Tag Archives: leader

5 THINGS GREAT PRODUCT MANAGERS DO EVERY DAY

By

My favorite product managers are quietly powerful. Every day they take small steps that move their teams and business forward in a meaningful way. But they do it without a lot of hoopla, taking a confident yet unassuming approach.

After all, product managers have a lot on their plate every day. They are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for their product. It is a big responsibility that requires facilitating and collaborating with many different teams — both internal and external — without the formal authority to manage those teams. It requires a unique mix of humility and strength.

However, that quiet power does not mean leading product is easy. I realized early on that the daily life of a product manager is unpredictable, hectic, and sometimes very tough.

In the late 1990s, my first product management job was helping to roll out high-speed internet nationwide when it became a viable (and highly desired) alternative to dial-up services. We went from providing 300 lines monthly to more than 3,000 — all in a window of about 60 days. I quickly learned how to balance staying on a strategic course and managing the endless minutiae that was required to get each customer up and running.

I had always been a leader, so handling the stress and responsibility was natural for me — but I had a lot to learn about focusing my efforts on what mattered most. I soon realized that with great accountability comes great autonomy. It was up to me to prioritize what needed to get done and when.

This is great news for ambitious product managers: You have more control than you might think, no matter how hectic each day feels.

Here are five things great product managers do. Used consistently, these actions can help you prioritize your work every day and thrive.

1. Align actions to goals

To succeed as a product manager it is essential to take a goal-first approach. Prioritize what must get done that day and assess and align new work against your goals. Swiftly break through the endless tasks and chatter by evaluating each request or demand through the lens of your goals. This does not mean you should shut down disruptions as “noise” to be silenced. Embrace the interruptions that align with your goals — one may be the missing idea that makes your product wildly successful in market.

2. Connect the dots

Understand how your product serves your business — the big picture of why you are building it. This may seem obvious, but without that connection, product managers are often led astray by differing opinions, demands from internal teams, and conflicting customer feedback. Identify why your product matters to your business and to customers so you can navigate with a steady mind.

3. Solve one simple problem

You may be tempted to solve every problem for your customers. But you cannot be all things to all people. You will spread yourself too thin and lose that firm direction. Instead, focus on solving one problem at a time. I like to say, “Focus on one problem, and solve the second for free.” Tackle one problem well and new opportunities will emerge.

4. Learn from others

Invest the time and effort to learn about your product team’s core work so you can set realistic deadlines. This is especially important for teams that share resources. Ask questions and get to know the full scope of their experience and tasks. It is also important to admit what you do not know. Rely on the expertise of your extended product team to help you deliver on the promise of your product.

5. Say “no” with confidence

Not every idea will be meaningful. And, in fact, most will be lousy. Great product managers understand that saying “no” is not a one-word answer. This is your chance to explain why the idea does not make sense within your strategic direction. Do not hide from these conversations or be dismissive. Take each “no” as an opportunity to recommit to your goals — and to re-evaluate whether your aim is true.

I know this advice to be effective — but hard to follow. So be kind to yourself when you feel cornered or stuck. Stick out your chest and remember that you have more control than you think and a team at your side.

You too can achieve the quiet power that separates good product managers from great ones. Never lose sight of your goals and embrace each day with humility and strength. Now go get busy.

Discover your own power as a product manager.

Mistakes

People don’t care how much you know — until they know how much you care.” — John C. Maxwell

The Dumbest Mistake That Smart People Make

By Michael Simmons

It was a little past 1:00 a.m, and I sat alone at the dining room table. If only I had listened to my tired body and gone to sleep, I might have saved a friendship and a business partnership.

Instead, I pushed through and gave overly harsh feedback on a letter. It took me only a few minutes to send my feedback, but it damaged that relationship forever. The person never came back to me for feedback, and it contributed to a negative spiral in the relationship that ultimately failed.

That’s when I learned the stakes of giving bad feedback. As leaders, parents, and friends, if we chronically give bad feedback we destroy relationships, make other people feel stupid, and stunt their growth.

Giving feedback incorrectly is one of the worst mistakes smart people are particularly prone to make. Experts tend to…

  • overestimate their expertise and give feedback in areas where they don’t have expertise;
  • feel compelled to give feedback as a result of their expertise;
  • be condescending as a result of thinking something is obvious to others when it isn’t; and
  • be too general as a result of forgetting the little insights that make up ideas.

These disadvantages are collectively known as the curse of knowledge.

