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Warren Buffet has said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”

Let it Slide

I know that in many organizations that the product manager is not responsible for sales and business development. In a startup, or what I’ve been doing the last year at non-profit commercializing their IP, I’m very much responsible for everything from listening to the market, getting it built, pricing it, selling it, doing business development, and taking it live.

I recently completed a sale with a customer where during the redline process with contracts they asked me to add a clause that would give us an additional 5% in annual revenue on the subscription for support and services. We are talking a pittance that would have likely gone unnoticed had I let it slide through contracting.

They asked for it after all. I could always point back to that request by the customer to justify why I accepted the additional $5K from this client.

What would you have done?

Hopefully, if you are an exceptional product leader, you would have done the right thing–fix the error. As Buffet said above, this is the long game we are all playing.

Smoke Signals

Integrity is too valuable to let it go up in smoke.

My integrity is too valuable to the long-term success of this organization for any amount of money. I know that there are people in the business world that will put one over on their mothers to make a fast buck. I don’t want to succeed that way.

We are a non-profit and ever dollar of software I sell counts. Find it somewhere else. The goodwill that I generated with that customer will help strengthen the relationship and might even lead to a sales lead or two down the line because they know that they can trust our organization and more importantly as a product leader, me.

I’ve talked about it in the servant leadership post. If you did not see it, here is the link to catch-up. Had others internally known and seen me allow that oversight to slip through for advantage I would have lost credibility with my team.

A little dishonesty here and little there and all of sudden you have a product group (or worse organization) that is heading down a dark path. If you want to know how that story ends–Enron. There are countless examples of companies and individuals that bilk billions out trusting customers and employees every day. Don’t be a Bernie!

Thank Your Competition

Have integrity that is a model of the type of culture and organization that good people want to be associated with in their careers. Whether someone participated in the act or not, there is always a stigma. We have to hold our leadership accountable to high integrity as well.

I left an organization because nothing I said or did would change the dark path the culture was on. It was not too late to change, but those habits needed to be replaced by leadership.

It has been said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” As a product leader, you know the benefits of missteps by your competitors are a compelling event.

At one of my past companies, we could thank our competitor for $11MM in unexpected revenue because of some “oversights” that some individuals made. Customers needed the product, but the government was preventing our competitor from selling until they could get their house back in order–it was an internal integrity issue.

The rival survived the business hiccup, but some people in their organization in product leadership did not. People got fired. It was not pretty. It was not an accident, so it eventually will catch up with you. Industries are more like families than you might think. Those former product leaders are not likely to find work in the sector anytime soon.

Conversely, it made our team look even better when we won all of that business. People in our organization were getting promoted and taking home huge bonuses because of the rivals loss of trust in the marketplace.

Are you serious about a long-term career as a respected product leader? Do you want to excel today and into the future?

Easy Plan: Do everything with integrity in life and business.

I will be posting about the “Whole Person” from the Pragmatic Marketing infographic that was so insightful about the personalities of product leaders. Check it out if you have not.

Brian Stout
Software Product Leader

1278141Star Product Leader PSA

The team at Pragmatic Marketing created an incredible infographic that gets to the essence of what skills a “rock star” product manager or product marketer are likely to possess. You must check it out here. Print it. Make it your wallpaper. Pin it up on your wall. Frame it. It is that good.

I’ve been a software product manager for many years now and lead some exceptional teams. I’ve seen these traits in the best product leaders (and humbled when others have seen them in me) and will share some insights I have found on how you enrich these individuals and help make your teams even better.

I’m building on the nine traits as defined by Pragmatic Marketing of Rockstar Product Leaders
(Please give them some love and get certified–it’s worth the investment)
1. Curiosity (Turn Up Your Rock Star Product Leaders)
2. Charisma (Take Notice: The Charismatic are NOT Static)
3. Competitiveness (Better Than You: Competing for Product Leadership)
4. Optimism (Look on the Bright Side: Ludicrous Mode for Product Leaders)
5. Servant Leadership (In the Lead: Servant Leadership)
6. Confidence
7. Integrity (Getting High: How Lofty Integrity Lifts Products)
8. Whole Person
9. Always Learning Expert
10. The Missing Trait