Death, Love, and Councils Week

April 13, 2021

Given that our spring council meetings are happening this week all over the world (on Zoom), I wanted to share a recent conversation that shows the power of not walking alone, even, or especially, in the face of death.

But first let me tell me you about something that happened a while ago.

15 years ago my therapist told me that while I advocate asking for help and practice it a lot, I do not tend to ask when I need help the most

I was not happy to hear that, and, as I recall, I stormed out of that session. 

How could she say that – to me the world’s greatest advocate of asking for help? (it helps if you hear Steve Martin’s voice when reading this line 😉

When I calmed down, however, I realized she was right. 

Here’s the issue: when we need help the most, we are often in pain, feel ashamed, insecure, or fearful, and, as a result, we want to hide.

To ask for help means to stop hiding and that means facing our fears or pain head on. 

Who wants to do that?

Well, I slowly started to do just that. It’s been hard. But in the course of this fitful journey, I’ve learned that others love me much more than I love myself and that most fears transform when shared.

It’s also given me MUCH more compassion for how hard this is to do.

Recently, one of our longtime members – we’ll call him Andre – tragically lost his wife to cancer. 

Andre and I stayed in touch through the ups and downs of her illness, including the final days.

After she died, he threw himself into work, in part as a numbing agent.

I reached out several times, but he didn’t really want to talk.

I understood. 

Not only do we all grieve differently, but, again, many find it really hard to ask for help when we need it the most. 

After one of my recent columns – “The Things We Carry” – he did reach out. 

Most of us, including me, can only begin to imagine the pain he’s in – with his wife’s death, then the pandemic, all the while trying to be there for his kids. 

He and I had several 1:1 coaching calls and then I asked if he’d be open to a Peer Coaching Call (PCC) with some other members who have gone through the death of a spouse.

I’m grateful that he agreed (I work overtime to thank people when they ask because it’s truly an honor when a member brings a hard question to us).

When we got on the call last week, we all cried – even one member who had lost his wife back in 2006.

Andre wrote this to us after the call:

I feel so much better as a result of the call. It helped me to share my story, to receive your love / support, and to know we, sadly, share this painful struggle made additionally bearable through a new connection together.

So, for those of you who are members, please be willing to take the emotional risk of being open and vulnerable this week during the meetings – about a work, career, or personal challenge.

I promise you that, no matter how hard it feels, you will be relieved – not only by any advice or wisdom, but by the simple act of sharing.

And, believe you me, I know that’s asking a lot – but you are worth it.



P.S. For members – I hope you received our spring councils care package! If not, you should get it soon. Credit for the fun pack including the very fun doorknob sign goes to  the wonderful Britany Crown.

P.P.S. Our longtime member, Dave Bolotsky, who is the founder of Uncommon Goods and a good friend, recently sent me a book, Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind.  This book about death is full of love for life, for family, for friends, and the simple beauty of learning to accept our mortality. 

I asked Dave to introduce me to the author, which he did and we are in the process of scheduling a conversation in June. More on that in a future newsletter. 

Note: While this book will be published in May, you can pre-order it from Uncommon Goods, or your favorite bookseller. 

Hire Summer Interns

We now have our simple Google Sheet up

It shows both young people looking for summer internships. *and* summer internships.

Please go hire the children of your fellow members. 

And if you have more job openings, then just respond to this email with the appropriate information as per below!

Internship Information

– Company name     
– Internship description    
– Application process url (or notes on how to apply)
– Anything else

Recent Talks and Activity Recordings

  • JTBD in Large Distributed Environments
    Jay Haynes, Founder & CEO,
    Talk Type: Product; Skill Builder/Practitioner
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    Jobs To Be Done has proven to be an effective methodology for building much better holistic end-to-end products and customer experiences.

    *But* CG Council member companies with large distributed environments are finding it difficult to apply JTBD in effective ways.

    Jay Haynes, CEO of thrv, and a global expert on JTBD will come and speak to the Councils community on this specific challenge of using the methodology in large, complex technology environments.
  • Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products
    Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin, co-Authors of Groundwork
    Talk Type: Product
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    Product leaders are all too familiar with the one to two-year period it typically takes to train and coach PMs. Product leaders hire smart people and then work with them individually, guiding them through how to think about product management, and watching them develop. Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin wanted a much faster way to help cultivate efficient and effective product managers that consistently create products that delight customers, regardless of the industry, the environment, and the development methodology that the team employed. They took years of experience as product executives and working with hundreds of teams as product coaches to create a framework to Get Better at Making Better Products.

    The design philosophy and methodology behind Groundwork was created to help product leaders be confident that their teams were committed to solving the right customer problems, minimizing costly rework by using individualized needs, and leveraging actionable personas in big and small product decisions. Vidya and Heather want Groundwork to help product teams have a much higher chance of success in the market—and help every product manager shine.

    Join Vidya and Heather as they share the background, principles, and methodology behind the Groundwork to help you, and your team, get better at making better products. 
  • Making the Case for Empowering Your People
    Marty Cagan, Partner, Silicon Valley Product Group
    Talk Type: Product, Leadership Development, Culture
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    From Marty: “I have long been interested in the difference between how the best companies work, and the rest. Working with both types of organizations for so many years, there are many differences ranging from culture to process to staffing to roles to techniques. But at its core, strong product companies empower their people, and most of the rest do not. My focus over the past few years has been tackling this issue head-on, which means the product leadership. In this talk, we’ll discuss why this model consistently yields better results, and what’s necessary to transform to work like the best.”

    Marty’s Bio: Marty Cagan is the founding partner of the Silicon Valley Product Group, which he created to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising and coaching. Before starting SVPG, Marty served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay.As part of his work with SVPG, Marty advises tech companies of all sizes and stages, stretching far beyond Silicon Valley. Marty is the author of the industry-leading book for product teams, INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and the upcoming book EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products. Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe.
  • See talks from the last month and beyond here.​

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

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