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Issue #24: Only wanting to make people happy is bad leadership, You need to fail, & This week's round up
Unlearn your worst behaviors, the fail fast principle, and sustainable job search
Hola friends! 👋
This week’s thoughts and feelings include:
People pleasing don’t make pleased people
(FAKs or Folks.Ask.Kax) How can a Product Manager Fail?
The Weekly Round Up
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01 People pleasing don’t make pleased people
In a recent conference, I talked about how I absolutely sucked as a Product Leader in the beginning. Attributing most of it to a few things:
Being a People Pleaser. When I first became a Product Leader and started managing people, my goal was to become the “best product leader they’ve ever had”. I wanted to be liked so much; that I focused mostly on becoming what they wanted their leader to be. In the end, I was a mishmash of personalities and behaviors that weren’t even mine.
Being hyper-vigilant. I pay way too much attention to subtle signs of displeasure from other people. A habit I developed when I was younger, having grown up in a culture where giving feedback is not an option to show if you’re upset; but withholding any affection/attention/etc is. And in my quest to be the most liked person on the planet for my team — I’ve tuned into their verbal and non-verbal cues. And making assumptions about them.
Being conflict-averse. If I feel like a person is coming for me, I want to run and hide. I delay, for as long as possible, difficult conversations with my team. Even just giving constructive feedback can be a whole endeavor. Anticipating 5 different responses I can get - none of them a “thank you for your feedback”. And being a wreck in between.
What a combination.
The result? Well I was a bad leader who got pretty bad feedback from the team.
I was inconsistent. I had different expectations per person. Which would be acceptable if they weren’t contradictory to one another sometimes.
I provided the team zero direction. Whether in their growth nor in our strategy.
I was feeling lost. I felt like I was trying my best to make people happy - so why weren’t they happy?
I almost quit. But there were already too many things in my life that I quit — and regret. This wasn’t going to be one of them.
Which meant I needed to do some work. On myself.
Because I knew that no amount of upskilling will make me become a good leader if the problem was all INSIDE of me.
The moment it clicked in my brain that I was working hard to make my team happy WITH ME, and not just happy because they were fulfilled, successful, and empowered — I knew the problem was me and not my lack of skills.
The problem was that I have made it all about me and what I subconsciously needed.
And it tracks you know.
I have, for most of life, operated on a single mission —> To make people be happy with me.
It’s how I survived —> It’s how I kept the peace at home.
Until it’s how I thrived —> It’s how I would get recognition and reward.
But that’s not how it works for us, Product People.
As Product Managers, we’ve been taught to not just give people what they say they wanted. We’re even taught to say NO. Because our mission was to solve people’s problems. That’s how we deliver value.
As Product Leaders, it’s equally important to learn how to do the same. To not just give your team what they say they want. And instead, to provide them with what they need: a goal, clarity, the right environment, and constraints.
And they might not like all or any of it. But that’s ok.
After all, the job is not to be liked. The job is to remove obstacles and create a path for success for our team, so we can provide value to our users.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Writing this all now feels like it was such an easy switch for me to flip. But it was far from that.
I got weird feelings in my stomach every time I had to say NO.
I had to prepare way in advance if I wanted to give negative feedback.
I sweat buckets every time I had to deliver any news or info that might not be received positively.
But I did them anyway. Against all of my instincts. I did them. Anchoring on the fact that they were the right things to do. For our products. For my team. And yes, in hindsight, for my leadership.
And things have turned around ever since.
So am I the best Product leader yet?
I won’t tell you, yes. Because my goal is no longer to be the best Product Leader. Instead my goal(s) were the following:
To have a united team who supported and inspired one another.
To have a team prepared to become leaders themselves
To have a portfolio of products that contributed to our organization’s goals
And if I delivered on those 3, then that’s how I know that I’m successful.
Whenever I get asked what makes for a good Product Leader, here’s my answer:
Good Product Leaders aren’t good because they have all of the skills or are devoid of trauma and bad behaviors.
Good Product Leaders are good because there’s awareness of their skills, their strengths, and the kind of leader they want to be — so they can work towards having good outcomes and even towards better ones.
If you’re an aspiring Product Leader and would like to prepare to become one. Or you’re already a Product Leader and would like to become good at being one. I can help you. Let’s chat.
02 (FAKs or Folks.Ask.Kax) How can a Product Manager Fail?
Short answer: When you don’t. 🖐️🎤
Long answer: Seriously, when you don’t. Also when you don’t learn from those failures.
As Product Managers, we’re surrounded by many assumptions.
We make assumptions about our market.
We make assumptions about the problems we need to solve.
We make assumptions about how best we can solve them.
Our entire process is all about gathering evidence to know if we’re targeting the right market, if the problems we’re looking at are worth solving, and if our ideas are good to solve them.
We make hypothesis
We do research
We build MVPs and do experiments
And we’re encouraged to do all of those activities in the most effective and efficient way possible because the sooner we know that we’re wrong, the sooner we can move on and find out what’s actually right.
Our entire process is about knowing for sure whether we’re wrong.
All of our systems, frameworks, and the philosophy we’re meant to follow is about FAILING FAST. The keyword here is failing. And the important part is that we know we’re failing.
Don’t be afraid of failing. We’re supposed to.
But I encourage you to reframe FAILING to LEARNING. Learning to know if your hypothesis is true or not. And learning to know what could be a better approach to get you closer to achieving your goals.
If you’re not facing any failures. Chances are you are failing, but you just don’t know it yet. And believe me, this is the worst-case scenario.
This principle also applies to different things such as working with your team, defining a strategy, working with your stakeholders — and not just building products.
Do you have questions about Product Management, about growing in your career, or anything else that’s been in your mind that you’d like to get some insights on?
Leave them in the comments below OR send me an email email@example.com.
03 The Weekly Round-up
Please stop trying to memorize metrics. Learn how to define them instead.
Product Collective finally released the videos from Industry Dublin! If you want to catch my talk on Accidental Product Leadership, you can watch it here. (if you don’t have an account, you can create one by clicking on the forgot password button)
A lot has been said about AI these days, but this series by Hima is by far the most practical and actionable I’ve ever read. Read Part 1 here.
Teresa Torres’s article on testing your customer’s willingness to pay is an important read not just for PMs but for aspiring entrepreneurs out there too.
Systems thinking is one of the best tools a Product Manager should have in their toolkit. If you’re unsure where your knowledge is on the topic, here’s a good read.
But before you go!
People who have started using Open for Opportunities: The Ultimate Guide to a Sustainable Job Search for Product Managers (even non-Product People)! And feedback is starting to come in.
This my favorite one. A non-Product person who used my guide and is now in a recruiting process with her top 3 dream companies! 😱 Read more about her feedback here below 👇
Whether you want to start laying down the foundations to land your next role or maybe you’re already on the hunt for your dream job: Download my ultimate guide and take a more a sustainable approach to your job search.
If you’re enjoying this newsletter, how about sharing this with your friends or anybody else who might enjoy it too?
Sara and I just came back from our La Product Conference and we had an absolute blast sharing our manager <> report horror story. We’ll share that with all of you soon. :)
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