Product Career: Leadership Qualities
Asana Board Member on Building A Product Career (PART 2)
From my perspective, these are the qualities that define exceptional leaders in every product career:
Curiosity doesn’t just apply to the product world. The best product people have fascinating outside interests and hobbies. They are curious about how the world works.
Product people are also empathetic. They care about people and their pain points. Part of this means talking to actual people to find out about their real needs. It’s important to get out from behind the screen.
Great product people are also very decisive. Once they have enough information – even if it’s not perfect — they’re willing to make a call.
Finally, product leaders are open enough to admit when they’re wrong. If the data shows me I’m wrong, I’m moving forward on the next option. Plus, I’m testing all along the way since customer and problem matter to me, not my personal preferences.
Hypothesis → Test → Learn → Iterate
As a product person, you live this process every day. Did you know you can apply this to your career process as well? It may sound counterintuitive because we like to plan our careers – and we don’t want to make a mistake. Still, there are PM strategies you can use to make career decisions.
For instance, you can try being an advisor. Many B2B companies serve consumer brands, and the B2B wants to understand the consumer/buyer mindset. B2Bs wonder how retailers think about project management systems and customer service needs.
So if you’re a product leader working for a client of B2B, you can be an advisor to the B2B product team. This a great way to learn about a new environment. Increasingly B2B is also about funnels, acquisition and conversion. As a result, there’s a lot of overlap. Advising can be a way to stress test if the B2B world might be for you.
Another PM strategy is consulting. Instead of getting on board full time, you offer your expertise at different stage companies in different scenarios. By getting to know the cultures, requirements and rewards, you can make more informed career choices.
When it comes to product leader careers, you can also prototype it. Do something on the side, get feedback, but don’t quit your day job yet. And keep testing, learning and iterating as you go along.