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Hiring, Strategy, and Leadership Tips from Groundswell Chief Product Officer Tammy Hahn

  • Groundswell
  • January 19, 2022

Across the world and across industries, the pandemic has disrupted everything. This includes hiring, managing, and strategizing. The so-called “Great Resignation” is underway, and companies are having to adapt on the fly.

How is Groundswell dealing with this new reality? Through people-centric solutions that benefit both management and employees. If you want to dive into the details of what that means and get some leadership tips, recently, our CPO Tammy Hahn appeared as a guest on The Product Management Leaders podcast. Here are some highlights, where Tammy discussed how evidence, conviction, and tenacity can help organizations thrive.

The Power of Generalists

Legacy hiring and recruiting strategies are not working. Even as employers increase salaries at the quickest rate in nearly 40 years, positions remain vacant. What does this tell us? Monetary compensation is not everything. Recruiters must understand what motivates modern employees to create appealing job postings and offers. The best move of all is to hire people who share your company’s values. This is the approach we take at Groundswell:

I’m looking for people that can flex: people that are generalists who aren’t afraid to go high-level as well as get into the nitty gritty. At Groundswell, there is no product yet, so you don’t have any metrics to fall back on to have a hypothesis in terms of what will optimize a certain flow— the flow doesn’t even exist. You need to navigate the unproven and ambiguous to earn the right to optimize.”

Here at Groundswell, we are still in the early stages of determining our core flow and the value we bring to our users and clients. This requires a very specialized approach to hiring, where we bring in people who are comfortable being creative and adaptive, and working from a blank slate. 

Leading Products Vs. Leading People

Every business owner and executive has a unique set of experiences and ideas on the approach and characteristics of effective leadership. In the podcast, Tammy shared one of her leadership tips: not every situation demands the same type of leadership approach. Excellent leaders adapt to their environments and empower their teams. During the course of the podcast, she had some great insights into the differences between leading products and leading people:

“Not everyone is meant to be a great people-leader. As you move up the career path of a people leader, especially in a larger organization, the further away you move from actual product management… In fact, if you want to go up that people leader path, it’s more about coaching, communication, and project management than it is about designing and building the product. Leading people is different from leading product definition and execution.”

Being an excellent leader demands constant commitment, management, and the development of a team that is competent and results-oriented. There can be no true leadership without team management. On the people management side, Tammy explored how important it is for managers to approach failure in the right way:

“I don’t like to call failure “failure.” I like to call it a misstep. What matters is what you learn from that misstep, not so much the failure itself. It’s a learning process. I only consider it a failure if you fail to learn, and you repeat that mistake over and over again. Great product leaders build a culture of curiosity and calculated risk-taking without the fear of repercussions if hypotheses prove false.”

This jives perfectly with the Groundswell approach, where we frequently hold pre-mortem sessions to grasp all the things that can go wrong ahead of time. Becoming a successful leader necessitates ongoing personal and professional growth, regular and open team feedback, and response on feedback received.

Product Strategy: Knowing When To Keep, Pivot, or Kill

A product strategy is a company’s strategic goal for its product lines, outlining where the products are heading, how they will get there, and why they will thrive. Instead of striving to include everyone and every feature, a product marketing strategy concentrates on a specified customer base and functionalities. As a CPO, Tammy discussed, one of the challenges here is prioritization:

“Prioritization is always hard. Every stakeholder is always demanding something from a product manager. It’s really, really hard. It’s all about starting out with the right objectives upfront. The way that I operate as a leader is to align on your objective, collaborate on the strategy and then execute the tactics. Beautiful things happen when everyone on the team is aligned on the objectives and has a voice on the strategy.”

Goals are essential for focusing on and working towards. To make them viable and get the most out of the goal-setting process, we believe it’s a good idea to track your progress and evaluate your progress on a daily basis. Another important leadership tip is to have clear company goals:

  • Is it to expand or to keep our current customers?
  • Is it simply to boost our brands? If so, what is the plan of action?
  • If we want to expand, will we enter a new market, enter a new vertical, or broaden our product offering?

Once you know the goals, you can move into strategy. And in the early stages, Tammy said, that it is a good idea to start with metrics:

“The product growth graph peaks at a certain point then declines. That’s when you know you need to deprecate said product. I would really try to understand the metrics, what does growth look like from a usage adoption perspective, as well as from a business sales perspective.”

CPOs can use product data and analytics to forecast consumer behavior, improve decision-making, discover market trends, and calculate the ROI of marketing campaigns. The clearer your vision of your clients, the easier it will be to approach them:

“Product is a leading indicator; sales and revenue are lagging indicators. What are some predictions that you’re heading towards your peak? It’s not growth, from a business metric standpoint; it’s growth or adoption and usage of your product. As a leader, you may need to make the hard choice of investing less in plateau-ed products that are still generating revenue.”

Advice for CPOs

Tammy offered many leadership tips on the podcast; one of the most important takeaways was that leaders and managers have the most influence over the people they lead and supervise. They are in charge of ensuring the success of their department, and they are crucial in shaping company culture. Tammy is a big part of our leadership-management team. She ended the podcast with some leadership tips and advice for aspiring CPOs:

“Know your objectives, stand your ground and have the data to back you up on why you’re choosing to make your decisions. I think the worst thing that you can do is to be too agreeable for the sake of being agreeable and getting people to like your decisions.”

Tammy also said that it is okay to have a different opinion: 

“You have to be okay with the fact that not everybody’s going to like your decision. You need to have the conviction and data to back up why you’re making those hard choices so that your team is able to focus. Get your evidence, have conviction on what you want to focus on, and stick to your guns. A great product leader provides focus on what the teams are working on, and more importantly, making it clear across the organization what the teams will not be working on.” 

Thanks to the The Product Management Leaders podcast for hosting our CPO! We love spreading the word. 

To see the Groundswell product first-hand at our beta launch, sign up for our email list here.

  • Groundswell
  • January 19, 2022