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What makes a great product coach?What makes a great product coach?What makes a great product coach?

What makes a great product coach?

One of the benefits of having worked in product coaching for a while, and developing a learn to coach learning program for product leaders is having the chance to work with plenty of super product coaches.

We all know a great product coach when we meet them, but what are the qualities that make the difference between a good product coach and a great one? Based on our experience, these are the five key things great product coaches do differently.

A great product coach – listens deeply

It sounds obvious that a great product coach should be an effective listener, but you'd be surprised at how many self-proclaimed coaches just tell people what to do or push them through the same, pre-defined one-size-fits-all method.

As I'm sure you'd agree, there are no silver bullets in the product world. The problems we face on a daily basis are so complex and contextual that recommending and applying a framework to solve a problem takes a deep understanding of the client's reality – the kind of understanding a product coach can only achieve through exceptional listening skills.

A great product coach – approaches the sessions without judgement

Even in the friendliest workplaces, being afraid of being judged can get in the way of effective coaching. And that's one of the most popular reasons for working with an external product coach rather than someone from within the organisation.

Effective product coaches approach each conversation without judgement or bias and don't make assumptions. You'll find this reflected in their process, too. Great product coaches typically have a detailed discovery session with their clients to understand their reality in as much detail as possible rather than projecting their own preconception on the client.

A great product coach – knows how to ask powerful questions

One of the key benefits of great product coaching is insight. An effective product coach can help you unlock ideas you never knew you had, and their primary tool for that is powerful questions.

The kind of questions a great product coach asks will:

  • invite discussion
  • help you reflect
  • help you forge your own solutions
  • help you explore and gain more self-awareness of your own thoughts, attitudes or behaviours in relation to the issue at hand
  • create fresh thinking
  • use language that resonates with you
  • encourage you to use your senses
  • increase your sense of your own resourcefulness

A great product coach – has the knowledge to teach when needed

There are many schools of coaching that rely purely on the power of questions to help people unlock insight. However, we've found that in a product context, clients often have skill gaps that they are relying on a coach to fill.

We've found that the really great coaches we know in the product space have the knowledge at their fingertips to help out when needed, giving a clear and succinct explanation of a new topic and knowing what follow-up resources to recommend to a client so that they can develop enough skill and understanding in that area to achieve their goals.

A great product coach – knows when coaching isn't the answer (and can recommend a more appropriate alternative)

Product coaching can be hugely impactful in so many situations at work but sometimes it's just not the right tool to help you achieve your goals.

We've found that the best product coaches have the confidence to tell people when they think that doing something other than coaching would me more impactful, and have the knowledge to recommend a better alternative.

Sometimes this is a consultant who can go in and help fix the problem, other times it's a great course that will help the client learn what they need to solve their problems, or it could be another coach who specialises in a particular challenge the client is facing. Other times, the solution might be a therapist, counsellor or legal adviser. Whatever the alternative is, it takes a confident and knowledgeable coach to identify the need and suggest it.

And what else?

Depending on your situation, there might be additional things you are looking for in your perfect coach. For example, someone who will push you, someone relaxed, someone who knows about highly-specific techniques, or someone with specific experience of working with people in your situation. And if they meet those requirements, along with the points above, you're on to a winner!

So, what about your perfect product coach? What attributes would they have? Let us know by email or book a chat to find out more about whether we have a product coach who can help you achieve your goals.

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