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Category Archives: Leadership

Character-Based Leadership

A few years ago, after discussing ideas and principles of leadership with a great cross-section of contributors, I packed my bags and headed to sunny Florida for the first Lead Change gathering.

Since that initial gathering, Mike Henry, a catalyst for change in leadership along with dozen of others have collaborated to deliver The Character Based Leader. Since receiving a copy, I have highlighted it’s pages, made some notes and would like to shares a few ideas.

So, What is Character-Based Leadership?

From Lead Change discussions a definition surfaced, “Character-based leadership is leading from who you are rather than from power or position.”

Lead Change as a group recognized that “we have a crisis of leadership and a need to personally be involved in changing the world of leadership for the better. It’s not that we feel leadership development is the problem, rather that the current methods aren’t keeping pace with the need expressed by individuals. In a way, individuals in the world are in search of leadership help faster and in a greater variety than is being provided.”

The Simple Truth of Leadership

John Maxwell?famously stated, “Leadership is influence, plain and simple.”

It’s not meant to be a power trip or laden with methods and a roadmap on how to get there.

We constantly read and hear about leaders how misuse their power while in leadership or positions of influence.?“The crisis is in people’s character, not in the positions that people attain” shared Don Shapiro.

Shapiro continues, “To produce a world of great leaders at home, in the community and in organizations, the time has come to make people’s character priority number one.”

Underlying Principles

The three core principles highlighted throughout the Character Based Leader include:

  • Leadership is influence
  • influence is given
  • People give influence based on competence, trust and purpose.

These principles are the essence of great leadership and happen as we inspire.

Simon Sinek stated, “We can only inspire or manipulate.” Each of us possesses the freedom to make choices and it’s up to us to decide whether we inspire or manipulate. ?Where will you lead? Where do you stand?

Lead from Where You Are

While we have to lead from where we are, we have to understand who we are. Lisa Petrilli shared, “There is no escaping the fact that when we show up for work and for our leadership roles, we bring the entirety of ourselves to the table. We bring our convictions, our strengths, our ideas, and our weaknesses, along with our insecurities, knowledge of our past failures, pride in our past accomplishments, and our desire to lead our teams successfully.”

When’s the last time we sat in a quiet place and assessed who we are, what we stand for, and looked at our strengths and weaknesses along with life’s lessons and what we should be learning and doing? Do we accept our whole selves and truly understand where we are taking ourselves and not just those we lead? How can we lead others when we may be lost on the leadership trail?

How Can I Make a Change?

Page Cole surfaced that “leading from your strengths is more than just admitting you are good at something. It also involves the next phase of leadership which is discovering what it is that you do really well.” Page continues, “The challenge for leaders is that this is less like a mining expedition and more like working in a laboratory.”

Each of us has a laboratory whether at home, the office, in the committee, and we need to consistently experiment and discover who we are, surface and assess our strengths, admit we have weaknesses and allow those in the labs to contribute to our change while we provide an avenue for the same.

I believe we need to tell more stories about our experiences and allow others to ask questions. Not too long ago, one of my children, a new homeowner called with a few questions. He said, “Have you ever renovated a bathroom that was built on solid concrete? Do you know how much labor it’s going to take and what it’s going to cost to complete the renovation?”

We discussed the project and the options he could take. I let him know that he was on the right track, validated the options and gave him a few suggestions. While this may seem like a conversation, he was telling me a story. I was able to share my experiences (some not so good) and we laughed some, but it gave him the outlet to move forward with the renovation. ?Both of us led from our strengths and experiences and opened the door to change. (As a side note, he learned that a jack hammer was crucial for the job.)

The laboratories I experiment in have surfaced things about me that I may have known or didn’t. I was asked to share what my strengths were to several people I had never met. I thought about it for a second told them who I was, what I believed and how I led. Immediately, there was a connection and the conversation continued as an open and less guarded discussion.

Reading the Character Based Leader has reinforced a few things I know about character-based leadership and taught me a few things I didn’t know. First, we have to persevere and be steadfast. Second, we have to surface concerns in leadership and address those head on. You can’t wimp out no matter what the consequences. Third, “Character-based leadership is the conscious choice to be an ambassador, to place the greater good, the purpose of the?organization and the needs of others above your own desires” shares Chery Gegelman.

Each of us can make a change and we can start now.

Thanks to the authors for their insights, passion and desire to lead a change in leadership. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book and he how much of a revolution you can instigate.

That Sucking Sound…

While we all know that product leaders in product management and product marketing can be pulled in all directions, I’m hearing more and more sucking sounds that indicate it’s more of a pull than I thought.

Recently, I was talking to a product manager and he said, “Man, it’s been a tough week. I’ve been designing the new user?experience?for our product, I’m a referee for the product team and I’m trying to manage my day job at the same time.” Immediately, I heard the sucking sound.

