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ProductCon Recap: Increasing Team’s Performance Through Leadership

Written by 
Sarah Parker
September 29, 2021

MURAL + ProductCon

MURAL was back at ProductCon last week for their September 2021 event. Our VP of product growth, Lauren Schuman, joined Shailesh Nalawadi of Sendbird, Alexa Maturana-Lowe of Fivetran, and moderator Flavia Neves of Spotify for a panel discussion on increasing team performance through leadership. They covered their paths to being in leadership positions and their recommendations for what other leaders can do to be effective and support their teams to be their best selves at work and at home. 

Read on for a summary of the discussion, a video to watch it on demand, and useful templates to help you put the panelists’ recommendations into action.

Their paths to leadership 

Alexa purposefully sought out a leadership role to grow her career at Fivetran. 

Shailesh founded a startup company and quickly discovered how much he enjoyed the leadership aspect of the role, including the opportunity to mentor others and watch their careers grow. 

Lauren is someone who has naturally stepped up and taken leadership roles throughout her life, from sports to group projects in high school. So when she found opportunities in her career to lead, she leaned into them.

💡 Interested in transitioning into a leadership position yourself? You can use visual thinking to reach your career goals. Learn how

How company strategy influences leadership 

Shailesh emphasized the importance of a clear strategy, your north star for the company. He’s a big fan of the OKR process because you can use it to talk about how companywide objectives influence goals at every level of the organization and what the individual product managers are working on, both short-term and long-term. It lets them know how they fit into the company’s overall strategy and the priority level for various projects. 

💡 Use this OKR Planning template to collaboratively define your objectives and key results (OKRs) and achieve measurable outcomes.

Looking to the competition for inspiration

Lauren understands that you need to know what others are doing so you know what’s happening in the market and the broader category you are in, but the most important thing is to be laser-focused on the problems your users are having and how to solve for them. She loves the Jobs to Be Done framework for this because it really boils it down into more specific, tactical, and actionable ways you can understand what users need and how you can deliver upon those promises. It’s a balance, but her job is to make sure MURAL is the right choice and the best solution for the space. 

💡 Our Jobs to Be Done Worksheet can be used when your team needs to drill down to the core job you want to accomplish. 

Balancing requests from stakeholders

Shailesh knows this is one of the biggest challenges you’re going to face in leadership, especially at high-growth companies. There will always be more you have to do and a limited amount of time and people to get it done. Having to say no to things and convince stakeholders why some tasks are more important than others is one of the most difficult things you have to do in product leadership. You need to be clear about how you build products, how your timelines will work, and the different stakeholders and priorities your team has. A good tool to have on hand as a starting point for these conversations is your product roadmap that shows what you’ve committed to and how making changes will affect the company down the line so you can decide together with stakeholders on top priorities and the effect these new requests will make. 

💡 This Resilient Product Roadmap, certified by Product School, is a continuously evolving process that adapts with the changing needs of the market, customers, and teams. 

Increasing team performance without burnout

At Fivetran, Alexa encourages her team to take time off. They have a team tradition of sharing photos from vacations to help inspire colleagues to take time off. She also believes in creating opportunities for people to have ownership and drive results themselves. When you provide team members with the ability to define strong targets and a clear mission with the leeway to get all those things done how they see fit, it helps them to feel empowered. 

Flavia has seen that often, teams struggle with a lack of clear targets and goals, not the work itself. When people are excited and feel like their work is meaningful and driving toward a clear goal, their performance increases and they’re much less likely to feel burnt out.

Lauren’s team celebrates day-to-day wins, even if they seem small. She also encourages leaders to be very open, transparent, and real with their teams. Acknowledge when things aren’t going well, and check in on a regular basis. “How are you?” isn’t a deep enough question, whereas “How are you showing up today?” really gets into the humanness of everyone on the team. 

Lastly, Shailesh reemphasized the role of vulnerability in leadership. Leaders should encourage their teams to be open and transparent about what’s going on at work and, if they feel comfortable and want to share, what’s going on at home. 

💡 Try our Team Charter template to establish ground rules for how your team works together. 

Watch the full conversation

MURAL for Product Teams

If you haven’t yet collaborated visually with your team using MURAL,  join for free and see where it takes you. Product teams use MURAL to solve customer problems, power up Agile workflows, master design thinking, and more. Learn more about MURAL for product teams here.

About the author

About the authors

Sarah Parker

Social Media Manager
Large dog enthusiast | Runs social media at MURAL