Guest Post by: Fabiola Borquez (Mentee, Session 11, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Scott Stokke]
During these previous months, I have been fortunate to be able to discuss the challenges that arise in work with my mentor. And in those conversations, I have been able to realize that no matter how much we implement processes that we consider correct, things will not happen if we do not work the most important thing: The human factor.
As a person in charge of a Product team, I must deal every day with different types of people. These personages will collaborate to make things happen so we can continue to grow as we have done so far, but considering that we are no longer the 6 or 12 people from the start, but 120 people and continuing that move towards the same goal.
For this, we need to lay certain foundations in our way of relating to each other, and for me, these have been the six essentials that I have learned during this time, and I would like to share with you:
Mapping the influences
Some call it stakeholders; I prefer only to call people, but they are taking different nuances according to the role they play to meet the objectives as a whole. They’re different souls inside teams.
A piece of good advice received was to identify these people, understand their motivations and fears or understand rather than if they do things, and what stops them from doing things.
Some map them to a drawing and paste it on a wall, just like those TV series to solve mysteries. Others have it internalized, and we try to know well who these people are, either by inviting them to have a coffee or by interacting with them often.
Regardless of the way you choose to make your influence mapping, the important thing is to have it clear and activate it when necessary.
Communicating and over-communicating
Many of us have a low profile personality, and we don’t need to be showing what we do every day, but I have learned that this is something that is ok for you or me, with your beloved people, but not for a company that grows and grows. And much less if you want everyone on the same page as you, to be able to go together towards the same goal.
People from a company need to be clear about what is happening in the critical areas of their workplace.
As for the Product, it is necessary to make clear always, things like:
- What are the goals of the quarter
- At what stage of the progress we are
- What does a new product launch imply
- If something is delaying it is useful to understand why and what are the implications
Agreements between people and areas
Many times we have different views of other people, and this is entirely normal. The thing is to identify this and bring people together that will make things happen, more than anything to agree on something between everyone. The most important thing is that after the meeting – when leaving that room – everyone demonstrates to the rest that they think the same and agree with the decision taken.
The latter is very important to show that we are all on the same path to reach the same goals. We should not pursue different goals in our diverse work areas. I think that – here – the key is the previous point about communicating about what we should achieve and why we should achieve it. I am afraid to say that it is probably the most challenging point to carry because our ego will always want to play tricks on us and will make us want to show that We are right about something.
Expectation, context, and Empathy
I have observed that in this world, many things would be solved if we were able to communicate the expectations about something and the context behind a decision. We must learn to ask ourselves more questions before concluding a decision. There is the methodology of the five “why’s” or just the common sense of asking things until reach the origin of the decisions or situations.
I believe that if we master the art of communicating what is wanted about something and why things have been done as they have so far, it will be easy for us to activate our empathic way about what is happening. We will be able to propose new solutions without destroying what has already been advanced. Always with a basis of collaboration between people.
Vulnerability as a communication bridge
Vulnerability is often related to something negative. Still, the reality is that leaving the superhero cape aside when you are a team leader and demonstrating that there are things that surpass you is something that, far from the negative that many of us can come to think, it generates bridges of communication between people.
When you stop looking like a “smartie” and people come to you to propose ideas, many good things start to happen. There is nothing cuter than your team to suggest things that are outside of what you thought since they are usually much better than your head could imagine, and with this, much more useful for the company if they can implement it.
Culture over Rockstars
Many times – as we grow as a company – we think we should be recruiting people who have an impressive LinkedIn, coming from incredible experiences or renowned companies. We believe then they will spread on the team that super cool way of thinking that will lead us to success.
In practice, I have been able to experience that this is not always the case. People who most propose and generate value and put on the shirt of the company are those who come from more adverse contexts, where they did not have the answers to everything and, therefore, can overcome the feeling of uncertainty. This last thing is something very usual of startup-type scenarios, where change is part of your daily basis.
From what I have had to live in the growth of this Startup, I can say that a person who does not meet the characteristics of a “typical” Rockstar but has lived uncertainty and wants to eat the world with ambitions related to personal and professional growth, will be someone who can contribute a lot to a team and culture.
And – if it aligns with the previous points mentioned above – can be an excellent asset for the industry, especially those who went through everything at the stage of a company and who can look for solutions to the adversities.
These thoughts about the relationship with people in the work environment, in the path of growth of a startup, have been present in many of the stages and have never left my head, so I consider it very useful to be able to gather it in this article that I hope It has served you somehow. Thank you for reading this far.
About Fabiola Borquez
Fabi is a Chilean living in Mexico and an enthusiastic Product person. She works at Runa HR, a startup that went through the YC process and is on its way to the B series and all the happy mess that implies. Fabi loves working hard on the design and strategy that is not seen to then create and launch digital products.
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The Product Guy