I’ve received feedback from a recent post and presentation where I introduced the concept of “the Executive of Influence.” Armed with more content, a poll targeted at product management and executive management, thought leadership opinion, and some experiences of my own, I will explore the idea more.
What is the Executive of Influence? It’s the person in your company owning or driving the strategic influence. It may be one or more persons, and they may be highly visible or not. Let’s look at the influential factors in your company and how product management leaders can influence and participate.
Where’s the Influence
In a recent poll I asked a range of product management professionals, executive management (CEO, CTO, COOs) and others, “Who’s the Executive of Influence at Your Company?” The participants could choose from five answers including; CEO, CTO, VP of Engineering/Development, VP, Product Management, or Other. The other group is general, but supports important influencers such as a co-Founder, Architect, etc. The survey results weren’t shocking, but I was surprised to see such a high percentage at the CEO level. I believe there are contributing factors that attribute to the influence.
In Patrick Lencioni’s Five Temptations of a CEO, the most important principle shared was “executives must embrace a desire to produce.” By default, CEO’s have the influence and the supporting cast to make things happen. How CEO’s manage or delegate this influence depends on their style, background, market-orientation and the trust built with key members of the team.
In the Secrets to Market-Driven Leaders, co-authored by David Meerman Scott, we often see the influence shift. “Evidence shows that entrepreneurs who started the company and who understood buyer problems soon become occupied with the details of running their organization. They no longer focus on buyer problems and building products the market wants to buy, but rather they obsess about the details of managing an ongoing business.”
Over the past 10 years, it’s become clear that product management has gained more visibility and influence within executive management. In its most recent Annual Survey, Pragmatic Marketing reviewed a ten-year trend of where product management reported.
The data indicates that product management has established some influence and is five (5) times more likely to report directly to the CEO than ten years ago. Another point is product management is an established organization and does not report to sales, marketing or development as it has in the past.
Has product management finally established a level of consistent influence? If so, how do we sustain and grow this influence?
Trust and Validation
I believe the answer is in a conversation I had this week. During a conversation with a CEO and COO, the COO said, “to me product management is all about trust and validation.” He then said, “If product management will bring a strategy forward that’s founded on validated information, it creates trust. From that trust, credibility is established.”
The Executive of Influence
I’ve thought about that statement for a few days and realize that product management and its leadership have more influence and impact on strategy than we might believe. However, as the COO said “Trust and validation” has to become a habit and not an afterthought.
How do product management and its leadership capitalize on the opportunity to better influence the organization? You have to refine the way you think, act and enable methods internally. If product management has established methods, they’re consistent and repeatable, the team knows what is expected, and the relevant data can be conveyed to the organization with clarity, the influence will come.
As I see it. It’s product management’s time to prove and stand as an executive of influence.