Manufacturing guy-at-large.

Jonathan Rosenberg on Leadership

Added on by Spencer Wright.

Below, excerpts from last month's First Round Review post, "42 Rules to Lead by from the Man Who Defined Google’s Product Strategy ." All are taken from a lecture that Jonathan Rosenberg, former Google SVP of Product, gave to Claremont McKenna College in 2010.

#3 Every word matters. 

“Be crisp and direct and choose each word wisely,” Rosenberg advises. “Communication isn’t rambling on in long-winded emails or spewing out every thought that comes to your head.” He quotes author Elmore Leonard. When asked what has made him so successful as a writer, Leonard famously said, “I leave out the parts that people skip.”

#8 Avoid the HPPO.

HPPO stands for “the highest-paid person’s opinion.” When you have a problem or a question, don’t naturally accept the HPPO in the room. Title means nothing. If someone’s experience has value, they should be able to frame a winning argument. “Everybody at every level should have an equal voice in the outcome, based on the strength of his or her arguments.” Rosenberg names Jim Barksdale as his favorite HPPO. As CEO of Netscape, Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at the data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

I have, I am afraid, made the mistake of accepting a superior's inadequate argument when I should have pressed for a better path. I've also pushed against authority in ways that were ineffective and counterproductive. Disagreeing with a misguided superior is a delicate task, but one which I would hope to improve my skills at. 

#10 Crowded is creative.

There’s a certain electricity that comes from working in a crowded, bustling space. “Offices should be designed for energy and interactions, not for isolation and status.”

#13 Show up.

True for everyone, and more for leaders: “Working from home is a malignant, metastasizing cancer,” Rosenberg says. “Ban it." 

#15 Hope is not a plan.

I was, once, part of a team whose plan was some secret sauce, made of a mixture of hope and faith. It was not an effective way to manage a project. Robert Greene instructs (in his dubious but interesting 48 Laws of Power) to "plan all the way to the end;" I tend to think that, so long as one's plans aren't precious, planning is of very high value.

#23 Don't hire specialists.

“Especially in tech,” Rosenberg says. “And don’t grow up to be a specialist. The job will change, and the underlying pace of the technology will transform the landscape so quickly that the specialist’s job will be gone.” As Einstein said, “Change is the only thing that is permanent.”

Not being much of a specialist myself, I can't help but agree. 

#36 Good judgment comes from experience. 

“On my team, I asked everyone who screwed up to write a postmortem and publish it to the entire team,” he says. “You would think this would be a shameful experience. But we kept an archive of all these things, and you know what, show me a team that never makes a mistake, and I’ll show you a team that has never done anything innovative.” Errors shouldn’t be defended or buried. They are what make you smarter. You can learn more from your mistakes than from your successes if you take time to study them.

I think this is a fantastic idea. 

#40 Mean what you say. 

A great leader has to commit -- body and soul -- to a team’s goal and vision. People can tell if it’s not the case, and they’re always watching. “Smart people can smell hypocrisy. So think before you speak, and make sure you spend your time on the things that you say are important. Culture is set from the top, and once set, it cannot be changed.”

As a manager of managers, then, it's important to have your team on board with a project's objectives and goals. I no longer wish to work towards goals that I'm not committed to. Under those circumstances, managing your own work and relating to the people around you is a fruitless task.