Nov. 27, 2022

How to be the best coach to product people | Petra Wille (Strong Product People)

Petra Wille is an independent product leadership coach who’s been helping product teams expand their skill sets since 2013. She’s also the author of Strong Product People, which she published in 2021. Alongside her freelance work, Petra curates and co-organizes Mind The Product Engage Hamburg. She started her career as a software developer and in 2008 went to work at Xing, a German social media site, where she learned from two incredible product leaders: Marty Cagan and Jason Goldberg. In today’s podcast, we talk about Petra’s book, and how to help your team grow as a product leader. Petra also shares how to improve your storytelling skills, get better at public speaking, and why community is so important for product managers.

Where to find Petra Wille:

• Twitter:

• LinkedIn:

• Website:

Where to find Lenny:

• Newsletter:

• Twitter:

• LinkedIn:

Thank you to our wonderful sponsors for making this episode possible:

• Flatfile:

• Mixpanel:

• AssemblyAI:


• PMwheel framework:

• Marty Cagan’s assessment:

• PM Daisy:

• The Eisenhower matrix for prioritization:

Continuous Discovery Habits: Discover Products that Create Customer Value and Business Value:

• Mochary Method Curriculum:

• Matt Mochary on Lenny’s podcast:

• Hans Rosling’s Ted talks:

• Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter:

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That is and What You Can Do About It:

Selling the Dream:

• Nancy Duarte’s website:

• The 72 Rules of Storytelling:

The Art of Thinking Clearly:

Outcomes Over Output:

• Martin Erickson’s Decision Stack:

Present Yourself Kickstarter:

The Product Experience podcast:

• Product podcast in German:

• Watch New Amsterdam on Peacock:

• Harvest bookkeeping and time tracking:

• Qanto:

In this episode, we cover:

(03:35) Petra’s background

(05:51) The things leaders of product teams don’t always understand

(09:33) Why Petra wrote the book Strong Product People to help managers of product teams 

(11:21) The five ingredient coaching method

(17:00) Why Petra usually recommends starting coaching with a development plan

(19:31) Why weekly time should be carved out for ‘people development’

(21:16) How to define a competent PM in your organization and tools to help you

(24:06) Petra’s PM Wheel and how she developed it

(27:36) Other info product leads will find useful in Petra’s book

(30:46) Tips for coaching your team

(35:17) How to improve your storytelling

(40:56) How to get better at public speaking

(44:45) Why it’s important to develop good storytelling and public speaking skills 

(53:36) The importance of a community of practice for product people

(56:14) Why people tend to stick around when they are supported and growing in a community

(57:53) What to look for in a community

(1:06:48) Lightning round

Production and marketing by For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email

Get full access to Lenny's Newsletter at


Petra Wille (00:00:00):

Getting promoted is way harder if you're not good in telling stories and rallying the team behind the shared goal and all these kind of things, and you usually achieve this through good storytelling techniques. And in some teams, I've seen the product person not being really, really good at it, but then the whole team helped creating these stories and stuff like this. So you definitely could compensate to some extent, but I would consider it a bit of a career staller if you don't get to a decent level of storytelling and to a decent level of public speaking.

Lenny (00:00:35):

Welcome to Lenny's Podcast. I'm Lenny, and my aim here is to help you get better at the craft of building and growing products. Today, my guest is Petra Wille. Petra is an independent product leadership coach and author of Strong Product People. And for the past 10 years, she's been helping product teams boost their skill sets and up their game. Alongside her freelance work, Petra organizes events in Hamburg, Germany, where she's based, and does a ton of one-on-one coaching, and speaking, and writing.


In our conversation, we focus on three things. One, how to become the best coach for PMs, which is really important if you're a new PM manager, and even if you're not a new manager. Two, how to become a better storyteller and why that's important for leaders at every stage of their career. And three, why finding a PM community is so valuable and how to go about finding one. Petra is awesome, and it was such a fun chat. And so with that, I bring you Petra Wille.


Hey, Ashley, Head of Marketing at Flatfile. How many B2B SaaS companies would you estimate need to import CSV files from their customers?

Ashley (00:01:40):

At least 40%.

Lenny (00:01:42):

And how many of them screw that up, and what happens when they do?

Ashley (00:01:44):

Well, based on our data, about a third of people will consider switching to another company after just one bad experience during onboarding. So if your CSV importer doesn't work right, which is super common, considering customer files are chock-full of unexpected data and formatting, they'll leave.

Lenny (00:02:04):

I am 0% surprised to hear that. I've consistently seen that improving onboarding is one of the highest leverage opportunities for both signup conversion and increasing long-term retention. Getting people to your aha moment more quickly and reliably is so incredibly important.

Ashley (00:02:19):

Totally. It's incredible to see how our customers like Square, Spotify, and Zuora are able to grow their businesses on top of Flatfile. That's because flawless data onboarding acts like a catalyst to get them and their customers where they need to go faster.

Lenny (00:02:36):

If you'd like to learn more or get started, check out Flatfile at


This episode is brought to you by Mixpanel, offering powerful self-serve product analytics. If you listen to this podcast, you know that it's really hard to build great product without making compromises. And when it comes to using data, a lot of teams think that they only have two choices, make quick decisions based on gut feelings or make data-driven decisions at a snail's pace, but that's a false choice. You shouldn't have to compromise on speed to get product answers that you can trust. With Mixpanel, there are no tradeoffs. Get deep insights at the speed of thought at a fair price that scales as you grow. Mixpanel builds powerful and intuitive product analytics that everyone can trust, use, and afford. Explore plans for teams of every size and see what Mixpanel can do for you at And while you're at it, they're hiring. Check out to learn more.


Petra, thank you for being here. Welcome to our little podcast.

Petra Wille (00:03:39):

Hi, Lenny. Such an honor to be here on a Friday night.

Lenny (00:03:43):

Friday night your time, Friday morning my time. Thank you for making the time.

Petra Wille (00:03:47):

Of course.

Lenny (00:03:48):

You're a product leadership coach. Can you just talk about what you do as a product leadership coach and then also just a bit about the numbers of PMs you work with, the number of companies you work with, the impact you had, just to set a little bit of context in your background?

Petra Wille (00:04:01):

How I usually describe it is that I work with people leading product people, so that's the product leadership level that I'm looking at. So that might be a CPO in a smaller startup or a product director, a product team lead, these are the folks that I'm usually working with for the last four years, I'd say. And before that, I coached product managers, so IC level product folks. And before that, I did a lot of product discovery coaching for teams and whole product organizations. And you asked about how many people I may have influenced. That's a real hard question so to say. So in one-on-one coachings, that's what I know. I coached around 130 people so far over the last few years, which is already a lot. Most of them have, yeah, 10 to 20 sessions with me. Some really stick with me over the years so they have more sessions.


So that's that. And then I have group coaching sessions and corporate and then public setups. And that's, I would say, another 150. And it's all product leads. So usually, those people are working with a team of 10 product people and there are some ripple effects. So I think I have an impact on their lives as well if I'm coaching their boss or the line manager so to say. Plus, the teams that I work with as a discovery coach, plus the people that read my book and hopefully are using some of the techniques. And in the end, yeah, I did a bit of the math and I think it might be around 50,000, 60,000 people. If we look at it from the product leadership to IC level structure, yeah, that might be the impact. So that's a pretty impressive number.

Lenny (00:05:35):

Wow. That is an impressive number. And I always love chatting with folks that do the work you do because there's such a unique insight into working one on one with PMs that are trying to get better and understanding what trends are happening across PMs at different companies and different countries and things like that. So I'm excited to dig into a bunch of stuff.


The other thing that I love about where you're focused, there's a lot of people that focus on ICEPMs and there's a lot of people that focus on senior leaders, VPs, CPOs. And I love that it feels ... And correct me if I'm wrong, but you are focused on this middle layer of first line managers, directors.

Petra Wille (00:06:08):

Exactly, yes.

Lenny (00:06:08):

Which I feel like is often the most important and influential layer of a company because they're the ones doing a lot of the work at making a lot of the decisions day to day.

Petra Wille (00:06:16):

That is the case. Plus, at least with a lot of clients that I'm working with, they are not trained product people. So they often come from a marketing background, or a business background, or from the data background, so to say, or the engineering background, but they often never have worked in a product management role. So they're missing a lot of basic product management practice and a lot of empathy for the struggle of the product people to some extent. Plus, how should you help people grow if you have no clue what their role actually is all about? So that's what I actually like to help them with, to get this clarity on a strong compass how the best product organizations and product managers should be working.

Lenny (00:07:02):

Just to go a little bit on that tangent because that's an interesting point you just raised. When you work with folks that are not product people and that end up leading product people and trying to better product, what's the thing they lack most, the skill or the understanding of product? If you had to think of one or two things that these people are like, "Okay, they totally missed this part about product management, about building product."

Petra Wille (00:07:23):

One thing that has made me sense out the most is I see product people on the IC level have to go through some of the struggles on their own, even if our product community has some best practices to it. Because as the line manager has no clue about the product community out there and the craftless product management, they often struggle to point them in the right direction to say, "Hey, I think that's a problem somebody else already had. So maybe you could watch a talk or read this blog post or there's a book about this particular thing and then go try it." So that's the first thing. So product people IC level often have done to learn a lot of things on their own, so to say, because nobody's curating their progression for them to some extent. So that is one thing.


And then I use this metaphor of the eight-legged creature because people tend to talk about T-shaped employee profiles, but T-shaped is so not enough for a product person, right? We want them to understand underlying problems of the business and the users finding solution for those, getting things out of the door with the team, doing a lot of product discovery, looking at the data, how people are using it, iterating on the products. So there's so many things that we want them to be good at and to understand that and the complexity that the role actually brings with it. That's sometimes hard for people that have never worked as a product person to really understand. So, yeah, if I would need to pick two things, then that's maybe the two biggest differences.

Lenny (00:08:56):

The first one is such a great one. It comes up a lot on these chats of just how much of getting better product is just doing it. You can read all the books, you can take all the courses, you can read my newsletter, you can read your book, which we'll talk about, but there's only so far you'll get without actually just doing it and just failing, doing great things that succeed. And it takes years, right? It's not like something you'll do six months, "All right, I'm feeling really good about being a product manager."

Petra Wille (00:09:20):

Yeah, I totally agree. I so often have said the sentence of, it's not a role, it's a career being in product and, really, there's so many things to learn and so many things to get good at. Yeah, I totally agree.

Lenny (00:09:32):

Yeah, crazy ass role. Speaking of your book, you wrote a book, it's about product leadership and coaching, and we're going to touch on some of the things you wrote in the book, but can you just briefly describe the book that you wrote, who it's for, what it's about?

Petra Wille (00:09:42):

It's quite a niche book, right? So it's focusing on people managing product people, so product leads and then the people development part of their job. So it's not another book talking about how to come up with a great product strategy. There definitely is a chapter on that to some extent, but it's more how you coach those things. So it's not so much about how you do these things on your own, it's more how you could help product people to understand hypothesis-driven product discovery a bit more, or how could you help them think about team motivation, or how could you help them get better and giving feedback, all these kind of things.


So this book has this meta level of helping product leads to develop their product folks. And that is actually what the book talks about in five different parts. And I think 28 chapters if I get it right.

Lenny (00:10:35):

Wow, it's a lot of chapters. What is it called? Where can people find it? Just while we're on this topic and then we'll get into some of this.

Petra Wille (00:10:41):

It should be available on Amazon and it's Strong Product People: A Complete Guide to Developing Great Product Managers. That's actually the title and the subtitle, so to say.

Lenny (00:10:52):

Awesome. Strong Product People. Okay. I read parts of the book, I looked at a lot of the stuff that you write online and some of your videos, and there's three things that I want to spend our time together on to dig into. One is what you just talked about, how to become a better coach to product managers for PMs. Two is storytelling skills. You have a lot of great stuff on just becoming a better storyteller. And then three is how to find great community to become a better PM. Does that sound good?

Petra Wille (00:11:18):

Yeah, that sounds amazing. That stood up.

Lenny (00:11:21):

Okay, great. Awesome. So the first topic, basically, the premise of your book is just how to become a better coach to product managers. And for me, actually personally, the biggest inflection in my career was having an awesome manager who helped me become a better PM, and that was the point in my career where I really accelerated. And so I fully buy into the power of having a great manager and a coach, and oftentimes those aren't the same people. And you have these five ingredients that you have to be the best coach to product managers.


And so just to start, what are these five ingredients? What do you have to get right to be a great coach to PMs?

Petra Wille (00:11:57):

Yeah, I'm glad you're asking. So I was already referencing to number one. And number one is really having a solid definition of what a good product person looks like in your context. So what is your definition of good, so to say? And a lot of the product leads that I'm working with have this as an implicit feeling based, experience-based thing. They can talk about some of the aspects, but it's often the case that they not have fully reflected on what a personality traits that I want to see in product people that are hard to develop while I'm coaching them, and what are skills, and know-how, and capabilities that I want to see in the product people that I'm working with. And some are super good and have it all written down, but most of the product folks that I'm working with haven't. So that is step number one is doing this reflection.


Then step number two is having a clear idea where every PM currently is in their current career, in their situation, life in general, all these kind of things. So put the pin on the map, so to say, and then think about what is your vision for them in the future, so how good could it get? And I usually encourage product leads to think bigger than their current role at the current company because that's the longer term thing. And then even more important is what I call the next bigger challenge.


So what is the next bigger challenge I would love to assign this product person to if I could because I know that would help them to learn a new skill or to, yeah, again, you know how, whatever it is, right? And creating such a list once a quarter, for example, you block yourself an hour in your calendar, you write down the names of your direct reports, and then you just think about, "Okay, what would be this next bigger challenge for them?"


It's not always the case that this comes around the corner the next day. Sometimes it takes a quarter or two or three, but if you wrote it down, you will see this opportunity and then you could assign this person to the opportunity and really help them grow substantially over time. So that's number two. Then, hopefully, you share this vision you're having for them with them and do a bit of an alignment session because it's not always that they have the same things in mind. Maybe your vision for them opens up their thinking and reflection a little bit more, but you have to have this conversation where you actually see them, and that's a lot of encouragement and bringing out the best in them and these kind of things. Then it's definitely a development plan, but I think that's more on them than it is on you because you don't get the apps from other people's branches.


So you cannot really help them develop, but you could remind them of going to the gym, for example, which would be step number five, by the way, that's the follow-up. But the development plan is something where a lot of product managers need help with because that's the inspirational part, that's situational part. That's where you could help them to really see some of the differences between your definition of good and their current profile, and maybe they need to get better in prioritization, maybe user interviewing is something they want to get better at. And then you could help them defining steps that they could take small things that they could learn. Maybe it's a book, maybe it's giving a presentation at a conference, maybe it's reflecting on your way of prioritizing, and then look at what others are doing. So whatever it is, that is something you could help them with.


