How to Be a Better Product Leader in 2022

Whether you’re a first-time Product Manager, a seasoned VP of Product, or even an adventurous entrepreneur leading a startup, you can dedicate yourself to being a better Product Leader in 2022.

As a Product Manager, you’re inherently a leader. Even if you’ve only just broken into the field. Whether you lead with official authority, or you have to influence without it, you lead. How awesome is that?

So this year, make the resolution to be a better leader for your customers, your teams, and your product.

Here’s how to do just that.

Be Human-First

With high profile news stories surrounding data misuse bringing some of the more shady business dealings of the industry to light, and things like the Theranos trial forcing Silicon Valley to question some of its practices, the tech world is taking a more human-centric approach in 2022.

This applies to both how you expect your teammates to work, and how you build products and features for your customers.

The Great Resignation forced employers to reevaluate how they treated their employees. Remote work opened the doors to more opportunities and gave applicants more choices, and the pandemic made people rethink their priorities. People are no longer willing to accept jobs that treat them just like cogs, or force them to choose between work and mental health. They want to be challenged, to be appreciated, and to grow.

This means that, as a leader, you’re partially responsible for the happiness of your teammates in their roles. You need to help them grow in their careers, and help them to understand how the work they do has an impact.

For your customers, being human-first means doing what Product Managers do best anyway…being the voice of the customer in every room. But it’s easy to get lost in a sea of powerful-but-wrong people’s opinions, and to get caught up in needing to please stakeholders.

Take some steps to make sure you’re dedicated to being your user’s advocate, in any room.

Actionable steps to being human-first:

  • Set up meetings with your teams specifically focused on their career growth
  • Share even small wins with your team, and highlight their successes
  • Reconnect with users, and take some time to conduct your own user research
  • Be an advocate for inclusive product design

Broaden Your Knowledge

Product People are alway learning, it comes with the territory. We even set out our list of learning-focused New Year Resolutions for Product Managers.

There’s a lot of change coming for the tech industry in 2022 and beyond. Understanding these shifts and trends will help you to make the right decisions for the long-term. You don’t want to be focusing all of your energy on tech that’s on it’s way to being outdated. You need to stay up to date on what’s coming up and how the tech world is changing.

Luckily, there’s no need to go back to school. Instead, take some of these simple steps…

Actionable steps to broaden your knowledge:

book lot on shelf

Intentionally Build Your Culture

In both large and small organizations, there are some major misconceptions about where culture comes from. 

In large established organizations, it’s assumed by many that the culture is a given. It’s already been set out by the CEO, the VP of Product, or whoever else is at the top. There may even be a designated culture committee who organize events and encourage teams to have fun with each other. The company’s mission and values are repeated across the fancy careers section of the website, and the culture is (hopefully) woven into every action the company takes.

For startups, the assumption is often that culture will just happen by itself. You put a small-ish group of people together and, if you’ve chosen the right ones, their blend of personalities and experiences will naturally create a culture.

Both of these are wrong. Culture is built by every single person within an organization. Culture isn’t one homogenous thing, it’s more like a tapestry made up of the thousands of small interactions between employees, teams, leadership, and even with customers.

As a Product Manager, even if you’re not necessarily in an official leadership position yet, you’re perfectly placed to be a driver of the culture.

Actionable steps to building your culture:

Curate Your Product Team

In 2022, you may need to shift your perspective on how you recruit new teammates. Products thrive from having diverse teams with a range of backgrounds and experiences. Company culture also benefits from this, and is enriched by having a variety of people onboard.

So instead of building a team, we suggest that you focus more on curating a team. Rather than seeing people as check-boxes of experience, education, and achievements, look at who they are as people. That’ll help you get a more 360 understanding of what they bring to the table.

For example, someone who has no PM experience whatsoever, but is eager to transition from another unrelated industry, may have all the qualities that would really suit them to the entry-level position you’re looking to fill.

To curate your team, you may need to check your own cognitive biases, or those that exist in your team/company. It’ll be uncomfortable, and it may be something a little out of your depth as an entry-level PM. But there are steps both little and large that can lead to a more careful curation of your product teams.

Actionable steps to curating your team:

Be a Better Product Manager:

The best way to be a better Product Leader is to lead by example. If you’re customer and data-driven, focused on outcomes instead of outputs, and are always looking for ways to think outside of the box, that’ll be hugely influential on how your teams see Product Management.

Now, we know that ‘be a better Product Manager’ sounds a little…vague. How exactly are you supposed to do that?

Actionable steps to being a better Product Manager:

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