Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


The LOVE of leadership: Observe

As discussed in a previous post, it might make some uncomfortable to use the word ‘love’ in the context of leadership. However, 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, and includes the following actions:

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

tuned-in2A key to success in any vocation is gaining deep insight into the market(s) you are serving. Product managers and marketers know the importance of understanding their market. In their book Tuned In, authors Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott offer the following advice:

Product managers, executives, and marketers regularly meet with people in the marketplace and observe how those people do business or go about their lives. These observations provide insight into the full scope of the problems and the usage requirements and significant obstacles to adoption of any proposed solution. The most important thing they do is to live in and observe the prospect’s world.” (Emphasis added)

In the context of leadership, you want to gain a deep insight into the people you serve. Observing behaviors and actions leads to understanding. These observations come during meetings, at events, and by spending time one-on-one with the people in your organization. A tight correlation exists between listening and observing. As a leader, the two actions combine to strengthen relationships and build trust among those whom you lead. When you observe others, practice the following actions:

  • Learn specifics: Watch how people act. Determine why they do certain things in a given circumstance. Learn as much as you can about what drives people to the successful behaviors promoted by your organization. The more you learn the better prepared you are to increase success.
  • Show intent: Be honest in your desires to learn about the people you serve. The last thing you want is for anyone to think you have ulterior motives. Fix in your mind the end goal of truly understanding the people and let that behavior show through during your discovery process.
  • Develop trust: Take action that will show others you mean what you say. Encourage them to share their feelings and ideas and show genuine interest in who they are and what they believe in. Show confidence in their ability to do what they say. Be true to your words so they will trust what you say and what you do.

Successfully observing others and understanding what drives them will require effort. Your love and appreciation for them will increase, your organizational effectiveness will increase, and your bottom line will grow.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to love their customers. One of the best ways to understand what motivates customers is to observe how they use your products. Watch what they do, listen to what they say and use that information to improve your products. Remember this great advice from Greg Strouse: don’t fall in love with your products or technology. Love your customers and what you can do to help them succeed.

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Great ideas

The Leadership and Success section of Investors Business Daily provides an excellent source of ideas and information for leaders. One of its highlights is the IBD’s 10 Secrets to Success section, a short article about one of  ten traits they have identified in successful people from all walks of life.

In today’s edition of IBD, Adelia Cellini Linecker writes about what it takes to make great ideas happen (the full article is available on Yahoo! Finance). “Great business ideas are seldom hatched in a boardroom. Blockbuster products are born when you hit the pavement and see firsthand what people need and want.” The ideas for this article come from the book Tuned In. Adelia identifies six actions to help you get tuned in to what people want:

  • Find openings
  • Study
  • Understand buyers
  • Create experiences
  • Communicate
  • Connect.

Phil Myers, co-author of Tuned In, stresses the need to to find market problems first, then decide which solutions customers will pay for. This approach leads to success. He says: “Be consistent about observing what’s going on in the marketplace; talk to people who may … have an inkling that they can be your customer.” Find a way to solve their problems and they will gladly pay you for it.

The Product Management Perspective: Great ideas, that turn into great products and even businesses, come from a deep understanding of the market. Product managers play a strategic role in identifying market needs and developing the ideas into product definitions. Working with their teams, they create products that people will gladly pay money to have.

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Blog update

Several weeks ago I ran across The Tuned In Calculator, a tool developed to grade blogs (and webs sites with RSS feed) on how tuned in they are to their audiences. It was developed based on principles promoted in the book Tuned In and scores sites on a 0 – 10 scale based on the language used on the blog. The more “I, we, me” focused language the lower the score. The more “you, your, their” and otherwise customer-focused language used, the higher the score.

After rating my blog with the calculator, and comparing them to others I read regularly, I decided it was time for an update. Consequently, over the past weekend I updated the About page to more clearly state the blog’s focus. I also added a more complete personal biography to give you a better idea who I am what drives me. I also added a Resources page and a Contact link. These new resources will more clearly set the focus moving forward.

I want to call out a few of the bloggers’ biographies from which I picked up ideas: Jeff Lash, Art Petty, Peter Ganza, Kirk Weisler, Dr. Paul Jenkins, Steve Johnson, Ivan Challif, David Meerman Scott, Stewart Rogers and Gopal Shenoy.