You know. The sucking sound that’s made when product leaders forget to lead and other priorities and disruption suck out what’s important in product leadership.

Just like the example of my friend, I recognize that product teams are sucked into inside out thinking, are pressured into becoming the UX guru, but when did it become fashionable for product management to become the delivery person for user experience and not customer experiences?

When did product marketing become the referee for inside-out thinking and not the leader of outside-in views and what’s really going on in the market.

Not too long ago everyone said “Product management is the CEO of the product.” Now, we’re lucky if product management is recognized as an extension to an administrative function in the organization.

Don’t get me wrong, the life of a product leader isn’t easy, but if we don’t get back to our true roots and bring an understanding of the market and customers in from the cold, the sucking sounds will continue, until your organization starts believing you are sucking at what you do and are expendable.

It’s not time to stand up and shout, “I’m a product leader,” it’s time to show up.

So, what’s it going to be product leaders?

If you like, dislike, agree or disagree with the post, please comment.

If you’d like to share it on Twitter, feel free to use, That Sucking Sound, a new post by @jim_holland – Time to step up #prodmgmt, #prodmktg, leadership?http://wp.me/pqeWU-re.

Want to share it on LinkedIn or Google+??That Sucking Sound… A new post and call to action by Jim Holland @jim_holland http://wp.me/pqeWU-re

Associations – the Power behind Innovation

This is the third in the series focused on The Innovators DNA?and how product leaders and others may acquire and develop their innovative DNA. It’s my goal to introduce concepts and ideas that will have product leaders of all types, think, act and engage differently. This post focuses on associations, their value and role in the innovation process.

Merriam-Websters online dictionary describes association as:

a) the act of associating.

b) something linked in memory or imagination with a thing or person.

Considering these two?definitions, what do associations provide and why are they important?

In my last post The Courage to Innovate, I shared an innovation model from the authors. This model should be at the core of every product and marketing leader and drive our disruptive thoughts and actions. When you think about your role as a product leader, do you possess and use Questioning, Observation, Networking and?Experimenting? If you do, then what’s missing?

Associations – “or the ability to make surprising connections across areas of knowledge, industries, even geographies– is an often-taken-for-granted skill among the innovators we studied” shared authors Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen. “Innovators actively pursue diverse new information and ideas through questioning, observing, networking and experimenting– the key catalysts for creative associations.”

Associations aren’t new. Throughout history, they’ve been used and perhaps are the keystone of innovations. In his book, The Medici Effect, Frans Johansson?shares. ”?When you step into?an intersection of ?elds, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine?existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas.”

Johansson calls this the Medici Effect named for the ?fteenth-century banking family who funded creators from a wide range of disciplines.

Where does associating happen? ?Today, we recognize Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Walt Disney and many others as innovators with the creativity to spark ideas in others.

While many organizations believe that innovation happens at home, I believe what Pragmatic Marketing teaches in, “Nothing Important Happens in the Office or NIHITO.”?

However, for innovators, I think we should change it to “No Innovation Happens in the Office.”?

While you’ll agree that you have to get out of the office to question, observe, network or experiment, how often should you get out and with whom and when?

“Innovation flourishes at the intersection of diverse experience, whether it be others or our own” shares the authors. The DNA of an innovator is one that “intentionally maneuvers?themselves?into the intersection, where diverse experience flourish and foster the discovery of new insight.” How often should you get out and observe, experiment and build new associations? Everyday.

As an example, last year I met Brice Sloan, President of Sloan Security Technologies. Now, I know almost nothing about about the security market where they succeed, however, they do and the Sloan brothers bring vast experience in large scale perimeter and other kinds of high-end security that would require government clearance to talk about. Brice found me through an intersection and the network.

He intentionally found me. Why? He’s has an innovators DNA and was experimenting with new ideas. He sought a variety of people, background, experiences and those that could experiment with him.

Why does an innovator connect with a person that has spent a large majority of his career in software? Simple. To question, experiment and connect with others who may not question “why,” but are willing to say, “Why not.” Since our first meeting, Brice and I have gotten together several times. He’s invited me and others to experiment with his ideas and how it applies his world.

With a strong desire to seek out unique problems and to engage with others that have ideas and expertise, Brice has introduced a series of solar powered?surveillance solutions not dependent on the grid. Basically, they’re smart video cameras that run on solar power and transmit video wirelessly?to any location. Can you think of hundreds of applications and uses, I can.

Intersections – “Disruptive innovators shine best at associating when actively crossing all kinds of borders, (geographic, industry,?company, profession, discipline, and so on) and engaging the other innovator’s DNA skills.”

