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We taught product managers to self-coach but here's where they still want helpWe taught product managers to self-coach but here's where they still want helpWe taught product managers to self-coach but here's where they still want help

We taught product managers to self-coach but here's where they still want help

Since the beginning of the year, we've been running free sessions teaching people to problem-solve use the Lean Coaching Canvas. We use the canvas in our own coaching sessions and we were interested to see whether people could use it themselves, without the input of a coach.

In sessions of 10-20 people a coach talked them through the canvas and how to use it then attendees used the canvas to solve a current challenge they are currently facing.

People who attended the sessions have used the canvas to solve all kinds of challenging product problems and it's been great seeing all the creative ways they've used the canvas so far.

After the sessions, we were interested to find out which areas of the coaching process they felt most comfortable doing by themselves (self-coaching) and where would most like to have a product coach help them.

Here's what we found.

a man ideating

1. Help with ideation

There are lots of great ways to ideate alone but when you're really stuck, there are three ways in which a product coach can really help:

  • Helping unlock ideas that are hiding in plain sight using coaching questions
  • Collaborating with you and contributing their own ideas based on their product experience
  • Teaching or giving examples to help fill the gaps in your knowledge and trigger new ideas

Of all the areas in the coaching canvas, the ideas section was the one where attendees wanted to spend the most time in the self-coaching sessions. It was also the one where they most wanted some one-on-one time with a product coach to help them.

We found that people preferred an external coach than someone from their organisation because it helped them challenge the accepted norms and 'truths' of your organisation, coming up with ideas they might have otherwise missed.

two people having a confidential coaching conversation

2. A confidential conversation

Product management can be a lonely place when you're the person expected to have all the answers. Sometimes people are lucky enough to have another person in their company they can work through ideas with but there are plenty of situations where discussing an issue with people in the company openly enough to get to a real solution simply isn't possible.

A product coach is an unbiased set of ears and you can be confident that talking to them isn't going to have a negative impact on your relationship with your colleagues or your reputation in your company.

In addition to that, because of their experience across different organisations, they can give you a broader perspective on what's normal. And if moving on to a new organisation is the best option for you, they'll be equipped to help you come up with a plan to achieve that goal.

runner's feet representing commitment

3. Commitment, commitment, commitment

The coaching canvas encourages you to commit to your next actions by telling someone what you are going to do and by when. People attending the sessions found this commitment stage valuable.

However, there's something about having a coach, that you have paid for, checking in on you that helps keep you even more accountable.

Think of it like the difference between being a gym member and having a personal trainer – you can get fit at the gym if you're dedicated, but you're more likely to hit your goals with a personal trainer.

Give it a try yourself

The Lean Coaching Canvas and supporting materials are free to use for self-coaching or to coach others, so give it a try yourself on one of your current product challenges. Also, if you would like some help from a product coach, have a chat with us, our coaching consultations are free and a great way to start thinking about how a coach might add value to your work.

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Robin Zaragoza

Founder and CEO at The Product Refinery, Robin has been working in tech for 20 years and delivering product for the last 15 of those at companies of various sizes, from early stage start-ups where she was the first product manager, to large publicly traded companies where she led teams of product managers.

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