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Compassion in Product Leadership

Recently, while in a discussion with a senior executive, I asked; “What are the attributes or traits of  product leaders that work for you?” He responded with a list that included; communicator, team player, business savvy and then shared that humility and other important characteristics made for exceptional product leaders.

In a recent post Climbing to the Top? Bring Compassion by Bruce Kasanoff, he shared that while courage, discipline and tenacity are often cited attributes, that we need to bring compassion to leadership. Why?

Compassion brings Action

Just a few days ago, I was traveling and went through the typical security screening process. While re-loading by bag, storing my personal stuff and getting dressed, a gentleman beside me said; “Excuse me. This may sound awkward, but would you please tie me shoes?” Now, I’ve tied lot’s of shoes in my life. My own, my children, my wife’s kindergarten class, but I don’t recall tying another adults shoes.

He then showed me his burned fingertips, explained how he had no feeling in them and they were sensitive. He apologized for wearing lace up shoes to the airport. My response was simple. “Sure, I’d be glad to ties your shoes.” As people walked by looking at me tying this guys shoes, I didn’t stop to think, but acted. Compassion incites action.


As product leaders are we compassionate with those we lead and work with? Or do we bring too much of the “A-game” “hardball” image and persona to our roles and forget to be perceptive, compassionate and then act.

My recent experience and the post by Bruce gave me time to reflect and recall my actions as a leader.

What attributes do you possess and where does compassion factor as a product leader?

Looking for a good review? Start with Five Ways to Lead With More Compassion a HBR post by  Susan Cramm.

Hopefully, this post will cause you to reflect as well. I know it’s given me time to reflect my simple act and I know that the simple, small acts will give a boost to others in product management and those you interact with.

I’d like to hear if you agree, disagree or believe compassion is an attribute of product leadership. If you like the post, please share it on your favorite social media sites or through your feeds.

Here’s a quick link to use. Compassion in Product Leadership. A new post by @jim_holland #prodmgmt #leadership #leadchange


Product Leadership – the Civil Way

Not too long ago, I was standing in a lobby of a hotel waiting to enter an elevator. Several other people were standing nearby. When the door opened, I offered for the others to get on before me. One of the women thanked me and then commented on my good manners and civility.

As someone who grew up with a strong southern heritage and raised by good parents, my mother taught me respect, civility and cordiality and to always treat people as I’d want to be treated.

As I thought about this event, I thought about another time when a board room was filled with senior leaders, many of them in product marketing and management. Gathered to discuss a critical topic with the CEO, the discussion became heated.

When a senior executive didn’t answer a question the way the CEO thought it should be answered, the CEO picked up a bagel that he was planning to eat and with a stream of obscenities, threw the bagel at the senior leaders head. It just missed him, but it set a nasty tone in the room and immediately changed the level of civility.

These two experiences are an interesting contrast of  how we act, react, respond and maintain a level of civility, in our daily lives, and in the workplace.

Let’s face it, we all get frustrated with others, our organization, and when things fail to go as planned. But is it worth damaging morale, productivity and working relationships in your organization?

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In the recent HBR article, The Price of Incivility by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, the authors shared; “Rudeness in the workplace is rampant, and it’s on the rise.”

How does incivility impact your organization and you as a leader?

Using more than 14,000 data points and a poll of over 800 managers, “We’ve learned just how people’s reactions play out. Among workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 47% intentionally decreased their time spent at work.
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
  • 63% lost time avoiding the offender.
  • 66% said hat their performance declined.
  • 78% said that their committment to the organization declined.
  • 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.
  • 24% admitted to taking their frustrations out on customers.

As leaders what can we do to maintain a civil workplace? Below are three suggestions and areas that I try to work on regularly and recommend to others.

Look at yourself – “Leaders set the tone, so you need to be aware of your actions and of how you come across to others” shares Porath and Person.

For those of us in product leadership positions, do you ask your team and others for their feedback? If not, give it a try. Setup some one-on-one time and let the person know that you are looking for honest insights into how you act and react at work. You might be surprised what you hear. “You may need a reality check from the people who work for you” confides Porath and Pearson.

Additionally, you may want to “keep a journal in which you track instances of civility and incivility and notes changes that you’d like to make.”

Teach and practice civility – “We’re always amazed by how many managers and employees tell us that they don’t understand what it means to be civil. One quarter of the offenders we surveyed said that they didn’t recognize their behavior as uncivil” shares the authors.

I once worked with a senior executive who often berated managers and employees openly. While I didn’t work directly for this person, I sat down with him one-on-one and after we had discussed some business, I shared what I had observed. He was quite shocked, a little upset, but was willing to listen. He attributed his behavior to another mentors style and he had adopted some of the bad habits. He asked if I along with some others would watch his actions and help him refine the interaction he had. Over a period of a year, he learned and applied some basic principles, changed his style and way of interaction, and over time became an effective and recognized leader that everyone enjoyed working with.

