PRODUCTHEAD: Everyone needs coaching

PRODUCTHEAD: Everyone needs coaching

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

products out


Coaching allows you to leap ahead — it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you

Active listening helps you restrain the urge to jump in early with a solution

Performance management is retrospective; performance development looks forward

A lack of clear goals and simplistic evaluation are ways performance management goes wrong

a favour: please share this with other product people

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


Over time, I’ve come to realise that if I really want to ensure I do something on time, I have to promise it to someone. It could be as simple as having a fixed time to meet someone for an exercise session or writing and sending out a weekly product management newsletter. Or it could be something more involved, such as committing to help a client with a particular product management challenge they’re facing. I’ve written about my tendency to procrastinate on many occasions before.

Whatever the task is, I know that my fear of letting someone down will always trump my innate desire to put things off until the last possible moment. So promising to do something for someone is how I get big things done.

So when we all descended into lockdown, most of my triggers for getting stuff done disappeared. It was such an odd situation that it took me a few months to realise I had been treading water — just getting by, but not really doing much more than that.

In June last year, I forced myself back into action in two ways: I promised a business partner, Voxgig, that I would deliver a series of product management masterclasses with them; and I found myself a coach.

I hadn’t initially set out to find a coach. Instead I’d got back in touch with Ray Rafiq, a friend and former client I’d coached and consulted for on occasion. Over the years, he’s founded six business, most focused on technology to do with renting and buying properties (proptech).

After we’d caught up on what we’d been up to since we last worked together, Ray observed that I was a bit directionless and suggested some things I might want to try to get myself moving again. This newsletter was one of those suggestions.

We settled into a weekly routine of video calls primarily to discuss ideas for topics to write about — a way of keeping me honest, if you like. Over time these conversations evolved into coaching sessions where Ray would nudge me into better habits and more ambitious goals.

Fittingly, when Ray mentioned he’d like to create a podcast about his favourite business book of all time, Mark McCormack’s Never Wrestle With A Pig, I offered him my help in return by reading along and interviewing him about it. This became The Pig Wrestlers podcast, and I’m proud of how much I’ve learnt by participating and producing it with him.

As you progress along your product management career path, whether you aspire to become an increasingly skilled practitioner, manage teams of product managers, or both, you will end up being coached and coaching others.

Coaching isn’t about providing all the answers or telling people what to do, it’s about listening, understanding and helping the individual to solve their own problems. Of all the aspects of my career to date, coaching has been the most rewarding. So this week I’ve pulled together some great content to help you get into and improve your coaching.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Everyone needs a coach

People that seek coaching aren’t the ones with something wrong with them. To the contrary, there’s something very right about them — and it’s enabling them to leap ahead.

A coach gives you a fresh perspective


How good are your listening skills?

Poor listeners “hear” what’s being said, but they rarely “listen” to the whole message.

They get distracted by their own thoughts or by what’s going on around them, and they formulate their responses before the person who they’re talking to has finished speaking. Because of this, they miss crucial information.

Good listeners, on the other hand, enjoy better relationships, because they fully understand what other people are saying. Their team members are also more productive, because they feel that they can discuss problems easily, and talk through solutions.

Quiz: how good a listener are you?


Product Management Coaching

Whether you’re new to product management or have been a product manager for years, a coaching session can help you to step up your career.

We’ve coached people wanting to get into product management, product people with nobody in their organisation to manage them, and experienced product managers preparing to apply for a promotion.

We can help you prepare for your product manager interview, including mock interviews.

A proportion of the fees from every coaching session is donated to charity. Just reply to this email if you’re interested in finding out more.

A manager’s guide to performance development

We believe that managers should have regular, honest and practical discussions with their teams about performance. We also believe that these discussions should fit into your day-to-day easily… unlike the upheaval of annual appraisals.

Teams that move towards a culture of ongoing performance development see increased productivity, engagement and customer satisfaction scores, according to a 2015 study.

Disclosure: Saberr is a client of my company, Product People, and we are an investor in Saberr.

Motivate and encourage an improvement in performance


Putting people back into performance management

The way most companies approach performance management is completely broken. Everybody knows it, yet there aren’t many companies or managers seeking more progressive approaches.

Rethinking how you manage performance


recent posts

Mission to Mars

Imagine you’ve just been told that you’ll be a member of the team responsible for the first manned mission to Mars.

Now imagine someone asks you how much the mission’s going to cost. The whole thing. There and back. By close of business on Thursday.

Aaaaaarrrrrrgggh. It depends


The neverending quest for product-market fit

Often the biggest barrier to your product’s widespread adoption is going to be whether it reaches product-market fit early on. Even if you do, you’re wrong if you think you never need to worry about product-market fit again.

It’s not a one-off exercise


How do you find the balance between autonomy and focus for PMs you’re managing?

As context, I have a PM in my team who I regularly find digging into areas of the business that are unrelated to the initiatives they’re responsible for. They also have a track record of being extremely slow to bring anything to market (often because they’re chasing those squirrels).

As much as I try to encourage a curious mindset in of all my team, our business has so much ground to cover we can’t really afford a lot of leisurely exploration.

Why are you chasing squirrels?


can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

Product People Limited logo

Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from a vegan mayonnaise that actually contained eggs.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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