And then finally, it's the follow-up. That's sometimes just a nudge every once in a while at the water cooler to say, "Hey, how is it going with your personal development plan?" And some really need the weekly reminder and some maybe need even a daily email, whatever it is, ask them how they want to be reminded of the personal development and how you could help them and the system while doing that because they still have a day job, right? So the development will never be the number one priority, and it shouldn't.

Lenny (00:15:58):

Awesome. So just to summarize really quick, I have the list here in front of me. One is have a clear sense of just what it takes to be a competent PM in your role. Two is an idea of where that PM is today and one thing they could do to improve. Three is a shared vision of how they'll take that next step. Four is having a development plan of how they can move towards this vision. And then the last piece is a commitment, just following up with them and making sure they're staying on top of this.

Petra Wille (00:16:23):


Lenny (00:16:23):

What's interesting about this, just looking at this, it feels a lot like a roadmap and a strategy and a vision for a product. The definition where you're today is the problem, idea of where you're going to go next is like a strategy, and then there's a vision of where you're going to go together and then you check in. So it's these standups. Do you think of it that way at all or is that just something I'm noticing?

Petra Wille (00:16:42):

I think about it that way as well, even to an extent because so many companies are lacking the real strategy bit, right, and it's similar with the people development strategy. That is something that I see not being present in so many environments as well. So even that similarity is a given, I'd say. Yeah.

Lenny (00:17:00):

Which of these do you find is the most lacking usually or slash where do you think the biggest ... If someone were to just like, "I want to be a better manager," where would you suggest they start? Is it right at the top, figure out what a great PM at this company is?

Petra Wille (00:17:14):

That is a great question. No, I usually advise people to start with the development plan because even if you have never done the assessment and even if you don't have your compass, your definition of what makes a good product manager, you usually have an idea or they have an idea of what they want to learn next or where they want to get better at. So I said they say something like my storytelling capabilities are maybe not as good as they could be or prioritization is people are constantly complaining behind my back that they don't get the order of the things in my backlog or whatever it is, or they think my opportunity solution freeze, and suck, or whatever it is.


And you could use that and start helping them creating this development plan. That's not a structured assessment, but that's a perfect start. And then it's obviously the follow-up that makes a big difference and that just takes so little time from the product lead, the small notches, that's super easy. And these development plans, I usually tell people to create a new one with a new headline or topic once a quarter or every four months. So that is not a massive time invest as well. So that would be my suggestion for where to start, if that helps.

Lenny (00:18:29):

Yeah, I love that advice because I can imagine a lot of people get stuck in that first one of, "I don't know all of the things that I need to know about what a great PM right now is." So that's a nice simple way to start.

Petra Wille (00:18:38):

And there is another aspect to it. A lot of product leads try to create their compass. And while they do so, they think about, "Maybe I should have an aligned version with my peers." So the other product leads in the company. And then we're talking about the career levels and all these things and often takes ages until something is coming back from HR or you have a unified version. So that is something where I usually say, "No, start with your own personal team because the folks in your team usually just have you as a line manager. So grade your compass and encourage your peers to grade their compass and, a bit down the line, it might make sense to harmonize some of that, but it's better to start helping your product folks and giving them some orientation than being totally paralyzed by the fact that it's not a compass that is used in the whole company."

Lenny (00:19:31):

I want to talk about this compass and how to figure out what a competent PM is. And I know you have a framework around this and I have some stuff I'll actually share, too. But on this latter piece of checking in the development plan, I wrote about this once, but I'll share it here briefly. Something that I did with my PMs that was so effective was every time we did a performance review, every six months, we had a performance review, we put together a Google Doc with all of the things that we agree they should be working on and we pick, say, five themes or three themes, and then we pick very concrete things they should do over the next six months that will help them develop these things.


And then more importantly to your last point is we did a monthly coaching session where we looked at the status of each of these things. So there's a color code for each of these 10 things that we all agreed you should be doing these things over the next six months and we checked in how they're going, so that the next performance review, it's not like, "Oh, I forgot all these things."

Petra Wille (00:20:24):


Lenny (00:20:24):

It's all like, "Oh, yeah [inaudible 00:20:25].

Petra Wille (00:20:26):

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And really, all of us know consistency beats intensity. So, really, the smaller time investments on a weekly basis and that applies for the PM's time investment in learning new things and it applies to the product leads investment and helping their people to grow. I think for both parties, it's more likely and more pleasant if you have small chunks of people development in your calendar. And that's why I like your story, right, because you were focusing on regular check-ins more than into the big bang 360-degree reviews.

Lenny (00:21:00):

And it builds on what your point of the development plan is something the person develops like, "Here's what I believe I should be working on." And it's not like you inform it a bit and give them feedback and maybe this isn't or maybe [inaudible 00:21:12] this other thing. But, yeah, the fact that they own it, I think, is really powerful.

Petra Wille (00:21:16):

Yeah, yeah.

Lenny (00:21:16):

Going back to knowing what is a competent PM at a company. Something I want to ... I'll make sure to include in the show notes for this is I actually did all this research on the career ladders at all of the biggest tech companies. So I have the spreadsheet that it's public of just the skills that every company evaluates your PMs by, but most companies don't have. They're not great. So say your company doesn't have a career ladder competency framework leveling thing, what do you suggest folks do to help figure out what is a competent PM here at our company?

Petra Wille (00:21:50):

I'd say use one of the assessments that are already out there. Maybe we can include this as well. I wrote a blog post where I put all the ones that I'm aware of into, so there's the PM Daisy and, obviously, Marty Cagan has an assessment, and I created a framework called the PMwheel and there are a few others in there. Go find one that is close to what you actually think a good PM should look like and then customize it. Don't use it just by copy paste because sometimes you have just rather technical PMs in your organization and then all these assessment points about user interviews and discovery are maybe not that applicable in your situation, right?


So use one template that is close what you want to achieve, heavy customize it because it is really a great inspiration to see, "Oh, these are all the things that other people think a PM should be doing." Or maybe you could merge one or two of those and tailor it to your needs. So that will be my first suggestion. Plus, reflecting on the personality traits because I think there are some things that you better hire for and that are super hard to develop in a corporate environment. So for me, that, for example, is curiosity. I think product people need to be curious about the world, how it works, about things, no matter the topic.


The best product people that I know, whatever the topic is, they're interested and tell me more about it. So that is, for example, there's something I would always check when hiring product people because I know it's hard to build that muscle or empathy, definitely something that I want to hire for. I know that I can help them develop this muscle a bit more and stepping into shoes of users, and stakeholders, and colleagues easier. But still, if there is, yeah, not a decent level of empathy built into this person, then it's nearly impossible for me as a product lead to help them get towards a seasoned level. So that's another important thing. Think about personality traits and think about skills and know-how and to think about skills and know-how. Use some of the already established assessments.

Lenny (00:24:03):

So we will try to link to as many of those that you mentioned in the show notes. Maybe talk about the PMwheel, which is the framework that you suggest for folks to understand, just like what are all the skills that a PM needs to have.

Petra Wille (00:24:14):

It's hard to talk about that really briefly. So I split all the things that PMs usually do in eight buckets, so to say. And it starts with our day able to understand the underlying problems that users and the company actually is having. Are they good in finding solutions to those problems? Then they do some planning parts. Are they able to maybe come up with a roadmap or with good goals that are aligning the team, these kind of things. And it's get it done that's already able to actually deliver the thing to work with the team that's maybe writing backlog items and all these kind of things.


