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Issue #34: 5 Important Lessons I’ve Learned as a Product Leader and 5 things to help you this week
Lessons learned from tough times so that when the night is cloudy, there's still a light that shines on me
Hola friends! 👋
This week’s thoughts and feelings include:
5 Important Lessons to Learn as a Product Leader
(FAKs or Folks.Ask.Kax)
5 things to help you this week
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1️⃣ 5 Important Lessons I’ve Learned as a Product Leader
These days, I’m faced with challenges that have put to test every tool I have in my toolkit. Challenges that have made me feel insecure and unqualified.
When this happens, I reach way way way deep inside my toolkit and pull out the big guns: inspiration. ⭐
Inspiration from lessons I’ve learned over the years as a Product Manager and a Product Leader.
Since sharing is always caring, let me share these lessons with you too.
“You can have the best idea or the most valuable product; but if nobody wants to work with you, then your value is not going anywhere. So don’t be an asshole.“
Many years ago, my team and I were put together to build a net-new capability to be used across our organization. A platform product that will change our ways of working.
The product was good and its value validated. So adoption should have been a no-brainer.
But there was no mandate to adopt the product. And the teams we built the product for were all saying NO.
It was frustrating. But the problem was us.
We were arrogant, wouldn’t listen, and thought too highly of ourselves and what we were doing. How we were behaving was perceived as minimizing what other teams were capable of doing.
After a lot of feedback and escalations, we realized we had to change the way we behaved. So we did.
Finally, our product was adopted which eventually opened up more opportunities later on for all of us.
All it took was for us to stop being assholes.
When faced with conflict, it’s important to reflect on how our behavior could have contributed to this.
It always takes two to tango, they said. And we’re almost always never without fault as we would like to think ourselves to be.
On Alignment and Prioritization:
“Everybody can have 10 Million Ideas. But behind all of those ideas is a single problem to solve“
Multiple teams were using the product that my team was building. And they all needed our team to build 10 million somethings. But their requests had rationale that made it difficult to say no. Alignment with their goals. Insights for evidence.
But we couldn’t build them all. Apart from not having the capacity, it wouldn’t be a sustainable practice at all.
These requests, at the end of the day, were solutions for problems.
And when we shifted our conversations with the teams who needed something from us, we all realized that the problems are the same between them.
So we started to prioritize those problems to solve instead.
When being pulled in way too many different directions and we find ourselves overwhelmed by them, it’s important to go back to the problem we’re all trying to solve. Chances are they’re already aligned and bringing them to the forefront helps people to be on the same page.
On Personal Growth
“Leaning into your strengths can have a higher ROI than constantly trying to fill your gaps“
In the past, whenever I’m faced with a new challenge, my response would be:
“I don’t have the tools for this.”
I always thought that what I had was never enough.
A few years ago, I found myself struggling to influence leadership and stakeholders to align on a pretty critical topic for my team.
Instead of approving a negotiation course that I thought I needed to get past this problem, my manager encouraged me to think about how I might solve these issues with things that I already am strong at.
A dual challenge because it also meant that I needed to know what my strengths were in the first place.
This led me to discover that I was strong in building relationships rooted in trust with my stakeholders and that storytelling was my bread and butter.
In the end, using these strengths worked. And I didn’t have to enroll in a new course.
As a bonus, the realization that I already have the tools and skills that I need to be successful gave my confidence a huge boost.
When faced with new and uncomfortable situations and the possibility of growth, it’s easy to assume that what we have and what we know are not enough. Making us think that we need to learn more frameworks or skills to be ready.
But being aware of the things that we are good at and knowing how to apply them to different situations is probably the most important skill we all need to learn.
Because the reality is that we are already ready.
On Being Afraid
“We’re not heart surgeons here.“
I used to be afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.
It’s not that I was afraid of being wrong, I was afraid of the consequences of being wrong. That my actions might impact the team or even the organization negatively.
As a result, I would sometimes find myself hesitating to make difficult decisions.
Until my then manager told me,
“We’re not heart surgeons. We will all survive.”
And we’ve always survived since then.
We need to be bold, take risks, and experiment bravely. Not just with our products but also in the way we want to respond to the cards that we are dealt with.
It might be scary because we can’t predict how other people will respond nor can we control what the results can be.
But what’s the worst thing that can happen?
Oftentimes, the answer is actually not bad at all.
On Managing Change
“Be like bamboos. Rooted and strong, but able to dance with the wind”
Our team welcomed this year with news of probably one of the biggest transformations that our organization will ever face.
A transformation that will introduce a lot of uncertainty while also requiring us to change our mindset and ways of working. A combination that was met with some resistance in the beginning.
There was a lot of talk about being more agile and resilient. But what does that all mean for us?
The ask to be more agile came with the feeling of “weren’t we already?”.
While the ask to be resilient implied tough times to face.
In the end, I found comfort in thinking about bamboos.
Rooted and strong. It reminded me that I already had a strong foundation that will keep me steady in any situation.
Able to dance with the wind. Change is always inevitable. We can resist it and eventually break. Or we can go with the flow and watch ourselves grow.
Resisting change is a common response. Usually, because we fear the consequences of that change on us and what we’ve gotten used to.
But change is inevitable and almost often brings opportunities. And resisting change can mean missing out on opportunities.
Sometimes when we find ourselves in tough situations, it’s easy to feel helpless and lacking.
But being mindful of the challenges that we have been through and the lessons that we have already learned from them is a powerful reminder that:
More often than not we already have the tools and skills that we need to overcome the challenges that are in front of us.
We already have a track record of winning. We got through so many difficult moments already. And we’ll get through more.
We are never alone. There will always be people who will stand by us, give us a different perspective, and remind us that challenges are always better faced and easier solved with allies.
We will survive. Like we always have. And even more important? We will grow. Like we always have.
Are you currently facing challenges that you’re finding difficult to get through? You don’t have to face them alone. If you’re looking for a coach to support you in these challenges and help you get to your next step, I’d love to help you! Let’s have a chat.
2️⃣ (FAKs or Folks.Ask.Kax) Call for Questions!
Every week, I answer questions from Product folks about Product Management, Product Leadership, Career Development, and more!
So if you have a question, a tough situation, or a curiosity that you would like to get an answer and a new perspective on, leave them in the comments below and I’ll answer them in the coming newsletters!
3️⃣ Five things to help you this week 🤓
- recently shared practical ways to manage change in a more healthy way in their latest newsletter.
- on why Product Management is hard
- on Messy Problems
Before you go!
Are you struggling with your job search right now? Your application is being ignored? You get feedback along the lines of “We’re just looking for somebody with more experience”. Get my ULTIMATE GUIDE for creating a Sustainable Job Search system for the Modern Product Manager. My newsletter subscribers get a 10% OFF 😎
See you next week!