About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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The Un-Buzzed Way to Build a Great Company

Aha! product management book

People are unhappy at work. That is obvious. In a recent post I strongly suggested that leaders have a responsibility — to treat everyone with respect, set a positive example for the team, and create a framework for what success looks like. But what happens when leaders do not own up to that responsibility?

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It Is Not Your Fault You Are Miserable at Work

sad teddy bear miserable on rock

You can probably spot the signs. Sunday night blues. Feelings of “am I really making a difference.” I am not talking about the occasional bad day. No, this is an everyday pit-in-your-stomach malaise. You are miserable at work. Thankfully, it has been a while since I felt that way.

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Our New Book for Company Builders — Lovability

Lovability by Brian de Haaff product management book

You do not write a book to make money. That’s true for most people unless you are already famous. And I am not. You write a book because you believe a story needs to be told. And you are willing to struggle to tell it. I definitely have had stories to tell, but I never wanted to write a book. That contradiction makes sense if you understand the backstory.

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How to Feed the Office Parrot

hand feeding a parrot

“Sort of like a walk in the wilderness, just not as refreshing.” That was just one of the hundreds of comments on my recent post about rude “animal” bosses. But I thought it perfectly captured the essence of a wild workplace. Many folks recounted their own experiences with beastly bosses. One reader made an especially salient point — that these animals can only thrive when the proper conditions exist.

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Successful People Ignore the "Rules of Body Language"

white goat sticking out tongue

Do you know the “rules” of body language? Maintain eye contact but not for too long (otherwise, creepy). Shoulders back, chin up, no slouching. Do not fold your arms — that reveals discomfort or boredom. Keep your face composed in a perfect mask. Never let ’em see you sweat.

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Hey Boss: Your Chaos Is Making Me Anxious

slack line mountain climber

Have you ever had a boss who seemed to leave behind a trail of disaster? I have. Too many times. There was the boss who threatened team members when he did not like an answer someone gave. The boss who chased the VP of Sales around the conference table when a major deal was delayed. And my favorite — the boss who was as spineless as a worm.

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Stop Worrying About VCs Stealing Your Idea

raccoon stealing radio

A friend approached me last year about starting a software company that would be an add-on in the Salesforce AppExchange. He was in the beginning stages and needed some advice. He had heard that he should have everyone he talks with about the business sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to protect his idea. My reply? “No — but not for the reasons you might think.”

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The 8 Rude "Animal" Types of Bosses

hippo eating food with teeth exposed

Ever work with someone who hogs all the credit? Or a parrot who never seems to have an original idea? I bet you can think of a few people who act more like zoo animals than the professionals they are supposed to be. And if you work in an environment with these types of characters, then you know that rudeness spreads like a contagion.

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You Are An Executive (You Just Don't Know It Yet)

She said I had an “executive presence.” This was coming from the VP of a product team I worked on early in my career. And she told me I only needed to speak up a bit more and earn a few gray hairs — then, I could become a real executive. Was this a back-handed compliment?

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You Do Not Need a Chief Happiness Officer

stuffed horse in a ball pit

Nap pods. Stairs replaced with slides. A full-size Ferris wheel. No, I am not talking about an adult arcade hall. These are all real ways companies try to keep people happy. I even know someone whose company installed a ball pit. He said it was fun for a moment. But it ultimately became an office joke (and a great way to hide colleagues’ pens).

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You Deserve Workplace Freedom

I love being outside. Just last week I went snowshoeing with some friends in Yosemite. But when I told a colleague about my trip, she wrinkled her nose. Snowshoeing? No thanks. Curling up indoors with a good novel is her idea of a good time.

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Sorry, Boss — But Your Apology Stinks

bad dog made a mess in the kitchen

It should be simple. But there are many ways to screw up a perfectly good apology. There is the over-apology — as if saying “I’m really, really sorry” carries more weight. There is the knee-jerk, insincere “sorry!” that does not ring true. Perhaps the worst is the non-apology, which begins “I’m sorry, but….” and ends with a finger pointing at someone else.

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Will Your Legacy Mindset Fail You?

Aha! roadmap software for product managers on mountain bike

“The epitome of power.” I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review that proclaimed this was why we should care about building a legacy. It gave me pause. The word “power” suggests that legacies are about leverage and status, reserved for company founders and CEOs. I know that is not the case.

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Please Do Not Send a Cover Letter Like This

fish swimming upstream

I am often surprised by what people choose to send as cover letters. Typos, broken links, and rambling emails. I also see messages like this one: “I was looking for work-from-home opportunities and I came across your company. Below is a copy of my resume. Please let me know if you have anything available.”

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You Are Bored at Work — Go Ahead and Admit It

giant panda eating bamboo shoots

Are you allergic to boredom? If you like achieving I will bet you are. There is always something new to learn and do. But no matter how busy you are sometimes the boredom lingers. It is a real feeling, even though we do not always express it. Sound familiar?

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