Positive Psychology and Leadership in product management

(upbeat music) - Taking away the noise and sound, so thank you very much for having me.

I'm hoping to answer some questions around hum isn't made up.

There is some science to it, so we're gonna talk about that today.

So thank you very much for having me.

Yes, I'm a product manager for (laughs) too many years now, it's a little scary.

I have founded Product Anonymous with Jen and we've been working with the community for (laughs) we've got it rounding right here, but nine years or something and it's our 10th anniversary of when we met at product camp in August.

So we've been talking to product people, or I've been talking to product people for a long time and leadership being on that polygon, being part of our role, is why I kind of wanna talk to you about this, but I also wanna talk to you about that idea that what's that moment like, when you've had a great leader and you've had an excellent leader in your career? Certainly for me, when I've been fortunate enough, or lucky enough to have that, I've flourished, I've done really well and I've enjoyed my job.

Yes my team is also critical, but today, I'm gonna talk about the ones above us, yeah. Then, similarly or sadly enough, of course when I haven't had a great leader, that's been a pretty unhappy time in my work, in my career. One of the things I've thought about that, is it's very lucky that I've had those people in my life, the good ones, it's unlucky that I've had the bad ones, but I don't think it is luck.

I don't think leadership is an art, it is a science. I wanna take you through the science of that today. That background is going to be positive psychology and the foundation for that and the reason it sort of inspired me, I'll get into in a moment, but the science of positive psychology is very much the shift from the idea that when we're unwell we're in the negative, whatever, on the sphere from zero to minus 10.

Psychology, for a long time, was about fixing that and moving you back to zero. A baseline, a little bit of a sad baseline really. Zero? Positive psychology is all about taking you to plus 10. It's all about moving us to this space and the great thing about this work, is that it shows us that when we can apply those skills and that knowledge and put that in place, we can thrive, but we can also be more resilient and that helps prevent depression.

It can take circumstances like soldiers going from experiencing post traumatic stress disorder to post traumatic growth.

Now we don't work in as stressful situations as that, but the WHO just recently announced that burnout is a thing their watching for now that actually, in the workplace, they don't seem to be as great of places as I think they should be. So, this is why, if it's one of your pillars, but also, to those people who are leaders, you have an opportunity to take these options with you, because the benefits to you and the organisation by building a positive culture and putting these tools in place, are your business metrics do grow.

So, the profitability and your productivity go up. (laughs) I can see it in the mirror, as well, so I was a little like, "Oh I can see (mumbles) well." So okay.

So (laughs) the quality of the work goes up. Your customer satisfaction goes up.

This kind of concept that a happy set of people, they share that feeling and your customers can sense that and it flows through into the work and employee retention increases and this theme is going to be repeat itself, as I talk through some of the metrics.

So it's not for the benefit of the organisation and the fact that, apparently we all like to make a gazillion billion dollars.

Think about it too as in terms of for yourself. When you put this energy into a positive workplace, you become a greater fold increased engaged in your role. So if it's not for them, do it for you.

Now the reason why it has to be leaders though, the importance of why you have to do this shit and you don't really have a choice.

I mean, look, you always have a choice, but let me take you through some of these reasons is because it takes seven minutes for the mood of a leader to infect their team. Now, some of you might have previously heard me say seven seconds.

Apparently, I misquoted her.

Anyway, it's fine, she's forgiven me.

Michelle's very kind like that.

But, I think seven minutes, seven seconds.

Yep, bit of a magnitude all the difference, but the power is there and your need to manage this mood contagion is really important and as it turns out, 20 to 30% of team performance, is determined by the mood.

So if you can change that, you've got such a great impact. Your job to look after your team, is pretty high. The good thing is, the good thing is, we've got a structure of the science of positive psychology to help you work through a few steps, to kind of take that and lift it and the good thing is, there's some great things in here, I think some of us already know about in terms of the product management space is, there's an overlap, but I just kind of wanna give you a sense of the structure, for well being.

To aim, to see how people thrive in their workplace. And yes, there is a tonne of stuff, I'm on a journey, I'm loving it, there's heaps to find out. I just wanna invoke your curiosity today, to find out a little bit more.

So, we'll go through a couple of pieces and I guess the good news is, there's so much more. Hopefully, that doesn't overwhelm you.

The good news is, there's a few things you can try and have, take a start with.

So, can you, there's pens and paper on your desk. Can you please grab that.

Please grab your pen and paper and I want you to turn to someone next to you and draw their face, without looking at the paper. (audience talking) Okay, if I can get your attention please.

If I can (laughs) I'm loving the laughter.

If you could clap once if you can hear me.

If you can clap twice if you can hear me.

(audience clapping) If you can clap three times. Thank you very much.

So, that's a little jolt of joy.

The key thing about positive emotions, is that they are something you can actually take action to create.

They're not something that happens to you, which I think in contrast to negative emotions, is that thing that they might feel like, you can't control them.

