Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Developing high-performance product teams

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It’s difficult (if not impossible) to quantify what it takes to develop a productive and successful product team. Every product is unique, and every company does things differently. From a distance it may seem that there’s no process or methodology to create a high-performing product team.

Developing great products entails teams of people working together. With the proliferation of product roles in recent years it has become more important for product teams to function well together and collaborate effectively with other teams and individuals in the organization. Increased focus on building great teams is desperately needed in today’s fast-evolving technology world, yet for too many companies it’s not a high priority.

What does it take to develop a group of disparate individuals into a high-performing product team?

High-performance

The most productive teams focus on the strategies that lead to positive results, instead of focusing too much attention on tactical minutiae. They inspire those they depend on to give their best efforts instead applying undue pressure on other team members. They lead by influence.

As a product manager your success depends on your ability to influence members of other teams to engage in the work that leads to great products. This takes effort and planning, and a lot of hard work. You need to lead the teams

During the past ten-plus years I’ve developed a methodology to create great products through team collaboration. This methodology has evolved from its initial state into a proven practice that has helped many product teams become influential leaders creating products that delight their customers. I call it the 5 Factors of Leadership:

  1. Create the vision: The first step is to create and share the product vision with everyone in the company. You sell the vision and help everyone involved become excited with what you’re creating. This takes a lot of effort up front but pays off handsomely as you bring the product to life.
  2. Build trust: To work effectively with other people, they must trust you. They need to know you will do what you say. Perhaps even more important, you need to trust members of other teams to do what they’ve committed to (i.e. not nag them). Building trust takes time and much effort, and you can lose it in an instant, so take it seriously—always.
  3. Motivate: Building winning products requires hard work, yet with long development cycles even the most ambitious team members become weary. Here’s where influential leadership needs to kick into high gear. Effectively motivating and influencing team members are key to successful product development.
  4. Develop others: As product manager you bear the responsibility for knowing the market, gathering key data and making decisions for the product’s future. Put your knowledge to work developing team member’s skills and knowledge to work together effectively. Build them up and help them develop themselves.
  5. Act decisively: The final step is to change the game with decisive action. As the leader you need to make decisions, you need to get things moving and keep them going, you need to lead out; don’t wait for permission. Creating products that customers love requires decisive action. You are ultimately responsible for the success of your products; take action toward success.

If you want to foster the growth of product managers into leaders, you need to provide clear direction to guide the work with their teams. Their leadership and positive influence with engineering, sales, marketing and other teams will make all the difference in the success of their products.

Questions: What works well for you in creating great products? How much do your teams focus on leadership? Please leave a comment in the space below.


The Product Management Perspective: I would love to discuss this in more detail with you and help you find ways to take your product teams to new heights. Please reach out; my contact info is in the About the Blog section.

3 thoughts on “Developing high-performance product teams

  1. Fully agree with your 5 factors. I applied them in my former position … plus two others factors :\
    – give room for mistakes
    – empowered team member.

  2. Excellent insights! Thanks for sharing.

    What does it take to develop a group of disparate individuals into a high-performing product team?

    Vision drives a sense of purposeful action and pride in shared success. Too often, teams’s needs are ignored in the needs of individuals, or friction and competition, before team can sustain the pace. Those that do thrive and are happy.

    Also safety in failure

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