Graph with The People You Serve on the Y Axis and the Problems You Solve on the X Axis Near the origin are those you can serve the best to convert them into advocates. Moving away from the core = Diffusion. Moving toward the core = Focus.
Graph with The People You Serve on the Y Axis and the Problems You Solve on the X Axis Near the origin are those you can serve the best to convert them into advocates. Moving away from the core = Diffusion. Moving toward the core = Focus.
Getting the Vision Right is Hard Work

A great vision is one that unlocks human potential and creativity by painting a clear picture of what is possible. Stewarding, adapting, and continuously refining the vision is the top priority of successful leaders because it is a core component of the organization’s strategy. It is really hard to get it right. Stewarding the language around your vision is one of the top jobs of leaders, if not the top job.

When it is well articulated, understood, and shared, it serves to motivate people to apply creativity in their work toward the future described by the vision. With the combination…


A well-running organization, with highly motivated and aligned people, is a powerful form of high-art. It includes the performance art of your people delivering services and coordinating activities at scale and it has artifacts, symbols, and physical art that have the potential to leave a profound impression on the people it touches. The art manifests in and through all of the layers of the organization’s culture.

Culture as layers | Lexicon > Values > Mantras > Stories > Art > Conversations
Culture as layers | Lexicon > Values > Mantras > Stories > Art > Conversations
Culture in Context | Layers of an Onion

Culture is a lot like the bulb of an onion. It has many interesting layers and if you leave it on the shelf for too long, and don’t pay attention, it will surely rot…


Psychological Safety vs Structure | Parabolic curve with descriptions of different ranges
Psychological Safety vs Structure | Parabolic curve with descriptions of different ranges
The Relationship Between Safety and Structure | A Source of Innovation

The motivation of the people you surround yourself with is the wellspring of creativity in your life.

There is a complex relationship between motivation, psychological safety, the structure you impose, and the innovation that results. It is not as simple as you might think. The guru on the subject, author Amy Edmonson, Ph.D., coined the term ‘psychological safety’ and has spent the bulk of her career as a professor and researcher at Harvard University studying teams, teaming, and the dynamics of this phenomenon.

‘Psychological Safety’ is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with…


Self > Family > Others > Groups > Societies | Nested half circles in purple representing our spheres of caring
Self > Family > Others > Groups > Societies | Nested half circles in purple representing our spheres of caring
The Greatest Leaders Expand the ‘Spheres of Caring’ of Those They Serve

The greatest of leaders shift the thinking and behaviors of those they lead in ways that cause more caring and more influence through competence. They transform the thinking of those they serve by shifting the language of the group from “I” to “We” thinking at scale. Their work transforms their followers into leaders, through language, by empowering them to each scale both caring and influence in their work. The most successful leaders craft language, create tools and follow through with actions that allow their leadership to resonate for generations. Natural leaders have an uncanny ability to inspire others into action…


Hands Raised
Hands Raised
Asking Questions Can Hurt Your Relationships

In my experience, good leaders, who earn the respect of their colleagues, drive clarity when they are evangelizing their vision. They speak in clear language, state their assumptions, aggressively work the risks, and always think through the important questions, on their own, so that they know their options and can make the best decisions. The difference is not subtle.

Great leaders create more clarity than they consume.

The more complex a problem is, the more important clarity becomes. Without it, projects flounder and are poorly executed. Teams that lack clarity of vision appear “busy” and suffer a lack of progress…


Commitment, highlighted in red amongst a list of words, with a logo of interlocking rings.
Commitment, highlighted in red amongst a list of words, with a logo of interlocking rings.
Be purposeful with your commitments. It is a key to building and sustaining trust.

Commitment is rare. Building a culture of commitment in your organization accelerates trust.

People often avoid making small interpersonal commitments because they are risky. According to Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning and prolific academic, we value loss about twice as much as we value gains, thus it follows that we are more likely to avoid a negative experience resulting from a missed promise than to take the unnecessary risk of making a commitment. However, when you make commitments and keep them, even small promises, it builds trust faster. Being purposeful about the promises and commitments you make to your customers…


Finding and curating your advocates can significantly improve your culture

Ven Diagram with Advocacy in the Middle, Loyalty and Trust surrounding it
Ven Diagram with Advocacy in the Middle, Loyalty and Trust surrounding it
The North Star | The Journey to Advocacy

Establishing a clear north star metric for your business is hard work.

When I earned my MBA in 2006, I was taught the Milton Friedman — Esque mantras of “Shareholder Value,” “Return on Investment,” and “Profit” as the core measures of success for any business. One of the first books I was asked to read was “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt, a treatise to the “Theory of Constraints” theory of firm management.

In the software product world, our leadership literature is rife with attempts at explaining metrics for product success from the Google “HEART” metrics to Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics…


Lexicon > Stated Values > Mantras > Stories and Lore > Symbols and Art > Conversations > Action in a Rainbow
Lexicon > Stated Values > Mantras > Stories and Lore > Symbols and Art > Conversations > Action in a Rainbow
The Context for Culture

CULTURE AND STRATEGY

According to “The Internet,” Peter Ferdinand Drucker (1909–2005) purportedly said these words:

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” - Attributed to Peter Drucker

I cannot find any evidence of it in his writing, but this quote sparks a fantastic question all leaders have to struggle with in constructing their businesses. “What is culture, and how does it relate to the strategy of the organization?”

Like most important words in the English language, it is difficult for a group of people to operate on it purposefully without a shared definition. …


As Marc Andreessen said, “Software is eating the world.” For most firms, the software products they employ are key strategic investments, and they require a fundamental shift in how we think about how the software touches our customers or our employees as an extension of our brand.

Continuous Innovation is the future of software product development, but it requires some changes to how your organization thinks. Here are seven steps your organization can take in order to prepare for a shift to Continuous Innovation:

  1. Choose to compete on experience. In fact, if you intend to build a relationship with your…

A Two Decade Long Romance

A variety of sticky notes and circle stickers with numbers in them.
A variety of sticky notes and circle stickers with numbers in them.
The Evolution of Our Sticky Notes

Our industry owes sticky notes a tribute.

Sticky notes have become a prized item in the product leaders toolbox. We use them to brainstorm, sort, prioritize, vote, organize, group and rearrange everything from thoughts, domains, and problems to ideas, concepts and user stories. It is fair to say we would be lost without them in the product development world today.

We have learned a lot about how to use them and how not to use them along the way. …

Sean Flaherty

Technologist. Philosopher. Inspirer.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store