The Importance of Coalition Building in Product Management

Editor’s note: the following was written by a guest blogger. If you would like to contribute to the blog, please review the Product Blog contribution guidelines and contact [email protected]

If you feel a deep calling to be a product manager, you have surely asked yourself this important question: what is it that makes great product leaders successful? The answer, they lead others by being transformational and they build a coalition along the way. 

Product managers are ambassadors of the product that they are leading from the concept through development and launch. One of the dexterities necessary to realize this objective is transformational leadership, this is a leadership style in which product leaders transform, align, and inspire their scrum teams, partners, stakeholders, teammates, and leaders to alter and generate change that will support nurturing and shaping the future achievements of their organization.  

Coalitional Leadership

The other aptitude is coalitional leadership, this is a leadership style that necessitates cultivating allies and forming an alliance of people who support your aspirations and can assist having an effect on other people to implement. Product leaders with these ingenuities are adept at creating connections with a vast network of individuals and can adjust their conduct and approach towards diverse people and circumstances.

My own product manager superpower is “I thrive in finding opportunities beyond the sight of others”. I love being a product manager for the reason that I get to use my PM superpower to build great products that impacts the lives of my customers for the better, meets marketplace demand, and is contributing to the larger strategic vision of my organization.

One of the insights I long ago recognized, is that I want to bring my scrum teams, partners, and teammates, and leaders with me and they need to trust my judgement in order to build and launch my projects. I am able to attain my product management objectives by imploring transformation leadership and by developing a coalition, I am able to do this in three acts.  Telling the story of my product, being brave and establishing a safe space for my scrum team, partners, and colleagues to share their ideas. And I influence without authority. 

Storytelling is one of the most important proficiencies that product managers have to educate, persuade, and motivate. What makes storytelling so imperative is the fact that it develops connections between people and concepts. Through storytelling we are able to communicate tedious specifics in an intriguing way.  Stories have the power to cut through the noise, narratives can help bring to life the pain points of our customers, which are true and honest.

Additionally, people rarely remember statistics, but they will always recall stories, especially the ones that have captured them emotionally. 

white paper boats on white surface

As product managers we can communicate the story of our product by motivating, teaching, persuading, and inspiring our scrum teams, partners, stakeholders, colleagues, and leaders. We have many opportunities where we can assert our impact, from town halls, product meetings, informal meets to shareouts presentations. 

Regardless of the method by which we share the story of our product.  As product managers we can influence when we connect with members of our organization in a manner that assist them to comprehend the customer problems we are trying to solve, enable them to recall, and motivate them to act. Leadership is about modifying visions and altering behaviors. It is what leads knowledge to be unceasing. It is also the place in which the storytelling is the stalwart.

When we do this particularly well, we find that we have built connections, influence, and reliability.

Great product leaders bring to the table more than technical adroitness. They are excellent collaborators that can develop connections with their customers, scrum teams, partners, stakeholders, teammates, and leaders. We must keep in mind that everyone has the best interest of our organization in mind, we all execute in different ways. When it comes to being brave and creating a safe space. I cannot emphasis enough the importance of this approach in coalition building. 

Storytelling and Collaboration

Through storytelling and collaboration, I have been able to create a safe space where the partners I work with can voice their viewpoints and point out issues with my project, and even if the feedback is undesirable, I have come to appreciate this is great because they feel invested and they want to set me up for success.

As standard practice my 3iab (product manager, the design lead, and the tech lead) takes every E2E design on the road, we meet and present to all our partners and stakeholders. We do this to garner their feedback. This is especially important when another dependency team needs to build a piece of our project. 

While we may not always employ their recommendation, we always convey the reason for this. We showcase our E2E experiences to ensure our partners understand our product story, the customer value, the business value, market demand, and how it all ties back our organization’s strategic objective. We bring them along in the plotlines of our product because we want them to be included and heard. 

Influence Without Authority

The other act of coalition building is influencing without authority. I believe it is important to get to know your scrum teams, teammates, cross-functional teams, and stakeholders. I have been known to invite them for coffee pre-covid and virtual coffee since working from home. I do this to form greater relationships and connections.

This enables me to know what to look forward to. Anticipate outcomes and reactions and get ready for concerns instead of getting caught by surprise. I find that folks who trust me are much more willing to follow me. Furthermore, deep, established connections enable me to make a request for the sporadic favors. Lastly, a feeling of friendship as well will go a long way in urging folks to work with you to solve your customer pain points or to fix an urgent bug.

In my experience, I have also found that my comportment, or exactly how I treat other teammates, is one of the most significant aspects of influence. Being sincere and straightforward is imperative. A miscalculation in one’s honesty will end up costing you confidence for a very long time, no product manager wants to have the reputation of not being trustworthy.

Being cognizant of people ‘s time and being ready and prepared is also very crucial. Furthermore, what is incredibly vital is how we convey information and an urgent need but not anxiety. Our tone, our choice of words, and recognition of challenging circumstances can be our most formidable influence.

Product management is awe inspiring to begin with, product managers are able to influence as storytellers for the reason that we work with everybody engaged in the product development from engineering marketing, research, and design.  All these folks need to be persuaded to transmit the product’s concept all through their coding, testing, branding, research, and design. They also need to have a safe space to share their viewpoints and bring their concerns to the table. 

Product managers who hone-in on their coalition building proficiencies are successful for the reason that when scrum teams, partners, stakeholders, teammates, and leaders share responsibility, aspirations, outcomes, and leadership. They will enthusiastically work towards a common purpose, then coalition has the potential for tremendous success.

Meet the Author

Ronke Majekodunmi

Ronke Majekodunmi is a Senior Product Manager with a mission to ensure immense enterprise satisfaction accessing payment-related information. At PayPal, she leads a web-based payments portal, develops the strategy of roadmaps, brings solutions to life by executing in an agile environment, and measures product solutions’ impact on key performance indicators.

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