Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


The paralysis of inaction

It’s no secret that difficult situations happen to everyone. Nothing you do will remove every obstacle on your path to success.

At time, the difficulties — such as emergencies — happen quickly. In those cases most people act quickly and do everything they can to mitigate their problems. However, difficulties often creep up slowly and cause pain gradually.

You’ve heard the story of boiling a frog. How often do you find yourself in a situation you know you want to change, but you can’t muster the courage to “jump out” or change your circumstances? This is the paralysis of inaction, and it has a negative, draining affect on your performance. In the book Think Big, Act Small the author Jason Jennings makes this astute observation:

Uncertain futures cause paralysis and inaction at a time when consumers are demanding more action, better products, and increasingly personalized services. In the face of such widespread chaos, it’s natural to return to the fundamentals.

Fortunately, most people who suffer from a paralysis of inaction can return to the fundamentals and make changes that will greatly improve their lives. In a recent post Donald Trump gives his economic survival tips, which are not only pertinent in our current economic situation but also equally important to defeating the paralysis of inaction:

  • Pay attention to national and international news and finance coverage at least several times a day, preferably hourly. In volatile times, vigilance is necessary.
  • Absorb, assess, and then act. Knowledge without action is impotence.
  • When a tsunami hits, there’s no time for procrastination. Keep your momentum in tune with the times.
  • Avoid your comfort zone — it’s probably outdated anyway.
  • If you’re honest, you should know the questions that should be asked, as well as the answers. That’s probably why there’s so much confusion out there today.
  • Remember The Blitz. That can put things into perspective. Things may be tough and getting tougher, but we’re not being bombed day in and day out either. If you don’t know what The Blitz is, use your time wisely to study WWII to find out.
  • Is your life half empty or half full? Half is better than zip. Count your blessings.
  • Realize that fear is the exact opposite of faith.
  • Resolve to be bigger than your problems. Who’s the boss?
  • Don’t negate your own power. Whatever you’ve been dealt, know you can deal with it.
Copyright © 2009 Donald J. Trump, author of Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education In Business and Life

Use Trump’s tips to help you improve your current situation. The most prescient of his tips for me…fear is the opposite of faith. I’ve heard that no less than ten times in the past two weeks. If you find yourself in fear or doubt I highly recommend you listen to Dr. Paul’s podcast Facing Your Giants. It’s well worth your time.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you know what happens when decisions are not made quickly. Product quality suffers and release dates are overshot. Take steps now to make sure you do not suffer from the paralysis of inaction.


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.