – and yes, even love – throughout your workplace, in both good times and bad.

Albert J. Weatherhead is the author of The Power Of Adversity and chairman and CEO of Weatherchem, a private manufacturer of plastic closures for food, spice, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products.


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Providing value

Previous posts have discussed the word ‘value’ as a verb — the act of appreciating, respecting or esteeming others. However, when it comes to providing value, words like worth, importance or significance apply.

What are you doing to provide value to your organization? What significance do you bring to the table? As a leader, how do you inspire your people to give their best to your cause? These questions should coarse the minds of all leaders, especially during difficult times.

This topic is admittedly broad reaching and sufficient answers are well outside the bounds of one blog post. However, when it comes to providing value from a leadership perspective, my good friend Art Petty takes this complex topic and simplifies it into 5 Simple Rules To Be A Great Leader:

  1. Surround yourself with great people
  2. Provide them with challenging opportunities
  3. Expect the extraordinary
  4. Work like crazy to provide support
  5. Stay out of the way until you’re needed.

You have a great opportunity to add significant value as a leader in your company. Look for ways to put these rules into practice today.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers are in a prime position to provide value to their organizations. One the most effective ways to be the star of your company is to become an expert at market sensing. To the extent you guide your company to create and sell the right products and services for your specific market, you will become the hero of your organization.


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The LOVE of leadership: Value

As discussed in a previous post, the practice of love in the context of leadership is both powerful and necessary. Steve Farber describes this clearly in his audio book Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. What does it mean to love the people you lead? My definition for the acronym LOVE embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results:

  • L – Listen
  • O – Observe
  • V – Value
  • E – Experience

The word ‘value’ has many meanings and is often used as a noun, suggesting worth, importance or significance. In the context of the love of leadership, however, ‘value’ is a verb, meaning the act of appreciating, respecting or esteeming others. It connotes a desire to understand others and give regard to the qualities they possess, while at the same time having patience with their shortcomings.

think-big-act-smallIn the context of leadership, you need to show appreciation for the people you serve. Attaching importance to their positive traits and actions becomes a powerful motivation for progress. The book Think Big, Act Small by Jason Jennings provides great insight into specific actions that help companies keep the start-up spirit alive. “We think big but we act small. When big companies start acting big they get in trouble.”

The principles espoused in this book remind us of the great importance of getting the right people in the company and ensuring they feel appreciation, respect and value from their leaders. Mr. Jennings states:

While studying the nine companies that do a better job of growing revenues than all other companies, we were constantly reminded that each has taken on the modest and humble personality of its leadership. These are truly inspired, collegial, group endeavors where the momentary accomplishments of individuals are overshadowed by the consistent, long-term achievement of a team that’s gently and deftly kept on course by a humble leader (p. 25).

The actions of these leaders inspire great results from the people in their organizations. Do your actions elicit similar behavior?

Value the people in your organization — who they are, what they do and why they give so much — and in turn those people will create great value for your organization.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers work closely with people from different parts (i.e. teams) of the organization. When you interact with other teams, make the effort to understand what they do and why they do it. Value their efforts. When they feel that you care about their contributions they will trust you and will work hard to achieve a common goal. Love the people you work with and inspire them to succeed.