Then it's listen and learn. So are they able to really gather a lot of data these days and then look into what customers are actually saying. So the qualitative and quantitative aftermath of stuff going live. And are they able to iterate on the solutions that they shipped?


And then it's another three buckets that are a bit out of the PM process, which is team. So do they know about how teams actually are different from working with individuals? Do they think they have to motivate a team? Can you motivate a team? So this whole teamwork part. Then it's personal growth. I put it on my PMwheel because I want that to be part of every conversation that I have with my PM. So that's why it's on the wheel. And then last, but not least, it's agile because when I was still coaching PMs, I often found that they never reflected on the underlying basics of agile ways of working. So they often never heard about the agile manifesto, or agile values, or agile principles, no matter what framework they're using. But I think that is key. So that's bucket number eight.


And every of those buckets comes with at least 15 framing questions. So is this person good at doing this? Is this person good in doing that? And it hopefully gives you a really nice and well-rounded picture of where this person currently is. And I usually advise people to do a self-assessment, then ask their line management for an assessment, and ideally some of your team members because they have a different perspective on you as a product management personality as well.

Lenny (00:26:27):

So folks who want to see that, maybe they Google PMwheel, Petra, and also link to it. How did you develop this? I managed it and came from talking to a lot of PMs and just like, "Here's the things that I see again and again PMs need to be good at to be successful."

Petra Wille (00:26:42):

Yeah, it was actually ... That would have been pretty cool. It was more the personal need of me starting off as a product coach. And you had this sense of, "I need this compass," because how should you start a coaching conversation. I first have to learn about what is their perception about them and their capabilities in there and the help. And then I can help them work on some of the things they want to work on. But it is often that coaches come totally unprepared to the coaching, especially when the companies actually are paying it for them and to some extent forcing them into the coaching. And then they're just like, "Okay, they told me to show up. Petra, what should we do in these sessions?" And then that's why I created the PMwheel to have these first conversations about where they think we should invest more time in our coaching sessions. So that's how I created it.

Lenny (00:27:35):

Cool. Coming back to just the bigger question, we've been talking about just how to become a better manager lead, a coach to your product managers. It's interesting how simple it is. The way you frame this in your writing is it's like five ingredients to be the best coach your PMs have ever had. And if you look at this list of things to do, it's very straightforward and not a lot of work. Figure out what they need to do to be successful, where are they now, align on that with them, and then just give them some things to focus on to move closer to where they need to be. That doesn't take a lot of time.

Petra Wille (00:28:11):

Yeah, I totally agree. The book talks about some more aspects, actually. So that's more or less the first two parts of the book. And then there is more on onboarding and hiring, create product people. There is a lot more. So that's actually the biggest part about how to coach certain concepts of today's product management industry, so to say. Hypothesis-driven product development, for example.


How do you explain these concepts to people that are not yet familiar with these things? And really, it helps product leads to reflect, "Okay, what are the small things that I could help them to get better at certain things?" Because that's actually where a lot of the magic happens. We tend to read all the books and we tend to know all our thought leaders and all these kind of things, but our product people often need super practical advice. So maybe it's really something like explaining them the Eisenhower matrix for getting better time management because they never heard about anything that could help them prioritize their tasks because that's the reality that we find in a lot of the companies, right? So that big part of the book is really this, how do you really help them understand the small tasks and things that the daily work requests them to do.

Lenny (00:29:31):

I think a lot of that I find is when you need something, that's the time to find it, and introduce it, and read about it. There's so much content.

Petra Wille (00:29:40):


Lenny (00:29:41):

I'm guilty of this. Just there's a lot of stuff to read and listen to as a PM. And I find you don't need to be listening to and reading everything all the time. It's just like, I need to figure out how to prioritize. Let's see what's out there that's awesome. And maybe save it for the future, but there's so much stress, I think, that goes into like, "Oh my God, I got to read everything all the time."

Petra Wille (00:30:00):

Yeah, I totally agree. I think two weeks ago, one of my coaches told me that he stopped reading a lot of books and consuming a lot of content and he instead dedicates the whole year to using one methodology or book. So in that case, pick Teresa's Continuous Discovery Habits and that's what they read over and over again for the whole year. And I think it's an interesting way of looking at things.

Lenny (00:30:30):

That is interesting. That's a very committed, better pick the right book that are or whatever [inaudible 00:30:35].

Petra Wille (00:30:35):

Yeah, that she has said is true. Yeah. But maybe some of your colleagues pick another book and then you can just share what you learned, and what works better, and a bit of a community thing.

Lenny (00:30:44):

Oh, we're going to get to that. I like that. Before we get to retelling topic, is there anything else you want to share along the lines of the folks are just like, "I want to become a better coach to my PMs?" Any other thoughts you want to close with?

Petra Wille (00:30:57):

Yeah. One easy tip is get yourself a list of great questions that you could ask in one on ones if you don't have the time to prepare. That will be one of my tips as well. There's several great coaching books out there. Some of questions are in my book as well. Yeah, just find some coaching questions, make your small compilation, and then really see what resonates with your team, and that often is a bit of a health check. So how are you doing? What would make you more successful in the role that you're currently having? All these kind of things could be helpful.

Lenny (00:31:38):

Do you have any other examples of those? That's actually useful and just a few more examples of coaching questions.

Petra Wille (00:31:44):

Yeah, it really depends. So what I find super helpful is a list of emotions because people tend to find it really hard to talk about how they currently really are. And I don't know why this is the case, maybe it's stress, maybe it's not feeling comfortable to talk about this with your line manager, which is another topic, and bringing us back to the topic of company culture. But that, for example, is something that I always have handy. And if I have this notion of, "Okay, this person maybe really needs a hack to some extent," then this conversation about, "Hey, look, there is this list of 30 emotions, where do you think you currently add and why and could I help you with that?" So that could be something. And then there are ... I think you talked about Mochary the other day, right?

Lenny (00:32:31):

Yeah. That episode just came out.

Petra Wille (00:32:33):

Yeah, exactly. And he has a great framework as well. I would need to look the questions up, but maybe we put them in the show notes as well. That's a bit of in-house check as well and huge. First of all, it's five easy assessment questions for your folks. And then it's more of, "Okay, if you're ranking yourself a six, how could I help you to make it a seven?" So it really focuses on incremental improvements, not crazy stressing everybody out improvements, not, "What could I do to make it a 10?" It's more really, "How could I improve your situation? Really build rapport, really be there for your product folks.


And I think creating this list of coaching questions as a go-to list could improve the quality of your one on ones because, let's face it, we often run into those ones. Either we ditch them or we run into those ones completely unprepared. And a development plan could help and a prepared list of coaching questions could help to make it way easier. And for your PMs to feel more valued.

Lenny (00:33:37):

That's a great callback to the Matt. And by the way, his name's France, Matt Moshary, instead of Mochary. The C-H was like a sh.

Petra Wille (00:33:37):

I see.

Lenny (00:33:44):

Yeah. Now, we know.

Petra Wille (00:33:46):

[inaudible 00:33:46] learn something. Now, we know. That's good.

Lenny (00:33:49):

Yeah. And you pointed out in his curriculum, he has a bunch of questions that you mentioned about where are you at one to 10 on this thing and then how do we get you to ...

Petra Wille (00:33:56):


Lenny (00:33:57):

... eight or nine. So we'll link to that in the show notes also. So many more things to read from this podcast.

Petra Wille (00:34:02):

So many things to link. Sorry.

Lenny (00:34:06):

Good God, poor listeners.


