Every month, product experts from around the world share their ideas and insights in our Prioritised and MTP Leader content and every month we recap some of their finest tips. So, whether you’re a member who’d love a quick recap or a non-member who’d love a glimpse inside some of our membership content, we’ve got you covered.
Here are this month’s 5 quick tips from the content published in August.
1. For happy, healthy teams — support change
In From burnout to bounceback, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, the author of Technically Wrong, explores the common challenges teams are facing right now — challenges like burnout.
She tells us how the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ people nostalgically reference (and are forcing us to return to), was flawed, inflexible, unsafe, and had employees left unheard, with many working paycheck-to-paycheck.
Today, she says, we can look at making changes, whether that’s acknowledging the feelings of those around us, encouraging people to take time off, maybe looking at job sharing, video-free calls, or company-wide shutdowns. What’s key is to give people more control to define and vocalise what they need and how their job can best work for them. In return you may see reduced burnout, higher job satisfaction, enhanced employee safety and wellbeing, and ultimately a better ‘normal’.
2. Understand the requirements you’re meeting
In Product innovation is on the edge, Dave Dame, Director of Accessibility at Microsoft, discusses the benefits of prioritising product inclusivity, encouraging cognitive diversity, and redefining the status quo in order to create futureproof products that are usable by all.
Mid way through his keynote, Dave points to some of the requirements of the OCAD University inclusive design framework, highlighting the importance of bringing new different perspectives and cognitive diversity to the forefront of innovation. He presses us as product people to fully understand the requirements you’re meeting. “Do it by having somebody with a permanent disability, either on your team,” Dave says, encouraging a cognitive-first order, “or have access to those users”, inviting mismatches.
The benefits of working to address the most extreme user requirements should not be underestimated, Dave says, illustrating how when solving the average user need, we’re actually just addressing a sample size “roughly between 66 and 70% of the total user base”. And by meeting a greater number of users we’re also driving new business opportunities: “I always like to say, I have cerebral palsy, my money doesn’t […] and if you want my money, make sure it’s a product that I can use effectively.”
3. Practise empathy in cross-functional teams
In Strategies for managing cross-functional teams, Agata Bugaj, VP of Product at FullStory, underlines the need for empathy when leading a cross-functional team. She says that at FullStory engineers and designers are happy to ask questions about why they’re working on something: “It’s because we trust each other and have empathy for each other. It’s a culture that helps us be better as a team. And we make sure that, if there are any blind spots, we address them.”
Working with empathy means making the space to understand someone else’s context, and not to jump to conclusions about why they have a certain perception, Agata says. “It’s also about assuming the best intentions, and reminding yourself that we’re all on the same team,” she adds.
4. Remember, humans are behind every business
In Everything you need to know about OKRs, an Ask me Anything (AMA) session with Jeff Gothelf, Jeff explains that when using OKRs in a B2B context, we have to remember that humans are behind every business. Regardless of the company type, he tells us, you’re still providing products for people and have a target audience. You can therefore develop personas around that information.
There’s also a great opportunity to build a conversation with the humans that you’re selling to. “There are going to be fewer people to talk to in comparison to B2C. You have to account for this and be aware that you’re working with a smaller pool of individuals.”
5. Difficult conversations — we have to have them
In 5 difficult conversations and how to have them, Denise Jacobs, the author of Banish Your Inner Critic, offers helpful advice on how to handle five of the challenging conversations product leaders sometimes have to have.
One of those conversations, she says, is around addressing concerns about someone’s performance. She says to start by asking how they think they’re doing. This, she says, gives them the opportunity to tell you what they enjoy and what they struggle with, and to have a two-way conversation. “They may be unaware they’re performing poorly, there are plenty of people like that,” says Denise. “Maybe they’ve never been told otherwise, or they’ve been coddled and protected.” Then, if someone is being let go because of performance issues, the conversation should be the end of a long road, and no surprise to anyone.
If someone is being let go because of reorganisation then you should reassure them that it’s not a performance issue — if the company’s struggling financially then you should be honest about it, Denise says. Make sure you offer every support the company has available like career counselling, placements, written recommendations (if appropriate) and the like.
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