I interviewed 10 world-class leaders (including the founder of two television networks, a former Fortune 500 CEO, and similarly successful entrepreneurs) to get their perspective on how to give feedback in the best way. In the few minutes it takes to read this article, you’ll have a whole new toolkit, which will immediately improve how you give feedback to others.

1. Help employees think like owners

Jason Duff, founder and CEO of COMSTOR Outdoor

I think the best way for a CEO to give feedback is by letting his or her employees experience what it’s like to be an owner.

I used to want to shield my team from the hard parts of what I do. The unintended result was employees who made poor decisions and developed beliefs that everything is easier than it actually is.

To inspire an ownership mindset, I follow two practices that work really well:

Job shadowing. I’m a big believer in the idea that you can’t really understand someone’s perspective until you walk a mile in their shoes. I shadow my employees, and they shadow me as well as each other. This helps us understand each other, but also be nimble and step in when necessary.

Open-book accounting. We recently moved our business to open book accounting, which means we share all of our financial numbers with our employees. This was a very difficult decision for me but I’ve been impressed with the outcome so far. Misconceptions about the money that I was, or was not making, have been completely put on the table. Many of my employees had a lot of sympathy with some of the financial goals, challenges, and tax consequences that the company was facing. They offered great ideas and suggestions about their roles and their compensations to help the company be more successful. I highly recommend The Great Game of Business to learn about the power of open book accounting and how to implement it in your company.

***********************SPONSORED LINK**********************

Why Paleo will make you FATTER

Here’s why eating Paleo will make you fatter…

Going cold turkey on your favorite foods is a recipe for disaster. It simply won’t last. And after a few days (or weeks if you’re extremely disciplined), you’ll be bored, frustrated, and tired of eating the same tasteless meals every day.

Claim Your Cookbook With Over 100 Delicious Fat-Burning Recipes.

**********************************************************************

2. Put on your welcome face

Ryan Simonetti, co-founder of Convene

I have one core belief, based on research in Drive, that structures how I give feedback: People are intrinsically motivated to do a great job. They don’t intentionally do bad work.

Most people I know take a tremendous amount of pride in their work and have an emotionally vested interest in both their success and that of their company.

What this means is that my job isn’t to reprimand or judge people. My true job is to empower them. Given that most communication is nonverbal, the most important thing I can do is to be in the right state of mind before I give feedback. I call this putting on a ‘welcome face’. To me this signifies “I’m open, compassionate, and excited to listen.” If I can’t immediately get myself to be authentically in that state, I will sleep on it.

Finally, I lead feedback discussions with an open-ended question like, “What is it about this project that you’re especially proud of?” My goal is to put myself in the other person’s shoes before I make judgments.

3. Follow the NORMS of objectivity

Rohit Anabheri, founder of Circa Ventures

I use what I call the “NORMS approach” to keep the feedback objective rather than subjective. Here’s how it works:

Not an interpretation. Describe the behavior, don’t interpret why someone did something.

Observable. Focus on specific behavior or outcomes that are seen or heard.

Reliable. Two or more people independently agree on what they observed.

Measurable. Use facts to describe the behavior or result rather than superlatives like ‘all the time’ or ‘always’.

Specific. Based on a detailed description of the event (e.g., who was involved, where and when it happened, and what was the context and sequence of events).

As a result of going through this process, “John is always late,” turns into, “John was late for the leadership meeting three times last week.” This helps avoid emotions and exaggerations, as well as the disagreements that come when someone naturally tries to defend their behavior.

4. Put on your coaching hat

Benji Rabhan, founder & CEO of Apollo Scheduling

When I’m about to give feedback, I put on my coach hat. Here’s what I do:

Strike while the iron is cold. To be effective, I must wait until I have emotionally separated myself from the equation. This way, I can proceed calmly and collectively, so as to not engage the employee’s fight or flight reflex.

Ask for permission. Once we sit down together, I say, “I’m going to wear the coaching hat as we talk about the project. Is that okay?” With their agreement, I explain, “There’s been something I’ve been trying to figure out, and I need your help. I am betting there is something I did not tell you, or there is a difference between our past experiences in this area. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions to see if we can figure out what I’m missing?” Doing this sets the context of the discussion as mutual improvement and prevents defensiveness.

Challenge assumptions with open-ended questions. I ask questions to help me understand their process for creating the work. Rather than ask, “Did you know that you did this wrong?” I’ll say, “Tell me about how you went about this assignment.” As they’re sharing, I’ll ask follow-up questions such as “What was the thought process of why you did it that way?” I keep going until I run out of questions. Open-ended questions help me discover what went wrong on the assignment, and how to correct the missteps. They also help the employee see the gaps in their own logic without me even having to say anything. And sometimes, I realize that I’m the one with the gap or that we both are.

