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Learn to be an Effective Product Leader
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Learn to be an Effective Product Leader

Learn to be an Effective Product Leader

Building Great Products
August 5, 2021
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21 Jogs
Why it matters?

A product manager is required to wear many hats and is required to master a variety of skills. Ultimately, the product manager's goal is to deliver a great product that addresses a painful customer problem in an innovative profitable way. But leading a product team is challenging given the number of people that need to be coordinated.

In this article, you'll discover what it takes to be an effective product leader in your organization. As a manager, your leadership style can make all the difference as to whether your team members are engaged and productive or disengaged, and whether customers ultimately love the product. The tips shared here will help you learn from other PMs and managers about how to communicate more efficiently with your team, build successful products together, and create a culture of excellence. Look no further for advice on how to lead your team to success.

The Content

Each link contains a summary produced by one of Joggo's geniuses so you can decide where to spend your time learning more

February 19, 2013
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Sachin Rekhi
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Sachin Rekhi

The Most Underrated Product Management Skill: Influence Without Authority

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The Summary

PMs own the product but don't manage the people who execute it. Need ability to influence others without direct authority.

Teams a PM influences

  • Product engineers, designers, testers
  • Other product teams
  • Other disciplines to leverage shared resources (e.g. marketing)
  • Executive team for resources and prioritizations

Influence without authority

  • Inspire others to share your vision and adopt it
  • Make their problems your own to achieve shared objectives
  • Relationships
March 18, 2013
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Sachin Rekhi
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Sachin Rekhi

The Art of Decision Making as a Product Manager

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The Summary

Decision making process results in a high or low-functioning team.

Working well

  • Team feels best ideas get implemented and understands decision process
  • Trust in the team's ability to make the right call

Not working well

  • Team questions decisions and doesn't understand how they're made
  • Lack of trust in team's ability to make right call

Best practices

  • Process & culture of decision making leads to "working well"
  • PMs are curators, not creators of great ideas
  • Communicate the decision making process
  • Decisions today over decisions tomorrow
  • Clear process for revisiting decisions
August 15, 2013
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Julie Zhuo
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Medium

How to Work with Designers

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The Summary

Focus on users, not on metrics

  • Designers think and operate in the mindset of the user 

Different strengths for different problems

  • Visual design: typography, hierarchy
  • Interaction design: is it easy to use?
  • Product design: what value does it contribute? If you only have one designer, find a generalist. Otherwise, find more specialized designers.

Senior designers should be given more abstract tasks

  • Level 1: Design a form for people to edit their profile
  • Level 3: Design a way to get users to want to update their profiles
  • Level 5: Design a solution for the biggest product problem with your app Senior designers are highly generative if they align with the vision of the product.

Design goals are hard to measure

  • Strive for a quality experience that is hard to quantify through metrics: user trust, clarity, long-term sentiment Care about details.
February 2, 2016
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Sachin Rekhi
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How to be a Great Product Leader

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The Summary

Transitioning from product manager to product leader

  • Instead of focusing on design and execution, shift to vision and strategy
    • Divide labor in your team and drive results
  • Establish a solid system of accountability
    • Quarterly OKRs as planning framework
  • Develop a system to regularly monitor progress and standards
    • Weekly metric reviews, product reviews, OKR reviews
  • Mentor team members to heighten capabilities and output, through regular 1:1s 
  • Monitor the “work of work” to improve operating process for best quality
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Jennifer Emick
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Career Development Doc

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The Summary

Advice for designers to prioritize career development and design

  • Create a hub to track progress and context
  • Write operating principles to mutually understand management
  • Write a development plan to revisit goals and improve upon
  • Have a list of hype for self-reflection
  • Maximize resources to build skillset
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Ellen Chisa
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Aha!

The VP of Product vs. the Product Manager

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The Summary

Strategy

  • PM: Final say on product decisions, but not team structure decisions.
  • VP of Product: Decide where your product team lives within your organization.

Hiring

  • PM: Actively participate in hiring, and give important input on candidates' fit.
  • VP of Product: You decide what the team needs and when you need it. Hiring choices are yours to make.

Delegation

  • PM: You should know your product better than anyone. You handle the details.
  • VP of Product: Stay informed and ask "why," but trust your PM.

