Product Management: What’s the Role of the Leader?

Leadership and Product Management

For many companies, success is directly tied to an amazing product. Developing and launching an amazing product requires excellent management of the product development process. Some companies call this critical role Product Management, while others call it Program Management. No matter what you call it, it probably can be boiled down to owning the vision, design, and execution of your product. And this requires leadership. Continue reading “Product Management: What’s the Role of the Leader?” »

Leadership lessons from unexpected places

Posted January 14th, 2014 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

Sometimes leadership lessons come to us from the most unexpected places. My sister recently sent me a blog she wrote called Childhood Lessons. I expected to find simple little lessons about sharing or being nice. Not that my sister is simple, but I think our childhood was pretty standard. After reading her message and references to big events that resulted in lifelong lessons, it got me thinking about how my childhood experiences shaped my leadership skills.

In addition to the fact that I was bossy, I realized that in every event, milestone, and experience, there was a lesson that contributed to my work as a leader.

Check out her blog post and let me know how YOUR childhood experiences have shaped your leadership skills.

Championing Execution: Feedback

Posted November 28th, 2013 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

This is the final post in our thirteen-week leadership best-practices series.

If you’re a parent, you know how important feedback is to raising a child. You praise your son when he correctly puts the square block in the square hole. You encourage your daughter when she helps clear the table. You might give your son a time out when he doesn’t listen to you.

Feedback is when it comes to being a parent, and it’s just as important when it comes to leading people. Giving your team feedback requires you as the leader to be involved. You have to keep your fingers on the pulse of the organization and provide productive feedback.  Unfortunately, delivering feedback is a discipline that many leaders at all levels seem to regard as discretionary.

For instance, in a study by The Ken Blanchard Companies, they surveyed leaders, managers, and executives, asking them: “What are the top five things that leaders most often fail to do when working with others?” The number one answer was: “Failing to provide appropriate feedback (praise, redirection).”

There are two important aspects of feedback: addressing problems and offering praise.

In our research on leadership behaviors, we found that leaders are more than twice as likely to see themselves as very good at Continue reading “Championing Execution: Feedback” »

Championing Execution: Structure

Posted November 14th, 2013 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

This is the twelfth post in our thirteen-week leadership best-practices series.

One of my favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Who wants to fail on purpose? But that’s exactly what leaders do when it comes to focusing on the tasks that are required to execute the vision. Many leaders have an attitude that “Managers manage tasks, and leaders lead people.” So they turn things over and move on when it comes to execution.

And yet there is strong evidence that the leader must provide a plan that brings together people, strategy and operations. In fact, authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan wrote an entire book about execution, stating that execution is “the missing link between aspirations and results.”

So how can you be sure you provide the structure that is needed to execute your vision? You need to provide a plan and analyze in-depth.

When it’s time to execute your vision, it’s time to dive into the details. By focusing on the planning process, the leader assures there is Continue reading “Championing Execution: Structure” »

Championing Execution: Momentum

Posted November 7th, 2013 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

This is the eleventh post in our thirteen-week leadership best-practices series.

When it comes to championing execution, one of the most important things a leader can do is to create momentum. Momentum keeps things moving.

The case for momentum is well-documented. Best-selling author John Maxwell calls momentum “a leader’s best friend,” with one of its virtues being the ability to accentuate the positive, making success seem more certain and challenges more manageable. With momentum, the focus isn’t on the pain of what people are doing, but on the satisfaction that the eventual outcome will bring. John Kotter, the renowned expert on leadership and change, calls for “establishing a sense of urgency” in his Eight-Step Process for Leading Change.

Leaders who excel at creating momentum focus on being driven and initiating action.

Drive is pushing yourself and others forward. There’s an impatience about people who are driven—but in a good way. They create a current that keeps things moving. Driven leaders aren’t just personally ambitious; Continue reading “Championing Execution: Momentum” »

Introduction to Championing Execution

Posted October 31st, 2013 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

This is the tenth post in our thirteen-week leadership best-practices series.

As a leader, you understand the importance of crafting a vision, and getting people aligned. At this point, many leaders turn things over to the managers so they can execute. But effective leaders understand that the leader is responsible for championing execution.

Execution is, perhaps, the most obvious step in a company’s process: if you don’t execute, you are lost. In spite of this, it is often the most overlooked aspect for leaders in the VAE model. What does it mean to “champion” something? Consider these champions: Continue reading “Introduction to Championing Execution” »

Building Alignment: Inspiration

Posted October 24th, 2013 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

This is the ninth post in our thirteen-week leadership best-practices series.

When it comes to getting people on board, a leader has to inspire others. It’s the leader’s job to breathe life into the vision so people are emotionally committed. It’s about painting an exciting picture of the future. This image of a leader inspiring people is almost synonymous with leadership. And yet, our research shows that only a select group of people see inspiration as their thing. For many of us, someone telling us to be more inspirational is like telling us to be taller. It doesn’t feel like something we can really change.

But when we break inspiration down to its essence, we’re talking about bringing positive energy to your group and your goals. In our leadership model of Vision, Alignment and Execution, there are two components that help with this: being expressive (the energy), and being encouraging (the positivity).

If you’re passionate about your work (and a leader must be), you have a number of options for expressing your enthusiasm. Continue reading “Building Alignment: Inspiration” »

Building Alignment: Dialogue

Posted October 17th, 2013 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

This is the eighth post in our thirteen-week leadership best-practices series.

When it comes to building alignment around your vision, dialogue plays a key role. Through dialogue, a leader establishes a two-way conversation, in contrast to the one-way communication needed for clarity, which I discussed in my last post. It involves suspending judgment and stretching to connect with the other person’s point of view. This requires openness and active listening.  Skilled leaders use dialogue as an opportunity to give people a voice. By engaging the group and making others part of the conversation, you open the door to shared ownership and accountability. In other words, you gain buy-in and begin to build engagement.

Dialogue is an art, but it’s also a skill that can be developed by practicing two key behaviors: exchanging perspectives and being receptive.

We want the people we lead to get it—to share our vision, our plan, our urgency, our passion. But it’s just as important for people to Continue reading “Building Alignment: Dialogue” »

Building Alignment: Clarity

Posted October 10th, 2013 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

This is the seventh post in our thirteen-week leadership best-practices series.

Getting people aligned is critical to getting buy-in to your vision. And one of the keys to communicating a future vision, plan, or change is to give people context. As the leader, you were probably involved in the decision-making process, sitting through all sorts of meetings and conversations during which ideas were shared. You know the history that led to the decision being made the way it was. But what about everyone else?

Our research suggests that leaders often overlook communicating what is obvious and intuitive to them, but can seem like a mystery to our followers. Providing clarity involves a delicate balance between keeping it simple and addressing real-world complexities. Leaders who master this tricky communication are good at explaining their rationale, and structuring messages so they are clearly understood.

Explaining the rationale behind the vision means Continue reading “Building Alignment: Clarity” »

Introduction to Building Alignment

Posted October 3rd, 2013 by Julie Straw and filed in Posts

This is the sixth post in our thirteen-week leadership best-practices series.

In our VAE leadership model, building alignment is the logical next stage after crafting a vision. Building alignment is the act of gaining buy-in for your vision and it’s absolutely critical in moving from imagination to reality.

Bill George, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, and former CEO of Medtronic says, “The most empowering condition of all is when the entire organization is aligned with its mission, and people’s passions and purpose are in synch with each other.”

Within an organization, if teams don’t have synchronization, they will be Continue reading “Introduction to Building Alignment” »