Learning to Listen
And other good product reads for April 2021
👂 Learning to listen, really listen, is a difficult skill to master and takes constant practice. It’s essential to product management—the best listeners engage more deeply with their customers, develop stronger connections with their teams and cross-functional coworkers, and build sturdy bridges to executives.
Ximena Vengoechea’s new book, Listen Like You Mean It: Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection, is an absolute delight. Ximena is a user researcher who worked at Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and she draws from her front-line experiences throughout. She writes with a level of care and humility that’s rare in business books—this is an author that’s truly invested in the reader, not showboating their own expertise. Her prose is so powerful you almost feel like she’s listening to you while she’s writing.
Here’s an example about the power of silence:
If a conversation starts to stall, we may suspect our conversation partner has lost interest and begin to wrap things up to let them (and ourselves) off the hook. If a beat passes in conversation and no one speaks up, it must be time to move on.
But silence, if you can sit with it, can be very powerful in conversation. Silence opens the space between us. Silence can indicate: You have the floor. Do with it what you will. Take the time you need to. I am here when you are ready to say more.
Despite mostly reading e-books, I purchased the hardcover edition, and I’m super glad I did—it’s beautifully illustrated throughout (by Ximena herself), and I expect it’ll occupy a spot not far from my fingertips for the remainder of my career. Highly recommended, and added to my list of the Best Books for Product Managers.
After working with and talking to many product teams, I started to realise that the teams who used metrics most successfully to transform their business have two characteristics: they set clear desired outcomes and goals up front, and they follow up on the results of their builds to see if they have worked and achieve the desired outcomes. This may seem like common sense, but in reality, most teams struggle in one or both of these practices
⛓️ Here’s a fun Scientific American cover story on networks and how percolation theory illuminates the behavior of everything from disease transmission to viral memes: The Mathematics of How Connections Become Global.
📅 At Google, every significant launch had to be tracked on LaunchCal (now known as Arienne, I think). Launches could only proceed once the relevant cross-functional approvers flipped their “bits.” It was a classic example of Google successfully balancing speed and autonomy with process and oversight. As a PM at Google, I always found the process to be fairly lightweight, but you needed to have your shit together. If you were waiting until launch day to ask your product counsel to flip the legal bit or procrastinating to the last minute to ask an infrastructure team to approve your logs format, you were in a bad place. Xoogler Shiva Rajaraman put together a detailed guide for bringing LaunchCal to your company, with several suggestions for improving upon Google’s process.
🚀 Here’s a super detailed guide to joining a startup from First Round Review from people who’ve been there. Bookmark this!
📢 Registration is now open for the Women in Product Conference, to be held May 25-27, 2021. Get your tickets now.