October 18, 2023

Elevate Your Product Management Journey with a Guide

As a Product Manager, you know the job means wearing a lot of different hats - strategist, negotiator, decision-maker, and more. It's a dynamic, challenging role that's always evolving.  You understand that to stay valuable and competitive, you have to keep growing and adapting.

For people just starting out in this career, it's an exciting but intimidating journey.  Having a guide can make navigating the landscape more efficient and effective, with less stress. Who was your guide when you were first starting out? Who's your go-to expert these days?  

A Product Coach is a dedicated expert who can mentor and streamline processes for one person or an entire product team.  Someone with real experience who can use their teaching and mentoring skills to help individuals and the group improve.

This article introduces Product Managers (PMs) to the emerging role of the coach.  It explains the role, how coaches work, and why they're so important now and in the future of product development.  It emphasizes the real benefits a coach can offer PMs and their teams, especially when they collaborate.

A Personal Trainer for Your PM Career or Team

Pro athletes have coaches to perfect their skills and performance.  Product managers can benefit from a coach too - someone laser-focused on sharpening their craft.  A Product Coach isn't just a consultant.  They're experts in the product space who work with PMs to guide and align their skills to industry and individual needs. This ensures the PM always has a competitive edge.

The product world today is built upon quickly changing technology, shifting user behaviors, and expectations for PMs to balance both tactical and strategic work.  A Product Coach helps bridge the gap by offering real-world experience to help PMs go from good to great.  

A Product Coach doesn't just advise but inspires and guides. Their role is to:

  • Understand your strengths and areas to improve
  • Give actionable feedback tailored to your specific challenge
  • Provide hands-on experience to foster learning
  • Share industry insights and trends to keep you ahead
  • Take ownership of their client's growth and value

As advancing innovations like AI disrupt the landscape, Product Coaches will guide the way.  The future of Product Management will need navigation into new challenging spaces and a great coach will embrace and use technology as a tool:

  • Technology Integration: Combining AI tools into coaching using data-driven insights to create more effective, personalized coaching sessions.
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality Coaching: Immersing PMs in virtual workspaces, simulating real product challenges and scenarios to improve problem-solving and innovative thinking.
  • Growing Demand: With fiercely competitive tech markets, Product Coaches will be strategic assets guiding product teams through complex landscapes.

Working with a Product Coach is like having someone in your corner who shares your experiences - the role, the industry, and most importantly you.  The benefits are real:

  • Get honest feedback that's tailored and you can act on
  • Stay in the know on trends and best practices
  • Learn through real-life cases and hands-on tasks
  • Build the growth mentality that is so crucial today

For PMs who have some experience coaching, this is a full-time opportunity to give back. This capacity requires the desire to serve first, and a true calling to help people grow.  If that's you, make the switch.  It's not just guiding others; it's evolving yourself.  

Nine Ways a Coach Elevates Teams

A Product Coach wears different hats to lift up teams.  Each hat has its own purpose, tackling parts of the product life cycle and team dynamics.  Here's a broad range of techniques practiced by a great coach.

The 9 coaching stances
  1. Reflective Observer: By watching without interfering, the coach provides feedback on team interactions and product progress. They see team dynamics, ensuring alignment with users and the market. Engagement is not deep but may include improvement recommendations.
  2. Facilitator: Boosts team collaboration and keeps brainstorming and meetings productive.  Stays neutral during backlog refinement and prioritization so all voices are heard and consensus is reached.
  3. Counselor: Helps product managers grow by making sure their skills and knowledge keep getting better.  They assist product managers with their careers, complex product situations, and strategic thinking.  
  4. Technical Advisor: Share expertise when the product team runs into challenges or wants feedback.  They tell the team about market trends, user opinions, and best practices in product management to guide decisions.
  5. Teacher: Educate the product team on the latest product management methods and tools.  They run workshops on creating user stories roadmapping, or using analytics tools to keep skills cutting-edge and relevant.
  6. Coach: Empowers the team by promoting self-improvement and flexibility.  They help set clear product goals, align company goals, and adopt best practices so the team is ready for success.    
  7. Hands-on Expert: Performs the work while the PM learns from observation. They assist with product-market fit, evaluating competitors, and offering insights beyond the team's view.
  8. Modeler: Identify ways to improve product processes and drive change.  They help the team embrace changes like pivoting product direction, adopting new tools, or shifting market strategy.
  9. Partner: Collaborates with stakeholders, other departments, and outside groups as a peer of the client.  They work closely with sales, marketing, and user research to align the product with broader company goals. This engagement requires the closest and most dedicated focus by the coach.

By understanding and using these coaching styles well, Product Coaches can elevate their clients. Accelerating product teams to create amazing outcomes while building the mindset foundation required for ongoing learning and growth.  


Developing an individual or team of Product Managers with good hiring practices and organic growth has been the prevailing model of organization development. You’ll need that great team to keep pace with market and technology changes. Your biggest risk is that your competition may already have an edge with their own Product Coach. When that happens, guidance, mentoring, and regular coaching for your team becomes essential.  Whether you're a product manager or a member of a PM team, working with a coach can kickstart constant improvement and make a clear path to excellence. Do you have the experience, demeanor, acumen, and desire to be a great Product Coach? If so, your future is in demand.

Further reading, two articles by Marty Cagen on the Product Coach role

Becoming a Product Coach - Silicon Valley Product Group : Silicon Valley Product Group (svpg.com)

Types of Product Coaching - Silicon Valley Product Group : Silicon Valley Product Group (svpg.com)

Henry Pozzetta is an Agile Coach with extensive experience in software engineering and product management. His goal is to accelerate the delivery of value from product management with the progressive adoption of agile best practices and lean servant leadership principles.