Guest Post by: Aurelija Pavilionyte (Mentee, Session 6, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Chris Butler]
Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. I am happy to be around smart people most of the time. They really push my average up. But during the Product Mentorship program I realized that this is not enough. It is very important to have one person who honestly wants to help you succeed. Who keeps you accountable and gives that extra push to move forward.
As part of The Product Mentor program I was paired with Chris Butler as my mentor. He advised me on many topics I had at the time. The most important take-aways were the importance of consistent one-on-ones and realisation that team diversity can sometimes oppose the team culture and this is not a bad thing.
This was my first mentorship experience. Since we live in the different parts of the world, all our communication was online. I am sure meeting someone in person helps to create even stronger relationship but I felt very comfortable talking with Chris about all the challenges I was facing. At the same time I felt the responsibility to achieve something meaningful every week. Whether it was a short article or a retrospective meeting – knowing that there is a person who wants to help me succeed was a great motivation in itself.
I have many experienced people in my work environment and I learn from them a lot. I can always ask for help or advice. Still it is not the same relationship that I had with my mentor. For example during this mentorship program I had to make a hard decision – should we continue working with our underperforming team member or should we separate our ways. Of course we had internal discussion about this situation in my team. And sharing my thoughts with my mentor Chris helped me evaluate everything from the broader perspective. This is not something I would like to discuss with my friends or family members – but mentor is a perfect person to ask for a guidance during a situation like this. You do not expect to hear the correct answer or directions what to do next. But good mentor asks questions that help to understand the situation better.
Company culture vs team diversity
I believe this mentorship program helped me learn one more important lesson. I have read a lot about company culture and how important that is. And while talking with my mentor I realized that team diversity and company culture does not always go along. This was a wakeup call to me. If you want to have diverse people in your team and bring in new ideas – you should look beyond your company culture.
Just recently we were hiring a new developer. It was clear that he is different and did not look like a great fit for our team. At one point I was ready to dismiss his candidacy just because of that. Nevertheless he had a strong knowledge base and skills we were looking for. And only after talking with Chris I realized that this might be my ego talking, that our team would actually be better with a diverse people who have different views. We ended up hiring this person. I am happy I stopped my ego and welcomed diversity to our team. This experience really changed my understanding about the cultural fit and the importance of diversity. Looking back I see that this was a great decision and this mentorship program allowed me to make it. I already discussed this situation with fellow product managers and shared my experience. I will never look at hiring people the same way I did before talking to Chris.
Jobs to be done
I work in a startup where things constantly change and you have to adapt to the new circumstances very fast. Sometimes you get stuck with your small tasks and forget to look at the bigger picture. Our company is slowly shifting from consumer-only product to consumer and business product. This shift brings a lot of changes to our strategy. And raises many questions we do not have answers to yet.
My mentor Chris helped to notice that we tend to think what business need and how to get this from our consumers. And our focus should still be to solve consumer problems first. I was suggested to try jobs-to-be-done framework. He encouraged to start user interviews to better understand their behavior and what value do we create with our product.
The importance of one-on-one’s
As Chris perfectly said – we are not only our professions. We are humans who have hobbies, expectations, families. We can have different moods, life situations that sometimes really affect how we behave. Sometimes you can be so overwhelmed by everything what is happening. If you do not share what is inside you with a team for a longer time – everything eventually erupts anyway.
My mentor encouraged to start doing one-on-one meetings with my team members. I used to do them before and Chris helped to bring this great “tool” back in my hands. Half an hour meeting with a team member can help you understand how you can improve as a manager, make others feel better in the company and be more productive.
This also encouraged our company CEO to start doing one-on-one’s on his own. I can see that it already brought us a lot of value. I was able to openly share how feel in the company and what is going on in my personal life right now. After the honest conversation with the all team and one-on-one with CEO we we able to find a best solution on how to move forward. And it all started from me doing one-on-one meetings after Chris reminded to start doing them again.
Now I highly motivate every fellow product manager to start doing one-on-one’s in their teams. Almost no one was doing them before. This is something so easy to execute and something that can bring a lot of value in a short period of time.
To sum up, the most important takeaways from my time with a mentor is the importance of one-on-one meetings and the importance of team diversity that turns out can sometimes oppose the team culture.
Aurelija is a Product Person with 4 year experience in consumer product development. Currently she is a Product Manager at beauty tech startup Veleza. She also organizes ProductTank Vilnius meetups and builds product people community in Lithuania.
More About The Product Mentor
The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…
Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.
Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…
- Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
- Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
- Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
- Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community
Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!
The Product Guy