If you're a C-Level in a company, chances are that at some point, your best people will leave...and sometimes that's normal. However, in some other cases, these departures might feel premature or just tough to deal with Here are a few reasons why this might be happening...
#1 They are being told what to build.
You've invested a significant amount of time and money in hiring, onboarding and sometimes - if they're lucky enough - training your product managers, designers and engineers, so they can excel at their craft.
The problem you're facing is that people in the company, as it scales, want to contribute in many ways. They want to show they exist in the ever-growing crowd that scale-ups tend to be these days. Your peers have ideas about what the product should and shouldn't be, and they want to be recognised for it. In many companies still, people's value perception remain indexed on ideas they bring to the table.
Next thing you know, a Head of a business line is telling a product manager that the next big thing that matters to the company is feature X. You could argue that it's the product manager's role to discuss this, push back and investigate whether feature X has legs, but that's actually a pessimistic view of the world.
A better way to ensure product managers are engaged, invested in the company's vision, and empowered to do their best work is to actually give them problems to solve.
Increase conversion of free to premium customers by 15% by end of Q2 2022.
This is what a problem to solve looks like 👆🏽. It's also called a product outcome.
By giving them a problem to solve, you're leaving the necessary space for the team to actually exercise the very same problem-solving muscles you hired them for, in addressing this outcome in the most creative and effective way.
This is how product companies excel.
#2 They lack coaching...and maybe you do too.
As a leader, regardless of where you are in the organisation, coaching your team should be one of your top priorities in your job description. The closer you are to the product managers (Group Product Manager, Head of Product), the larger the share of time dedicated to coaching. The further you are hierarchically (VP of Product, Chief Product Officer), the larger the share of time dedicated to strategy.
Do not fool yourself, if you're not spending time coaching your product team, you're simply not doing a good job. It is that simple.
✔ 1x1 coaching sessions should happen at least fortnightly with your team.
✔ Your role is to help them navigate whichever challenge they might be faced with.
❌ These meetings aren't status meetings where you're asking for an update on outputs.
❌ You're not telling them what they should be doing.
If you're a manager and coaching doesn't sound concrete, or you don't know where to start, drop me a note, and I'll be more than happy to provide free guidance.
#3 They don't have clear vision or strategy from you.
We all have a role to play. Yours, as a product leader and besides coaching, is to provide the vision and strategy so the team know within which frame they are operating, to achieve which goals and why.
Often, what I see in companies, is that leaders are not providing enough strategic context to their teams. If that's the case, product teams can't be expected to effectively produce value for the business. This is not how this works.
And by the way, a vision is not a statement or a sentence that you can regurgitate to people when asked "why are we doing all this?". It describes the future state of a company and impact it should have over 3-10 years. It is substantial and central to the future of the company.
If as a leader, you've not invested time on crafting a compelling vision, it will be very hard to inspire, let alone onboard, people to truly embark on the journey the company is on.
Hopefully, you now have a better sense of some things you can do to create the best environment for your product people to thrive in and achieve the expected outcomes.