In the end, I believe the key to making the process work is a sincere curiosity and desire to:

  • Understand what you personally could do better.
  • Get to the root of the problem.
  • Help the other person solve their own challenges in a peaceful way.

I recommend the book, Nonviolent Communication. It details great processes for having difficult conversations without sparking negativity.

5. Forget motivation. Stop demotivating.

Sevetri Wilson, CEO of Solid Ground Innovations

I am a very “straight to the point” person, and I’ve learned the hard way that this can really hurt morale.

Constant criticism, without an environment that praises great work, leads to employees becoming demotivated because they feel like they can never be ‘good enough.’ In a study that surveyed 1.2 million employees at primarily Fortune 1000 companies, they found that employees often don’t need motivation. It is constant critique without recognition that causes them to be demotivated.

When I give constructive criticism, I always emphasize that I believe in the person and their work. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have hired them. I make it a point to let my team members know that I’m fully aware of their capabilities, and I won’t accept anything less. I try to transform the conversation’s energy into something constructive by reminding them of what I loved about their other more successful projects and work. Whether that’s creativity, attention to detail, or content, it’s important to get people to dig deep down and pull out the work that made me hire them in the first place.

6. Give the conversation over to the employee

Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me, and Wow 1 Day Painting

My approach is to turn the conversation over to employees to lead – and hopefully – resolve.

I start by asking “How do you feel about your work?” or “Is this your best?”

Then my role becomes, “How can I help you?”

This leads to more employee ownership over problems and solutions. By taking myself out of the equation, I avoid negative feelings, but more importantly I believe the team grows and becomes capable of solving even greater challenges on their own.

Ultimately, this has led to a culture where our team looks forward to getting negative feedback because they know they will benefit from it. This mirrors the approach taken by Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, who proactively seeks out and listens to negative feedback.

7. Be tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people

Doug Conant, former CEO of Fortune 500 company Campbell Soup Company and founder and CEO of Conant Leadership

When I give feedback, I often start with the four magic words of leadership, “How can I help?” Next, I ask additional questions to get to the root challenge. For example, “What can we do better?”

By asking these questions with sincerity, commitment, and a desire to help, leaders can be tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people. Most people unnecessarily sacrifice one for the other, but it is imperative that leaders incorporate both in a meaningful way, if they hope to achieve sustainable high performance.

The power of this approach is that it:

Sets the purpose of the conversation as solving the problem, not attacking the person.

Positions myself as a resource rather than a combatant.

Empowers the person to productively work through the issue.

8. Sandwich your feedback and spread it out

Cameron Herold, author of Double Double, CEO coach, and globally renowned speaker

I “sandwich” the constructive criticism inside the good stuff and spread it out throughout the day:

1. Tell them what they’re doing well.

2. Tell them what specifically needs to improve.

3. Tell them something else they’re doing well.

I learned this 30 years ago in the One Minute Manager, and it still holds up today. It’s also a great way to raise kids too – and I have four. Here’s why it works:

It is crucial to give MORE positive feedback than negative feedback. According to one study, top performing teams give each other more than five positive comments for every negative one.

It is crucial to give feedback immediately. Stanford University researcher on behavioral change, BJ Fogg, shares, “It’s critical for people to give feedback during or immediately after the behavior so that people’s brains will wire it correctly.” In other words, the tighter the feedback loop, the more immediately that feedback can be incorporated into and influence future behavior. How much more slowly would your golf swing improve if someone told you to ‘square your shoulders’ a week after a practice session vs. after your first few swings?

9. Direct your passion to competitors and your heart toward employees

Aaron Steed, CEO of Meathead Movers

We all have passion and heart about our businesses. That passion is critical for the success of the company. It’s good for employees to see. However, the mistake that many founders make is directing that energy negatively toward employees with harsh feedback that employees can’t help but take personally.

The goal isn’t to kill the passion; it’s to redirect it.

When giving feedback, I direct my passion toward competitors, and my heart toward employees. When I do this, meetings turn from defensive to inspirational. Here’s how I do it:

I set my default to always come from a place of love, gratitude and curiosity (LGC).

I write “LGC” on the top of my personal, printed meeting agenda, if I’m stepping into a serious meeting. This helps me focus on why LGC is important. Our environment unconsciously triggers certain emotions. One study even found that holding a warm cup of coffee can increase the odds of us being more warm to others.

