Was That Just an AHA Moment?

In my post on Do You Hear the Rhythm, I surfaced some history on the rhythm and communications of tribes. In this post, I’ll explore how rhythm and communications may be a foundation for transferring “Aha” moments to executive teams.

Recently, Art Petty of Building Better Leaders conducted an interview with Mike Mulcahy. Mike, a technology executive and former CEO discussed his perspective on Product Management. Mike stated that “product management leaders often struggle in gaining visibility with the executive team because they have not proven they can lead the products and have relinquished ownership to other departments or even worse, “decision by committee.””

In many organization, product management doesn’t have “a seat” at the executive table and may not have earned the right or given the position of power to influence. From my perspective, product management leaders have to build this opportunity by creating and transferring the Aha moments.

What’s an Aha moment? According to WebMD, “it’s solving a problem that requires creative insight prompting distinct changes in brain activity that doesn’t occur under normal problem-solving conditions.”  

When asked what compelling problems CEO’s have that product management could address, Mike said; “product positioning.” AHA! Do you mean that if I’m positioning products, keeping development on track, guiding marketing with less gobbledy gook content, and enabling sales effectively, I’m having an Aha moment?

Not necessarily. If you are a product management leader that has implemented repeatable methods, has enabled your team, thinks strategically and balances the tactical, it’s an everyday occurrence, not an Aha. However, when you’re thrown into a stress inducing problem it may activate the creative insight to solve unique problems.

Once an Aha moment has occurred, how do you transfer this to executive management? You have to ensure you know how to engage and how executive management will respond. To be better prepared, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I know the executive teams expectations?
  • Is this a compelling issue that I’ve removed from the CEO’s list?
  • What communications style should I use? (Face-to-face, email or a phone call?)
  • Do I understand the politics (yes, it’s in every company) and how to effectively work within and through it?

Tribal Council: The more you understand how the executive team works, its expectations, and what politics exist, the more you can communicate and transfer the AHA moments as they are resolved.

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  • Jennifer Doctor  On December 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Product managers strive to find their “Aha” moments…it is like finding the diamond ring on a sandy beach. But, as you are quick to point out, communicating the value of this to executives is often the challenge. Then again, most product managers have challenges communicating with executives about many items, not just the aha moment. As a product manager, we need to enhance our leadership qualities to include executive communication. Talking with your peers and others, where you’re the authority is one thing; but, executives are a completely different breed. Since we don’t have the seat at their table, our skills and abilities are what will open the place setting. If you’re not strong in this area, go out and practice. Networking and speaking organizations are a great start…but nothing will replace the market knowledge.

    Thanks for sharing the story Jim. Another example of why we in the product management community have been waiting for your blog to appear.

  • Greg Strouse  On December 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    One of the things that make being a product manager a great job is the same one that causes the anonymity with the X level. That is that they rarely have a home. They don’t fix a nice, neat HR box. They’re not development, nor marketing, nor sales, nor finance, etc. Any time I reference for someone being a product management leader in a new company I implore the CEO to but them on their staff day 1 because without being at the table with the other “heads of state” the position is diminished or worse ignored.


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