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Grow your Product: Leadership and Entrepreneurial Strategy

Written by: Ralph Twombly
Published: May 2012

How to grow your product as a leader

Part 3 in a 3 Part Series:

Last month (April) in Show Your Product I provided ideas regarding how you might show your product. This final installment is focused on growth. Growth of your leadership and, if you are entrepreneurial, growth of your business product.

Grow Your Product
If you are in leadership or run a company you can never sit on your laurels. I wish there were more time spent basking and enjoying but, alas, it is time to talk about growing your product. This is one of my passions. Somewhere the personality gods cursed me to never be quite satisfied with anything we build, and after years of wondering what might be wrong with me, I have decided to surrender to the itch of change. Around here it is called a lot of things that the gang may not share with me. In the end, I think it adds energy to our work and, in the long term, makes the company more viable.

Example: Reflective Time Shifting (RTS)
You may have heard from us in recent articles or seen in writing examples about emotional intelligence. RTS is the ability to look at the past, focus on the current or present moment and look forward into the future. Sounds easy however it is the people who can do this all at the same time who capture the essence of their market and manage productive change. You have seen the people who get stuck in the past, or those who are perpetually locked into the future with their blue sky dreams. There are also those who get stuck into the myopia (lack of foresight or long-term planning) of being locked on completely in "today." Reflective time shifters can do all three at the moment it is needed and the habit serves them as leaders and their organizations.

There is a growing phenomenon about women. Women outnumber men in leadership development workshops at Priority Learning two to one. Why is it that women seem so interested in growing their leadership skills as a general audience? Don't get me wrong, I am not saying men have no interest in learning new leadership ideas, but the numbers are pretty compelling. We have some ideas about that and they are:

  1. grow your productWe stumbled on the idea that leadership development felt like training and in many men's eyes that word (training) feels remedial and who wants to be a remedial learner?
  2. We thought it may have something to do with the idea that leadership nowadays is more about interpersonal relationship stuff. That interpersonal relationship stuff was once considered soft skill work. Soft skills are associated in many people's minds as a "girl thing" so maybe the answer is there? We were stumped by this one because here at Priority Learning we are mostly men who do the workshops around leadership. That couldn't be the right answer could it?
  3. Maybe women are better learners in a public environment and feel more comfortable in a social setting?
  4. Finally, we had to wonder if it had something to do with peer pressure and the feeling of being away from work for a day to learn something new. Does this have a greater impact on men than on women?

Hmmm...I think we concluded that it had to do with all four ideas above and it would be situational to each person. Pretty good example of diplomatic time shifting, huh? It is however related to Growing Your Product isn't it?

Using the same elements as last month, I thought I would share ideas to grow your product.

Courage is gained by knowledge plus risk. You don't learn to be less afraid of the dark through simple knowledge. You learn by being in the dark and gaining comfort in your discomfort. We are afraid of darkness because for millions of years it was really unsafe when it got dark out. Today, life is a little safer in the dark but we live with those innate fears. You need to try things and they may not always work out but fear is fed by safely day over day doing the same safe things. If you want to be seen and referred to as courageous, push and tug at the edges of your comfort. Experiment in new ideas and new ways to think. Do things that stretch you. Don't do this as a "things to do" on your to-do list but as a shift in the way you live your life.

It sounds easy but we are going to be here on the planet for a finite period of time and patience is truly virtuous. Take a breath, look at people, focus on their needs, regardless of the craziness of your current captivating issue. How about something from a founding father:
"He that can have patience can have what he will."
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Poor Richard's Almanac, June 1736
Learn to be what your people need. If you want confusion, act like you are confused. If you want focus, be focused. If you want happiness, be happy and smile. If you want calmness, remember they are watching. Talk a deep breath, close your eyes for a couple of moments and calm your body, voice and meaning. It gets easier with practice.

Check with yourself. Do you know the destination in thirty days? How about six months or a year or two years? If you know, have you shared? If you don’t know, why don’t you know? If you run a business and you don't know, I bet your competitors do. Find the vision, build the vision, discuss the vision and do it continuously.

The art of asking questions is not a technique. The art is a core belief rooted in curiosity, humility and interest in people and ideas. Because I am in the quoting business today; how about:

"It's a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal."
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

This is "the coin of the realm" in business. Loyalty is unexpected and, therefore when given, is viewed as a precious commodity. Like many of the ideas above, it costs nothing and has enormous value. It is also a test to every leader. If you cannot be loyal, you cannot expect loyalty. Be loyal to values, good leaders, a great idea and the best interests of your organization. If you cannot be loyal, find a better place to be or; as an entrepreneur, build a better place to be.

Is a hope for all accomplished leaders. You have to want it to make it happen. People know when you don't want to be approached. For a million years we have been reading the signs from each other and, if people don't want to approach you, it is because you choose not to be approachable. If on the other hand you make the choice to be approachable, tell people you are trying and set your environment in a way that is inviting. Take the time to listen, be patient and thoughtful. Thank the first people who try to reach you and remember that you in return will get more feedback and information. The unapproachable are always the last to know.

Good Decision Making
Make your decisions known. Talk and teach good decision making techniques, using the Direct, Consultative and Collaborate models and involve people when possible. Talk about problem solving techniques and appreciative processes and soon you will see people coming to you as a decision making maven. Nice title to wear. Publishing your decisions somehow makes them more likely to become reality. It also provides a record of your decisions and make others likely to follow your positive leadership.

I don't know about you but I like determined people. Particularly, I like people who get determined around a good idea or cause. The determined people set the standard bar for hard work and everyone likes what they call, 'passion and energy'. It is the tonic of good leaders and when it is combined with humility, patience and good decision making, it is contagious.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief foray into Know Your Product, Show Your Product and Grow Your Product. As always, I am enriched by the work that goes into writing these articles and with luck will take my own advice.

I'd love to hear from you regarding your thoughts and ideas for future articles. If I don't hear from you, I'm sure some client will bring me a challenge and as a last resort I will come up with my own hair brained idea. So, I would love to hear from you first.

The next time you hear from me I will be sailing the islands of Casco Bay and enjoying the Maine summer with friends and relatives.

Enjoy the summer season!

Ralph Twombly

Ralph Twombly

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.