The world is absorbing the news of the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I’m still absorbing the loss of my father-in-law, Paul Leffingwell, who died two weeks ago. Even though he made his mark on the world in a smaller way, he taught me important lessons along the way.

He was a landscape architect. A job that I didn’t know existed until I met him and didn’t understand until I saw his work. I’m including some photos of his work here, but that’s only part of the story. The best encapsulation of the other part of the story was when…


People often ask me about attracting and retaining top talent. And I usually answer it wrong.

The reason I answer it incorrectly, is because I answer it.

But the premise of the question is wrong. Top talent don’t want to be retained, they want to be expanded. You want your best people to be doing their best work. If you can’t offer them a place to do that, then it’s better for everyone to put them in a place where they can. Hopefully, there’s a place in the company, even if it’s not your team. …


History can give you perspective. Or it can hold you back. It’s how you use it.

The fourth of July always gets me thinking about history. This year more than most, not just because of seeing Hamilton. What we are learning from this year, I hope, is that nuance is not a vice. George Washington can be the first president and have done many things that created the path for people to be more free than in previous societies and also have been a slave owner at a time it was possible to own slaves but when many already knew it was morally objectionable. …


Setting your team up for success begins with hiring the right way. This also enables you to eliminate some of the biases that get in the way of hiring a more diverse team.

Some years ago, I was having a political debate about the upcoming presidential election. One person said, “I think he would be a better president, but they’re just not good at the campaign stuff.” Another person said, “Well, that’s the problem then. Our system is set up to elect someone based on their ability to get the job, not the ability to do the job.”

Which is…


Photo courtesy of nappy.co a site dedicated to “Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people. For free.

Hiring a team that is as diverse as your customers can be challenging. But hiring them without doing the work to set them up for success, means its an empty gesture.

I recently saw a LinkedIn post asking people to share their views about race on other social media and to limit their LinkedIn posts to professional issues. But I also know that many of us are asking ourselves what can we do as individuals when the problem is so pervasive.

The systemic issues of racism that affect America (and other countries) are something that can, should and must be…


The phrase “Executive Presence” has been bouncing around in my head recently. It started when a former colleague reached out for help when her boss told her she needed to develop executive presence. “What does that mean? Where do I start? What am I missing?”

Then, a newer colleague was telling me about her boss. “You’ll love him. I’ve never worked with someone who is so present.” I could almost hear the bold italics when she said the word.

Then, there was a moment in the final episode of The Last Dance — the documentary about the 1998 Bulls —…


During a recent conversation, a friend of mine told me his most “startup experience” story. He was a few months into his role of running product. During a discussion with the CEO about determining the right approach for focusing their efforts, he suggested Option Y as a better long-term move. But added, if it was crisis, then he would prioritize Option X.” The CEO responded, “We are going to run out of money in 6 months. It’s a crisis.”

He realized that he had been working on a long-term horizon with the expectation that the company would be around. The…


Several years ago, I wrote a blog post called “What does a Product Manager Do?” and as I re-read it, I realized that I fell into the same trap as many product leaders do. I spent too much time focusing on what a Product Manager needs to do to get the job done — and not enough on what the JOB of the product manager is.

In my earlier posting, I started with the following:

As I talk with a lot of startups is the idea of when (or whether) a product manager is necessary keeps coming up. When I…


A friend of mine was running Product for a small company. He told me that his CEO had asked him to articulate the product strategy. When he asked the CEO for the company strategy so that he could make sure he was aligning with it, he said the CEO looked at him as if he had two heads. “That’s what I just asked you for.”

In the early days of a company, it may feel as if the company strategy and the product strategy are the same thing. But they are not. …


I recently listened to a talk about negotiating in times of crisis. As a foundation for the points the speaker wanted to make about how to behave in a crisis, she laid out the basics of negotiation in four steps. It struck me that the foundations of negotiation are very similar to how to determine what and how to build your product. Probably the most core role of the product manager.

Negotiation 101

  • Put yourself into another’s shoes
  • Determine Everyone’s Interests
  • Understand Everyone’s Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement
  • Have a good process

First, let’s go through them from a negotiations…

John Sturino

Thoughts on product development

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