As a product manager, how do you implement team building and collaboration? In this episode, Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky meets with Heidi Gibson. They discuss how he considers team building and collaboration to ensure success in the product space. He covers the role of the product leader in the context of the whole team. Then, he speaks on the importance of collaboration between product leaders and design teams. He closes by highlighting the traits a product manager should possess to contribute to a highly efficient and effective team.
On the role of the product leader in the context of the whole team
“The product leader is making a lot of difficult decisions. The product leader is the one who raises the bar. They are the one that says a prototype is worth 100 meetings. The product leader is empowering the designer to be able to drive a lot of the discussions. A great product leader always recognizes you’d only be doing half of what you want to do. Half the options, half the target audience, to compound your chances of true product market fit.
“I like to use the analogy of Banzai masters. They are constantly trimming the beautiful branches of a bonsai in order to really make the trunk stronger and build this iconic structure. The product leader is really the steward of this process. One realization I’ve had throughout my career is that design has always been my secret weapon. Building chemistry with an amazing designer who I work extremely closely with has always been the way that I succeed in product. When I’ve not achieved that, that’s when things have not gone as well.”
On collaboration between product leaders and design teams
“I think that great product managers are really focused on where that plug needs to be planted, and recognize what their strengths and weaknesses are. Every product leader is different. If your strengths are really around understanding what the customer needs, but they’re not around design, how do you really empower a designer to take hold?
“I actually think that the Holy Grail scenario is when you have a design leader who’s also the product leader. And that doesn’t happen very often. But in that sense, you have someone who can both lead a product, as well as drive and iterate design.
“A lot of technology succeeds because of the user’s experience of the product, not the technology itself. A lot of underlying technology is just open-source technology or API’s and other tools that that people are building an interface on top of. So that’s why design is so important. Good product leaders are humble enough to know that and empower designers to take the leadership role as much as possible.”
On traits that make a product manager successful
“It really depends upon the team that you have surrounded them with and where the product is. This is where team building and chemistry really matter. I’ve seen products in different stages where you need a product leader that’s a bit more of a steward or a conductor of a symphony.
“We were never owners of the community, we were stewards of the community, and we were trying to be a container for people’s work. There are some product teams that need to be run in a similar fashion. Others lacked direction and need a different type of leader. So it’s a more nuanced answer. I don’t think that I can tell you what product leader is best for all projects, because it’s really about where the project is.
“I would say there are a few commonalities across every hire I’ve made. One is, do we have someone who has a history of seeking empathy with the customer? Number two is, is it someone who can be the steward of a narrative, someone who’s a good communicator? And number three is, someone who really values the power of design and has done so throughout their career.”
About the speaker
About the host
Heidi Gibson has over 20 years of product management experience, with most of that focused on SaaS consumer/small business software. She is currently Senior Director of Product Led Growth at Adobe, and past companies include Typeform, GoDaddy and and other industry leaders. Heidi has a B.S. and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT.