Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


How to Unlock Your Team’s True Potential

Chances are, your professional team is not working up to its full potential and because of this both valuable time and talent are being wasted. In a way, your team is your most valuable investment and it’s no surprise you want to get all the return imaginable. But don’t let these thoughts frighten you; there are, in fact, changes you can make regarding your leadership strategy to help unearth your team’s true potential. As you’ll see, effective leadership is the most important factor in motivating your team and having them perform to the best of their abilities. Continue reading

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How do you win the war for talent?

Guest post by Sarah Sladek

About 40 years ago, shortly after the Baby Boomers (1946-1964) were born, demographers and industry leaders realized that someday this generation of 78 million Americans would retire and the nation would experience a shortage of experienced and knowledgeable talent.

Alas, the time has come. Continue reading


Keeping the best

One of the keys to creating a successful organization is hiring and retaining the best talent available. During difficult times, management too often forgets that their people are their greatest asset.

The Wall Street Journal tackles the issue of retaining executives in a recent article How to Keep Your Best Executives. The key, according to authors Elizabeth Craig, John R. Kimberly and Peter Cheese, is this: “make it easier for them to leave.” In difficult economic times many companies focus less on retention and keeping their employees happy. That can be a big mistake. “That’s why it’s crucial that companies get serious about retention now. And that means giving executives opportunities to take on greater responsibility, broaden their skills and cultivate a network of relationships with their peers. These are the things that executives we have surveyed consistently say they want most from their jobs.” They cite three types of opportunities executives want most:

  • New Responsibilities: Provide employees with opportunities for new responsibilities. Increased responsibilities and the opportunity to work on challenging tasks rank among the top factors in career satisfaction.
  • Broader Skills: Skilled people are driven to learn more about other parts of the organization. They increase their value by acquiring knowledge from areas outside their main focus. Companies that succeed in growing their executive talent do so by providing opportunities for their people to grow.
  • Cultivating Relationships: Smart executives realize the importance of building their networks. “Networking is important to executives for several reasons. It establishes connections that might be helpful down the road in finding a new position, increases their visibility and lets them learn from their peers.” This could be seen as a downside to some who are afraid of losing good people as soon as they build out their skill set. However, perceptive leaders understand that providing opportunities for their employees to grow will ultimately help their organization prosper.

Though it seems like a paradox, the best way to keep your employees happy is to let go; let them grow. “Companies that apply these lessons will be in a better position not only to retain their most prized executives but also to attract new talent as the economy recovers.”

The Product Management Perspective: Like executives, product managers need opportunities to grow. Leaders who understand this find ways broaden the skills of their teams. Cultivating relationships and presenting new responsibilities will keep the team members happy and increase their commitment to helping the company succeed.

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Provide opportunities for success

I’m away this week, so I “pre-loaded” my blog with a link to a great post.

Too many leaders fail to provide opportunities for their team members to achieve things they might never have believed they were capable of achieving. Today’s links come from Art Petty at Management Excellence. In his post Taking Chances on the Talent Around You, Art discusses the importance of providing significant growth opportunities to the people you lead. “It’s time to take some chances.”

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When the game is on the line

I just finished watching the end of an NBA playoff game. The home team was ahead but the losing ground. I watched the leader of the team (a point guard) take over, make the plays and win the game. He made a few mistakes (missed two free throws) but ultimately did what he needed to lead his team to the win.

Product managers share a few things in common with leaders on sports teams. They have the responsibility for the success of the product much like the franchise player has responsibility to win games. Product managers speak on behalf of the product at trade shows, in press interviews and company meeting. The star of the sports team is usually the person interviewed after the game. (Have you noticed the press only interview the star player from the winning team?) Product managers usually don’t have authority over the people on the team they rely on to succeed. Their success hinges on their ability to gain the trust of the team. Great athletes who lead their teams to success find ways to bring out the best in other players. They (usually) do not have much say in who’s on the team but they always find ways to succeed with the talent on the team.

When the game is on the line it’s the leader who steps up. As a product manager you may not have thousands of fans screaming for you, but as the leader of the team you have the opportunity to make the decisions (‘plays’) that will lead your team to success.

What have you done (or seen others do) to lead your team to succeed?