In this AMA session for MTP Leader
members Lara Hogan
, author, public speaker, and coach, provided insights on how leaders can manage product teams in the tech industry.
Watch the recording in its entirety or read on for the highlights,
- Building resilient teams
- Dealing with change amongst teams
- Managing yourself before your manage others
- Empowering teams
- Giving feedback as a leader
- Managing cross-functionally
Leading resilient teams during a crisis
Reflecting on her book Resilient Management
, Lara says how important it is to build resilient teams if organisations are to learn and grow. This has proved to be especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic. She hopes that the pandemic has taught businesses to improve their communication plans and processes. By organisations having a consistent and constant message, it will leave many questions answered and build that resilience among teams.
She adds that transparency is key during turbulent periods, and while it’s important to inform teams of what is going well, they also need to know what isn’t. “It’s way better to say ‘we don’t know what is happening at the moment’ as it provides teams with more confidence that the business transparency is there,” she says.
Dealing with change amongst teams
As we emerge from the pandemic, many people are reconsidering their careers and livelihoods. When asked how to manage ‘the great resignation
’ Lara explains that people are leaving their jobs because they need a break. Leaders must be clear about what the business has to offer your team and be aware that you may unfortunately not have what they want. “Brace yourself for a tough hiring season. People are genuinely tired and need a break.”
If people seem to be struggling or underperforming, don't assume that everyone is like you either, Lara says. Always look for opportunities to learn things about your team. Ask specific questions to learn and become aware of what they need. “As last year showed us, we all react differently to extended grief. Organise catch-ups often to help ensure that you’re up to date on how your team is feeling.”
Lara also provides a list of visible warning signs of emotional trauma to look out for. If you spot them, take the necessary steps to counter the problems:
- Teams doubting themselves or playing devil’s advocate
- Individuals creating conflict amongst team members
- Being visibly non-responsive or distance
- When a team member is actively bonding with others about their issues
- Individuals looking for an escape route through long-term sick leave or short-term absence
Manage yourself before your manage others
How can you be an effective leader if you're exhausted with low morale? Lara says — be clear with what you need to motivate yourself and bring your best self to work. “Whatever you need is going to be so unique to you as an individual,” she says. Find out what works and what doesn’t to improve yourself and motivate yourself to motivate others.
Sometimes leaders never see the progress that they make because the impact they have on teams isn’t always visible and instant. Keep track of your key actions by partnering with someone in or outside work to check in regularly.
A truly healthy team is one that’s empowered. However, leaders need a direct approach to provide clarity or encourage decision making. All leaders have a default persona to go to but it’s imperative to provide different levels of support. Practice being more empowering or directive with different scenarios. Where necessary, overextend and be ruthless through role-playing to get practice for when the time comes to give a more direct approach.
It’s also important to provide career tracks that don’t involve management. Not everyone wants to follow this career path so leaders much provide different journeys. One size doesn’t fit all. Be clear about what the overlaps are to give people more of an idea of where they want to go within an organisation.
Giving and receiving feedback as a leader
A core aspect of leadership is giving and receiving feedback. Lara explains that every time we give feedback we’re worried about the delivery and the people involved, while when we receive feedback it’s difficult to not feel offended or overwhelmed by it. When receiving, make sure that we’re making it as easy as possible for the person providing it to deliver it. We can do this by demonstrating openness. Additionally, be specific about the feedback that you want to receive. Sara explains that we too often request vague feedback. Asking “is there anything I can improve” won’t get you the most effective response.
When distributing feedback, ask yourself what the person cares about and see if you can frame the feedback around those terms. Additionally, ask an open curious question that the receiver cares about to make them focus and ponder on it, such as ‘what would you like to get out of this role’ or ‘where do you see yourself in the next few years' This helps when managing and providing feedback to those at a higher level. Once you ensure that the feedback is relating to something they care about they’ll be primed to listen and act.
The more senior you are as a leader, the more likely you are to encounter an area outside of your expertise. “Be clear from the start with what your expertise is,” she says, “have that clarity and repeat it often. It’ll help teams understand how you operate as a leader. Every organisation needs different kinds of leadership and skillsets. That doesn’t come from doing a specific job.”
“While it's true that certain types of leadership, like, mentorship, can only happen from someone who has very similar experience than you do. It comes down to what the work is, and who is equipped to help do that work,” she says.
When managing different teams, every voice needs to be heard. You can do this by asking the right questions and earning a certain amount of trust. Give credit where it’s due to ingrain this kind of culture within an organisation.
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. For even more content on a range of product management topics, see our Content A-Z