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Well, let's get to a happier, simpler topic, maybe not, storytelling. So just setting context. It feels like as a PM, also as a founder, also as just a leader of any kind, you're always told you need to be a great storyteller. That's a big part of leadership. Be a great storyteller because that gets people excited and onboard with your building. But it feels like I've heard so many things about becoming a better storyteller. There's always feels great when you're reading it and then you get to a deck you're starting or a meeting you're about to run or a doc and like, "Shit, how do I make this a good story?" I need some conflict maybe and a ... I don't know, there's a hero's journey, there's all these things that you're like, "I don't know, I don't know what I'm doing."


So I guess just a broad question. Say you're PM who wants to get better at storytelling, do you have any things you would suggest that are just concrete things someone could do today, tomorrow, this week to become a better storyteller, to level up their storytelling skills?

Petra Wille (00:36:18):

Yes, I think I would love to mention two things. So first of all, people that's starting, often they are getting a better storytelling journey. Often totally underestimate how many time actually great storytellers are investing in creating the stories and making sure they can share the story in nice ways and formats. So that's maybe the first tip, you have to plan to put in a lot of work to create your story.

Lenny (00:36:46):

And when you say a lot of work, what are you thinking? What's an order of magnitude of time depending on the scale of the story or a deck, or?

Petra Wille (00:36:55):

Rule of thumb. So I think if you ... Let's say you want to explain the rest of the company what you and the team are up for the next three to four months, so to say. Then I think that's two weeks of work, not eight hours a day, obviously, but two weeks of work, maybe one or two hours a day to really carve that story and think about different audiences and different framings of, when am I able to tell the story? And that is actually, I think, a rule of thumb of time investment. So it takes time because people often think, "I don't know, you just get better overnight in telling great stories." It's just not how it works. So you have to practice and you have to put in a lot of work and time to come up with a logical, compelling, motivating story that then lasts for longer than a week or two. So that's a lot of work.

[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And then the other tip would be really make sure that you're using language that speaks to the heart and the minds of the people because we constantly tend to use too much of our business lingo and it's banner blindness. Some of the words that we're using people totally overhearing them because we're using them so often. And it could be even things like product discovery. So maybe your company is already so fed up with all your product discovery stuff that you should start using different terms. Even if then, say, hypothesis-driven product management, it's more or less the same thing, and maybe it's even too complex. Maybe you can find something simpler and say, "We need to learn something about this particular thing," because studies show that's a scientific background. Stories really have an impact on our brain.


So hormones get released depending on how the story is actually formed, if they have cliffhangers or if it's really like, whoa, with the hero and think, "Where is it going to take him", or something like that. And that releases, yeah, hormones in your brain and that only happens if you're using natural world, so to say. So you could talk about smell, and sense, and how people feel, and how their life would be better if this product would be out, all these kind of things. So really make sure that you think about that really speak to their minds and to their hearts and remove all your three-letter abbreviations and all these kind of things, which is something that everybody says as well. But it is way harder to do it when you really start to create your story to remove all these terms. And that takes a lot of time, yeah, as well. So you have to really put an effort into the don't use too much [inaudible 00:39:46].

Lenny (00:39:47):

So the first point, which I love, is you think people are just good at this and naturally great at telling a great story. But a lot of it is ... Right. Some people are ... You do it enough and you're like, "It'll be quicker probably." But for most people, it's going to be just put in the time and it gets better and better and your story merges, you practice.

Petra Wille (00:40:04):

Yeah. And it's a cultural thing. So I really find in average Americans, for example, being better at it than most of us Europeans. And I think that's because even in your school system, it seems to me, I don't know, you tell me if that is the case, but storytelling and being in front of a class or something like this is something that is encouraged and valued already, where at least when I was at school, this was not part of the whole system at all. So really late it was part of what we did, but not from an early age. So it's just not something, yeah, that we trained in or that we used to. So sometimes even speaking in front of 30 people, people are freaking out because they never did that. So that's their cultural differences to that definitely as well.

Lenny (00:40:57):

Speaking of the idea of speaking in public and being nervous and that kind of thing, which I always get really nervous speaking in public and people don't think that when they hear me and other folks that are publicly speaking, but it's like freaks me out every time. Do you have any advice for people that want to become better public speakers/be less nervous speaking publicly?

Petra Wille (00:41:20):

I was really bad in [inaudible 00:41:21] as well, I have to tell you. And it's still not something that I love, but I know it's part of the work that we do.

Lenny (00:41:30):


Petra Wille (00:41:31):

And so the easiest way is to get in front of really small and super friendly audiences. So that is, I think, the first starting point. And I don't know where that is. That could be your team, that's a super small audience, usually five to 10 people, or maybe you pine with your company of 80 people or 120 people, maybe the company all-hands is already something where you could actually speak. That was my first time and I had to speak in front of the whole company at a company all-hands around 90 people back at the time. And I only had to give a brief update on what we did the last two weeks and it was like five minutes on stage, but it freaked me out.


So that's where I'm coming from and it really helped me to start small. Then product tanks, for example, this local product community meetups totally helped me because friendly human beings and not too many of them. So sometimes they're just 30 people attending and then you in the summer, not so many people are coming, so why not giving a talk there? So really start small and then grow the audience over time and always make sure, because that helped me a lot, to get feedback from strangers and peers if possible. Because the peers tend to give you the harsher critique, so to say, where the strangers are more polite, but they're not so familiar with the work you do or with the story that you want to tell so they can spot some gaps in your storytelling technique or something like that.


So that is something that helped me a lot to always have this friendly soul in the front row, where I know I get some feedback from later on. Plus, then having complete strangers and there's always somebody coming up after the talk, right, so they could be your first person giving you some stranger feedback, so to say.

Lenny (00:43:25):

What about if you're just about to give a talk and you're like, "Oh my god, I'm so nervous," do you find anything that helps you get over that?

Petra Wille (00:43:33):

I think the two things that work well, it's either the Superman pose, so that is one thing. If you're standing like this looking straightly up, that is one thing that helps many people. It's not my preferred one. And then the other one is a bit of the gorilla thing, just like tapping here. There is ... I don't know what's the English-

Lenny (00:43:56):

Vagus, the vagus nerve.

Petra Wille (00:43:56):

No, it's not the vagus nerve.

Lenny (00:43:57):

Oh, a different.

Petra Wille (00:43:58):

I think it's thymus.

Lenny (00:43:58):


Petra Wille (00:43:59):

I need to look it up. And if you just, yeah, hit that softly for some time ...

Lenny (00:44:07):

Yeah, I can hear it.

Petra Wille (00:44:07):

... then, yeah, that bumps your energy level, so to say. So that helps me. And again, friendly faces front row. So find people that you like and respect and that you know have the spark in their eyes when you start talking. That definitely helps as well.

Lenny (00:44:24):

Do you suggest doing these moves in the bathroom where no one can see you, or?

Petra Wille (00:44:29):

Yes, backstage. You're doing those ones backstage. And think about what you're wearing because if you're wearing something like that and do this before you enter the stage, people might see that.

Lenny (00:44:29):

They might love that.

Petra Wille (00:44:29):


Lenny (00:44:29):

Just come out beating your chest. It's a power move.

Petra Wille (00:44:29):


Lenny (00:44:39):

Do you think it's important for PMs and leaders in general to get great at public speaking or do you think it's okay if they are just okay?

