As product leaders, you probably have seen the evolution of your product teams. It hasn’t been an easy transition as of late, with talent spread all over the world, hybrid working environments, and massive growth in product marketplaces. How can you align your product teams to fit your company’s mission? Next Insurance CPO and 2022 Global CPO 20 winner Effi Fuks Leichtag shares some truths about hiring talent and scaling product teams for accelerating growth.

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On Hiring Talent

Hiring the right skill sets and keeping top talent engaged is a huge challenge, especially hard during the pandemic. Here Effi explains his approach to hiring talent for your product teams.

“There’s no right or wrong and it’s a complicated one, I’ll say some uncomfortable truths. The first one is people, like winning people like to be an environment, well, their activities show results and the results of showing value. And the value is good for society. That’s not an uncomfortable truth. The uncomfortable truth is, we tend to forget it in the day-to-day, we tend to forget we sometimes surrender to personal preferences of ourselves or reports, we surrender to day-to-day difficulties. People should be fairly paid, well paid, and well-compensated for the value and the reward. Without a winning team, it doesn’t matter you can play, you can pay the best, no sports player in a soccer or basketball team, the best players are not going to stay keep playing in a team that loses. That’s something I learned early in my career. And it’s something you need to remind yourself. …

“Interviews are a very low predictor of success in the workplace. It is an OK predictor to really suss out a complete mismatch. I heard it from my old boss at Yelp and I heard about it from my friends at Facebook. I heard about it from friends at Google. I don’t know if there’s any structured research about it. The best performance you’ll have are not going to be the best interviews. The worst performance might be actually the best interview. It requires boldness and it requires tenacity to part ways with people who don’t elevate the organization, those things should be also done empathetically. Understand that people also trusted you will their career, trusted you to filter them appropriately and they quit a job to join the organization, so you should do your best attempt to make sure you find a successful place for them. Having all of that said, you should also be able to part ways whenever it’s not helping the organization as a whole succeed.”

On Structuring Top Teams

Effi shares some tough insights he has for his team, especially his mantra: Mission beats structure. He shares how his decisions not only benefit the company but trickle to the team members and the customers, as well. It is all connected.

“I have this sentence that I say that is uncomfortable sometimes to you, but it makes sense but it’s kind of neat to make sense during the day. Mission beats structure. I think I say it once a day. People have preferences. People are intrigued by different areas of the company. People are intrigued by different problems, especially a company that grows and have many problems can that can be solved. It is essential that you align your talent around your priorities. People understand that, people comprehend that. If someone doesn’t, it shouldn’t sway away. It is easier to be said than done but it is requiring a lot of discipline and not blinking. 

“A large part of the CPO’s job or the job in any organization is to take a deep breath. Don’t budget against yourself. You might have someone who you want to make a manager, but you don’t need a manager in this area. Don’t let the desires of the old, which is a living, breathing organism, to be nondisciplined, to get fat, to get bloated. You should really think about it as your body, especially as it grows from 4 to what is now 40. It’s like, are we really putting the right people in the right jobs? How much fat that we have? …

“I’ve seen how I matured in this earlier throughout the years. What I discovered is we are too afraid of how the team will react. What will be the communication? How will the team feel? I really learned to be empathetic to it, but it is none of my consideration. My team is already used to it. I always tell them, I will not make someone a manager in an area because that person wants to or they deserve it. It is completely supposed to be not a consideration. After some adjustment, people learn to really appreciate it because they really, I hope, believe in me that all decisions I make are for the benefit of the company, and the benefit of the company is the benefit of all of us, and eventually our customers. And that’s the best advice I can give in terms of development.”

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On Growing Talent for The Best Teams

Effi shows how creating an environment where your direct reports could be brutally honest with you and you with them builds the strongest product teams. He also mentions a few ways to grow talent within an organization’s product teams.

“Everyone says radical candor, no other people do it. Radical candor is brutal. It is daily, it is empathetic. One of the people I hired for my team, and I don’t hide it, was my best man for my wedding. We were co-founders, we were very close in childhood and he works with me. We really discussed before I hired him, is this going to work out, me being your boss? We knew each other since preschool. I told him, I have one commitment. I’m going to be brutally honest with you, and I expect you to be brutally honest with me. We are both in this relationship to succeed. There is a sentence never hire a friend as a colleague; actually, I would say hire a best friend as a colleague.

“I think one of the things I tried to do with my reports is to create a truly non-threatening environment where I can tell them like, Hey, you messed up. This is bad. How do we fix it? … It’s not like, ‘Hey, sit down. I have some feedback for you.’ It’s very authentic, very vocal. I think I have the liberty that they talk the same to me. This environment of truly radical candor should be nurtured in a talk about feelings. I just finished before your calling, sitting with my directs and telling you them, I’m very unhappy about something that I identify starting to happen in our org, and I want us to make a difference. One of them disagreed with me and the other one disagreed with them. The moment you have a good debate, and people are just not treating you as an executive in the room and they find the freedom to push back and disagree with you, this is when you should feel good instead of feeling intimidated or using your authority. This is what success looks like, in terms of building that environment. Once you have that environment, all you need to do is to give them more and more opportunities that are a bit bigger and uncomfortable for them. Hold their hand, and they know, Okay, Effi is gonna give me brutal feedback. I say brutal, I don’t mean it’s unpleasant. It’s just unfiltered and raw. …

“Something I was lucky that my manager at Yelp made me do and really developed me to think outside the box was when we met folks from Zillow, folks from Pinterest in the early days. Those dinners were the best. If you can send your reports to meet other product leaders that are their counterparts at other companies, at Products That Count, and in other forums, it is the best thing you can do for them. … Meeting a counterpart is one of the strongest things that I feel shaped someone’s state of mind.”

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About the speaker
Effi Fuks Leichtag Member
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