Building a good team is not just the individual leaders but the team as a whole. CPOs should manage through efficient delegation but also give their product managers the freedom to execute. What are some best practices to hire and retain the best product teams? Box CPO and 2022 Global CPO 20 winner Diego Dugatkin shares his insights into creating the best product teams, embracing the vision, and building the next generation of product leaders.
On Embracing The Company Vision and Making It Your Own
Diego began talking about his introduction to product management and how that eventually led him to Box. From there, the company has a clear vision and Diego had to embrace it and then make it his own to take the product to new heights.
“In my case, the vision was already in place, for Box in particular, from the founding CEO, Aaron, who basically has been not only communicating but truly leading the transformation of the company to become the content cloud. Box is the content cloud. What does that mean for product? What do we need to do in product to realize that vision, that meta-vision? The product vision is what came next and I’ve been leading that part and I’m very excited about what’s coming next. So the transformation of that general vision of being the content cloud, what do you need to do to make that happen? What are the components that make that content cloud? What are the actions that we want to enable and facilitate our customers to realize that?
There is a virtuous life cycle of actions that you can take where you may want to ingest content or generate it, you may want to modify that content, you may want to share, you may want to collaborate, you may want to sign or do approvals on that content, you may want to archive it, you may want to run analytics on it. There are many things you can do on that content. So some of them existed, some of them didn’t or have not yet been added to Box per se, but we have partners that do.
So the vision basically became the definition of all the different things that we do need to do now, and which was we need to do in the next coming year, or two or three, to create basically a multi-year horizon setting for the extension of the actions you take on that content so our customers can actually build things that they can do today. And part of that is basically the generation of potentially the marketplace where anybody that builds applications can come to Box, connect to our APIs, and build, from what we have, the most complete set of elements that in that enterprise, you may want to provide your employees. So imagine an IT department that says we would need now new publishing software, but we want it to be compatible with Box. Here are there 10 tools that Box already pre integrate with, that we can pick from this one is free. This one is embedded in Box natively, this one would have this cost but solves this special use case. Which ones do we need? Oh, we don’t need that special use case. Well, let’s use the one that comes with Box included, which is perfect for us. Another company may say I need that special use case that only that vendor supplies, but it’s already integrated with Box. So that completion of having multiple suppliers of value, but you can choose from depending on what you need. …
That vision is basically accelerating the adoption, increasing the retention of our customer base, and also increasing engagement. We already saw that in the seven months I’ve been with Box and we expect that to continue to accelerate. So I’m pretty excited about it.”
This content is produced in partnership with Mighty Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, turning ideas with traction into products that win.Mighty Capital
On Building Great Product Teams
Diego shares how the role of a good CPO is building and retaining a good team. The work isn’t just for him, but his whole team to maintain a good workplace atmosphere, in order to elevate the next generation of product leaders.
“I would say being a good CPO is not an individual’s task. It requires that you actually work with a good team because you’re the tip of the iceberg. So in this one aspect of the effectiveness of the CPO that relates to vision to basically communicating that vision, to understanding strategy and basically building good strategies, but at the same time, it’s another leg of that … about building a good team, especially in a larger company, it’s not an individual’s job, it’s a team’s job. You have to have the vision and the leadership but you have to complement that with team-building and efficient delegation, and also trust but verify. So you need to trust your team, make sure things are happening. You have to build that in the team. I believe and manage in general through efficient delegation, but also giving freedom to execute. I believe that you need to have accountability in yourself and also in others, but at the same time, the tools and the space to make things happen. Especially in larger companies, it’s essential that folks get that combination of accountability and responsibility and resources with space to execute. So those are very important. …
It’s a difficult time for most companies where there is a lot of mobility now. The pandemic accelerated that in general, but also because product managers are curious folks that want to learn things and typically interact with many, and they also get to sometimes try interesting things in different places. So it’s somewhat expected, practically more than other functions, that people in product management would be interested in learning things and sometimes also tapped into by other companies and so on. It’s also understood more recently, not only that the role of CPO but in general, product management is so important. It is not brand new is not something of the last few months, but it really is not a century-old type. This is a much newer function and much more important function that perhaps in many, many decades ago was anticipated or understood. So it’s been accelerating in terms of its importance and participation in the future of companies.