Where can this happen? For product leaders, it can happen at BarCamps, Product Camps, wondering through a local retailer, a lawn and garden center or a?child’s?classroom. The intersections are limitless, but we have to be willing to step into them and not expect anything to happen but another idea or the unexpected.

You have to engage with your neighbors, friends, friends of friends, people who say, “You have to meet this person” and a thousand others. I’ve heard stories of people who give time to private investors, angel funds, and micro-lenders as well as volunteer in their communities with?start-ups?and small businesses to break into new intersections.

To grow your innovators DNA as a product leaders, we need to get out, get busy and extend ourselves. Please join me in taking the challenge this week to jump into some new?intersections,?collect ideas and experiment outside the office and leave your non-innovative comfort zone. As Edward de Bono author of Lateral Thinking shared, “You cannot look in a new direction by looking harder in the same direction.”

In my next post, we’ll discuss Innovation for the Risk Adverse. If you like the post, please share it on Twitter or LinkedIn using,?, Associations, the Power behind?Innovation?– a new post by @jim_holland http://wp.me/pqeWU-qj?#prodmgmt #innovation #leadership.?

The Courage to Innovate

This is the second in a series based on the book The Innovators DNA and how the research and principles support the discovery, growth and?creativity of product leaders and their organizations. I acknowledge the research, content and messages of the authors and personally value the impact it may have on product leaders, especially those in product management and product marketing.

I’ve wondered and often been frustrated with why a company and its management team don’t seem to have an innovative mindset, appear to have an innovators DNA nor care to foster one with product leaders?

This attitude, realized or not, often squelch creativity and innovation in product management and promotes complacency or worse, a division in the teams and their?creativity. This post explores why some senior executives don’t think differently, how it impacts product leaders and why courage is a critical step to innovation. We’ll also review a way to assess your innovative DNA.

Why Most Senior Executives Don’t Think Different – With eight years of interviewing scores of senior executives – mostly at large companies, Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen found that when they asked executives to describe the most novel or valuable?strategic insights, they rarely mentioned an innovative business idea they had personally generated. “In contrast to innovators who seek to fundamentally change existing business models, products or process, most senior executives work hard to?efficiently?deliver the next thing that should be done given the existing business model. That is they work inside the box.

Innovating while working inside the box?– What happens when you work in an organization where innovative thoughts and actions are not promoted, nor welcome. Usually you have limited choices. (You know what they are. Leave – Stay – or Suck it up.)

As an example, I worked with a company a number of years ago where innovation was often acquired. In that example, innovation was misunderstood and product management left in the shadows to figure it out. The authors share, “Innovators must consistently?think?different, to act different.” To maintain an innovative mindset, product management assumed the innovators role along with the Chief Technology Officer. Together, with engineering we discovered, experimented and innovated solutions while integrating with our buy, build, partner strategy. Product management stepped out of the shadows and began to infuse new ideas, conversations and associations. The importance of associations will be discussed in another post.

The Courage to Innovate –?If you work in a delivery-centric organization, it may be difficult to consistently think and act differently. “In short, it takes courage to innovate– an active bias against the status quo and an unflinching willingness to take smart risks– to transform ideas into powerful impact.” Why? Most executives are focused in delivering and need someone to step out and make an impact.

So, I have the courage and I’m willing to step up, what’s next? The?innovators?DNA model illustrated by the authors is a great place to start.

Take time to review this and personally assess yourself and then your team to see if you have the?behavioral?skills required. If you’re not sure, ask yourself:

  • Do I understand how questioning influences innovation, ideas and creativity and do I question enough?
  • Do I observe outside the office and in native?habitats where my customers and markets are? Do I observe in other habitats and learn from those environments?
  • Do I effectively network within and outside my comfort zone and am I willing to share my ideas with others?
  • Am I willing to experiment in areas that may not make sense to my organization or me and try not rationalize it away before I try?
  • Who do I know that excels in questioning, observing, networking and?experimenting?in my organization, team, circle of acquaintances and others outside my circle, and do I learn from them?

Next ask yourself the following:

  • Am I willing to risks on a regular basis?
  • Do I challenge the status quo in my organization?
  • Does my team challenge the status quo on a regular basis?
  • Does my organization handle challenging the status quo?

As we look at our innovative DNA, there will be vast differences in our ideas, answers, and how we build, acquire and obtain more. It’s a progressive process and starts with some level of personal or professional?disruption and change.

In summary, as product leaders, we need to determine if we have the courage to innovate and where we lack key DNA to really impact our organizations, people or areas around us. I welcome your comments and ideas on how you’ve acquired and grown an innovative mindset, displayed the courage and any experiences you’re willing to share.

In my next post, we’ll discuss Associations, and how connecting these accelerate ideas. If you like the post, please share it on Twitter or LinkedIn using, The Courage to Innovate, a new post in a series by @jim_holland?http://wp.me/pqeWU-pe #prodmgmt #innovation #leadership.?

