We had a great session with Petra Wille on November 17, 2021 where she covered the five main ingredients that a product leader needs to become a great product coach for their team and/or direct reports.
To recap on the session and some of the key takeaways:
- We ask a lot of product product people and it’s a challenging role. Leaders need to lead their team in a structured way towards being better and stronger product people.
- Product people can be akin to an octopus, rather than the typical T-shaped role, and often have to juggle a lot of different things in their day-to-day and bring a wide variety of skills to bear in their work.
- Developing product people can often get pushed to the sidelines, but is an integral investment any product organization and all product leaders should be making — helping to make everyone work better and progress in their product journey and career.
- Product leaders should look for opportunities where they can embed a coach approach into their work with their teams and be working to continually improve their team’s skills and competencies.
- These same techniques can be adapted to any role, not just product managers.
To touch on the five ingredients:
- First, product leaders need to take the time to define what a competent product manager looks like in their organization. This can be used both to evaluate your existing team, to evaluate and supporting your team ongoing (e.g. 1:1s, performance reviews, and ongoing coaching) as well as to hire additional team members.
- Second, you need to define where each PM is today, what their future state should be, and what their next step should be to move them towards that future state. This is hard work. Petra shared her PMwheel framework as an example of a way to evaluate the attributes and skills required and where each member of your team is at, and where they can improve.
- Third, you need to work together to define a shared vision for how they’ll take the next step.
- Fourth, you need to work together to define an actionable development plan, with one topic they want to improve on, and define actionable steps to improve. The future self canvas Petra shared can be an invaluable tool for understanding the current state, to-be state, the actions, and period where this will be worked on. This can be a very helpful tool is helping your team members not only understand where they are at, but also how could they can become.
- Lastly, product leaders and PMs need to make a commitment to following up. Making the development of others a priority is critical to their success and we can’t leave them alone on this journey. Plus being involved ensures people feel valued, continually learn and improve, and collectively this helps with retention, hiring, and leads to better product outcomes overall.
Available resources from this event
- You can learn more about Petra’s book Strong Product People, her resources, and coaching services at https://www.petra-wille.com/