The Stephanie Leue Hypothesis: Leaders Don’t Have the Right Answers, They Have the Right Questions

Stephanie has designed products and led product teams in both enterprise businesses like PayPal and startups like Contentful for over 15 years. She also co-founded her own startup. Actually she is educating Product Managers to master the fundamentals of coaching.

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we cover Paypal’s transition from Waterfall to Agile and how to manage high performing teams. We also cover how to be a product manager without an engineering degree, and how to use active listening to empower teams by asking the right questions.

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Resources

Questions We Explore in This Episode

“I learned that I'm an even better leader if I do not give answers to all the questions that my people have because they might have better answers than I do. If you're asking them appropriate questions, they will find a solution.”

How did Stephanie start her 15 year long career? How did Marty Cagen help Stephanie start transitioning into product? Was product manager a well known title in the early 2000’s? Was Stephanie able to pivot internally into product? How was working at Paypal in the early 2000’s? How did Paypal transition from Waterfall to Agile? How much does a product manager struggle when using waterfall? About how large was Paypal when Stephanie joined? How did Paypal communicate change over a large enterprise? How much training did Paypal invest in preparing for Agile? How long did it take for Paypal to finish their transition?

How did Stephanie join Contentful? How big was her team in Contentful? What changed switching from an enterprise to a startup? How did Contentful manage manage high collaboration across departments and distances? What did Stephanie learn about leading high performing teams? How can you best give high performers valuable feedback? How do you set team goals as a leader? Why do high performers struggle to grow in their careers? How is being a servant leader different from traditional leadership? How can servant leaders better tap into their team’s skill and knowledge? How can active listening help you be a better leader? How do you set more personalized goals? How do you measure goals and what are next steps after accomplishing them?

How did Stephanie pivot into product coaching? How did Stephanie learn to be a coach? Why did Holly become a coach? What surprises Holly & Stephanie after coaching in product for years? How can consulting improve your training? How did Holly & Stephanie handle the pandemic? What are drawbacks of consulting vs being a product manager? Can product building principles be applied to any field? How do you transition from product to another discipline? How fast is the rate of innovation in product vs other disciplines? How is innovation handled in the private vs the public sectors?

Do you need an engineering background to be a good product manager? What types of engineers make good product managers? What is it like for engineers when transitioning into product roles? How can diversity in backgrounds help empower a team? How can you lead an engineering team without a technical background? How can adding accessibility empower your products? What policies do companies use when having multiple languages can be spoken? How fluent are Berliners in English? How big is the startup market in Berlin?

What advice does Stephanie have for succeeding in product? As a coach, what changes when you switch to active listening? How do teams change when you become an active listener? How do active listeners empower teams and meetings? How do you help open new opportunities for coaching clients? How do you reframe your personal narrative for your career?

Quotes from this episode

“I learned that I'm an even better leader if I do not give answers to all the questions that my people have because they might have better answers than I do. If you're asking them appropriate questions, they will find a solution.” Click To Tweet ”The more colorful a team is, the better the product is. All these different angles that the people bring to the table help us to create beautiful products in the end.” Click To Tweet ”I see so many wonderful product managers who struggle and who don't believe in their own abilities and strengths. The moment that I started to believe in myself and to really allow me to love myself is the moment where things became… Click To Tweet

Transcription

Holly:
Hi, and welcome to the Product Science Podcast, where we’re helping startup founders and products, leaders build high growth products, teams, and companies through real conversations with the people who have tried it and aren’t afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I’m your host, Holly Hester-Reilly, Founder and CEO of H2R Product Science
This week on the Product Science podcast, I’m excited to share a conversation with Stephanie Leue. Stephanie is the product coach at All About Product. Stephanie has designed products and led product teams in both enterprise businesses like PayPal and startups like Contentful for over 15 years. She also co-founded her own startup and she is educating product managers to master the fundamentals of coaching. Welcome Stephanie.

Stephanie Leue:
Welcome Holly. And thanks for inviting me to your podcast.

