Resources for Product Leaders #2

Giving and receiving feedback, the Accountability Dial, and how to make better decisions as a leader.

Hey everyone,

This week I noticed a couple of articles about giving and receiving feedback, so I wanted to say a few things about that before we get into this week’s link-fest. First, in her article The Best Leaders are Feedback Magnets — Here’s How to Become One Shivani Berry discusses the importance of leaders not shying away from asking for feedback. In fact, we should actively seek out feedback from our teams, and make it safe for them to be honest with us. It’s also important to learn not to trust our first reaction to the feedback we get:

You can’t trust your initial reaction to feedback. Defensive responses are driven by common fears about our own competence, and fear is a powerful distorter of the messages we hear. […] Asking good questions breaks through fear’s distortion field. It enables you to process the message in a more accurate and insightful way.

Next, Lara Hogan discusses how to give better feedback as a leader in her article Don’t Soften Feedback. There are some great tips in there, such as this one:

Explicitly connect the dots between the (factual and specific!) behavior you’re seeing from your teammate and the outcomes that your team or organization care about. If you can’t describe how your teammates’ behavior directly relates to important business outcomes, don’t give that feedback.

In addition to these excellent articles I wanted to mention one more tool that Jonathan Raymond talks about in his book Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting For. It’s called the Accountability Dial, and it’s a way to hold teams accountable without escalating issues unnecessarily:

This has been an extremely effective tool for me personally, not just at work but at home as well! I am notoriously a little… well… conflict-avoidant. Having access to that first step in the dial—The Mention—has been really useful for me. It means that when I’d like to discuss something with someone, it doesn’t have to be a huge deal. It’s a low-effort, low-consequences touchpoint—not a big meeting with an agenda, which feels way too serious.

So, try it out. The next time you’re having a reaction to something at work, start with a quick Mention and see how it goes. And in addition to Jonathan’s book, which I highly recommend, you can also learn more about the Accountability Dial in this podcast interview with him.

Useful things to read

The Art of Not Taking Things Personally →

Sticking with the theme of giving and receiving feedback, this article by Dave Bailey teaches us how to look deeper whenever we encounter emotions and behaviors that don’t make sense to us:

‘Emotional generosity’ is the ability to see past behaviors that we don’t understand and proactively look for compassionate ways to explain them.

The Product Strategy Stack →

This is an excellent overview of what Product Strategy is (I like their definition: “The logical plan for how the product will drive its part of the company strategy”), and also how it fits into the organization’s overall goals:

Importantly, each layer of the stack builds on the previous layer. Put another way, each layer is a prerequisite for the successive layer. We cannot have a company strategy without knowing our company's mission. We cannot have product goals without knowing our product strategy. Given this relationship between the layers, Product Strategy serves a critical role—it is the connective tissue between the objectives of the company and the product delivery work of the product team.

Check Your Work, Ask for Help, and Slow Down →

A characteristically excellent post from Michael Lopp. This one is all about how to make better decisions as a leader:

The urgency is often the lie. Everyone can clearly see a big decision needs to occur. It’s also readily apparent that it’s entirely yours to make. This combination of the decision’s magnitude and obvious single ownership creates pressure. Don’t confuse pressure with urgency. Don’t confuse importance with urgency.

Ok, that’ll do it for this week. Have a good weekend, everyone!