In this #mtpcon San Francisco talk, Natalia Williams, CPO of HootSuite, reflects on her journey as a product manager, the things she learned in her 20+ years of experience, and how you can leverage these lessons to evolve your company for the better.
Watch the session in full or read on for key points:
- 3 lessons learned from her mistakes
- Ways to ignite change in your team
3 lessons learned from her mistakes
Lesson 1: It’s not all about you
As a product manager, your most important job is to build something that provides value to your customers. One of the pitfalls that many people fail to recognise is Confirmation Bias. Confirmation bias is a tendency where people accept information that is similar to their existing beliefs. As a result, you might validate a product that resonates with your mindset but fails to meet customers’ needs.
It’s ok to not have relevant experiences with the customer’s problem. As Natalia says, “You don’t need to be a hero”. Ask others so you can find the best way to answer your customer’s needs.
Lesson 2: Be open to feedback
Communication is arguably the most important aspect of making a great product. As Natalia explains, “You have to bring your team along the journey and communicate”. Some tools you can use to do that include:
- The One Page, One Hour pledge: Encourages people to share sufficient information for quick feedback.
- “Strong ideas loosely held” concept: Share your ideas with others and have open-minded conversations about them. Seeing your ideas from others’ perspectives and experimenting with them allows you to gain insight into whether the product indeed has potential in the market.
Lesson 3: Embrace change
Ideas shouldn’t be static; they should be dynamic. If your product does not provide a valuable experience for your customers, it’s time to change the experience. Don’t let your personal relevance prevail over customer needs.
Ways to ignite change in your team
Step 1: Start high-cadence communication
“There is no such thing as overcommunication from a product perspective,” says Natalia. Build a steady flow of communication with your team, leaders, and customers.
Many options exist to streamline the process of communication, but Natalia shares the ones she incorporates into her life, including:
- Sending weekly slacks and emails to the entire department.
- Interacting with multiple customers weekly.
Step 2: Agree on what good product managers look like
Clarify the responsibilities of a product manager across the whole organisation. Whether it’s a skillset or behavioural attributes, outline the capabilities of a product manager to reduce the chances of false assumptions and improve the rate of satisfaction within a team.
Step 3: Talk more, silo less
Oftentimes, you get so focused on your goals and mission that you forget to interact with others outside of your bubble. However, there is no successful product without teamwork.
As Natalia suggests, “Find ways to build bridges across your organisation.” Talk to your team members to develop a mutual understanding of values and experiences. Talk to your customers to gain insight that can help you deliver exactly what they need. One piece of advice that Natalia shares is that during interviews, use words and languages that differ from those of your team members and reflect your care for your customers.
The key takeaway from this talk is that with the rapid changes in the marketing landscape, the pressure to build the right product is higher than ever. A good practice is to avoid working alone and collaborate with others. Communicate your ideas, validate them by listening to feedback, elevate your trial experiences, and then only you can create sustainable products for your business.
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