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The Ability to Inspire People Towards a Common Goal

Goal Setting
Leadership
Collaboration
Team Processes

19 August, 2021

Sarah Al Souqi
Sarah Al Souqi

Product Manager at CNN

Sarah Al Souqi, Product Manager at CNN, shares how she ensured that everyone in the team was on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Problem

Part of being a product manager is working with different teams and directing them to working towards a common goal. I was focused on creating new product experiences while also working on different product strategies. Therefore, a lot of my focus was to ensure that we were on the right track with our daily KPIs — the health metrics of the business.

Needless to mention that there were strict commitments on delivering those. When conducting some product discovery activities or design sprints, I noticed that the ideas that came up were pointed towards accomplishing every KPI.

For example, if we were trying to solve a particular problem, people would chip in ideas that indirectly solved their area of attention. There were times where I also drafted or marked up a solution before going to the meeting, which I believe was a wrong step.

Actions taken

While we were not just there to sit through meetings, I would send my team members a brief about the objectives and goals. I wanted to determine that we went through practical meetups. The idea was to arrange design workshops, where everyone contributes to the solution rather than speak about how this will help achieve their goals.

I tried to draft some examples for non-goals. For instance, I would articulate some ideas that were not an outcome of this workshop. Breaking down those goals and non-goals did assist in clearing the misunderstanding.

Besides, spending more time before meetings, trying to identify the non-goals and why they were not so crucial for the meeting, allowed us to use time in a better way. Instead, we came up with better ideas and ended things on a more purposeful and productive note.

In situations where needed, I would use collaborative tools like shared whiteboards. I would send this board, have everyone familiar with it, and help them prepare for what we were working on. It was more like an outcome agenda; I helped them walk through the process and set expectations. In this way, people were more ready to talk about their ideas objectively.

I would also urge myself not to jump to any conclusion or solutions. I would rather have others start with a blank canvas and think thoughtfully about solutions and ideas.,I start with context, but I would keep myself away from solutions because the idea was not to spoon-feed others. I made it necessary for others to start coming up and contributing to fixing problems.

As a follow up to the meeting, we would also talk about what we could have done and what was helpful. We worked on a quick retrospective or huddled on what went well and what did not. Of course, it was a way for us to reflect and improve the way we designed the workshops.

Lessons learned

  • It is time consuming to assume that everyone is on the same page. Ensuring that there is a strong alignment from the beginning is the key to creating valuable outcomes.
  • Instead of sharing solutions to a problem, have your team understand the context and suggest their own solutions. Once you drop your solutions, people will stick to them and not spend enough time thinking about creative or better ways to solve the problem.

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