Petra Wille (00:44:53):

It really depends. So I think not being able to speak publicly and to bring your point across ... Because a lot of people do public speaking, but they never bring their point across. So if you want to achieve both things, I think it is a career solo if you can for a product person. Can do the IC level product management job, but getting promoted is way harder if you're not good in telling stories and rallying the team behind the shared goal and all these kind of things. And you usually achieve this through good storytelling techniques.


And in some teams, I've seen the product person not being really, really good at it, but then the whole team helped creating the stories and stuff like this. So you definitely could compensate to some extent, but I would consider it a bit of a career solo if you don't get to decent level of storytelling and to a decent level of public speaking. So, yeah, I think it's important.

Lenny (00:45:54):

Who's the best storyteller PM that you've met and what made them great?

Petra Wille (00:45:59):

That's another hard question. So who had the biggest influence on me was definitely Jason Goldberg. He was my former boss and he was the first person that came into the startup that I was working for back at the time. And he was really the first person who entered every stage that he could find to talk about the things that he wants to achieve with us as a product team and as a product organization. In a way, it was really motivational, so it really helped me to experience that and how he was using this product, evangelizing techniques, yeah, to actually really tell the whole company what we're up for currently and what the problems out there he thinks are worth solving. So that was definitely an inspiration.


And then I think another great speaker is definitely Hans Rosling. He's no longer with us. That's sad. But he gave great TED Talks, really data-heavy TED Talks because they often hear from product people, yeah, but the work we do that's so boring, how could we make a great story out of that? And I think Hans Rosling showed over and over again that you can. So that definitely is an inspiration.


And then on a totally different note, I love spoken word poetry because it really talks to the heart and minds of people. And in my coaching, I usually send people off to the TED Talk from Sarah Kay, which has the nice title, If I Should Have a Daughter. And that really helps people to understand, "Ah, okay, that's how you could be playful with words." And that's what happens to me personally and to my body and to my emotions if I listen to something like that. So that's maybe three things I could be mentioning.

Lenny (00:47:49):

Hans Rosling's the guy with the world poverty charts and ...

Petra Wille (00:47:49):


Lenny (00:47:49):

Yeah, yeah.

Petra Wille (00:47:57):

On world and data.

Lenny (00:47:57):


Petra Wille (00:47:57):

Now, his son is, I think, in charge, but, yeah.

Lenny (00:48:00):

Cool. I'm excited. I'm going to watch that one again. That's a good reminder. Maybe just another question around storytelling. Say you're a PM and you're about to start a document or a deck and you just want it to be a good story, what are two or three things you should just do to set yourself up for success?

Petra Wille (00:48:17):

Yeah. First of all, don't sit in front of the blank page for too long, just start drafting something. I think there's a lot of beauty in story as a design tool, so to say, because it's even easier to change a story than it is to change a prototype, right? So even before you put something in writing, you could start talking about it and see how it lands and then tweak it. And I think that's the first thing, get going.


And then the other thing is go start talking about your story, go test it, see how it resonates, and then tweak it. And maybe you could use one of the proven story structures, find the one that helps you most. Really, even if it's super boring, but I'll use this hero's journey a lot where I think about, should I put the team in the heart of the story? Because if it's a story that should help me to motivate the team or to inspire the team to actions or something like that, then maybe it's nice if I put them in the center of the story and make them the heroes and talk about the demons and monsters they have to fight to once arrived at this brighter future.


And maybe some other times, it makes sense to put the user there and really talk about how their world and lives would have improved once this product is out and available. Or maybe it's even a feature that we're talking about or a bigger redesign or whatever you're currently working on, right? But you could use this proven story structure and see what are the things in there. So the call to adventure, what is the call to adventure? What is this bright future? And it helps you to start and to get going.


And then I usually advise people to have the story handy in various formats. So spoken that you could actually talk about it. Written, because we all tend to work in remote or asynchronous environment. So just a recorded video maybe. Yeah, it's good, but maybe a written version of it is nice as well. And the next one is an illustration that helps you making some of the core points of your story visible to the audience. And that could be a whiteboard drawing, a flipchart drawing. It could be a bigger, maybe it's five slides with emotional pictures on it or whatever it is, but be visual with your story as well.


And then you should have it ready in three different formats in a super short 75-second elevator pitch version. In the six minutes, I can do this before we actually start planning version. And ideally, I have to go to the company all-hands and have to talk about what we will look into for the next four months. And that's maybe an 80 minutes version. And 80 minutes is the length of an average TED Talk, and there is a reason for that. It has to do with attention spans and all these kind of things. So that's why I advise people to use this three length.

Lenny (00:51:14):

An example you're using there is a PM designing the vision for their team potentially or their strategy for the next, say, six months, right?

Petra Wille (00:51:21):

Yeah, exactly. So we don't need to create this complicated story for the next sprint, I'd say. That's too much of an effort, maybe waste of time. You need to look a bit further out to make it worth spending a lot of time on creating your story.

Lenny (00:51:38):

If you had to pick one book or resource that helped you become a better storyteller or that you found other people coming back to that helps them level up their storytelling skills, what comes to mind? I'll share one first as you think about that. There's a recent book that you wouldn't think would be good at this, but it is really good at helping understand how to tell a story. And it's called Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit. And it's by ... Yeah. And the title alone is a great lesson, which is, nobody wants to read your stuff. Yeah. But the premise of the book is how to make it so that people find it interesting and useful. It's by Steven Pressfield who wrote The War of Art and Bagger Vance and all these things. So it's one of his new books, I think. So that's what comes to mind.

Petra Wille (00:52:22):

That's pretty cool.

Lenny (00:52:22):

What comes to mind.

Petra Wille (00:52:23):

Back in the day when Marty Cagan was my product coach, he made me read Selling the Dream, which is the Macintosh story on product evangelizing by Guy Kawasaki. And it didn't help me to become a better storytelling, but it helped me realize that it's really important that I work on that skill. So that is actually the trigger and material that helped me is basically everything from Nancy Duarte and Duarte Inc. So there are even leadership books about rituals and how to ignite the spark in all the people you're having. So they're talking a lot about the leadership aspect of storytelling, but they have something for the IC level as well, 72 rules on storytelling and all these kind of things. And I have a lot of free material. I know it's not a book, but they have several books and that was great material that helped me to become better.

Lenny (00:53:16):

Man, the show notes on this episode are going to be out of control. It's going to hit some limit for [inaudible 00:53:20].

Petra Wille (00:53:20):

Yeah, maybe we're ... Yeah, the longest show notes ever. Sorry.

Lenny (00:53:24):

Oh my God. Yeah, it's going to be rough. I'm actually going to try to get Nancy Duarte in this podcast.

Petra Wille (00:53:29):

Ooh, yeah.

Lenny (00:53:30):

So that's a good ... That's-

Petra Wille (00:53:31):

Say hi if you do. Yeah, I'm a fan.

Lenny (00:53:34):

Okay, I'll do that. I'll do that. Okay. So getting to our final topic, which is around community. You're a big fan of finding community and just the power of being in a community, and I know you've done a bunch of research there, you're just like pumping your fist as we talk about this. I love it. So tell us why you're such a big fan of the power of community for product managers in general.

Petra Wille (00:53:54):

Again, the starting point was a rather egocentric starting point because I'm constantly thinking about, how could I scale the work that I do because I still see so many companies not getting a product coach or I still see so many companies where people development is not a priority, all these kind of things. And at some point, I thought, if the line manager is not taking care of the personal development, who could? And I talked to several of my colleagues about the question and, at some point, somebody said, "Yeah, that's what community of practices are often used for." So that's where a lot of people get their inspiration. And basically, I reflected on my career. And early on, I was in a super engaging product organization where, really, we tried a lot, we shared a lot. A lot of the things that we tried didn't work at all, but others really fell on fertile grounds and we could learn from each other.