Standups

  • PM: Daily meetings with designers and engineers.
  • VP of Product: You go to executive team meetings. One big skill always applies: the ability to absorb feedback.
January 26, 2016
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Mike Belsito
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What Product VPs At High-Growth Startups Have In Common

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The Summary

Product VPs at high growth startups:

  1. They paid their dues.
    1. Most had at least 10 years of work experience and not exclusively product management. The most common backgrounds in marketing, engineering, and consulting.
  2. Backgrounds are flexible.
    1. Less than half of the product leaders had an engineering background.
  3. They tend to have advanced degrees and 1/3 went to school in the Silicon Valley.
  4. Most have never run their own business.
  5. Most had never lead product management before, but every head had some prior experience with product management.
  6. They lack diversity, only 3/18 were women.
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Christina Wodtke
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Medium

The Only Silver Bullet

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The Summary

Meeting predetermined goals in order to increase salaries will likely not drive innovation.

Using performance reviews to set compensation is outdated.

How to set an effective performance review system: 1. Be extremely selective with hires through a rigorous interview process and attract top talent with thorough and informative job postings. 2. Use the OKR framework to set goals. 3. Give feedback or review “in the form of appreciation, coaching and evaluation” rather than monetary compensation. 4. If an employee refuses to adjust following managerial feedback, don't hesitate to fire them. Ultimately, these tasks are necessary to developing effective feedback loops.

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Julie Zhuo
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Medium

How to Work with Engineers

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The Summary

Engineers are the magicians of the crew, who take plans and implement them. As a designer, it is important to form good relationships with engineers.

How to Work with Engineers

  • Engineers are the translators of ideas into reality
  • It's easier if the engineer you’re working with appreciates good design
    • The more excited an engineer is about a design, the quicker it’ll be implemented
  • Understand engineering constraints early
    • Setting context on what's exploratory and what's locked down helps engineers to architect code that is faster to write or more flexible to modify later
  • Work extremely closely with the engineer
    • Sit right next to them - issues surface and get dealt with much faster
  • Be complete with your designs
    • Make sure your design solutions are complete and consider edge cases
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I Done This

Bad Managers Talk, Good Managers Write

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The Summary

Writing creates a permanent knowledge-base

  • Writing lasts and is accessible to more people
  • Managers can take credit for their words when they're written

Managers write to enforce clarity

  • Jeff Bezos writes 6 page memos for every meeting
  • Just talking can conceal lazy thinking, writing forces complete thoughts

Writing promotes discipline and precision

  • Writing forces you to be more precise than speaking
  • You catch anything you might have missed

Hiring people who can write effectively

  • Ability to write should be an essential qualification during the hiring process
  • Writing can get closer to true personality
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Anuraag Verma
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Leaping into Digital Business Building is Product Management

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The Summary

Business building is a requirement for long term success and can be done with organic and inorganic growth.

There’s a proven set of assets, skill sets, recipes, and knowledge to help clients build their businesses.

  • In the Fortune 20, if you compare that list today to 20 years ago, you find that it’s 90% different. 
  • Each company on the list today is basically a serial business builder. 
    • It was either a startup in the last 15 years and scaled massively or it was successful before and continued to reinvent itself through business building.

All business building, if done properly, must be rooted in a larger strategy.

  • Business building has to be anchored in the strategy of the company. 
  • Ultimately, the purpose of a new business build is to help deliver the enterprise strategy. 
  • Ground the new business build in an idea that creates real value. 

Think about the assets in the core company to selectively leverage into the new business.

  • There are cultural differences between the core company and the newer startup business, so don’t connect them too much.

As the business matures, the way you measure success evolves.

  • Initially, you may measure success with delivered milestones, MVP, customer engagement, feedback.
  • Eventually, you want to measure real P&L value creation and assess whether it is achieving what is desired for the enterprise.
June 2, 2016
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Julie Zhuo
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Medium

Building Products

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The Summary

Use this framework to help you frame your product development process and help you build great products.

