Are You A Coachable Product Leader?


It’s rare for me to find a company whose strategy is specific and actionable enough to prioritize product work. When faced with a laundry list of strategies filled with 5, 8 or 13 tactical goals, it can be very difficult to prioritize anything.

While most of your roadmap initiatives support one tactic or another, each functional group will call out for new initiatives that match other objectives and they’ll want the entire development effort in the upcoming release.

However, their backlog of worthy improvements will be infinitely deep. What ends up happening is each functional group (engineering, sales, support, marketing) has competing internal interests and a different set of criteria, metrics, justifications and value stories.

So how does a product leader develop great negotiating skills, deep empathy, and a backbone of steel? How does one stay on top of strategy while engaging in hard and shrewd bargaining? As a product leader, you need to empower individual departments and keep work organized so you can encourage and lead them through market-winning roadmap releases.

The Product Veteran vs The Coachable Product Leader
Should companies look for product leaders with experience running product teams to appease peer execs? Or should they offer transitory leadership support through coaching? A company may have product leaders in place, but many lack the maturity and experience to move the organization to a new level. They won’t necessarily learn portfolio-level strategy, brilliant cross-functional collaboration and gain exceptional emotional intelligence skills on their own.

But how do you get product leaders to practice new mindsets? Leaders who are accompanied or coached view their chances of success as being much higher compared to those that are not. But where and how do you get the help you’re looking for?

At Bain Public, we act as coaches and mentors to expedite the process. Through casual, one-off chats, we provide an experienced operator's perspective on product-centric problems and the different ways that it can be solved.

Are You a Coachable Product Leader?
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably wondering whether you’re a ‘coachable’ product leader yourself. In a community that understands the significance of being coached and getting trained by professionals, we’d like to stress the idea of being a product manager or executive who is ‘coachable’. It reflects your attitude toward your company, your founders, your colleagues and by extension, your product users themselves.

Being coachable isn’t limited to being passionate about product management or your product. It takes into account all of the following:

Adopting a Growth Mindset
Product leaders with a growth mindset will go out of their way to seek the areas where they underperform so they can further improve. Can you be 100% upfront about failures without getting defensive? Be honest with yourself and allow others to motivate you to grow. You need to ingest the information, understand the dynamics at play, generate insight from the advice and practice follow-through. So take their advice and execute on it!
Related read: How to Make Sure Your Product Leadership Team Will Boost You Up - Not Drag You Down
Accepting Criticism
How do you approach constructive criticism? Do you accept it and channel it positively? Or do you take personal offence and disregard it entirely? Product leaders who are receptive to criticism and learn to reinforce it in their performance are much more likely to progress in their careers.
Inquisitiveness and an Appetite for Learning
In order to be a coachable product leader, you need to be a voracious learner. You need to soak in as much knowledge as you can about your craft. Your receptiveness and approach toward adapting information plays a huge role.
How likely are you to go beyond your pre-determined course structure and ask questions to gain a deeper understanding of the craft you’re learning? Looking for new techniques and learning by example are some of the measures you can start implementing.
Being a Team Player
Your cohesiveness with your office community and your perception toward them is what makes you a better leader. Are you the kind of leader who’s likely to collaborate or simply aim toward the high-level drivers and strategic roadmap, entirely neglecting your fellow colleagues?
The Ability to Self Reflect
Your individual ability to introspect and analyze your faults, accepting and working on them, is what makes you a coachable product leader.
Enhancing Your Pace of Learning
From adopting a growth mindset to showing an appetite for learning and self-reflection, being coachable results in an enhanced pace of learning, allows for ample room for growth and development, as well as fosters a deeper understanding with your coach.
Take notes, come back to your mentor with feedback and keep them in the loop!
    • What worked?
    • What didn’t work?
    • What prevented it from happening?

Now that you’re aware of what makes a product leader coachable, are you?

Read our article, ‘The Disproportionate Impact of Coaching on Startup Survival’ to see how our product management, consultancy and coaching support helped take a number of companies to the next level.

Bain Public’s ‘On-Demand Connect with Product Experts’
Your chances of survival as a product leader increase thanks to the right coaching support. The right mentoring and coaching assistance facilitates an organization's transformation and enables roadmap planning and execution — without straying from the ultimate vision and goal.

Are you curious to know more about our ‘On-Demand One-to-One Connect with Product Expert’ offering? No matter where you are in the world, we’ll make sure to start at a time that works best for you and your team. If you’re unsure whether you’re the best fit for this course, our chats are confidential, informal, casual and are designed to provide insight through conversation.
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Would you like to learn more about our SOAP™ process? Visit our Solutions page
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Bain Public offers consistent roadmap planning processes & tools for business leaders and product managers organized around what motivates, inspires and improves growth. We offer a variety of blog posts, e-books and approaches designed to help organizations understand their digital strategies, introduce elements of roadmapping and establish product-led change amongst the senior leaders and managers. Our approach, product, expert advice and coaching helps entangle complex technology, people and roadmap dynamics. For more information, visit bainpublic.com or call 514–442–8487.

Thanks to Loren O'Brien-Egesborg and Abigail Ramirez Villarroel for contributing to this article as well as reading drafts and overseeing aspects of its publication. Also, if you have any feedback or criticism about this article, then shoot us an email info@bainpublic.com.