Stand up and be recognized – While product leaders are often recognized for their capabilities to guide and manage technology, teams and growth of solutions, how often are we willing to step up and speak to someone about their civility at work. I believe we forget this key aspect due to our busy schedules and life and brush it off as someone having “a bad day.” Successful leaders are the ones that monitors the habitat and their teams interaction with and are willing to coach and guide civility.

As we move into a new year, I will be looking at mysellf first, my team second and monitoring how we behave.  I will continue to be honest and open with my team and if I can help others improve their civility, I’ll do it. As product leaders, I hope we can lead by example and actions and support and improve how we interact with others.

If you like the post, please share it on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+. Here’s a quick link to use. Product Leadership – the Civil Way. A new post by @jim_holland

The World has Changed…

By now, most of you have heard that Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection. The $5B household name for generations carries $6.1B in debt and simply lost its way. As David Gillen, Deputy Business Editor for the New York Time recently shared, “It seemed like a company was stuck in time. The world changed, but Kodak didn’t.”

While these unfortunate events will create a “defensive posture” for Kodak, could this have been avoided? It’s a great question to ask and consider, especially as product management and innovators of all types quite often fight to stay relevant and have their products make a difference in current and expanding markets.

What could Kodak have done differently?

While I haven’t worked for the company, I am familiar with their brand, consumer and commercial products. I expect that many of you know them, but when was the last time you purchased a product or said, “Wow, I really like the problems they’ve solved for me.” In the generation of everyone has a digital camera attached to every device, I find in my house there are Apple devices, Android phones and a litany of devices for photography that do not bear their name. As a person whose family was associated with the commercial printing business for decades, and a person who worked in commercial print shops in high school using their equipment and products, why has their relevance, innovation and market all but disappeared?

Will this same plight happen to current innovators such as Apple and others?

I’d like to have you weigh in on what product management methods you’ve used to stay relevant and how you and your organization has stayed ahead of or found new paths to innovation. With your input, I’ll publish the conversations, ideas and experience here.

To share this post on LinkedIn or Twitter, simply copy the link. I look forward to your comments, ideas and experiences. “The World Has Changed… a new post by @jim_holland #prodmgmt #prodmktg #innovation

Every week is SHARK WEEK in Product Management

I love SHARKS! They are fascinating creatures and are often misunderstood and maligned. This week is one of my favorite times of the year. The Discovery Channel runs all types of shark programming featured as SHARK WEEK. There’s analysis, interviews, conjecture, conversations, education, entertainment and amazing film footage that makes you rethink a day at the beach.What do sharks and product management have in common? While we may think that sharks swim in other areas of your organizations, sharks can teach us a lot about our profession.
Inquisitive – Unless you’re own the menu, shark attacks occur more often out of curiosity or mistaken identity than anything else. As product management or product marketing are you inquisitive and willing to step outside of your comfort zone and the office to really understand customer problems and their needs?While we all know it’s important to get out of the office and connect with customers and the market, do you possess an inquisitive nature that will push you out the door?In his post Explore your curiosity, Jeff Lash shares, “If you want to be a good product manager, be curious. Product managers need to have a genuine interest in learning more about the market, customer needs, new technologies, and other trends. It’s not a question of whether or if these will impact your product, it’s a question of when. Product managers need to constantly be learning, adapting, and evolving. They need to keep current with changes in everything from society and government to technology and innovation.”

Adaptable – A few years ago, Shark Week featured a segment on Great White sharks that become airborne in pursuit of it prey. Like great white sharks, product professionals have to be adaptable. Are you adaptable to change and willing to take on new responsibilities, projects, innovation ideas and willing to look beyond your title or role? It’s my opinion that product management and product marketing has to maintain an adaptable, start-up mentality, no matter how large the organization.

In the article, How to maintain a start-up mentality as your business grows” by Jennifer Wang, she shares, “Start-ups are often spearheaded by individuals who have experienced a common problem and have come up with a solution that is meaningful to themselves and their customers. The founders and initial employees are in-tune with customers and can nimbly respond to changing customer needs.” Are you the adaptable, nimble and in-tune product professional?

Hungry – While most people think all sharks eat non-stop, each variety has it’s own preference of how, what, where and when it consumes. Product management and product marketing should be the same. We don’t all learn the same, implement the same best practices at the same time, use the same methods or have the same roles and responsibilities. However, when you have the appetite or hunger to continuously improve, extend and expand, you’ll find that new opportunities and activities to satisfy your hunger will be there. When was the last time you woke up in the middle of the night with a great idea on how to improve product management and product marketing in your organization? Are you hungry?

Product professionals must maintain a few shark-like qualities including being inquisitive, adaptive and hungry. While Shark Week may be over in seven days, product management and product marketing will be here next week and next year only if you evolve with your organization.

