Product Leadership Hiring : The Golden piece in Startups trip

Written by Rakhi Singh

At CNA, the one position (or position category) about which we can say confidently is that –The role that relies on a broad range of skills, is that of the Product Leader. The PM role channels an architect, a fortune-teller, and a therapist—all at the same time. It’s a melting pot of technology, consumer behaviour, data analysis and stakeholder management.

While hiring a Product Leader, there is always a dilemma: do you hire a Product person who dominates the product discipline or someone who understands the domain, i.e. business, industry and/or specific product? This is assuming you can’t find someone who provides both the product discipline and the domain experience all in one package

7 points to keep in mind when you are hiring a member in the Product Leadership team.

1. Problem-solving ability

PM role involves a lot of moving parts– which drives a product successfully to the market. This needs/demands a lot of (ability to create interesting new things) and the ability to handle unexpected challenges. An ability to manoeuvre doubt and natural problem-solving ability are key traits.

2. Communication skills

PMs are more likely to prove ineffective if they cannot communicate clearly and effectively with professionals across a wide range of fields of study and teams in your company.

Whatever else you look for in a Product Leader, communication skills should be at the top of your checklist.

3. Emotional Intelligence

Another attribute that leaders very commonly look (for) in a product person is high Emotional Intelligence. Product is the way organisations deliver and capture values. The PM should have the ability to truly see things from his customer’s point of view and to build products that match up to those customer needs, desires, fears, and other (desires to do things/reasons to do things). Product leaders need to have the agility to determine whether they need to quickly improve on the product or move on. This is a harder skill to find. 

4. Leadership and personality

Product Leaders need to be coordinating and manage a large cross-functional team without any formal reporting structure. Some of the team’s members, such as a Head of Engineering etc, might be well above the Product Leader. Hence natural leadership skills are very important with the ability to build relations and create interest (in something) among different teams and departments

5. Curiosity

A good Product Leader is curious and can never be made happy (by meeting a need or reaching a goal) with a single answer – the best (related to a plan to reach a goal) decisions will come out only after serious research.

Product management needs/demands a great deal of effort to begin (doing something) and built-in (desire to do something/reason for doing something). 

6. Passion

Product development can be a long and tiring series of workflows –often months or years–and that process is laid with setbacks and changes. If the product manager responsible for driving that long, setback-ridden development isn’t emotional (in a good way) about seeing her/his product through to a successful market launch, then the whole effort can slide off the rails at any point.

7. Comfortable with failure

Any product can fall flat for many reasons. Organisations want a product leader who can react appropriately, take a moment to suffer and then start gathering useful learnings that can push the next launch to success.

Rakhi Singh
Rakhi Singh
Partner India
T: +91 9810770994 | E: rakhi.singh@cnaint.com

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