Book Summary: How to Lead in Product Management by Roman Pichler
Updated: Aug 23
3 Big Ideas
How Product Leaders can overcome these six common challenges:
Leading a group without managing them
Leading large and heterogenous groups
Limited influence on group member selection
Both contributor and leader
Working both strategically and tactically
Working with agile practices
Product Leaders need to be aware of their leadership style and nuances of product leadership compared to other forms of leadership
Conflict, Conversations and Decision Making are explored as key leadership skills for leaders in Product Management
“People will only follow you for two reasons—because they trust and respect you or because they fear you.”
“Mindfulness helps you make better decisions for the following two reasons: First, it helps you recognise cognitive biases. These include confirmation bias, the tendency to prefer data that confirm preconceived views; negativity bias, focusing on negative experiences; and overconfidence bias, overestimating the reliability of one’s own judgements, control, and chances of success. Recognising these biases reduces the risk of making wrong product decisions—for instance, disregarding valid data because it does not match your view. Second, mindfulness helps you to be more aware of your feelings—for example, how excited, sceptical, or displeased you are. This makes it less likely that your emotions drive a product decision—for example, that being angry with someone prevents you from paying attention to the person’s valid concerns.”
Explore using Non-Violent Communication when resolving conflict
Beyond 60 seconds….
Notes, Quotes, References and Related material
Product Leadership Foundations
Lead at three levels:
Leadership Styles (A product leader may flex across these styles)
Empower the development team, help the members acquire the relevant knowledge, and allow people to take full ownership of the solution or, if that’s not possible, the product details.
“Manage your product, not the team.”
Managing Stakeholders – Use the Power Grid to see where your stakeholders fall
Instead of interacting with the players on a one-on-one basis, aim to build a stakeholder community whose members work together for an extended period of time and who learn to trust, respect, and support each other.
Buddhist teaching – Right Speech – five guidelines
Speak with the right intention
say only what you believe is true
only speak if it’s beneficial for the people listening
don’t use harsh or harmful words
make sure you speak at the right time and place
win-lose—believing that there must be a winner and a loser;
truth assumption—assuming that the other person is wrong;
problem-solving mode—seeing the disagreement as a primarily intellectual issue;
blame game—assigning fault to the other person;
artificial harmony—ignoring conflict.
“To skilfully deal with conflict, we must change our attitude: We should no longer see conflict as something that produces winners and losers but as an opportunity to connect, learn, and generate mutual gains.”
Artificial Harmony causes:
Fear of confrontation
Not a priority to resolve conflict
Lack of Trust
Use Non-Violent Communication
“Conflict resolution is not about winning, retaliating, or putting the other person in her or his place. It’s about developing a shared perspective on what happened, agreeing on the changes required, and re-establishing trust. This requires a willingness to forgive the other person and yourself (Amro 2018).”
Conflict resolution requires all parties to:
co-operate—move beyond blame
take responsibility for their behaviour and feelings
embrace a contribution mindset (Open mindness)
“You can encourage change in another person, but you cannot make someone else change.”
“Determining who makes decisions in an organization is one of the best ways to understand who has the power—who is in control.”John A. Buck and Sharon Villines
Common causes of poor decision making by Product Leaders:
Lack of empowerment
Lack of knowledge
Use a facilitator to support collaborative decision making as groups may:
Be used to senior leader making all decisions (HIPPO)
Low trust – Groups may not be familiar with debate and disagreement – Facilitator can help bring out divergent perspectives safely
Product Leader should not act as the facilitator
Principles to support participatory decision making:
Full participation: Everyone is willing to contribute, and everybody is heard. Nobody seeks to dominate or hijack the decision-making process. Everybody feels safe to speak her or his mind.
Mutual respect and understanding: People make an effort to attentively listen to each other and appreciate the other person’s perspective, goals, and needs. The individuals intend to talk to one another kindly and to treat each other respectfully.
Open-mindedness: The group members strive to keep an open mind, understanding that everybody holds a piece of the truth and that everyone’s perspective matters. “Ideas should not be favoured based on who creates them,” as Brown (2009, 73) puts it.
Ground Rules for Facilitators (Hartnett 2010)
Always speak from a place of respect for others and assume good intentions on the part of the group members.
Respect differences of opinion and value the diversity of the group members.
Listen with an open mind; be receptive and refrain from making premature judgements.
Speak honestly and openly.
Always stick to observable facts.
Refrain from judging and labelling people; separate individual and opinion.
Ask questions when you sense misunderstanding or disagreement.
Speak up if you have not been participating.
Make room for others if you have spoken often.
Do not interrupt others, but allow a brief moment of silence to let the previous speaker’s words sink in before the next person speaks.
Stay present; do not engage in side conversations or answer messages on your electronic devices.
Participatory Decision Rules:
Avoid Committees – They drive weak compromises
Tips for successful negotiation (Fisher and William 2012):
People: Separate the people from the problem.
Interests: Instead of arguing over positions, look for shared interests and needs.
Options: Invent multiple options, looking for mutual gains, before deciding what to do. Avoid the mistake of prematurely excluding options and opting for one solution.
Criteria: Use objective criteria or a fair standard to determine the outcome.
Stages of Influence (Voss 2016):
Active listening: Make an effort to empathically listen to the other person while suspending judgement.
Empathy: Understand the individual’s perspective, needs, and interest, thereby accepting that emotions play a major role in how we behave as human beings.
Rapport: Build rapport and establish trust.
Influence: Help the other person let go of her or his position, understand your needs, and look for a solution that addresses the individual’s needs at least partially.
Behavioural change: Agree on an acceptable solution that can be implemented (if possible).
Techniques for negotiation: (Voss 2016):
Mindfulness helps you make better decisions for the following two reasons: First, it helps you recognise cognitive biases. These include confirmation bias, the tendency to prefer data that confirm preconceived views; negativity bias, focusing on negative experiences; and overconfidence bias, overestimating the reliability of one’s own judgements, control, and chances of success. Recognising these biases reduces the risk of making wrong product decisions—for instance, disregarding valid data because it does not match your view. Second, mindfulness helps you to be more aware of your feelings—for example, how excited, sceptical, or displeased you are. This makes it less likely that your emotions drive a product decision—for example, that being angry with someone prevents you from paying attention to the person’s valid concerns.
Hold Personal Retrospectives
What did I get done this week?
Which challenges and difficulties did I encounter?
What did I learn? How am I feeling right now?
How did my moods and energy levels develop during the week?
What changes do I want to make next week?
There is more to life than work.