If you can think of a few more shark-like qualities that product management and product marketing should possess, please share them. If you like the post, please share it with the following link. Every week is Shark Week in Product Management – a new post by @jim_holland #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership

Managing Product Management Distractions

Last week while reading email, answering IM , viewing Twitter stream, looking at a text message from my son, reviewing a clients LinkedIn profile, answering a call and trying to focus on product management tasks, Bob Corrigan, sent a response to an earlier tweet I had posted. “Does technology distract (#prodmgmt & #prodmktg) from being effective? via @BrightInnovate #business #success,”

Bob responded with the following: “There’s not enough characters in a tweet to document the distractions that plague product management. Twitter is one.”

In thinking about his response, How can product management and product marketing manage distractions?

Information Overload – in their recent post The Age of Distraction, by Bright InnovationsCathy Davidson, a professor at Duke University was highlighted. Watch the video in the post, then link to her interview in Fast Company.  Dr. Davidson shares, “Going all the way back to Socrates, attention is the problem people most become aware of when a new technology arises. There’s no such thing as lack of distraction — we’ve always been filtering. But new technology puts stress on our old, automatic ways of paying attention.”

Placing your smart device aside for a minute, product professionals must find new ways to learn or re-learn how to pay attention, cope and deflect the onslaught of new technologies and information that distract us. As “product” oriented creatures, we grasp and often drool over the newest innovations and usually jump on-board and test drive new solutions. By a show of hands or a +1, how many of you are using Google+ ? Add one to your count for me.

Like a moth lured to a bug zapper, product professionals are often consumed with the latest and greatest gadgets. Why? I believe it’s a combination of our technology heritage, our desire to associate with innovation, our need to understand and validate markets, our willingness to test positioning and find new ways to sift through the daily noise to truly collaborate. Or perhaps we just want to hang out with the cool kids. Either way, how do we manage the onslaught and use this to our advantage?

(Re)Learning and Adapting – Every time a new technology emerges, I evaluate how it will impact me personally and what benefits I see. While I don’t perform a personalSWOT, I do consider my current and future needs, habits, desired changes, interest, working environment and how it could influence and improve collaboration.

Dr. Davidson argues “that we’re at the perfect moment to begin re-imagining our institutions and developing practices to deal with the onslaught of information, the reality of constant connectedness, and the challenges of global collaboration.”

While some of you might question technologies role as we adapt and change, the business world we live in continues to move from it’s industrialized heritage to one that is formed on collaboration, openness and information. These three elements can guide and influence better decisions, but only if we manage the distractions they present. Product management and product marketing have to transition with it or lose credibility and value because of it.

Grasp Collaboration, not Technology – While technology can be a vehicle for collaboration, there’s a larger processor in the world (our collective knowledge) that will guide this change. To make and support the transitions to a collaborative state, the following questions should be considered:

  • Does my business style and personality lend to or take away from a collaborative culture?
  • How do I currently collaborate?
  • What styles and methods of collaboration does my organization use and does it complement or hinder mine?
  • Do I value technology over conversation and collaboration?

By honestly asking and contemplating these questions, we can relearn and adapt to manage day-to-day distractions and improve as product professionals through collaboration.

Dealing with Distractions – I’ll be the first to admit that I overuse and often abuse collaborative technologies. Whether they’re in my hand, sitting on my desk, in my home, the solutions I use should have a dual purpose. One is to support me internally. This is the work and business side. The other is the external. The connection that allow me to share ideas, express my thoughts, collaborate with professional peers, ask questions and learn. If used correctly, one will benefit the other. So, what can we do to better manage the distractions? Here’s some things I do:

  • Limit the amount of time spent on non-work collaboration. I schedule blocks of time.
  • Be “out of the office” or “offline” when you really need to limit distractions.
  • Practice the Art of Saying No.
  • Forward my office phone to my mobile phone and silence the ringer of turn it off.
  • Skip a meeting and see if anyone notices. If they don’t, unofficially un-invite yourself.

Some other ways to limit distractions from Dr. Davidson’s book, “Now You See It” include:

  • Plan offline interruptions into your day, whether a walk at lunch or a face-to-face meeting.
  • Within your workplace, colleagues should have the ability to “hole up” solo or together on a project, free from constant connection to the rest of the world.
  • A tip from designer Aza Raskin: Try reserving separate screens, or even separate devices, for Facebook, Twitter, and other distractors. If they’re in separate rooms, even better.
  • Get into the habit of tagging complex matters to be discussed later, in real time. Davidson sends her colleagues emails with the subject line “Agenda”; at their weekly conference call, she’ll search her email for the term and — presto! — a list of items to discuss pops up.
  • If chronically distracted, look below the surface. “We complain about email interference,” she says, “but the two most distracting things in any human life are emotional upset and physical discomfort — heartache and heartburn.”

At the end of the day, we have to decide if the distractions will manage us or if we will manage them. Feel free to provide some insights and experiences on how you manage distraction. If you enjoyed the post, please share it:Managing Product Management Distractions – a new post by @jim_holland #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership #in