Everything You Create Is A Product
I’m obsessed with office reception.
I've come to realize that I’m a product manager. The org is my product. The employee is my customer. If I facilitate the creation of the right DNA and structure. the team is freed to be their creative best in service of their customer, knowing that the resources, infrastructure, and long-term personal and professional development they need to be their best selves are the very foundation upon which they sit. I find this work utterly delightful.
I believe every employee should consider themselves a product manager. I don't quite agree when Marc Pincus says every employee should be CEO of something or when Ben Horowitz says every product manager is a CEO. CEOs have absolute authority. Product managers, on the other hand, are part of a larger collective, and when plugged together allow one plus one to equal three. Product managers, like CEOs, must champion a big vision, but they must also focus on executing short-term strategy and getting the details right while obsessing over what their customer will do.
Reception, for example, is one of the most important products your company produces. Every morning it sets the tone for your employees' day. Every day it sets first impressions for every prospective employee that visits. Since talent is the key asset that feeds your company’s growth (not to mention your biggest expense), how can you not obsess over reception?
"What is your damage, Heather?" -Veronica Sawyer
Those of a certain age <ahem> will remember this comeback from the halls of high school. The question, however, is critical. Those who achieve self-awareness likely have spent a significant portion of their lives exploring the answer.
Jim Collins discusses the role of self-awareness in leadership in his seminal book Good to Great. “Level 5 leaders [Collins' highest order] are a study in duality: modest and willful, shy and fearless.” Leaders able to project conviction yet be truly and constantly receptive to dissent and ideas from throughout the organization cannot exist without high degrees of self-awareness.
Self-awareness is my number one predictor of future success because it essentially predetermines one’s capacity for growth. Combine self-awareness with exceedingly high levels of intellect and curiosity and – BOOM – you’ve got a winner on your hands. Add experience and the necessary winning personality to the mix and you should do all you can to prevent the candidate from walking out the door. But please don't break the law like Veronica and J.D. did.
Without knowing your damage, you may be capable of determining what makes you tick but you will be blind to what makes you react.
You deserve to surround yourself with a team that has the right culture, one capable of moving with urgency to solve problems that create new opportunities. You deserve to be part of a team that enjoys helping each other become increasingly successful.
You deserve to work with folks with little tolerance for politics and posturing because it undermines the culture that can drive success. You deserve leaders that welcome mistakes but hate needless surprises.
You deserve the trust and freedom to speak candidly and honestly, and count on your colleagues to do the same. You deserve teammates that feel a huge obligation to hold themselves personally accountable for everything one does. Teammates that take responsibility when something goes right and when something goes wrong.
Build a culture centered around speaking the truth, and you create an environment that nourishes courage, encourages risk taking, and regularly pushes your business through new thresholds.
Look into the companies you admire and you'll notice candor sits at the core of the culture of these great organizations. Without it, ideas are squashed before they see the light of day, while those ideas that do surface don't face hard questions from day one. Candor is also the one problem solving technique that works in any situation.
As a COO I am constantly collecting information across the organization, strengthening the decision making ability of the executive team and gathering the data I need to build and iterate the systems, processes, and organizational structures necessary to support rapid growth. By bringing what is seen and thought throughout the org into the light, decision makers are best informed as to the risks and opportunities they face.
As a leader my responsibility is to tell hard truths to my team and to my CEO. I can only do that when folks truly believe that I have their best interests at heart and my intention is to push them to being their better selves.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.