This week on Product Love, I chatted with Mihir Nanavati, head of product at Adroll. Adroll is an e-commerce growth platform that helps brands grow revenue through seamless marketing and advertising.

Mihir is a veteran of the Bay area tech space and has worked both for early-stage startups and established enterprise companies. During his career, he’s built an in-depth understanding of product management and witnessed its evolution from little-known role to highly-coveted position.

In this episode, Mihir talked about cross-departmental alignment, leading by influence, and not having all of the answers.

The Importance of Context-Setting

Product managers are constantly pulled in different directions by various stakeholders. Mihir says this is a symptom of misalignment between departments. When first starting to build a product, he spends a lot of time ensuring that everyone involved is on the same page. He sets the context at the very beginning, making it easier to keep the team focused as new priorities, challenges, and ideas arise.

According to Mihir, it’s especially important to have upfront clarity on approach, target customer segment, and direction. For example, if your strategy is to move upmarket from SMBs to enterprise companies, don’t start building features that only smaller businesses would use. So ask yourself: will this feature move you toward your original goal?

Making Friends and Influencing People

In spite of the (mostly debunked) claim that product managers are the “CEO of the product,” many young PMs think they have the authority to direct other teams and departments. However, product managers don’t usually have this kind of power within the organization. Instead, they need to lead through influence.

Mihir advises new PMs to focus on building empathy. He encourages them to practice active listening and clear communication. Empathy can’t be faked. To develop true empathy takes patience, practice, and an honest desire to help others. And only through empathy can PMs influence other departments and exercise real authority.

Having All the Answers

PMs already have a lot of on their plates. Still, many of them put more on their shoulders than they need to. Mihir claims PMs should let go of the idea that they need to have all of the answers or know the “one correct solution.” Building features and creating solutions needs to be a group effort. Enlist as much help as you need. Your job is not to know everything, but to steer the team toward the right solutions for your stakeholders.

Listen below to hear more of Mihir’s thoughts on alignment and cooperation, and don’t forget to subscribe.

 

About the Author

Eric Boduch is the Chief Evangelist for Pendo. Previously, he served as the CEO of Brainstorm SMS Technologies LLC (dba SMaSh, Inc.) and was the co-founder and CEO of several other companies. Eric holds a Bachelor of Science from The School of Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Electrical and Computer Engineering and is a graduate of its Executive Management Program.