Holly:
You’re welcome. I’m excited to have a conversation with you. So you’ve been doing this for like 15 years. How did it begin?

Stephanie Leue:
Usually I’m trying to not tell the story because it feels like so standard. But Marty Cagan brought me into product management actually. I was working for a German startup called Spreadshirt back then. And my job title was Manager Quality and Innovation, actually. And we were transforming from Waterfall to Agile and we had a three day training course with Marty Cagan and he was talking a lot about product manager and Agile and product managers and the role of product manager.
And while listening to him, I figured out that the thing that I’m doing there actually has another title and that’s product management. And that was so eyeopening for me that immediately, I was sure that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. So it was my first touch with product management. And since then I’m, well, I would say addicted.

Holly:
Absolutely love it. It can be addicting, can’t it?

Stephanie Leue:
It can.

Holly:
Yeah. So what was the company that you were at then like? And did you manage to change your title at that company?

Stephanie Leue:
No, I was not. I was even called Global Manager Quality and Innovation. It is a t-shirt customizing company and I was mainly responsible for all these internal products and internal processes. So we were helping to improve the customer service tools, the tools for the production side. And I was just sticking to the title, which was fine. But after leaving the company, I had a very clear idea of what I need to look for in order to proceed in my career. So I was actively searching for product management roles until I was contacted by a recruiter telling me about a job at PayPal. Actually a product management job. So I applied and eventually I got the job.

Holly:
Cool. What was it like at PayPal for you?

Stephanie Leue:
Terrible in the beginning, because when I had joined PayPal, PayPal was very Waterfall. So the main job of a product manager back then was to write PRDs. And I was really surprised when talking to all of my colleagues that they were writing 40, 50, 60 pages long PRDs and they were telling me stories that they write these PRDs and then actually they just put them in a box and store them somewhere because you can never be sure whether the things that you’ve written down will ever be built.
And it’s very likely that if they are built, you will never get notified of it. So you will only figure out that your product went live after customers were calling in because something was broken. And that was my start with PayPal. And I was really struggling because I had no idea of how to write PRDs and I’m not a big fan of writing long documents. And I was not used to that at all.
But lucky me PayPal was just starting to transition to Agile as well and introducing various new models and really introducing new methods and doing a lot of training with us. So almost a year after I started, PayPal made the transition from Waterfall to Agile. And we were really building products like top notch product managers did back then. And for me, that was a huge learning curve to be honest. So after a year I think I settled down and I was in a place where I felt a sense of belonging.

Holly:
Oh, that’s great. Sounds like it really changed while you were there.

Stephanie Leue:
It was, dramatically. And it was really impressive because PayPal was still a part of the eBay company back then. So it was huge, right? We had 10,000 employees back then. And transitioning such a huge company within a year from Waterfall to Agile, that was really impressive. And I think I just learned a lot about how to be customer driven and how to measure impact and how to really set goals and work in a team. And also it was just an awesome journey. So I learned a lot and I think it was definitely a great starting point for a new in the business PM like I was back then.

Holly:
That sounds amazing. Do you have any ideas about some of the things they did to make that transformation that were really effective?

Stephanie Leue:
Yeah, I think it was the transparent communication on the one hand. So we were always informed about what is going to happen and what are the next steps, what is expected from you, how do we measure success? So communication definitely was one of the key points in the phase back then. And then there was also a lot of training. So we really had tons of training sessions and meetings in order to have a shared understanding of how we want to build products in the future.
And I think the third thing was that they just hired really experienced people. So we suddenly had UX designers and UX researchers and the some data people that were experienced in how to collaborate cross-functionally and how to do proper research with customers. Because that was the key point in the transition, to start doing true customer research and figuring out what are the problems that we’re going to solve? And by hiring all of these people and training the product people in parallel, I think we just all shifted our mindset as a group. And that just helped us to really move fast.

Holly:
That’s incredible. I find it rare to hear stories about transformations that have gone that quickly to make that kind of transition in a year and at such a large company as well. It must have really done something right.

