November 01

Product leadership part 3 – leadership

Leadership is a highly ambiguous and contested topic.  If you want to explore leadership, and how it’s meaning has changed over time, see here.  Briefly, in a dynamic environment with highly skilled people (i.e., at Monese), leaders need to support and guide their followers, rather than tell them what to do.  However, leaders need to ensure that people are making good decisions and be prepared to step in to protect our customers or the company.


Coaching and feedback

One of the best things you can do in a team is telling people the truth in a respectful and honest way.  If Hussain Bolt can get feedback from his coaches, we can all get feedback to help us get better too.   Importantly we all need feedback, leaders, to team members and peers.   Feedback should be about finding out each other perspectives, not imposing your view on others (if someone has done something disrespectful, stupid or illegal, you should use discipline, not feedback).


A good way to give feedback

  • Ask permission – ‘If it’s ok I want to talk about yesterday’s board presentation.’, or have regular feedback sessions
  • State what you saw – ‘I noticed that the changes we agreed were not made to the presentation.’
  • State the impact – ‘This meant that we gave the wrong presentation to the board, who noticed the errors’
  • Find their perspective – ‘It would be great to get your perspective so that we can ensure that this does;t happen again.’
  • Admit everyone’s contribution (as a leader it is a least 50% your fault) – ‘ok, so my guidance could have been clearer and you could have checked with me.’
  • Agree on a way forwards – ‘In the future, let’s have a final check before we send the material to the client.’

Some other feedback tips:

  • Don’t give strong feedback in the heat of the moment, you will be too emotional and the other person is not in a place (mentally) to receive it
  • As a leader, you need to create a culture where open feedback is possible (see here)
  • Give feedback your full attention – delay if the time is not right
  • Ask questions – use open questions to undercover the root cause
  • Watch your body language – try to have neutral body language, with arms and legs uncrossed
  • Change the environment – leave the office, go to a coffee shop or go for a walk
  • Start, stop, continue – if you are struggling to give feedback, just agree to tell each other one thing to start doing, one thing to stop doing and one thing to continue doing
  • Say thank you


Further reading – leadership


Further reading – high-performing teams