Mind the Product Leadership Panel: San Francisco 2018
Full write-up of panel can be found here. Leadership Forums are not filmed so that participants feel free to discuss topics openly and honestly.
The following Monday, I attended the Mind the Product (MTP) Leadership Forum, which was a forum on all things in the product management leadership space.
At the MTP Leadership Forum, some very similar themes came up. There was a panel on the first 90 days as a product leader with insights from Chris Abad, David Bland, Rosemary King, Marc Abraham, Stephanie Hannon below:
It is perfectly ok (and advantageous) to be less visible in the first couple of months and be in listening mode. You don’t want to come in with a bang and shake things up in your first couple of months as a product leader. You should be spending 80% of your time listening (a listening tour), 20% sharing and synthesizing what you have heard. It is important to understand how people perceive product development at your organization. Admitting what you don’t know does not make you less of a leader, ask why and how things are the way they are. I’ve noticed this is very effective in past roles, though oftentimes you are pressed for the answer. It is ok to push back and say that you want to understand context before making brash assertions that may not be founded on correct assumptions.
Conflict is ok as long as there is psychological safety. Creating an environment of psychological safety was a common team across the two conferences, often times referencing the NY Times article on Google Teams. There are several ways to foster this environment: give people opportunities to provide feedback in a structured way through weekly retrospectives (this is something I practice with all my teams), trick people into talking to each other even across levels. Kate Leto had insights on how to de-escalate conflict: it is ok to have a “beef” session for a cross-functional team, but start with the easiest challenge first to build some momentum. She recommended using a framework called Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. As an aside, I also recommend this book, it has deepened many of my relationships and made me a more skilled conflict resolver. One other way I’ve found to resolve conflict is to admit that there was a past wrong, and commit to working together, the act of co-creation of future work is a powerful bonding and healing experience for cross-functional teams (for example co-creating a service design blueprint).