My blog has posts focusing on leadership and others directed at product management, with a number that focus on both. Moving forward it will continue to focus on leadership principles that are generally applicable, with a new summary feature called The Product Management Perspective, where I will apply the principles directly to product management.

Disclosure: As you’ll see in my bio, I’m now working with Ryma as a Product Management Consultant and now have a working relationship with Peter Ganza and Stewart Rogers. While I’m confident the ideas expressed in this blog are in concert with the Product Management View, the views and opinions are mine and the Lead on Purpose blog is independent.


Podcast: Tuned In

Phil Myers co-authored the book Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs. In the book, the term “resonator”  is defined as a product or service that so perfectly solves a problem that the the market feels compelled to buy it. The book illustrates how the Tuned In process works for big companies, small companies, individuals, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations; the underlying principles are the same in any business.

Yesterday I had the singular opportunity of participating in a podcast with Phil. The podcast is part of Dr. Paul’s series called Live on Purpose Radio. We had a great conversation about what it takes to create a resonator, the six-step Tuned In Process and how anyone, in any type of organization can benefit by getting tuned in. It was fun to participate and a great opportunity for me to ask questions and learn from one of the tuned in experts.

Please listen to the podcast and leave your comments about your experience and successes with Tuned In organizations. You can download the podcast on iTunes or listen to it here:

Check out these additional resources:

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The tuned in product manager

I recently wrote a post about the great new book Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs. This book has wide application to different types of organizations, markets and individuals. Anyone looking for ways to improve their success will be well-served by reading and applying the principles in Tuned In.

I have found particular application to of the Tuned In principles to product management. Product managers succeed when their products succeed. Their products succeed when they solve previously unresolved problems, or existing problems in new ways. The tuned in product manager identifies problems that the market wants to solve and provides context to help the company create the solution. Successful product managers are:

  • Tuned in to the market: Tuned in product managers understand their customers and also their potential customers (the untapped market). Many great blog posts exist about understanding existing customers. Knowing your potential customers — i.e. the market — can be more tricky. Finding places where potential customers gather (either in-person or on-line) and spending time with them is one way I’ve discovered to gather important market data. Relevant industry trade shows can be a great option to meet with non-customers. Tuned in product managers discover unresolved problems and find ways to create products that will fill the unmet needs.
  • Tuned in to the product team: Tuned in product managers lead the product team with market facts. They know their team members, understand what inspires them and provide relevant product direction. They work to instill confidence in their ability to lead the products and the team in the right direction. They know what motivates the team to go above and beyond their normal abilities. They take the initiative to make important decisions, and then stand behind those decisions. They foster productivity on the team.

Tuned in product managers are the driving force behind the products that become resonators in their markets. They pay attention to details and provide context to enable their teams to succeed. And ultimately, they have fun doing it!

For more information on this topic please see the article Steve Johnson and I co-wrote: The Tuned-In Product Manager. Join us on July 11 as we present a webinar titled Tuned In Product Teams. Pragmatic Marketing has also published an article I wrote: Five Factors of Leadership. Check out the Tuned In landing page for other great events and articles associated with the Tuned In release.

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Tuned In now available

I’m happy to announce that the book Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs is now available for purchase (and several days early to boot). You can buy it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in many other book stores. Check out my review on a post I wrote recently.

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be joining Steve Johnson July 11, for a discussion on Tuned In Product Teams. Please sign up for the webinar, listen in and send me your feedback. Steve and I also wrote an article on the same topic that Pragmatic Marketing will publish in early July. Keep an eye on the Tuned In landing page for our article and other great events and articles associated with the Tuned In release.


Tuned In

The expression ‘tuned in’ has been around for a long time, but its meaning is about to change. In a few weeks from now Wiley will release the book Tuned In: Uncovering the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs. The book details the Tuned In Process, a six-step method for creating a resonator, a product or service that so perfectly solves problems for buyers that it sells itself. Following are the six steps of the Tuned In process (with clarifying questions):

Step 1:
Find Unresolved Problems. How do we know what market and product to focus on?

Step 2: Understand Buyer Personas. How do we identify who will buy our offering?

Step 3:
Quantify the Impact. How do we know if we have a potential winner?

Step 4: Create Breakthrough Experiences. How do we build a competitive advantage?

Step 5: Articulate Powerful Ideas. How do we establish memorable concepts that speak to the problems buyers have?

Step 6: Establish Authentic Connections. How do we tell our buyers that we’ve solved their problems so they buy from us?