And we invested quite some time in this sharing, but everyone got better over time because of this community being present. And so I decided to make this my topic for this year's research, so to say. And I was talking to a lot of my clients and former clients, "Hey, are you running a community of practice? If you don't run a community of practice, why is that?" Often, they have never considered running one, they don't know where to start. So that's another problem, obviously. And at some point, I decided to conduct a survey to see if random strangers can tell me about their companies and their community of practice. And it was super interesting as well.


For example, I found that oftentimes there is a bit of a community of practice internally, but they never heard about external product community. So they never heard of your community or to raise this community or mind the product or any of those external communities. And that is shocking to an extent as well because we're all so friendly human beings, happy to share what we learn, and they don't have to go through the same things over and over again. So that's why I think it's a super important question and I would love to help a bit more companies to start a community of practice or to mature the community of practice that they're already having.

Lenny (00:56:14):

What impact have you seen folks get when they join or find a great community? And then what are communities that you find are most useful? You mentioned ... And I want to get your advice on what I could do to make it even better, but maybe those two questions. What impact do you find when you find a great community and then what are some that you [inaudible 00:56:31]?

Petra Wille (00:56:31):

One impact, definitely, is stickiness. So people tend to stay with companies where they're learning and growing and can, yeah, get to mastery, so to say. Hello, Daniel Pink. So that is really something that people are thriving for, and if they find this in a company and a product community of practice could be a big part of that. So that is one impact.


Then the other impact, there's less people development on the desk of the product lead if there is a good product community of practice. So product leads, your life will get so much easier if there is a product community of practice. And it's actually a pretty cheap way of doing people development because trainings are expensive, conference tickets are expensive, getting external product coach, expensive. But helping people to learn from each other by making room for that and giving them a bit of time to reflect and to share what they're learning, that's rather cheap. So I think that is the benefits that I see.


Training budget impact. People tend to stay with the company a bit longer. Leadership wise, it's less a time that you have to invest in people development. And then it's just fun for a lot of people. That's another uptake, I'd say.

Lenny (00:57:54):

What are signs that the community that you're in, say, you found?You mentioned a bunch that I think are awesome. Teresa's community, we'll talk about my Slack a little bit. Mind the Product.

Petra Wille (00:58:02):


Lenny (00:58:03):

What are signs that the community you're in is good with your time? Something you should stick with versus like, "Nah, get out of there."

Petra Wille (00:58:10):

That is actually a good question. So I would say, if it helps you with networking, that is really something good if you meet nice, interesting people. So that is one thing I would love to mention. And then if you're learning something new every now and then, maybe not every day, maybe not every week, but every now and then, there should be some real nuggets where you think, "Oh, this is making my life easier," or "This is super interesting. I would never ever have stumbled upon this thing without the community." So learning something new and then reflecting on how much you already learned about a certain topic or know about a certain topic, which is contributing to the community.


You could be a community moderator, you could be somebody organizing some of the rituals, you could be somebody just sharing what you learned. So I think that is something that could be in a good community that is possible at least to share that everybody's sharing and that there's mutual trust and then it's often just, if you enjoy being part of this community. That's, I think, another super important thing to look into. Do you like the people there? Do you like to hang out with them? Do you think they're kind, lovely human beings? And is there some level of activity in the community because there's too many dead ones out there, more or less? And I think these are the things that I, yeah, would use as a benchmark.

Lenny (00:59:37):

When you're talking about this, initially, I was just imagining online communities, but there's also, obviously, offline communities probably somewhere in your local city.

Petra Wille (00:59:44):

Yeah, product things.

Lenny (00:59:44):

Right. Just like ... Yeah.

Petra Wille (00:59:46):


Lenny (00:59:46):

Yeah. So I think ... I don't know if people thought that when I was talking, but, yeah, there's probably meetups happening in your city with product managers that are meeting each other every week, every month maybe.

Petra Wille (00:59:55):


Lenny (00:59:56):

That sounds awesome. And I love your point about the why of the community versus a course versus reading lots of books. It's really affordable to join some product community, especially if it's online.

Petra Wille (01:00:09):


Lenny (01:00:10):

And the ROI could be really high.

Petra Wille (01:00:11):

Yeah. And it brings so much clarity in your thinking if you're sharing some things you learned with the community that this is a massive uptake as well, so give back. That really makes sense for you personally as well.

Lenny (01:00:27):

So you mentioned my Slack community. So if folks don't know this and they're listening, basically, if you're a paid subscriber committees letter, you get access to the Slack and there's about 10,000 people in there, mostly PMs and founders and growth leaders, and it's pretty damn incredible. It's probably the thing I'm most proud of of all the things I've done over the last few years around this newsletter and podcast.


And so if you're not in there, you should definitely check it out. It's thriving. There's meetups happening all over the world every month. There's a mentorship program, there's mastermind groups, all kinds of stuff. And you're familiar with it. And so I just wanted to ask you while I have you here, do you have any advice for how to make this community even more great?

Petra Wille (01:01:06):

That is not an easy question. First of all, congratulations. I really think it's a massive achievement to start such a community and to really have such a vibrant community because I know it takes a lot of energy investment at first to get it going and then a lot of energy to keep it on a certain level, so to say.


Yeah. What I found helpful is I have this community canvas that I use when I'm working with clients and some of these things require workshops to some extent. So it helps to reflect on what is the purpose of the community and that changes over time with the community members that are currently part of this community, right? So that is not a stable thing. So sometimes everybody has to pause for a second and then think about what is the purpose of this community, what are our values, and how will we define success?


It's pretty boring, I know, because it sounds so, so familiar with what we do in product management, but I think it applies for product communities as well. And then you need to find good rituals and rhythm, and you, Lenny, were already talking about some of the ones you are using. I know, for example, what Teresa is doing in her community. I interviewed her this year, so there is a blog post on that online as well where she talks about what she tried, and what did work, and what did not work. So I think that is important.


Then maybe not so important for your community. Well, let's see. Let's discuss, let me hear what you think, which is incentives and sponsoring. So how do you, yeah, value contribution? Are you giving back? Is it a kudos mechanism or is it something where people really earn badges of honor or earn time, earn more training budget. That's what a lot of companies do, right? If you're playing an active role in the community, then you get more training budget to spend or something like that, or they grant you time to do so. So if you say like, "Hey, I want to be part of this product community, could I travel a quarter or something like that because I want to go and see those people?" That is something that people do. So incentives and sponsoring, then it's roles. And that will be interesting in your case as well. Is Lenny the center of the community?

Lenny (01:03:34):

Yeah, I try really hard not to do that, actually.

Petra Wille (01:03:36):

Yeah, right. Yeah.

Lenny (01:03:36):

That's a [inaudible 01:03:36] try to not be the beacon of all answers. The actual goal of the community was I will not have all the answers. Let's just bring a bunch of smart people together that are already there's this interesting filter of who pays for content about product and growth and stuff.

Petra Wille (01:03:52):


Lenny (01:03:53):

Filter's really interesting. So the whole idea was get out of the middle of this thing and let people help each other and it's worked out really well.

Petra Wille (01:03:59):

Yeah, because that's what I would say after doing all this research, it's not sustainable if the whole community is on the shoulders of one, two, three people. So you need to distribute the workload and you need to distribute this responsibility because sometimes even things like, yeah, policing the community is not a pleasant job. And if there's only one person dealing with all of these things, then it's not really community because then it's a bit organized like a company in this pyramid scheme.


