Does a Product Leader have to be a coach?

Victoria Sheer
Product Owner, Trainer, Mentor and a certified ICF coach.
Insecure managers might see team´s success as a threat, while in reality they are judged by the success of their team, not only by successful accomplishment of their own tasks. Therefore, learning how to be a great coach for the team is one of the key skills of the product leader. The way to start is to become aware of your own insecurities and understand how to manage it. Afterwards you are ready to develop yourself in a coach for your team.
Product Leader in a role of a Coach is a facilitator: they facilitate collection of diverse range of opinions so that the best decision can be made.
Product Leader in a role of a Coach is a manager: they give tasks to their team that empower them to develop further.

Product Leader in a role of a Coach is a feedback giver: It is crucial to be honest with the team in both praise and criticism, sugarcoating feedback doesn`t do anyone good, real kindness is to speak honestly to your team members to help them to become better version tomorrow. Feedback should be frequent, constructive and honest. If you see an opportunity to collect and provide feedback, don’t miss it, providing feedback on yearly or even quarterly review is far too seldom. However, you need to remember that critic should always be expressed privately while appraising publicly.

And the last but not the least, Product Leader in a role of a Coach is a coach: One of the main purposes of coaching is to help product owners think like real product people. What does it mean? It means focusing on outcome, not output, always considering desirability, viability, feasibility. It means finding creative ways to solve problems.

The key to remember is that product jobs are very hard and change quickly, after decades of experience you will still be learning and improving. Therefore, every coach needs a coach. For product leader the product team can be seen as a product and they need to strive to build a great one. And if you are not a product leader yet, keep in mind how important it is to find a coach in your company in your contact circle cause it is the fastest and the most outcome oriented way to grow.
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