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Owning your story as a leader: Advice from Donna Lichaw "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 18 March 2021 True Leadership Premium Content, Storytelling, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 730 Owning your story and superpowers: Advice from Donna Lichaw Product Management 2.92
· 3 minute read

Owning your story as a leader: Advice from Donna Lichaw

In this interactive AMA session for MTP Leader members, Donna Lichaw, executive coach and author of the User’s Journey: Storymapping Products that People Love, discusses how to find your story by using a mix of psychology, design thinking, and experimentation skills that you already have—or can easily learn.

Watch the recording in its entirety or read on for the highlights, including:

  • Why telling your own story is important
  • Finding your superpowers
  • Dictating your superpowers
  • Aligning your stories with others

Why telling your own story is important

Donna begins the session by explaining that storytelling is incredibly important for product teams as they face obstacles. The biggest problems that product managers face are people problems, not product problems.

She believes teams and leaders need to understand their own people-centric stories to move forward. Storytelling is just the tip of the iceberg: “Knowing who you are, what your story is, and knowing what your superpowers are, can ultimately impact products and the world,” Donna says. If you want to achieve something and you’re struggling to accomplish it, that’s a good thing, as every story needs conflict and a narrative arc.

Finding your superpowers

Every story in product management has a superhero, Donna says. A product manager’s superpowers are a combination of their core values, skills, and strengths. To tap into them, Donna explains that you must examine your past to find where you perform best, then look at how you can use this knowledge to go forward.

“Cast your mind back to your most proud and exciting moments in your product role. If you find things that you loved doing, that can be the spark which creates your superpower,” she says.

When asked how to deal with your weaknesses (or “kryptonite” in superhero terms), she explains that you have to acknowledge weakness, embrace it, and find a way for it to serve you to your advantage. Donna uses the example of overthinking, which product managers often think is a weakness. Harnessing that ability and turning it into a strength over time can be extremely beneficial. Eventually, the negative traits of overthinking fade away while the positives can be used to your advantage.

Donna says: “Product managers have weak points in their roles. They can’t hold you back from finding the rest of your value. In some cases even, your weakness may be a strength.”

Dictating your superpowers

Donna explains that although co-workers may acknowledge your strengths, they may not be your superpower. She says: “You need to shake off everything that people think about you as they’re not the ones who are writing the story for you. Come into your own being as the superhero of your story.” Finally, you need to validate that superpower by embracing it and adjust it over time.

Issues arise when you start to live through the superpowers that others place on you. They physically become a part of you, Donna believes. If you can ultimately find the story of who you’ve been, who you are, and who you want to be, then you can begin to experience it multiple times. She says: “Keep experimenting, check data, and validate yourself to ingrain those superpowers,” The more you do that, the more pathways open up for you.

Aligning your stories with others

Asked how to tell the right story at the right time, Donna explains that product manager stories are told within wider organisational stories. If there’s something that you want to change within a company through your story, you need to make sure that facts are ironed out well enough to collaborate with others. “It’s important to understand the full story of an organisation before attempting to implement change,” she says.

If board-level members aren’t engaging with the prospect of new opportunities or ideas for change, you need to ask yourself if your goals are aligned with theirs. If they’re not, you can’t complete the story together and initiate change. Donna says that coming to an agreement is key, otherwise you’ll be able to see all the problems and ideas but be unable to connect them. She says: “No storytelling in the whole world will solve that.”

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