So I think more of it as circles, different circles of interest, and then building bridges between them because maybe not everybody in your community is interested in the same topics, but maybe they are the smaller circles of 10, 15 people interested in this one topic, 10, 15 people interested in this other topic. You may be connecting the dots, you may be giving a bit of impulse and inspiration, but maybe other people are doing the exact same thing, sharing their best reads and their worthy to watch videos, and all these kind of things. So content and curation, definitely, is another thing that you should think about and reflect on once in a while.

Lenny (01:05:08):

Cool. Thanks for the advice. Curious is so important. Especially early on, I found keeping the signal to noise high always. And especially early on, it was a really prayerful. So there's a lot of focus [inaudible 01:05:19] detail oriented about it all.

Petra Wille (01:05:21):

Yeah. Plus, a lot of communities that I see use engagement as a success metric, and I'm actually not sure if this is a good success metric. So as you say, signal versus noise is maybe the better success metric, which leads us the down the rabbit hole of how to [inaudible 01:05:38]. But, yeah, engagement is maybe not the predominant success factor for a community.

Lenny (01:05:44):

Yeah, that's interesting. You also said it's a lot of work. And just to give some shout-outs to folks that help me run this community that we have, I couldn't do this without them. Trey, who leads the community. Keani who-

Petra Wille (01:05:44):

Hello, Trey.

Lenny (01:05:55):

Hello, Trey.

Petra Wille (01:05:56):

I know Keani.

Lenny (01:05:58):

Keani curates the best conversations in the Slack every week and then shares them in this bonus email, Community Wisdom.

Petra Wille (01:06:04):


Lenny (01:06:04):

And then Ria, who's been helping out run the meetup program. And then Jess who's helping with our mentorship program and a few other things. So that's the core team that helps this whole thing run. Thank you to them all.

Petra Wille (01:06:15):

Thank you. And it's super interesting that you're sharing that because companies often don't want to invest in, yeah, full-time community manager is maybe the wrong word because that not necessarily has to be a full-time role, but there need to be some people that really have a decent amount of time to invest in running this community because otherwise it's not working. And I still think it is still cheaper than sending everybody to trainings and conferences all the time, and it has a lot of, yeah, ripple effects and network effects.

Lenny (01:06:48):

Well, guess what, we've reached our very exciting lightning round.

Petra Wille (01:06:52):

[inaudible 01:06:52].

Lenny (01:06:52):

So I'm going to ask you a few questions. Whatever comes to mind, let me know. We'll go through it pretty fast. 

Petra Wille (01:06:57):


Lenny (01:06:57):

And are you ready?

Petra Wille (01:06:58):

I'm so ready.

Lenny (01:06:59):

So ready. What are two or three books that you recommend most to other people?

Petra Wille (01:07:05):

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Dobelli. It talks about human biases in a really nice and illustrated way. Then what I use a lot in my coaching practice, especially with senior executive, is Outcomes Over Output because it's a super strong concept, I'd say. And then maybe I want to mention two books that are not yet written, but two concepts that I hope will make it into books, and one is Martin Eriksson's Decision Stack. And then there is another book about public speaking that hopefully might come out if some people are supporting it on Kickstarter. And that is called Present Yourself, a public speaking book.

Lenny (01:07:42):

Awesome. If you can sign a link to that, we'll include it also in the show notes.

Petra Wille (01:07:45):

Of course.

Lenny (01:07:46):

The record ...

Petra Wille (01:07:47):

Show notes, hello.

Lenny (01:07:48):

... longest-ever show notes. Speaking of that, what's another podcast that you love?

Petra Wille (01:07:52):

I love the Product Experience podcast. And if you're able to speak German, then there is one that is called [foreign language 01:07:58]. That's a nice interview series.

Lenny (01:08:02):

[foreign language 01:08:02], I like that. I do not speak German, but I thought it'd be fun to listen to, anyway. What's a favorite recent movie or TV show that you've enjoyed?

Petra Wille (01:08:11):

Maybe New Amsterdam. I loved it. That's actually a medical director, Matt, and he's finding very unconventional ways to solve problems and I think he's a great leader, so maybe that's a nice framing for watching the show.

Lenny (01:08:26):

What was it called? New Amsterdam?

Petra Wille (01:08:27):

New Amsterdam.

Lenny (01:08:28):

Sweet. What's a favorite interview question that you'd like to ask when you're interviewing folks?

Petra Wille (01:08:32):

Definitely the tell me about the last time. So tell me about a time when you did your last round of user interviews. Tell me about your last time when you onboarded a new colleague because I think as a user interviewing this, tell me about the last time you really, yeah, sparks nice conversations and interviews.

Lenny (01:08:54):

What are five SaaS tools or products that help you do the work that you do now? And if there aren't enough of those, just great apps that you love right now.

Petra Wille (01:09:04):

I'm totally not into product management SaaS tool these days because as I'm just coaching people on hourly basis, I'm no longer the one looking into the SaaS tools they're using. So that's quite a tough question. Things that I use a lot in my personal work is rather boring stuff like bookkeeping software and time tracking [inaudible 01:09:25]-

Lenny (01:09:24):

Which ones? That's interesting.

Petra Wille (01:09:27):

Harvest is what I use for time tracking and bookkeeping, and I love that. It makes my life easier since a few years already. And then, yeah, new banking apps that are coming up that I'm using for my accounts. One is Qonto, I think it's a German bank, but they really did a great job in the user experience, super seamless in the apps and all these kind of things. Yeah. So that's two cool products that I love to use.

Lenny (01:09:54):

Great. Who else in the industry do you most respect as a thought leader, influencer-type person?

Petra Wille (01:10:01):

As I'm a conference organizer as well for a conference that was called the Product Engage here in Hamburg, that is the super hard question for me to ask because so many people have been on that stage, that I would consider being a thought leader, they would maybe not consider them being a thought leader. I think the thought leader thing is pretty hard anyway, so there's so many different voices in our industry. And I think looking at the guest list of your podcast actually is a very good start when you think about thought leaders and getting more inspirations because they are ones that we know and some hidden gems on there.

Lenny (01:10:37):

Great answer. Great answer. Petra, thank you so much for doing this. We've hit the record on show note length, I guess, so that's a milestone. Congrats.

Petra Wille (01:10:48):

Yes, thank you. Was a pleasure.

Lenny (01:10:51):

Two final questions. Where can folks finding online if they want to learn more, reach out, maybe work with you and how can listeners be useful to you?

Petra Wille (01:10:58):

Ooh, interesting. Yeah, the first one is easy, LinkedIn, Petra Wille, you can find me there. And then there is my website, That's my website. And how can listeners be helpful to me? Whew, that's a tough one. I think it could be mutual beneficial if you are a product manager IC level and you would love to get better supported in your personal development and go by my book and just hand it to your manager, if that's appropriate. Or just put it on their desk and just forget that it's there and hopefully they read it or something like that. I think that is how I would love to answer the last question.

Lenny (01:11:40):

Remind folks what the book is called and they can find on Amazon [inaudible 01:11:43].

Petra Wille (01:11:42):

Strong Product People.

Lenny (01:11:46):

Strong Product People. Go check it out on Amazon.

Petra Wille (01:11:48):


Lenny (01:11:48):

Petra, thank you so much for doing this.

Petra Wille (01:11:50):

Lenny, was a pleasure.

Lenny (01:11:52):

It's my pleasure.


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