If you’d like to learn more about formal innovator assessments, check out the Innovators DNA site.

Congratulations! You’re in the Top 5, Now What?

There’s always a lot of buzz when a major publication ranks and supports your profession as one of the Top 5 for the next year. Recently, Keith Cline?published The 5 Hardest Jobs to Fill in 2012. As an experienced recruiter for startups and high growth technology companies, Cline observed, “Hiring the best of the best is an absolute must if you are going to build a successful company.”

For over 20 years, most technology companies have relied on product management to be the face of the customer, a market instigator and someone creating, seeding or harvesting ideas and innovation and then proving that more than one company or person will buy.

Next year it won’t be any different or will it?

What Cline sees and most smart entrepreneurs value is handing the keys of product innovation and ownership to someone who can focus on it full-time. “It is always helpful for an early-stage company to hire someone who has very relevant and specific experience in your industry.? This is especially true for product management, since the person in this role will interface with customers and define the product strategy and use cases” confides Cline.

While I agree that early stage and any smart company should hire someone who has relevant and specific experience, each organization differs and specific experience versus adaptable experience applies.

As a case in point, my experience traverses a history in enterprise B2B technology. However, over the past 8 years I’ve found that my experience has adapted effectively in B2C companies, cloud-based technologies, consumer electronics, physical security solutions and others where I didn’t have the specific industry experience. Why?

When product management is grounded in sound product principles, has balance, thinks and acts with an agile mindset and is adaptable, industry experience isn’t as important. Now, I’m sure there are some people who will disagree, but that’s my opinion. Find me a product management professional with the?attributes?and DNA I mentioned, and I’ll take that over specific industry experience any day.

You’re in the Top 5, now what?

With the repeated visibility and recognition product management is enjoying, how can we capitalize on being in the top 5 of the most sought after positions in 2012? Below are a 5 things I believe we all have to do to build more credibility and value next year.

  1. Balanced accessibility – If you’re going to be the catalyst of your products and their?direction, you need to balance your accessibility. Everybody wants or needs something from you when you’re in product management and their will always be pressures associated with managing product success. However, you can’t focus on the important things without managing your accessibility. Balancing internal access makes you more accessible externally to customers, markets, new insights and trends. Having this balance will give you a perspective that your executives will value and appreciate.
  2. Exploration and discovery – Is a way of life in product management. Steve Blank?shared in The Four Steps to the Epiphany, “You need to leave guesswork behind and get outside the building in order to learn what high-value customer problems are.” Are you planning to explore and discover outside the office this year or just mine the same old internal information and support it with gut instinct? Create a simple exploration and discovery plan for the first quarter, socialize it, justify the expense and then pack. Don’t forget the information you’ll discover needs to be communicated when you return.?Your executive team will find the fresh prospective and outside views enlightening if communicated in the language they know and understand.
  3. Innovative mentality – “Innovative ideas flourish at?the?intersection of diverse experience, whether it be others or your own,” shared Jeffrey Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen and Clayton Christensen in The Innovators DNA. Having the mentality, desire and drive is one thing, but knowing where and how to build intersections is another. While innovation may originate from many sources, it best flourishes when you’re “sparking ideas within others and intersecting with others who can spark the same in you. Plan on introducing yourself to a local startup, give some time to a new entrepreneur and definitely plan to attend and participate in groups such as product management camps at least quarterly. The sparks and ideas that will surface will make you more valuable and diverse.
  4. Product starter/finisher – Product management isn’t a place for procrastination. If you are leading or will lead a new product, service or offering this year or have ideas that need market discovery or validation, create a simple plan, ask for help and ?stick too it. Starting is easy, finishing is painful. Before you start, review?your skills, the talents around you, your goals and requirements and what you need. Look for ways to involve others in the team or organization, then get busy, delegate frequently and take criticism with a smile. Remember, executives recognize and reward finishers.
  5. Communicator and collaborator – It goes without saying that collaboration and communication are product managements left and right arms. The two are analogous to a traffic policeman stopping, starting, guiding and directing traffic in multiple directions at the same time. Improving your communications upward (executives) and?horizontally (with product team collaborators) builds cadence that leads to successful requirements, development, user experience and launch. Take some time to review how you communicate. Do you use all the organizational and personal assets you have access to? If you are directing traffic and communicating from all directions, the organization will recognize your capabilities and leadership.

It’s great to have the recognition of being in the Top 5. Let’s prove we deserve it by earning it and exceeding?expectations. If you like the post, feel free to comment and share it. New post, “Congratulations, You’re in the Top 5, Now What?”?http://wp.me/pqeWU-mV by @jim_holland #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership

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