Stephanie Leue:
I think so. And I don’t know if all of my colleagues would tell the same story. Because often it’s also quite a personal point of view, but I was really lucky to be in that situation exactly at that point in time. So for me, it was really stunning.

Holly:
That’s wonderful. What did you do next after that?

Stephanie Leue:
Actually, I was with PayPal quite long. So I was also building PayPal 2.0 for the German market as a product owner. But in order to succeed in my career, it would’ve been necessary to move to the U.S., which I didn’t want to because I have family in Berlin and moving to another country was just not on my agenda. And so, I left PayPal in order to climb the career ladder. And I worked for a German eCommerce startup for a couple of months as their CPO and figured out that eCommerce is actually not where my heart beats, because it is a very marketing driven approach. And there’s not too many e-commerce companies in Germany that do product really well.
So I left the startup quite fast and moved to Contentful where I took over the growth team in the beginning, and then stepped up to director of product and was responsible for almost 20 people. And Contentful, I don’t know, maybe not everyone knows what Contentful does. But Contentful is a headless CMS provider.

Holly:
So tell me more about what it was like to lead a team there.

Stephanie Leue:
Awesome. It was really impressive environment to be honest. I was completely thrilled by the mindset and the way of working at Contentful. I’ve never experienced that before. When you are working in a corporate, things are quite slow. When you want to implement a new product idea, you probably have to pitch that idea for two to three years, at least that’s what happened to me. And then when you’re building that product, it might take a year or even two, just because like the entire code is so complex and organization is so complex that there is no fast moving possible.
And moving to Contentful was just eyeopening because they really established a culture of high performing teams. So they had various people from various countries and various cultures and all of them were just collaborating very closely with each other, even across departments. And for me, that was impressive because I’ve never worked in such a fast paced environment, to be honest. So on the one hand, I loved it because I met so many high performing people and so many people who just wanted to get things done. At the same time, I was so overwhelmed by the speed that you can deliver in such an environment that I really needed to get used to it, to be honest.
And leading a high performing team is quite stressful as a leader. Because high performers just are hungry like crazy, right? They want to get input, they want to grow, they want to have answers. They want to drive things. They want to measure things and they are constantly challenging you as a leader. And that was something that I was not used to before. So my learning curve was definitely very steep.

Holly:
I’d love to hear a little more about that. I know that we have listeners who are early in their time as a leader. And sometimes it can be challenging to figure out how to work with those high performers that work with you and under you. Especially when they’re asking for feedback and they’re asking to grow and they’re asking to lead things. How do you figure out what they’re ready for? And what’s the right way to meet their needs?

Stephanie Leue:
I think that wasn’t easy at that time when I was working for Contentful because I was in the middle of my personal learning curve. And I probably only figured out later because after leaving Contentful I’ve done a coaching training. So I’m a certified coach in the meantime. And I think in retrospective, I would have a better answer on how to lead high performing teams than I had back then. But now in retrospective, I would say it has a lot to do with proper goal setting on the one hand. So you really need to understand what is driving my people, what are their ambitions? What are their challenges, their strengths, how do they want to grow?
So it has a lot to do with standing who they are and where they want to be in a couple of years so that you can really be the leader that those people deserve. And they don’t need handholding because they can get things done without your support. They don’t need micro managers because usually they’re really experts in their domain and they know exactly what to do. But they need people with a gross mindset who just help them to understand where they can grow and how they can improve.
Because high performers usually always get so many positive feedback that they lack resources or feedback to understand what are their growth areas because no one can tell them. So I think these are into things. Understanding who they are and where they want to be and challenging them and finding appropriate feedback to help them to grow further, because this is what they want to hear. And that has a lot to do with active listening, for example. And understanding that you, as a leader are not an expert, they are the expert. And usually they do have an answer for their specific situation. They just need someone asking the right questions in order to help them to grow.

Holly:
Interesting. I think that last point about asking the right questions is really important. I always think about the coaching habit. How to say less and ask more.