Framing

  • Understand what the problem you’re solving is and for whom
  • Rely on research and data in decision making
  • Start with a narrowly defined audience then expand
  • Communicate your problem in a sentence or two

Execution

  • Get to believable conclusions quickly
  • Go broad before going deep when brainstorming solutions
  • Use empirical evidence to narrow down ideas
  • Frame in terms of a hypothesis
  • Be rigorous with testing
  • Debrief with the team afterwards

Measuring Success

  • Define your success metric
  • Define counter metrics
  • Set your goals with information you have
  • Have a uniform success metric as a team

Team Dynamics

  • Think in terms of what you can do to make your team successful 
  • The team should fall in love with the problem
  • Assume best intentions
  • Understand your unique strengths
  • Communicate effectively - strive for diverse viewpoints
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Kimber Lockhart
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Medium

Don’t create a sense of urgency, foster a sense of purpose.

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The Summary

Urgency backfires

  • It's easy to believe that progress should be made faster, but that isn't always better for the product.

Shortcuts and sloppiness

  • Even a great, professional team isn’t immune from pressure.
  • Shortcuts and mistakes pile up.

Limited space for creativity

  • Reflecting, being proactive, and finding creative solutions requires time, and don't happen in hurried environments.

Micromanagement

  • Creating urgency takes effort and undermines trust.

Urgency loses meaning

  • Artificial urgency will undermine real urgency later.

Takes over communication

  • When urgency is the #1 message, others get left unsaid.

A sense of purpose

  • Seeing the mission clearly allows you to reach the goal faster.
  • Passion and purpose drive a team better than urgency.
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Masters of Scale
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Masters of Scale

Reed Hastings, Founder & CEO of Netflix

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The Summary

Lessons from Pure Software

  • Working harder is never enough. You must leverage every person in the company.
  • Hiring the right employees is crucial to building a lasting culture and an adaptable company.
  • If you permit abusive or exclusive behavior early on, it's extremely hard to reverse these organizational habits.

The Growth of Netflix

  • Hastings only hired "first principle" thinkers - always asking what's best for the company rather than blindly following directions.
  • You need people who can change the business model fast.
  • Define your culture before scaling.
    • Netflix used its 100-slide "Culture Deck" to define its culture early on.
  • The "keeper test" evaluates a hire's honesty and willingness to work.
  • Emphasize excellent performance and discourage short-term judgment.
  • Build a culture based on generosity rather than competition.
  • Reject A-players that don't fit the culture.
  • Look for "we" people, not "I" people - those that would stay in the company for a long time.
  • Diversity is a strategic advantage.
  • Improve culture, don't preserve it - e.g. Netflix updates its Culture Deck to reflect who they are.
January 24, 2020
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Paul Meyers
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Medium

A New Style of Leadership Is Emerging

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The Summary

There is sufficient evidence to conclude that entrepreneurs are redefining leadership in their own way.

The New Style

  • Anticipatory leadership - leaders who demonstrate the skill to anticipate what may come down the line
  • They developed “Slow thinking”
    • Studies show this skill enhances one’s ability to impact future outcomes

Recommendations

  1. Allocate more time within self-managed teams to think more about future directions
  2. Question intuition often by means of slow, strategic thinking
  3. Refine referent power in a continuous improvement fashion in order to perfect intuition over time
  4. Adopt a digital tool to capture and nurture ideas across the LMAX environment for better decision making
  5. Conduct more research on the impact of LMAX in the context of Anticipatory leadership

Risk

  • Anticipatory leaders are highly self-driven risk-takers with a cognitive bias towards optimism
  • Self-awareness is vital for Anticipatory leaders

The Future

  • The world will witness further evolution of Anticipatory leaders
    • Opportunities are presenting faster but only open for short periods of time
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Aytekin Tank
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A tale of two managers: why top leaders practice the ‘middle way’

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The Summary

Under-managers

  • Afraid of conflict and avoid tackling problems.
  • Their leadership breeds apathy, crushes desire to take action, and loses great employees

Micromanagers

  • They tell employees exactly what to do and how to do it.
  • They solve conflict with orders and don't give people the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
  • Their leadership hampers employees' drive to succeed and destroys innovation.

The middle way

  • The best leaders empower people to make decisions, offer periodic feedback, handle conflict by listening and asking questions, and talk about problems.
  • Their leadership inspires more productive and more satisfied employees.