10. Show a funny video before giving feedback

Kay Koplovitz, founder, USA Network and Syfy

A great way to relax someone is to find a cartoon, funny video or something else of interest to share to help the person let down their defensive guard. From there, it is easier to direct conversation to why their performance was subpar, and how to improve.

Beyond the immediate impact on everyone’s mood, laughter has long-term health benefits as well. And it may not only help the person you’re giving feedback to! It may help you. If you’re resisting confronting a lackluster performance, keep in mind a fascinating study, which found watching comedy videos increases willpower!

About the Author: Michael Simmons is a bestselling author, international keynote speaker, award-winning young entrepreneur, and columnist for Forbes, Business Insider, and Harvard Business Review. Simmons is the co-founder & partner of Empact, a global entrepreneurship education organization that has held 500+ entrepreneurship events including Summits at the White House, US Chamber of Commerce, and United Nations. Connect with him on Twitter (@michaeldsimmons) and his Blog.

What Happen When a Real Leader Enters a Room

 


5 Things That Happen When a Real Leader Enters a Room

By Benjamin P. Hardy @BenjaminPHardy

“There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” –Jocko Willink

Leadership is what determines how successful you and those around you are. If there is minimal success, there is minimal leadership.

There are very few real leaders:

  • Who genuinely stand for something and brightly reflect those standards.
  • Who are willing to put everything on the line for what they believe in.
  • Who create change and lead.

Here’s what abruptly happens when you take ownership of your life and situation:

1. Inject a winning standard of performance before you start winning.

“How would your life change if you made decisions TODAY as if you were already the person you want to become TOMORROW? We tend to live up to our own feelings of ourselves (for better or for worse). If we plan to become something else, what better way to do so than to step into that skin now?”  — Richie Norton

It doesn’t matter what your current circumstances are. Winners act like winners before they start winning.

Your mindset is what you grow into. Mental creation always precedes physical creation. Who you are in your head is who you eventually become.

The first thing that happens when you step up as a leader is that you and everyone around you begin looking toward success. You start craving it, and believing it’s possible. In turn, your behavior starts changing.

It all starts with you.

2. Constancy among chaos and success.

“Consistent effort is a consistent challenge.” Bill Walsh

Most people can’t handle failure or success. They’re on a behavioral roller coaster depending entirely on external circumstances. When things aren’t going well, they’re overwhelmed or depressed. When things are going well, they’re overconfident and lazy.

However, when you show up as a leader, your mindset and behavior remain constant regardless of success or defeat.

You are marching forward to the beat of your own drum. Everything outside you is noise. You’re compelled forward by intrinsic vision and values. Your consistency reflects your conversion to your cause.

3. A clear point of reference is established to keep you consistent.

When you decide to lead, you provide a clear standard of excellence. Your standard of excellence becomes your point of reference, keeping you honest and consistent in all circumstances.

It ensures you don’t have too many bad days in a row. Or get derailed by haters. Or get overconfident when successful.

Your point of reference is what you really believe in. It’s why you do it.

When you’re struggling and failing, you look to your point of reference. When you’re crushing it, you look to your point of reference.

What’s your point of reference?

4. Clear performance metrics are established to keep you accountable.

“Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” — Thomas S. Monson

What does success look like for you, behaviorally? What is your actual job? What do you need to do?

How do you determine if you’re failing or succeeding?

There should be clear metrics to measure yourself against. However, simply knowing what you should be doing isn’t enough. Clear accountability needs to be put in place.

That accountability, if possible, should be to an actual person, not just a spreadsheet. When you are required to report your progress — especially to someone you respect — your performance will improve.

5. As the leader, you reflect the standard of excellence and recognize you are the ultimate bottleneck.

You are the example of what optimal performance looks like. You become the living and breathing standard of excellence for others to emulate. You reflect your mission and values.

One thing is absolutely certain: Those following you will mimic your performance — whether good or bad. Thus, you are the ultimate bottleneck. Your failure to get to the next level hinders everyone relying on you. You can’t take people beyond where you currently are, personally and professionally.

Hence, Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, has said, “Never take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade places with.”

Who you follow determines where you get in life. If your leader isn’t moving forward, you’re not moving forward, because your results are a reflection of your leader’s results.

Conclusion.

The better you become, the more clearly you can help others get where they need to go, because you’ve been there yourself. The essence of true leadership is pure ownership. You’re no longer doing it for yourself, but so you can take those you lead further.