Stephanie Leue:
And that’s challenging. I don’t know how your experience is, but especially as a leader and especially when you’re new to leadership, my understanding of leadership was always that people expect me to have answers. So whenever someone was asking me like, “Stephanie, how can I do X, Y, Z?” My immediate direction was to give an answer, even if I probably was not sure whether the answer is right or wrong. It was just about me being the expert and the leader and giving answers and always looking like I’m smart and having answers to all the questions of my people.
And I think one of the things that I really learned is that I’m an even better leader. If I do not give answers to all the questions that my people have. Because they might have better answers than I do, because they are the experts in their areas. So asking questions is a challenge because you have to hold back your opinion and you have to take time to listen on the one hand and to trust the process that if you’re asking them appropriate questions, they will find a solution.
And maybe you feel like you’re slowing down in the beginning when you switch to asking questions. But as soon as you get used to it, I feel like things are really speeding up because people start thinking by themselves and they don’t get back to you as a leader in order to ask you to help them to get things solved. But they rather come up with really creative solutions that I, as a leader, probably would never have been able to identify.

Holly:
Awesome. I love that. You also mentioned goal setting. What sort of practices do you have around that when you’re working with team members or coaches?

Stephanie Leue:
Like early in my career, I always thought that goal setting needs to be tied to the company goal setting process, right? Because usually at least many companies have company goals. And I always thought that somehow as a leader, I just need to break down these company goals so that my direct reports can relate their specific goals back to the company goals. Now, after my coaching training, I think like, yes, that’s their truth, right? Probably you will have team goals and probably you will also have goals that are tied to company goals. But the more important point from my perspective is to set up goals for the individual. So to figure out where do they want to be in a year or two or three, and tell them to define an answer to that question by themselves.
So the goal setting process is nothing else, but asking the right questions again and helping your direct reports to define not only a goal for the next month or two or three or year, but also to understand what is their higher goal. Like what is behind this, “I want to be a leader”? Or what is behind this, “I want to get promoted”? Like, what is their higher goal and what becomes possible if they achieve their higher goal? Who are they and how would they identify that they achieve their goals? And all of these things are things that usually when I define goals with either coaches or [inaudible 00:14:37] reports, are things that I just get answered through open questions, actually.

Holly:
That makes sense. We kind of jumped over you making the transition from Contentful into what you do now. I’d love to hear a little bit more about how you made that transition.

Stephanie Leue:
Yeah, it was the pandemic and I’m not only product manager, I’m also a mom of four children. And working full time in a pandemic while having kids at home is almost impossible. And I felt like it’s probably not the right time to focus all in on my career, but rather figure out how can I balance my lifestyle and my working life and the things I’m passionate about. And I actually started my coaching training during the pandemic while I was working full time. So that was crazy enough. And after finishing my coaching training, I figured out that this is something that I’m really passionate about.
Helping people to grow was always something that I was passionate about when I was a leader. But as a coach, I get the opportunity to also help other people outside of my company to identify their strengths and to define their goals and to just grow. And I practiced a lot during my coaching training already, and it just energized me. So while I was working in my full-time job, I just did more and more coachings with people outside of my company. And I felt like if that’s energizing me and if people are willing to pay for it, why not just jumping and trying how it feels to be a coach for product leaders or aspiring product leaders. So I just quit my job really like overnight. I just quit my job and started my solopreneurship as a coach.

Holly:
That’s awesome. I love it. I made my own journey to running H2R Product Science for similar reasons. I had just had my second child and I really wanted that flexibility to kind of craft the life that worked for me.

Stephanie Leue:
And did it work for you?

Holly:
Yes. It’s been incredible. It’s so worth it. And I’ve been so blessed to be able to have the life and career that I want for the past five years it’s been, since I started H2R Product Science.

Stephanie Leue:
Yeah. What was your biggest learning?

