Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Everyone is a product manager

Yes, that’s right, as I see it everyone is a product manager. 

I know some of you who hold the title of “Product Manager” might cringe at the thought of me calling everyone a product manager. You have spent years learning, working and driving to become market experts, and have accumulated significant experience releasing products and solutions.

So why do I assert that everyone is a product manager? Because every person is responsible for managing his or her own contribution to the world. This contribution is, in a sense, the product they provide to the world — the product called “Me.”

The seeds for this idea were planted back in 1997 when I read the Fast Company article “The Brand Called You” by Tom Peters. In this article Peters described how the focus of business had long been on the big brands and the “behemoth companies” that spent millions building brand awareness. But that focus on the big brands was starting to change. “The good news — and it is largely good news — is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.”

Most people probably don’t think of themselves as a product manager — perhaps engineer, accountant, salesperson, executive or some other title fits more comfortably. When it comes to creating your own success, the ‘product’ metaphor is useful. Here are a few ways to manage and improve your “product” more effectively:

  • Do market research: Discover your strengths and talents. Find out where you can make the biggest difference and add the most value to the world.
  • Create requirements: Create a list of requirements. Do an honest evaluation and come up with a list of things you need to succeed in your desired market (or job). Make a commitment to improving in each area.
  • Define your roadmap: With a solid understanding of your strengths and unique abilities, write your ‘roadmap’ to success. Define your goals and write a plan to achieve them.
  • Develop a Win/Loss attitude: This is similar to a win-win attitude, but with a measure of humility that allows you to learn from failures. Everyone willing to try new things will have setbacks and will even fail at times. Seek to learn from every experience.
  • Launch your product: Don’t hesitate to try new things or to take on new responsibilities. Products that churn in “development” cannot take off. Don’t be afraid to take the next step.

These are just a few of the areas you can use product management to improve your own ‘product.’ Art Petty said it well in a post about the pursuit of your own potential: “You work hard to manage your own brand.” Hard work and focus are vital to successful products.

Mark Sanborn writes that the essential adjective for brand success is ‘interesting.’ He says you need to make your brand interesting or people will not want to buy it. The same can be said about your ‘product.’ You need to build your skills and personality so that you catch the eye of others who are looking for what you can provide. If you are interesting to them they will want what you have to offer; they will pay money for your product.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers already know how to create great software and hardware products. Use these same methods to improve your own career. Spend some time on improving your own ‘product.’

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Top 100 leadership blog

Top 100 blogsThe Daily Reviewer has name the Lead on Purpose blog one of the top 100 leadership blogs. It is a tremendous honor to be named to this list with other great blogs such as Seth’s Blog, Management Excellence, The Best Horse Sense (a personal favorite since I grew up on a ranch), Great Leadership, the Tom Peters Weblog and many other great leadership blogs. In their own words:

The Daily Reviewer selects only the world’s top blogs (and RSS feeds). We sift through thousands of blogs daily to present you the world’s best writers. The blogs that we include are authoritative on their respective niche topics and are widely read. To be included in The Daily Reviewer is a mark of excellence.

Full attribution for this honor and the success of Lead on Purpose go to the following:

  • You, the readers: Your participation in the discussions and the content of the guest posts by several have significantly contributed to the success of this blog.
  • The product management perspective: Leadership is a crucial element of successful product management, and product management & marketing are key roles in successful companies. The combination is powerful and has meaningfully contributed to the success of this blog.

I give a heart-felt thanks to all for your part in helping Lead on Purpose win this award.

– Michael Hopkin

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Leaders’ focus

Successful people are driven to increase their performance and expand their abilities. They understand the need to work hard in areas for which they have great passion.

Regardless of how many things you want to accomplish, you must focus on the most important and let other things — which in the right context may be very good things — go by the wayside. Tom Peters sheds an interesting perspective on focus with the following quote:

Leaders focus on the soft stuff — people, values, character, commitment, a cause. All of that was supposed to be too (indefinable) to count in business. Yet it’s the stuff that real leaders take care of first. That’s why leadership is an art, not a science.

What do you feel are the most important things you should focus on? Where is your time as a leader best spent? Please leave a comment and let’s have a conversation on how leaders can best focus their time and attention.

The Product Management Perspective: For product managers, ‘focus’ can seem fleeting at times. More than just about any role at any company, product management requires interaction with and touches into every other department in the company. Focusing on deliverables can seem futile. However, to the extent you focus on the ‘soft stuff’ suggested by Mr. Peters, you will find your ability to complete your work will improve and will hasten. Working effectively with others leads them to trust you and to work harder and more effectively for your cause.

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Forward progress

A key axiom for today’s leaders is that forward progress comes through hard work and persistence. This applies not only to your progress as a leader, but also to the progress of the people you lead. The ups and downs of daily interaction can inspire or drain, depending on your attitude and perseverance. To make progress you have to look at each situation and determine what you can do improve to your success given the circumstances. As Tom Peters says so frankly, “Only those who constantly retool themselves stand a chance of staying employed in the years ahead.”

You need to look at your situation and determine whether you are progressing in the direction you want to go. If not, make the changes necessary and start moving in the right direction. The following quote by Frederick Williams provides additional insight: “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks that will help you move forward in the direction you want to go.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you need to focus on your products’ direction and success; you need to collect the right market input and turn it into great products. At the same time you also need to focus on your career and your personal progress. With the right attitude you can do both at the same time.