The book details how companies such as Starbucks, Zipcar and Disneyland got tuned in to their markets; how organizations such as NASCAR and Picture Perfect Weddings understand their customers; why products such as the Blackberry and GoPro camera meet specific needs of buyers; and how a magician, a preacher and a doctor all tuned in to specific needs of customers in their niche.

Finding the resonator is key to the success of the company, and tuned in entrepreneurs and executives find ways to make their products and services stand out. They create opportunities for their ideas to take off and become successful. They understand their market and products.

An equally interesting part of the Tuned In study was the contrast of tuned out companies. They tend to exhibit the following behaviors:

  1. Guessing: Guess what the market wants
  2. Assuming: Assume current customers represent the market
  3. Telling: Try to create the need by expensive advertising or an army of salespeople.

Tuned In is written by three great authors:

Craig Stull is the founder and CEO of Pragmatic Marketing, Inc. and the author of the industry-standard Pragmatic Marketing Framework.

Phil Myers is President of Pragmatic Marketing, and a frequent writer, speaker and consultant on the subject of Tuned In Leadership Strategies. Check out Phil’s takeaways from their book tour. (Side note: I met with Phil for lunch a few months back and he kindly gave me an advanced copy of the book).

David Meerman Scott is the author of the bestselling book The New Rules of Marketing & PR and a sought-after keynote speaker. (Side note 2: Check out the podcast I recorded with David in May.)

We will no-doubt be hearing great things about Tuned In for years to come. I highly recommend it to your reading!

<img src=” alt=’Tuned In’ class=’alignnone’ />


Tradeshow talk

The topic of trade shows (conferences, conventions, etc.) seems to be on a lot of people’s minds lately. They (the trade shows) have become a fundamental part of many industries, especially for industries steeped in technology. However, in many ways they seem to be losing their mindshare if not their value all together. Art Petty asks marketers, are trade shows extinct yet? He lists six problems with using trade shows as a marketing investment. He follows that with a short list of better things to do than attend trade shows. Steve adds to the conversation with his post that compares the cost/effectiveness of trade shows with webinars. The latter is not as personal or fun, but is increasingly accepted as a viable alternative.

I am in the middle of my second conference in two weeks and so naturally the value and efficacy of trade shows has been on my mind. From the attendee’s perspective, I think trade shows are struggling. I’m at the ISPCon show this week, and today I listened to the worst keynote address I’ve ever heard. The speaker, from the investment banking industry, was obviously not tuned in to the audience he was addressing. He pretty much offended everybody by saying things like “you guys probably wouldn’t understand this” and “sorry girls, this market is dominated by men.” When someone asked him a question, he started to answer and then said “are you going to put your cell phone away and listen?” And that was not the worst of it. His slides were unreadable, he obviously had not practiced and he used an arrogant delivery style. I filled two pages of notes on what not to do while giving a presentation. I realize this was only one address and is not representative of the many great speakers who frequent trade shows. However, I think it represents what happens when trade show producers cut corners.

Fortunately I had a great experience listening to and participating in several addresses at the SMP conference last week. I wrote about Larry Weber’s address in a recent post. Phil Myers gave the other morning keynote, an outstanding address about what it takes to get tuned in to your market in such a way that you change the game in your marketplace. Both were excellent addresses and I learned not only about what they were teaching, but how to give an effective presentation. I was also impressed with Jeff Lash’s and Saeed Khan’s addresses at the conference (Saeed did a great job despite having completely lost his voice the day before). It was a great opportunity to learn from and participate with thought leaders who are passionate about their work.

To come full circle: I do not think trade shows will go extinct any time soon. Too many people appreciate and enjoy getting together with other like-minded people who are driven to succeed. Some shows will fade away and others will crop up, but passionate people will continue to gather, share ideas and create value;  trade shows will continue to be an important vehicle for that interaction.

Update: The ISPCon folks redeemed themselves today. The Day 2 keynote was great; it was 180° from the one I heard yesterday. Elliott Noss, CEO of Tucows, presented on how the Internet is changing business. Everything from the title, “Why YOU and Lowfat Lattes are Google’s Worst Nightmare” to his presentation style (open and engaging) to the slides (pictures that tell a story) made the experience great. Elliott’s presentation was a great example of people gathering to share ideas and create value. His presentation certainly created value for me!