Throughout my career I’ve gravitated towards reading
leadership books. Books in this genre typically have good guidance no matter
what role you are in the organization: people manager, product manager, or team
member. For me they act like guide rails –
every time I find myself veering of my path I can count on a good leadership
book to get my focus back on track.
I just finished reading Simon Sinek’s new book: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. It’s now one of my
favorite books. In it he defines
leadership as “…. the choice to serve others with or without any formal rank.”
There are many great aspects of this book but my favorite is
on the topic of abstraction. I work for
a company that is growing at a significant pace and which prides itself in
putting its people first. It flips the
typical mindset of corporate America and believes if it takes care of its
employees, their employees will take care of their customers and the end result
is the shareholders will be taken care of.
Sinek’s book discusses how the bigger companies get the more distance is
put between the people at the top of a company
and the folks that use our products or actually do the work.. The larger a company gets the more people
Imagine two news stories.
1) A story that discusses 1000’s of people who are suffering due to a natural
disaster and 2) one where a family is interviewed, shows the damage to their
home and they talk about how they were displaced due to a fire in their home. Typically the second story resonates with us
more even though significantly more people were impacted in the first story – we have a name and a face to the story. We can empathize more with the
family impacted in the second type of news story.
As product and people leaders we have the risk of making
decisions solely on metrics. This is due
to the distance that is now between us and our employees or customers. Do you
find yourself saying things like “that only impacts 10% of our customers” –
without truly understanding the impact to that 10%? Doing that is a disservice to the people who
count on us. We need to have a connection to those we serve to truly make
informed decisions. Get out of your
office and talk to the people you
work with…talk to the customers who
use your product – they are the people that make your organization run. We need
to make the time to understand what makes them tick. This can help drive the culture of your organization
to be one based on trust, which leads to a collaborative environment and allow
the people you work with to do great things.
Sinek’s book has given me a lot to think about-especially
working for an organization that is in a period of abundance which is when it’s
most at risk of making people an abstraction.
I look forward to the challenge in ensuring that doesn’t happen.
There is so much more to this book – if you get a chance
give it a read!