Powerful actions and mindsets to take product managers to the next level
This podcast is getting a new name to better reflect our objective here—helping product managers become product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now.
You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now.
Product managers are in a perfect role to become senior leaders and part of the C-suite. Your role is in the middle of the work the organization does, giving you insights that few executives have, which is why you should become one. To prepare for that, you need to adjust your mindset, stop doing certain things, and start doing other things.
Our guest, Evan Roth, is an expert on this as he has coached many product executives. We first met way back in episode 102 after a product VP and coaching client introduced me to him. Today, he’ll help you prepare a path to leadership roles.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[6:28] How can product managers change their mindset to prepare for a senior leadership role?
- Stretch out your thinking about the future—think longer term, wider breadth
- Embrace the gray—recognize that there won’t be perfect answers
- Focus on the big picture— when you’re a senior leader, someone else will focus on the details
- Stop thinking about urgent products and start thinking about important products—focus on solutions, opportunities, and possibilities
- Stop thinking about the details and start thinking about themes and trends
- Anticipate the future (future proofing)
[10:38] How do we think bigger?
Examine your mental models. Ask yourself, What is my framework? How far out am I thinking? Is my thinking unlimited or limited? Spend time with other people who think big. Change your mental models by being influenced by mentors.
[13:53] Tell us more about how can mindset help product managers.
I coach people on four aspects of mindset, using the acronym GAIL:
- Gremlin (inner critic)
- Limiting Belief
Our brains don’t distinguish between limiting beliefs and positive beliefs. A thought leads to a feeling, which leads to a behavior, which lead to an action. If we want to change our behavior and achieve a goal, we have to change our feelings and thoughts. We need to reframe the messages we tell ourselves. The brain is a pattern-recognition machine. If you want to create a new neural synapse, you have to practice mentally. Your mindset is not in your DNA. You can choose to change. The brain is seeking certainty and will continue to stay the same unless you actively change yourself. Awareness is big. If you want to change your mental models, you have to become aware of them.
[20:21] What actions should product managers take as they’re moving toward senior leadership?
- First, list the things you’ll need to stop doing. When you advance to the next level, you can’t keep doing all the things you’re already doing or you’ll burn out.
- Identify the most valuable activity (MVA) you’ll be doing at the next level. Find out how senior leaders spend their time in ways that lead to economic or product success.
- Think differently by reading differently; read about what your next position may be like and read about things you don’t understand yet. At the executive level, you’ll be faced with things you don’t know all the time, so prepare yourself now.
[22:28] What books can leaders read to expand their thinking?
All great leadership starts with self leadership. Read about you can become better, self-actualize, and become aware of blindspots. Leadership and Self-Deception is a great book on how we’re deceiving ourselves all the time and how becoming aware of that can help us. Read about emotional intelligence and change methodologies.
[23:44] What is a 360 review?
The 360 review is a process I use when I’m coaching clients. I call it the “human pincushion experiment.” You get feedback from people above you, beside, and below you in the organization, and sometimes from customers too. You end up with a list of actions to start, stop, and continue based on everyone else’s input. The 360 review can be done quantitatively with a survey, but I do qualitative interviews. I talk to each person for a few minutes about the client I’m coaching. The conversation is confidential, but I use what people share to create buckets of actions to start, stop, and continue. These actions can be related to behavior, leadership, conflict, or collaboration. You get a rich set of feedback to help identify blindspots. The bigger the gap between other people’s view and your view, the better the coaching opportunity, because you can grow in self-awareness.
[26:03] How can product managers ask for feedback to prepare them for a senior leadership role?
Some people are hesitant to ask for feedback, because they’re afraid they’ll find out they aren’t as good as they think they are. But the beauty of it is you can ask people to bundle their feedback. Ask them to tell you two things you did really well and two things you could do better. Assure them you won’t take it personally. Develop the habit of asking for feedback now, and it will serve you well at the senior level. When senior leaders ask for feedback, they demonstrate trust and vulnerability and increase connection. Our brains react to trust by releasing oxytocin, so we can physically communicate better with one another when there’s trust garnered through vulnerability.
Action Guide: Put the information Evan shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Learn about Evan’s executive coaching at CoachEvanRoth.com
- Connect with Evan on LinkedIn
- Listen to TEI 102 with Evan Roth
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.