Holly:
Whew, that’s a really good question. I think I was surprised at how many people are out there that really need the help. And now it feels silly to me to say that, but when you’re in a company, your world is kind of myopic. And now my view of everything is so much more expanded because I’ve been seeing so many different companies and so many different people. And the rate of learning has just been incredible and I love that.

Stephanie Leue:
That’s true. That’s can you imagine to ever go back to a corporate job?

Holly:
Well, I actually did during the pandemic, so that’s the funny side of this is we kind of did the opposite. And the reason for me was that I needed the stability. And said at that point in time in my life, I was just like, “The stability’s more important.” And so I took a corporate job, luckily though it was with a client of mine. And so part of the deal was that I got to keep running H2R Product Science. So it was sort of a hybrid of kind of going back to corporate, but kind of not because I still got to keep some coaching clients. What about you? Could you imagine yourself ever going back?

Stephanie Leue:
Definitely. And that’s also something that I have to demystify for myself. Like if you’re reading all these LinkedIn streams and Twitter streams, I think it always feels as if being a solopreneur or being an entrepreneur is like the one goal that everyone has to achieve and that there is a lot of beauty in just working for your own and being your own boss. But honestly, I’m not sure if this is something for everyone. Because it’s also a stretch. You have couple of different clients, you’re jumping from one client to another. You probably never have a sense of belonging actually, because you might be part of a team for a month or two, or maybe even six, but then you are gone and you can never really be part of their achievements or of their longer term goals.
And there’s also a lot of self marketing and acquiring customers and all the stuff that probably you can’t deliver naturally as a product manager. So yeah, I can definitely imagine to go back to a job at one point in a time because I just love leading teams and I love building products so much. Also I try to escape a couple of times. I think we always go back to product management.

Holly:
Tell me more about trying to escape. What happened?

Stephanie Leue:
What happened? I mean when you’ve built one product and then you’ve built the next product and probably even founded your own startup like I did, things are just repeating. It doesn’t matter in which industry you are in or in which company or if it’s big or small, somehow building products is always kind of the same thing. And it might feel boring at a certain point in time. And that is what happens to me regularly. That I’m wondering like, “Well, I’m doing that more than 15 years now. And I’m even working for more than 20 years in internet companies. So there must be something outside of my bubble that is as exciting as product management.”
So one thing I did for example, is I started my master in people and organizations, because I felt like now that I do have those coaching training, it might be awesome to also do something with people in the HR space or in the organizational development space or so. And I try to find some jobs and look for jobs, but figure it out that none of the jobs is as exciting as product management for me. I just can’t stick to other things. And it is just me always getting back to where I started.

Holly:
Yeah. I think that happens to a lot of us. Sometimes we find ourselves stretching a bit. Especially as a consultant, sometimes you maybe take a project that a little bit of a stretch from typical product management. And the end of the day, it always feels good to come back to product.

Stephanie Leue:
It is. I don’t know why, honestly. I don’t know if the reason is that probably if you work for too long in product, it’s also hard to apply for jobs outside of product. Because most of the companies still look on your CV and they probably see that you’ve never done anything and, say, it’s HR or marketing. So you won’t get an invite to any interviews anyways. So maybe it’s that thing. But maybe it’s also this insecurity, whether when you start a new career, if this is really as fulfilling as your current job.
So I think for me, it’s both, I’m not sure whether I should apply for such jobs and then if I really want to do such jobs. Because at the end, there’s still so much to learn in product management and there’s so much flexibilities, new frameworks pop up, new technologies come out, new ways of working and collaborating can be explored. So there’s still always kind of exciting stuff going on, which I think keeps me busy for ages probably.

Holly:
I feel like the pay of change in product management is higher than in some of the more established disciplines. So I think that really keeps us entertained and engaged as practitioners.

Stephanie Leue:
Yeah, that’s true. I had a similar conversation recently with someone from marketing and he said the frameworks that were valid 20 years ago and all of the books, you can still refer to all of that stuff because it’s still valid. Yes, there is certain change in marketing, but it’s not comparable to product. So I agree with you.

