Build Momentum with an Evangelist Mindset

Previously I introduced the four mindsets in the Product Manager’s Ideation Framework and discussed the “Explorer”, “Analyst” and “Challenger” mindsets. Today we’re introducing the final mindset – the Evangelist.

With the evangelist mindset you can motivate your team and build company-wide support. Your goal is to get them to focus on the initiative’s potential with enthusiasm. You want to turn skeptics into believers. You want the team to unleash its creativity on the problem at hand – so that the solution generated is even better than you thought possible.

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Adopt an evangelist mindset by starting with some of these activities:

Communicate the idea to all stakeholders – Identify internal stakeholders and share with them your plans and data, gather their input, and incorporate it. You want to build goodwill towards you and your product, reminding everyone of the beneficial impact for customers. Share your assumptions and your understanding of the risks, possible trade-offs against other initiatives, and investment needs. Even after you receive approval or support from decision makers, don’t stop the roadshow. Find opportunities to reinforce why an idea is a priority, especially to those who will be implementing the product initiative, will be selling it, or otherwise supporting it.

Finding communication opportunities

⇒ Develop a 30-second elevator pitch and a ready-to go set of slides outlining the customer problem, business opportunity, your vision, and solution. Ask to meet with stakeholders to walk through these.

⇒ You may be asked to provide product updates at important meetings or at the company all-hands. No matter how nerve-racking, embrace these, even volunteer.

⇒ Hold a “brown bag” meeting on a Friday lunch for interested parties to attend.

⇒ Send a weekly email with notable achievements, learnings, customer quotes, and call-outs to team members. Don’t make them dry and just full of status updates.

Let others “catch-up” – You’ve probably had much more time to understand a problem, evaluate ideas, and develop potential solutions than others around you. It is natural for you to be further out in front – and frustrating when they don’t seem to “get it” quite like you do. Recognize this and patiently take them though your thought-process and data, and let them arrive at similar outcomes. Having conducted thorough analysis, you’ll be ready to preempt and answer many questions – building confidence in the idea and in you. You’ll often find this is enough to get their buy-in.

Set context, not prescribed solutions – Team members are usually most motivated about their impact on customers and the business (the “why”). They are much less enthusiastic about being prescribed a specific solution (the “what”). Get them excited about the outcomes of pursuing an idea.

Lose ownership to your team – After a good idea takes root, allow others to take control and make it theirs. This can be hard if it has become your “baby”. But you need a cross-functional team with diverse skills to make the idea a reality. Let them set the approach and break down the plan. Leave open plenty of room for others to influence the target solution. Whatever they come up with will usually be better or at least as good as what you imagined.

“A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.”– Mary Kay Ash

Evangelist Mindset Action Checklist
o  Stakeholder list

o  Ready-to-go presentation

o  Elevator pitch (practice on anyone who’ll listen)

o  Scheduled discussions or presentations (roadshow)

o  Weekly update email

o  Context setting

War story – Losing Ownership

The idea was to revamp and redesign the website thoroughly. As the site had evolved, many features had been tacked on over time without much thought for the user interface, reducing discoverability and overall usability. This problem was just going to get worse as we added substantial next generation interactive features from our roadmap.

I led the redesign project. I outlined the vision and roadmap, and partnered with User Experience to explore different approaches. The company was quite large – and this was a major refresh with many concerned stakeholders. I conducted a roadshow to excite colleagues and addressed as many concerns as I could.

However, both evangelizing and executing the project quickly became an overwhelming task. I was falling behind in giving clear guidance, as I was spending so much of my time addressing stakeholder needs. My development team was struggling to figure out what to prioritize next (causing their wheels to spin).

I realized my greatest value-add was to bring the best ideas and stakeholder feedback to the table, and let the team move forward on defining the new design and functionality independently.

I empowered them to make the best decisions they could without having to check-in with me. To my delight they took ownership and developed a better product than I could ever have trying to lead everything myself.


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