Positive psychology is not about those things not happening, but they are about taking choices to move back into the kinds of creative emotions that will help us with creativity, teamwork and collaboration and innovations. What positive emotions do to counteract the negative ones, that fight and flight response, that fear, it makes our brains feel safe and it allows us to step into all those positive things we wanna see our teams doing, in order to create better products.

So, engagement.

So, huh, we're just gonna stick to this.

Right, back to your piece of paper.

Can you please, this one's not so.

You don't need to talk to anyone for this.

(audience laughing) Not that there's anything wrong with that, but can you write your name with your dominant hand. That should've been pretty quick.

So now, try it with your non-dominant hand. (laughs) Graham, I don't mean to laugh at you, but that's adorable (laughs).

Yep, so I had to give you longer to do that. I can see it's taking more time.

I also like the fact that you start to laugh (laughs). (audience talking) No, no wait team. Okay, okay back to me.

(clapping) So basically, the difference between a strength and a weakness, is that there's two things.

Teams that are working within their strengths, perform 36% better, than if they're working not in that space.

It takes 10,000 hours to master something new, which is two to three hours per day, for 10 years. So, if you kind of imagine your work space and your team and your people in your team and you're asking them to do things they find really hard and you're not supporting them with that.

So, "Hey, do that thing, get better at it, "but I'm not gonna give you any hours for it. "I'm gonna send you to a training course.

"Expect you to be back and be excellent." Imagine how that's gonna leave them feeling. They might just be a little bit stressed and anxious. Versus, if you can understand your team, your peoples' strengths, understand your own strengths and play to those, you have a team of people who will be in the flow.

They can compliment each other, because once you understand what that is and "I'm not so good at this, "can you pimp my slides, please.

"Thank you." You're able to really bring some of that team harmony, because you're actually being able to be the greatest sum of your parts.

I think that kind of feedback on strengths based feedback, is also a way to kind of positively inform that.

I'll just, the other kind of piece, which I haven't really explored yet, is this idea that we might craft jobs around people's strengths and not just put them in a box. So, you can take the survey here, via, V-I-A is actually it's an acronym, character.org, find out what your strengths are.

Find out what your team's strengths are.

Mine are love of learning (laughs) surprise, surprise (laughs).

So I'm nerding out on all of this type of stuff. So relationships.

So the acronym PERMER is there, to kind of help remember each of the elements of positive psychology that contribute to wellbeing and thriving.

But relationships, I think, I just need to slow down for a moment and realise this one's probably the most important.

Not that I have any favourites, but you know. We're social people, relationships are so key to our lives and relationships at work, are critical. People with best friends at work can survive struggle and actually pull managers when they have someone to talk to, than those who do not.

The idea that we turn off our hearts and our soul and go to work, I think is just a thing.

It's kind of a slightly odd concept.

I think most of us don't do that.

We love the people we work with.

They're intelligent, they're friendly and they're brilliant.

But as a leader, this is the thing where you have to care for these things to happen. That's satisfaction, that retention, that productivity go up, you have to care.

This is the thing you have to own, that you believe in your team.

I guess, some of you will have heard, that concept around radical candour from Kim Scott, that if you're giving feedback when you don't care personally, you're a version of an asshole, basically (laughs). So and I think the thing around this space, is that, if you don't think giving feedback, I know we're intimidated by it, it's scary to be radically candid and honest.

But you're doing your person, your team, a disservice by not telling them something that would help them progress.

Something that would help them be a better person, a better colleague and a better teammate.

So it's your job.

Your role in coaching.

How many people coach, their team? Oh, sorry, sorry.

Actually wait.

Can you put your hands up if you have a team? How many of you coach the members of your team? Ah! I'm speaking to the converted.

I was at a talk I was doing with a group of leaders and none of them knew about that and I was a little shocked, because coaching obviously is an opportunity to get to know your people, build trust, build a relationship, understand their motivations, understand where they're going.

Some of that foundation of psychological safety, comes from that idea of being curious about what that person or individual did in that situation. So no blame, but, "What happened there for you? "What was going on there? "What maybe emotional situation was for you, "this might have nothing to do with work." I don't expect you to be a psychologist, or dive into their personal life, but if you've got some appreciation of those things are happening that might impact their moment in time, then you can provide the resources to assist them. But actually, mostly it's a great empathy and trust situation, to actually appreciate it from a different point of view, because you are almost never right.

I love this one, approach conflict as a collaboration. It is not a fight to the death.

It's about learning from each other.

People, I believe, conflict comes from passion. You've got something to say, you share it, that's why you're arguing with each other.

Some of my best friends (laughs) that come from actually starting from an argument, once we understood we were passionate souls in our work and debate and the confidence to be able to share an opinion and not think you're gonna get struck down is how you put this strength into your teams and your people to allow them to do that.

That idea that failure leads to growth and this isn't the I think the little meme around the failure stuff.

I think it's actually about the fact that, you will get better.

Maybe for me, I over simplify this, but I think about it at the gym, whenever you go and lift weights. You actually tear some muscle and it grows back stronger. It's that kind of thing, it's not about fucking it up, just for the sake of fucking it up.

