In a time when physical health has global attention, due to the unprecedented impact of COVID -19 - how can we reinforce the emotional wellbeing and fulfillment of product people around the world?
Those that so many organizations rely on to solve their problems and bring to life over the top outcomes.
How do we best serve them?
With trust and autonomy. 😊
First, let’s think through personal trust. 💭 Defined by Merriam Webster as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”
As a working mother, even before the pandemic, juggling a career, marriage, parenthood, friends, extended family, and being my own individual human being was already A LOT.
Throw in social distancing, safety protocols, and more worries than ever on the pile - and everyone is dealing with more than ever emotionally & physically.
However, the most reassuring aspect I’ve encountered so far is the concept of trust.
To be allowed to take time for self-care, coordinating children, leaving a bit early for a much-needed date night or weekend away.
To be granted the ability to take care of me and mine before I am asked to take care of my company and theirs actually makes me show up more than ever when I do. 💪
I am 120% in because I don’t have nagging worries about things left undone that are personal to me.
Life ebbs and flows, and when you trust your product people (who are professional people-pleasers already) to get things done their own way - the results come back to you tenfold. 📈
Secondly, a culture of professional trust is one of the most powerful team dynamics I have ever seen implemented anywhere.
What I mean by this is: as stakeholders, leaders, executives, even product people - you must recognize what you do not know or are just not good at doing.
By hiring and then trusting others to do so, you grant them the freedom to be as creative and innovative as possible.
Around Easter, our 5-year-old would climb on the bed behind me to give me bunny ears 🐰during presentations with leadership, and our 7-year old once became a guest speaker in one of my meetings, wearing a full-on astronaut suit.
Rather than stress about how this wasn’t historically professional, those that I worked with waved, laughed, and gave me grace during these times - and I can’t thank them more for it.
I didn’t have endeavors taken away from me. I was trusted to figure out how to make things work, ended up with more responsibility, and even found common ground and camaraderie with others by sharing our #pandemiclife stories with each other.
The favorite cousin to trust is autonomy.
Defined by Oxford Languages as “the capacity of an agent to act in accordance with objective morality rather than under the influence of desires” and by Wikipedia as “the capacity to make an informed, uncoerced decision.” 🤔
Professionally, people in general, but especially product people, need to be given the room and trust to be autonomous.
Be careful not to be too prescriptive or to try having the plan laid out for them - as Warren Buffet said, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." 🙌
This means when an idea comes up, work together to figure out what problem actually needs to be solved, and agree collectively on what success looks like - then let them run with it! If the solution, in the end, is upside down, backward and blue - who cares?!
It probably exceeds your key results and was faster / cheaper / more performant in the end too. 💙
Do not make it harder for product people to achieve their results, as their results directly benefit you in the end.
Personally, in this world climate, everyone is pretty much winging it day to day. Almost none of the former rules apply. Find solace in the fact that everyone is in that same boat as well… 😅
This is why we have to give people the space to be autonomous on how they get (almost) all their things done each day.
In the spring, my husband had to start work crazy early, I started as late as I could, and we had a college student watch our boys for hours during midday when we both couldn’t. It was exhausting but the only way to survive all under one roof.
Productivity-wise, I later figured out that as a night owl myself, I actually got much more done by planning a night or two a week to catch up on work things after the kids went to sleep.
My husband and I also instantiated a weekly date night to make sure we were catching up on all the important things each week too.
The point is, let your people run the kids to that appointment, sneak away for a self-care workout - the days of the traditional 9-5 are over.
Your people will get your work done in the end, and if you let them do it their way - they are less stressed, and their results will be better than you can imagine. 🎉
Product people are like mathematicians… We solve problems. We just do it with people and requirements.
The recipe for success in your product organization is to never forget the secret ingredients of trust and autonomy.
Give room for creativity and innovation to bloom, whether it be how they get their work down or exactly how they achieve the endeavors you ask of them.
Think of how wonderful the world could be if everyone knew we believed in them and what they set out to achieve. 🌎