Confident Humility

Jan 12, 2022

Product Leadership….Let’s talk about a few things you can do TODAY to be seen as a leader.


When I started off as a new product mgr, I was terrified of speaking up at meetings or coming off as clueless.  


Now I practice what I call confident empathy and humility. It is something that my clients use to both step into leadership, have a voice, and be part of the conversation.


Here are a few ways to start to step into leadership by practicing confident humility and empathy.

Ask the group to pause for clarification.

I was in a fairly technical meeting with senior architects and VPs who were explaining a bunch of concepts that I did not come close to understanding. I was fairly senior at this point.


I knew that if I did not understand, the new and more junior members probably had similar questions.


So I started the practice of literally raising my hand and asking for a clarification.  I learned this from a leader a while ago and have been practicing it since. If there is something I don’t understand well, no matter how trivial, I will ask the question.


Some of my favorite phrases include:


“I am a bit confused. Could you walk me through the user (customer) experience with this?”

“Timeout.  You folks lost me. Could we backtrack a bit?”

“Pretend I am a newbie and break it down for me.

When presenting, read the room

When you’re presenting or explaining something to your team, make sure you take time to read the room. Pause and ensure that people are understanding what you’re trying to convey. Whether it's a roadmap, vision, risk discussion, or customer requirement, it's critical that the team in the room understands it.


Pre-empt questions and ask them on behalf of the room.  For example:


“A common question I get is…”

“Let’s walk through some common questions.”


To be the leader others want to follow, practice confident empathy and humility. You will have a group of engineers, product managers, and others who see you as the leader they want to follow.

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