The Importance of Coalition Building in Product Management

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

If you feel a deep calling to be a product manager, you have surely asked yourself this important question: What makes great product leaders successful?


The answer: they lead others by being transformational, and they build a coalition along the way.


Product managers are ambassadors of the product that they are leading. From the concept through development and to its launch. One of the dexterities necessary to realize this objective is transformational leadership. This is a leadership style in which product leaders transform, align, and inspire their scrum teams, partners, stakeholders, teammates, and leaders to alter and generate change that will support nurturing and shaping the future achievements of their organization.


Coalition Leadership

The other aptitude is coalitional leadership. This leadership style necessitates cultivating allies and forming an alliance of people who support your aspirations and can assist in affecting other people to implement. Product leaders with these ingenuities are adept at creating connections with a vast network of individuals and can adjust their conduct and approach towards diverse people and circumstances.


My product manager superpower is that “I thrive in finding insights beyond the sight of others.” I love being a product manager because I get to use my PM superpower to build great products that impact the lives of my customers for the better, meet marketplace demand, and contribute to the larger strategic vision of my organization.


One of the insights I long ago recognized is that I want to bring my scrum teams, partners, teammates, and leaders with me, and they need to trust my judgement to build and launch my projects. Thus, I can attain my product management objectives by imploring transformation leadership and by developing a coalition. I am able to do this in three acts: (1) Telling the story of my product, (2) being brave and establishing a safe space for my scrum team, partners, and colleagues to share their ideas and (3) influence without authority.


Storytelling is one of the most important proficiencies product managers have to educate, persuade, and motivate. What makes storytelling so imperative is the fact that it develops connections between people and concepts. Through storytelling, we are able to communicate tedious specifics in an intriguing way.


Stories have the power to cut through the noise, and narratives can help bring to life our customers’ pain points, which are true and honest. Additionally, people rarely remember statistics, but they will always recall stories, especially those that have captured them emotionally.


As product managers, we can communicate the story of our product by motivating, teaching, persuading, and inspiring our scrum teams, partners, stakeholders, colleagues, and leaders. We have many opportunities where we can assert our impact, from town halls, product meetings, informal meets to share-out presentations.


Regardless of the method by which we share the story of our product, as product managers, we can influence when we connect with members of our organization in a manner that assists them to comprehend the customer problems we are trying to solve and enable them to recall and motivate them to act. Leadership is about modifying visions and altering behaviors. It is what leads knowledge to be unceasing. It is also the place in which storytelling is the stalwart. When we do this particularly well, we have built connections, influence, and reliability.


Great product leaders bring to the table more than technical adroitness. They are excellent collaborators that can develop connections with their customers, scrum teams, partners, stakeholders, teammates, and leaders.


We must keep in mind that everyone has the best interest of our organization; we all execute in different ways when it comes to being brave and creating a safe space. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this approach in coalition building.




Storytelling and Collaboration

Through storytelling and collaboration, I have been able to create a safe space where the partners I work with can voice their viewpoints and point out issues with my project, even if the feedback is undesirable. I have come to appreciate this greatly because they feel invested, and they want to set me up for success.


As standard practice, my 3iab (product manager, the design lead, and the tech lead) takes every E2E design on the road, we meet and present it to all our partners and stakeholders. We do this to garner their feedback. This is especially important when another dependency team needs to build a piece of our project.


While we may not always employ their recommendation, we always convey the reason for this. We showcase our E2E experiences to ensure our partners understand our product story, the customer value, the business value, market demand, and how it ties back to our organization’s strategic objective. We bring them along in the plotlines of our product because we want them to be included and heard.



Influence Without Authority

The other act of coalition building is influencing without authority. I believe it is important to get to know your scrum teams, teammates, cross-functional teams, and stakeholders. I have been known to invite them for coffee pre-covid and virtual coffee since working from home. I do this to form more significant relationships and connections.

This lets me know what to look forward to, anticipate outcomes & reactions and get ready for concerns instead of getting caught by surprise. I find that folks who trust me are much more willing to follow me. Furthermore, deep, established connections enable me to make a request for sporadic favors. Lastly, a feeling of friendship will go a long way in urging folks to work with you to solve your customer pain points or even to fix an urgent bug.


In my experience, I have also found that my comportment, or exactly how I treat other teammates, is one of the most significant aspects of influence. Being sincere and straightforward is imperative. A miscalculation in one’s honesty will end up costing you confidence for a very long time, and no product manager wants to have the reputation of not being trustworthy.


Being cognizant of people’s time while being ready and prepared is also very crucial. Furthermore, what is incredibly vital is how we convey information and an urgent need but importantly - not anxiety. Our tone, our choice of words, and our recognition of challenging circumstances can be our most formidable influence.


Final Thoughts

Product management is awe-inspiring, to begin with. Product managers can influence as storytellers because we work with everybody engaged in product development from engineering marketing, research, and design. All these folks need to be persuaded to transmit the product’s concept through their coding, testing, branding, research, and design. They also need to have a safe space to share their viewpoints and bring their concerns to the table.


Product managers who hone in on their coalition-building proficiencies are successful. When scrum teams, partners, stakeholders, teammates, and leaders share responsibility, aspirations, outcomes, and leadership - they will enthusiastically work towards a common purpose. Only then does the coalition have the potential for tremendous success.