Another aspect of that is, product in many companies is central. Not every company’s product-centric but a lot of technology companies are product-centric. The product manager as a function has also a very powerful role. With that, it makes sense that there will be pull-and-push to basically get the best and it’s a competitive market out there and so on. Retaining talent typically depends on many factors. Some people say that folks don’t quit a company, they quit a manager. So studying and going back to the people aspects of work: yeah, we are all human. We all work in organizations, and in the end is about people, but it’s not the only aspect, it’s one important aspect. It’s super important to also train your managers. It’s not just the aspects of the craft of product management, but the craft of management of people is essential. That’s why I mentioned a few times because it’s top of mind for me that we need to always focus on: What are we doing to lead the best way possible and to empower others to find their mojo, what’s best for them?
In that quest, I would say it’s not always people skills, sometimes also specific technical skills or elements. If you know them, you perform better. Sometimes development has moved to an agile environment where product management cannot trail behind engineering on that. You actually need to be at the same pace or perhaps even a step ahead in the process of transformation, if that’s the transformation. Other times is the migration from a single location to multiple locations around the globe, or like most of us have experienced, the transformation from basically being physically located to basically being virtually, remotely located, or in hybrid environments. … All of those sometimes create shifts.
It’s super important to also build teams that embrace change. Connected to that is the importance of building a bench because part of that change could be that folks sometimes grow to another position in the company, moved to another function, leave the company, or more folks come in. In that dynamic nature of basically how teams are confirmed, it’s super important to have a bench and always have succession plans for what people do. As you build a team, you want to always have that in mind where you’re developing managers that can develop others as well and understand that there is mobility, but basically create opportunities for folks to develop careers without a single point of failure for the company.
… The building of a bench creates opportunities for people to learn from each other because you understand that it not only creates the reassurance of opportunity but there is a lot of value in the organization and embedded knowledge, sometimes technical, sometimes organizational, that is good to filter across people that are sharing that bench for different functions. So it’s the cross-pollination is super important.”
On Best Practices for Product Teams
Diego gives listeners specific examples of what he does to keep teams connected, engaged, and also learning. This includes off-site events, celebrations among the team, mentoring, feedback, and giving space to let others shine.
“To me, the way you do it is part of the craft so it’s something important to do. I also spend time with my direct reports ideating but also sharing with them things I’ve tried before because someday they will be CPOs, as well. This is part of my mission, to keep elevating my VPs to CPOs somewhere. Part of that requires basically having good techniques to do their own team-building in the teams now and also in the future.
So we have a number of things we do at Box or that I’ve done before. Typically, I have an all-hands off-site, which now with a pandemic is much more complicated to do, and we’re doing it virtually. We’ve been calling it Product Fest at Box, but it might incarnate in different names in different companies. Of course, that basically includes everybody in my organization. At Box, I have product design and analysts all in one organization, but in other companies might have included also other departments. Typically I do that once a quarter. So three or four times a year is the measure I liked the most. Depending on the geography of the team, I try to not always do it, say at the headquarters, because otherwise it becomes too physically location-centric, and if you have basically a big development team somewhere else, it is good to basically locate one of those at least in this other location.
It provides the opportunity for people to mingle also, it’s not about learning, it’s not about discussing specific plans or building strategy and plans for execution, but also specific team-building. So a good component of the agenda is basically fun activities. I have done some that included cooking together or basically playing sports or games outdoors in ways that are nothing too strenuous but at the same time, it makes you laugh, that are fun and sometimes funny. Sometimes folks want a night to dance and people just break into dance. There are plenty of opportunities to have fun. Then there’s a clear agenda of things to learn. Typically I would bring speakers that would teach about something important. Sometimes is related to working with clients and customers. Other times it’s specifically about the technique that we want to use for planning. …
It’s another important point in that concept of delegation and team building is important to basically give limelight and attention and focus to many others. If you’re the CPO, don’t be the only speaker, make sure you lead but let others also co-lead or have important representation. That’s typically also part of my signature that I leave space for others to shine. It’s important to do that.
There are other things to do, as well. … Don’t waste an opportunity to celebrate. Any awesomeness should be celebrated. So we tend to celebrate when we do a great release … any event that is personal or work-related, that is worth celebrating. … For me, it’s important to have the budget for this all-hands, the budget for this off-sites, the budget for the celebrations. … Some folks may prefer one thing or another. Just have interactive conversations. … Keep looking for what is that the team needs. It should not be top-down, it should be more of listening and paying attention, and sometimes directly asking. … It’s most important than anything else is just basically stay connected.”
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About the speaker
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