Product leadership coaching is one of the fastest growing segments in the coaching industry. More and more companies are transitioning from being technology-led to being product-led. The demand for product leaders that can understand how to lead and grow teams has grown exponentially in recent years but most product leaders lack the tools necessary to lead and coach others.
The product management’s career has a fundamental leadership component. As an individual contributor, you will have to use leadership skills effectively in order to lead people without the managerial position. Leadership skills can be used to lead people for a variety of purposes. Leaders motivate, inspire, create buy-in, and cultivate a culture that embraces change.
This will allow you to achieve success in the product as a product manager.
Eventually the day comes when you get a leadership position in a company: product director, head of product, VP of product or chief product officer. You are at the heart of your organization, and there is no other way but forward — your a leading a product organization.
In order to succeed, you must do as every other leader does — get away from the day-to-day duties, avoid micromanagement and give directions instead of orders. Improve the system, change incentives, grow talent and build empowered product teams.
Do I Really Need a Coach?
Many product leaders come from an operational or technical background, others find themselves in fast-growing companies, and many others in the process of transforming from a traditional mindset to a modern product mindset based on outcomes and empowered teams. And, they know they need help.
Product leadership can be a very lonely role. There are hundreds of challenges, lots of pressure and responsibility, and we must help our teams. But who is helping us?
Meanwhile we find ourselves in the middle of all the battles, leading without formal authority to try to create a successful product organization while delivering business results.
Being able to manage time wisely, provide intent, develop our leadership skills, inspire, and grow people is key to survive and thrive in this complex role.
It’s good to have another perspective. Without any external help, we can sometimes get stuck with an issue and need a new perspective.
Having the support of an external unbiased agent can help us get unstuck and evolve much faster.
What is Product Leadership Coaching?
A product leadership coach is a professional coach with a strong background in product and leadership who works with product leaders to help them grow and achieve their goals.
As in product management coaching, product leadership coaching is more than just coaching, in the sense that we effectively combine various disciplines to provide a holistic and impactful experience — an effective combination of professional coaching, mentoring, consulting and teaching.
It is in the consulting aspect that the main difference lies with respect to traditional executive coaching, since we work on key aspects of product leader’s role, such as the product strategy, the organizational structure and capabilities to enable that strategy.
Benefits of Product Leadership Coaching
The reason to hire a product leadership coach is for personal development purposes (where the manager feels stuck or wants to accelerate her progression).
Contrary to popular belief, a product leader is likely not going to turn to her manager for coaching support at this level. They will most likely either find help in somewhere else or grow into the job without any support.
Our coaching programs focus on three key dimensions of product leaders’ development:
- Leadership – Develop leadership skills that will allow you to set the direction and create a rewarding workplace culture
- Organization – Design and grow a modern product organization around empowered product teams
- Talent – Develop people and drive a modern product management practice
In addition to that, we help clients solve day to day issues, reduce adaptation time to their position and improve personal productivity.
Structure of a Product Leadership Coaching Program
Most experienced coaches offer programs designed to deliver maximum impact in the shortest amount of time. These programs are the result of years of work, but they’re also adapted to the context.
In our case we have developed an individual coaching program of twelve sessions in twelve weeks.
This program combines several proven techniques with some assessments to help the product leader increase their self-awareness and develop their growth plan.
What Experience Should I Look for when Hiring a Coach?
When looking for a coach for product leaders, the most important thing is their experience coaching executives. Previous work as an executive coach will help them lead these product leaders like pros.
Secondly, we need a person to advise us about our strategic direction and organizational structure.
Thirdly we want a mentor with product leadership experience who can enlighten us with practical solutions to our challenges and who can work closely with us to help make them happen.
In my opinion, of the three disciplines, the one that really makes the difference is professional coaching. In the absence of this, the other two will be useless.
It is advisable to look for people who have experience in business coaching, rather than in life coaching, and more specifically in leadership coaching or executive coaching.
An important issue to keep in mind here is that the coaching process itself is a training exercise for the product leader, since one of their main responsibilities is coaching product managers. As a result, the techniques and methodologies learned can be applied to her own team.
Master of Product Leadership
It is common in most coaching processes for product leaders to have to work with the product strategy and the organizational structure.
One of the main differences between a generalist coach and a product leadership coach is our expertise in the domain. We also focus on ‘coaching the coach’. This means that we help leaders get better at developing their employees’ skills.
Experience as a Product Leader
Product leadership coaches have years of experience in putting in action product leadership techniques and practices. They will support you with focused and practical solutions to your challenges and they will work with you to help make them a reality.
However, I have met great coaches without first-hand experience in product leadership, but in very similar roles such as technology leadership roles, entrepreneurship or business ownership.
Why Would I Need a Product Leadership Coach?
Our product leadership coaching programs are specially effective with Product Leaders who are going through an important change in their career or they are new to the role:
- Recently appointed Head of Product
- Develop product management practice across the organization
- Manage a rapidly growing organization
- Change of product or company
- Improve performance in current position