How to navigate tricky work relationships "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 24 February 2022 True Collaboration, Leadership, Leadership Premium Content, Product leadership, Stakeholder Management, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 533 Product Management 2.132

How to navigate tricky work relationships

In this MTP Leader panel, our line-up of experts joined Emily Tate, Mind the Product’s Managing Director, to discuss how to navigate tricky work relationships.

Our expert panellists included:

Watch the video in full or read on for the summary:

In brief

  • You need to adapt how you communicate with business leaders to collaborate effectively
  • Transparency and instilling a culture of experimentation can aid business decisions and overall communication
  • Cultivate relationships with your team to manage effectively and better understand their take on the product vision

Approach collaboration initially

Product leaders working with a leadership team can’t change communication styles or personalities, so you have to adapt, says Ben: “Spend time with them to identify how they communicate and the things that are important to them.”

Hilary adds that you need to be clear on what you need from leadership. It’s important to understand your goals when entering a new business, she says, and to have conversations about your cultural differences if you notice a frustration or mismatch in personalities.

Sometimes relationships with leadership team members may not go as well as planned. Knowing when to back off and give a relationship time to heal is just as important as collaborating. “You’re not going to win every battle,” Ben says. “Take a step back and let that relationship build without engagement.”

Dealing with executives

Partho believes that you can instil a culture of experimentation to the C-suite. “Bring this mentality to the higher levels of the business. It can aid the larger decisions that are being made,” he says.

Transparency is also key when answering questions and setting expectations, Hilary says. It becomes more difficult to maintain as you work up through the levels of a business, but it is important in order to establish relationships and set the right expectations.

“When dealing with founders of an organisation, recognise that the product is their baby and they have put everything into it,” says Ben. Try to find a common ground and agreement when discussing product features. Be aware of how tactical they are and have an open conversation about what you as a product leader can and can’t do.

Managing laterally

Hilary says you should cultivate relationships in order to manage laterally. This takes time, effort, and intention. It isn’t something to avoid if you aim to be a successful product leader. Work on these relationships is sometimes as simple as spending more time with your team in the office to learn more about them. Partho adds that vision and goal are key assets in order to manage laterally. “Have that mindset of where you are, where you want to go and learn what their idea of the product vision and goal is,” he says.

Some of the content referenced above is exclusive to Mind the Product members. Not yet in the club? Learn about Prioritised and MTP Leader membership today.

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