Do it with purpose, but understand what you're learning from it.

When you can encourage them to understand that, sorry, I do swear.

(audience laughing) Can't share this with my mum.

Anyway, so it's those components.

Give them space, for them to belong.

Meaning, so I think, (mumbles) like, "Oh, all right." But yeah, meaning pieces I think are really interesting one, because I think one of the great fortunes of our role in what we do as product people, is we've looked for meaning.

I think we've gone to our organisations asking for them to have a powerful mission, a vision and a mission.

We want that inspiration.

We're talking to our customers everyday, correct? Yes.

And so, we've got a real (laughs), we've got a real understanding that our work has purpose. So, I think we're very fortunate in this space. I think for me, that key call out to leaders here, is to then not take that away, by taking away autonomy from this fabulously engaged discipline.

Where I see that happen, is when we start to separate strategy into the exec suite and we come back not with a road map, but dictate to our people what they're going to do, because we've had a conversation over here. It's a real misuse of our, this intelligent work force, intelligent work force we have, to put that away over here and then come back and not include them.

That's when I see it done badly.

But for the most part, I think we're very fortunate to be in this space and seek it out for ourselves and then offer it to others and as individual contributors as product people, if you're not leading teams, I think this is one of the things you do very well. So congrats, keep it up.


So, this is another area actually, I think we're quite good at.

This is all about the growth mindset and your active wish to kind of appreciate nothing stays the same.

Again, this is kind of something we're quite good at as product people.

We get annoyed with problems, we wanna solve them. We believe we can fix them and "God damn it, don't give me that answer. "Don't believe it.

"Let's try it again.

"Go back to the drawing board.

"I will solve this problem." I'm very persistent about that.

But a growth mindset is very much around the fact that we're not set in stone, we can change and that grit component of getting up again, the seventh time you've fallen down, it's all about the eighth time you get up again and yes, again, when the sales person asks for a road map and I say, "No." It's when I need my grit.

Need my grit.

But, your role as a leader in this space, I think, is to help people realise there's a learning and set the learning goals here.

Not just you're gonna run the marathon.

What are the steps you're doing, to get there and then celebrating the things you're learning about that stage.

So, wrong shoes, yeah, not a good idea.

But that's okay, let's try a different pair of shoes. Wrong type, I'm not running a marathon, my other half is, he's a little bit crazy.

Actually, a really good friend of ours, has run 100 kilometres, even crazier.

But these conversations around what you're learning, to be able to get better at that, are where your real passion ignites.

Then when you actually achieve the outcome, it's even more exciting.

But those lessons along the way, are the things we should celebrate and we should be having conversations on it and retro as a classic example, of where we're trying to do that.

So that's where you lean in and help people see that. My lucky last favourite, is about health.

This is where I've spoken a little bit before, around some of the things you can do to help manage those emotional states that might lead you to express, in terms of this mood contagion, might not allow you to manage your anger, or your frustration, or your fear, or you concerns and those tips and tricks are around, your super woman pose, your breathing, control that. Take a moment before you walk into the room and just slam the iPad down or the notebook and have the whole team go, "Oh, okay.

"Now's not a good time to raise that idea.

"Yep, all right, well we're really excited "about that idea, but we're not gonna do it anymore, "because they're clearly not in a good mood." These tricks for gratitude is a really good one for focusing first on what to say thank you about and that will contribute back to your flow. But interestingly enough, the other one that kind of, the latest one is around sleep. So, sorry for the parents in the room, because this, you got no options here.

But (laughs) there's definitely, sleep is almost as bad as being drunk, in terms of how it impairs your cognitive function and in terms of how it will allow you to manage those other emotions, between positive and negative, is really a key piece to kind of getting to that steady state or that positive state.

So, where you can, see what ways you can optimise for that. So, I think this one is back to, I am pointing it back to you, but you can obviously do things for the team. The fruit, the flu shot and the fitness path. It's not for the team, but this is the one I wanted you to kind of circle back to yourself and do these things well for you, so that you've got the space and time for your people. So, oh, wow.

Okay, I knew I was gonna go and talk too fast, but it's all right, more questions.

So, I guess this is my space where I've, I heard that statement from Michelle about mood contagion a couple of years ago and I made a choice to understand what I needed to do to be better. From there, I have been in leadership positions and quite frankly, I've continued to fail, but I've also seen moments where I can see that success and I can start to see the difference it makes for me and the difference it makes for the people that I've had the great fortune of having work for me and with me.

The sad thing for me, is that I am frustrated at the fact that others aren't maybe taking the same journey.

Molly Keagan's having a bit of a rant about it at the moment.

I see here, product people talk to me at Product Anonymous and watching them be in that space, of one that they don't feel they can control really saddens me and Simon talks about that this is the thing I'd love to see an organisational culture become a better place, so we don't see people in that helplessness and so they can thrive and I'd like you to help me do that and contribute to that space.

Because "our greatest freedom is that with which we choose." So, thank you.

(audience clapping) (upbeat music)