November 1, 2017

PMs Drive Decisions, but EQ Drives Leadership

Gaurav Hardikar

Would you want to be the smartest person in the room? What if you had the choice between that and having the most emotional intelligence in the room? Now layer on that you would be the primary decision maker in the room. What would you pick now? The answer shouldn’t be and isn’t so clear. Most things in life aren’t black and white; they are gray. Personally, I would want to have both, some combination that works for my personality.

Likewise, when you are a Product Manager, and you’re asked to drive X millions in revenue for a specific product line, you know your main role. It is to make decisions. But how you make these decisions matters, and especially to whom you communicate what to.

Let me give you an example. Every person who has ever worked, and therefore had a boss, understands that different leadership styles and management styles work for different personality types. There is no single management style that applies to everyone. The same applies to teams when making decisions.

Ask yourself this question – do you want the team you lead to follow your decisions blindly because they feel they have to? Or would you rather them follow it because they believe in your product vision, they believe in you, and they believe in what they are doing? The answer is obvious, but let’s put it in perspective with a personal anecdote.

I was at Trulia for close to 3 years, and during that time I had built my relationship with the engineering, design, and QA teams. When I moved over to Shopkick from my time at Trulia, I was faced with a completely different engineering, design, and QA team than Trulia — one with a different culture. I took this as an opportunity to apply teachings from my Trulia days in a unique way and learn how to build an effective team, treating each team member with the ownership and transparency they deserve. What I realized every team needs is the feeling of empowerment in their own future.

“Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose”

This is the motto that was used in the popular TV show “Friday Night Lights.” It doesn’t just apply to Eric Turner at Dillon High building up a football team. It also applies to you, a PM trying to build product through leadership, not just decision making. With my team at Shopkick, that’s essentially the motto I’ve tried to employ (while not explicitly with that quote itself).

Here are the tenets I follow and recommend you do as well:
  1. Empower each member in their role to feel comfortable in making decisions
  2. Gain buy-in of product vision through open and honest discussion
  3. Bring transparency of business throughout the team

As an effective leader, my goal has been not to be a roadblock for decision making and instead allow the team to have a general culture to make decisions in the vein of the team values.

While the larger decisions will require my view. What we have created, with the help of each and every person on the team, is a self-sustaining unit that is constantly moving, delivering, and proud of their accomplishments. They might as well be yelling “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.”

About the Author

Gaurav HardikarGaurav Hardikar is Director of Product Management at Shopkick, an omni-channel commerce and loyalty product that rewards users for their daily shopping habits. In his B2B2C role, he focuses on three main “consumers” – the users, Shopkick clients, and Shopkick as a business. This materializes in product ownership of all ad products, revenue, and the kicks earned side of the user journey. This means Gaurav is always thinking about how users can get “kicks” or rewards for purchasing specific items at everyday stores, as well as how each of these kick earning opportunities generate revenue for Shopkick and deliver ROI for brand and retail clients. With a background in Accenture Strategy, Trulia, and Zillow Group, Gaurav is passionate about delivering bottom-line growth while building consumer products that delight its users.

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