Your Guide To Team Building 101

The answer is anything and everything that is needed to get the product out the door and keep your users happy. Easier said than done of course. The way we get there is through team building and the people who make it happen. Just as the product is always about its users, the CEO must have a top priority of valuing their people.

To do this, I like to employ the cross-functional “pod” team structure. This approach is common at top technology companies like Spotify. The only variant here is how you spread ownership while building culture within the team. A happier and goal-oriented team will produce a more delightful product. Furthermore, you can relate the strength of the team to the strength of the product.

I’ve spoken previously about how to encourage a growth mindset regardless of the role you are in at your company. Utilizing this as you do your standups, meetings, and build features and spreading ownership of tasks will help lead each member. From engineers to designers, everyone feels like they truly own the product.

Your role in team building comes down to a few core steps:

  1. Focus your energy on the business problem and the goals of the product.
  2. In areas that can be fully owned by key stakeholders, provide support and product direction but not be prescriptive.
  3. Share all business context, so each team member understands why decisions are being made a certain way.
  4. Create an environment of transparency and openness within the pod so product decisions can be openly discussed, with the product manager making the final decision.

There’s one example that always comes to mind when I recount these team building guidelines.

At Shopkick, we built a product offering that could reward users on a variable or static basis for submitting receipts for their purchase at any retailer. The timeline of this feature was pushed up because of a time-sensitive deal involving future revenue and relationships in a specific vertical. We knew we had to build the real MVP.

During this time, we went into giving full ownership to each member of the project pod. Each member of the team needs to understand the whole business context. They also must understand the goals of each part of the feature. As a result, no one is waiting for my decision on items that they can resolve on their own. When we released the feature, our team retrospective produced three key differentiators.

  1. How fast we move.
  2. How efficient we are.
  3. The value of each person during the product development process.

Today, humanity is desperately trying to automate virtually everything we do. It’s important to come back to understand that people are what matter most.  

To quote Steve Jobs, “it’s not faith in technology – it’s faith in people.”

In my experience, creating a sustainable environment for a well-functioning team is the key to success as a product manager. An all-inclusive work culture drives faster velocity, seamless communication between team members, and overall happiness within the team. Doesn’t hurt to try it for yourself!


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About the speaker
Gaurav Hardikar Brilliant, VP of Product Member

Gaurav is a Product Leader with more than 5 years of experience across all aspects of Product Management, Design, and Strategy. He is passionate about companies with a mission to better people’s lives in a tangible way, and is a large proponent of product management through collaboration and emotional intelligence.