In order to increase one’s own effectiveness, tasks with the highest potential should also receive the most attention. While this statement is true for all product managers, there is a significant difference for leaders to consider: Teams have a lot of constraints given to them, while leaders can define or change many of them. New leaders in particular should keep this fundamental difference in mind when setting their own priorities. In doing so, it is possible to follow a logic that builds upon a comprehensible sequence of steps:
1. Define and communicate the vision, strategy and goals.
Even the best teams in a top organization will rarely achieve extraordinary things if they cannot follow a vision with a matching strategy in a focused, collaborative and passionate way. “Random” opportunities and iterative improvements will then fill this gap. The results remain mediocre. A common, known and inspiring focus including coordination of team goals is therefore the foundation on which everything else can be built on.
2. Align organization and culture
Without an organization and culture that fit the vision and strategy, leadership systematically prevents employees from realizing their potential. The team structure and its roles should support the goals to the maximum. Experienced high potentials can already recognize the maturity level of a company by its organization and the culture they experience during the hiring process. If they do not find a certain environment with a corresponding level of maturity in which they can unfold their abilities, they will opt for other companies.
3. Build, develop and motivate the best possible team
Leaders can only be as good as their team allows them to be. Particularly in complex and creative work with high levels of responsibility, the outcome of work increases exponentially to the team’s capabilities. An exceptionally good product team can add huge profits to the company. Or it may not. Therefore, it is important to attract the best possible employees and develop their potential to the maximum. This includes personal coaching, regular one-to-ones, the right assignments and keeping everybody motivated.
4. Ensure effectiveness and innovation
Once all the important foundations have been laid, the next priority is to achieve the given strategies and goals as effectively as possible.
To do this, the primary question is which problems should be solved. This question is usually more difficult to answer than finding a good solution to a given problem, which is the subsequent question and already requires expertise and methodical competence.
Ideally, teams can do this work themselves. However, leaders should ensure that this is the case. Wrong assumptions, too narrow perspectives, conflicting goals, missing competencies and similar obstacles must be uncovered and removed. Similarly, higher-level decisions will need to be made on superordinate topics.
5. Ensure efficient processes, tools and collaboration
The greatest potential for waste comes from working on the wrong things. Only if we can ensure that this does not happen, should we focus on the efficiency of processes, methods and tools. A balance should be found between the interests of different teams and groups in order to achieve an overall optimum. However, it can be said that this is where the least potential can be leveraged. Among other things, this is because good teams in a good culture rarely work inefficiently.
Attention should also be paid to internal and external collaboration. It ensures a long-term, committed and mutually rewarding foundation from which all parties can benefit, and also serves as a constructive escalation path in the event of conflicts.
In many companies, I have observed that far too much attention has been paid to efficiency over much more impactful subjects. This culture, which emerged from the industrial age, was shaped at that time by an economy in which repetitive tasks were to be produced more cost-effectively. In the innovative and creative tasks of today’s development teams, however, the effectiveness of the work plays a much greater role. As a leader in product management, you should be aware of this context and, if necessary, defend it in the wider management team.