Three steps to providing better feedback

  1. Ask to clarify the problem: acknowledge and agree on the issue first.
  2. Provide context: outline the overall goal and explain why it matters.
  3. Empower problem-solving: trust employees to develop their own solutions to inspire feel of ownership.
October 4, 2013
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Ben Horowitz
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a16z

Why Founders Fail: The Product CEO Paradox

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The Summary

There are three main reasons why founders fail to run the companies they created: the founder doesn’t want to be the CEO, the board panics, and the Product CEO Paradox.

The Product CEO Paradox

  • A founder develops a breakthrough idea and starts a company to build it
  • They work tirelessly to bring it to life by involving themselves in every detail of the product
  • The size of the company grows to a point that the CEO cannot be involved at the same level of detail
  • The board advises them to delegate
  • The product-oriented CEO turns into an ineffective CEO

How to Prevent This

  • Reduce the level of involvement in product decisions, but maintain essential involvement
    • Keep and drive the product vision
    • Maintain the quality standard
    • Be the integrator
    • Make people consider the data they don’t have
  • Transition from being intimately involved, to a process that allows them to make their contribution
    • Write it; don’t say it
    • Formalize and attend product reviews
    • Don’t communicate direction outside of the formal mechanisms
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Jessica Powell
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Jessica Powell's Guide to Great 1:1s

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The Summary

1:1s build successful employee-manager relationships

  • Set expectations: align your expectations for different roles
    • Example: preference for receiving information - e-mail or in-person
  • Have an agenda: state the purpose of the meeting and prepare discussion points
    • Sections: goal updates, sentiments, discussion, notes
  • Connect short and long-term goals
April 16, 2003
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Julie Zhuo
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Medium

5 Hard Questions to Ask Yourself During a Conflict

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The Summary

Conflict is a two-way street. Take an active approach to settling conflicts by asking yourself these 5 questions:

Do I actually disagree with what the other person is saying

  • Separate the conflict from the person. If they’re making valid points accept that and solve the issue.

Can I fairly articulate the other person's point of view

  • Understanding their perspective and what makes them tick will help you resolve the conflict faster and easier.

Did I make myself clear?

  • Don’t leave room for misinterpretation or ambiguity. Ensure you are exceptionally clear and have said everything you needed to.

Would I be comfortable saying what I'm saying to the other person in front of a group?

  • If the answer is no, stop talking immediately and continue the conversation later. 

What would happen if I lost?

  • Wanting to always win is a viewpoint that isn’t always productive. Don’t spend time on trivial arguments. Examine your behaviors and actions and act with empathy, respect and credibility.
December 16, 2011
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Adam Nash
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Psychohistory

Be a Great Product Leader

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The Summary

A strong product leader can help a cross-functional team of great technologies and designers work efficiently. They make things happen. The three responsibilities of a product manager are:

Product Strategy

  • What game are we playing and how do we keep scores?
  • It is important to clearly describe the game being played and the metrics used to analyze success
  • The results: aligned effort, better motivation, innovative ideas, and products that move the needle.

Prioritization

  • Involves ensuring that their initial work on their strategy and metrics is carried through to the phasing of projects
  • Phasing is crucial
    • Determining which ideas should be executed first 

Execution

  • Product specification
    • Clarity on what you’re building
  • Edge case decisions
    • Triaging decisions on complicated cases
  • Project management
    • Staying ahead of the game to avoid issues
  • Analytics
    • Running the numbers
April 1, 2021
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Melissa Daimler
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Forge

Three Things You Must Do Immediately As a New Leader

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The Summary

The first 30 days as a new leader are critical. Though these early days are packed with stress and obligations, there are a few strategies that can be followed to ensure an impactful beginning to your role.

Strategies

  • Control pace and space: Prioritize what is most important and create space in your schedule by insisting on clear agendas and understanding long-term goals take time. 
  • Take time to learn: Understand what the team needs and work with them, rather than attempting to bend the organization to you. Prioritize listening to and working with your colleagues.
  • Integrate the team’s best ideas with your own: Use specific exercises to understand your team as a new leader.
    • Without the leader in the room, the team shares their expectations, concerns and goals, then, the leader re-joins to clarify and understand each of these topics. By using these strategies, the transition from new addition to trusted leader can be accelerated.