Holly:
I think it’s really fun being in a field that changes so fast. I know that for myself anyways, the reason I even got into tech was just falling in love with the pace of change and having had the comparison point of working in environmental engineering for the government is what I was working in before I joined tech. And I had loved studying chemical engineering and then going out and practicing it. The pace was just so slow and I realized it’s heavily regulated and everything’s been around for a hundred years and super minor innovations or what’s happening in the processes of chemical and environmental engineering and comparatively to tech. I know in environmental there are more changes than in some other engineering, but compared to being in software, it’s no comparison.

Stephanie Leue:
Yeah. So you made the transition from engineering to product, actually?

Holly:
I did, yeah.

Stephanie Leue:
Would you recommend the same for other people? Because I think it’s a discussion that is ongoing since a couple of years now. Like, “Do you need engineering background as a product person?” And I do have a couple of people around me that transitioned from engineering to product, and I think there’s good and bad in that. What’s your experience?

Holly:
Well, I think it really depends a little bit on what kind of engineer you are. And by that, I don’t mean are you chemical engineering or environmental or civil. But rather like how driven by the customer are you as an engineer? Some engineers are really driven by the customer, are really willing to work with the business to understand what works for the business while still having a passion for the technology. And I think that kind of engineer makes a fantastic product manager. But on the other hand, if you’re engineer who really just wants to fiddle with the technology to figure out an optimization of the tech, then maybe you should stay an engineer.

Stephanie Leue:
That’s true.

Holly:
Yeah. What is your opinion?

Stephanie Leue:
I think it depends on many different factors as you already said. It depends on the product for sure. There are many quite technical products. Contentful for example, is a quite API driven technical product. And there were areas where I would say it definitely makes sense to have engineering background. You probably can be a better product manager if you have that background in such an environment.
So from my perspective, it totally makes sense. I’m also currently working with a VP product that transitioned from engineering to product and he just loves his new job. He’s totally amazed about what the new job does to him because he says being an engineering manager or being an himself, coding was kind of a different thing. There was like, you were all coding by yourself and the project was finished at some point in time and there wasn’t as much change as it is in product management. And usually there’s also not that much like strategic knowledge and strategic work required or visionary work required as it is in product.
And now transitioning into product management into this leadership role for him was a completely eye opener. Because suddenly he figured out that working in a strategic manner, doing visionary workshops and working with a team on a bigger goal is something that is so completely fulfilling for him that he even can’t imagine to ever go back to coding because what he’s doing now is so much more fulfilling for him, that it’s just his passion.

Holly:
Oh, that’s beautiful.

Stephanie Leue:
It is.

Holly:
Yeah. Listening to that, I absolutely think that can be the case. And at the same time, I also want to say that I very much believe that there are great product managers who do not have an engineering background.

Stephanie Leue:
I do. I don’t have any engineering background and I was really suffering from that. And I was really questioning whether I can be a good or best case, even great product manager without having an engineering background. And what I did early in my career is I was asking the engineers I was working with whether they feel like I lack engineering background and if it would help them, if I had this engineering background? And the answer was surprising because all of them said, they don’t want me to have any engineering background or knowledge at all. Because the question that I’m asking are quite interesting for them because they see that I basically understand what they are doing, but I can’t give them any ideas or suggestions on how to implement certain things, but I can ask interesting and relevant questions to help them start a thought process.
So my personal experience is that even without an engineering background, in the right environment, it doesn’t matter. So you can really thrive as a product manager, no matter whether you have engineering background or not. But I think it might make sense to really just ask this question to your engineers or to your peers, whether they are missing the engineering background, just to probably get rid of your own concerns.

Holly:
Absolutely. I love that idea. I think people should definitely do that. I know that cross-disciplinary teams are so valuable because when we bring different questions to the table… And we can sit in a customer interview and all pick up on and hear different things from the customer because we’ve got different background. And that makes a better product.

Stephanie Leue:
Yeah. This is just beautiful. I call that diversity of thoughts, right? We need different cultures. We need different backgrounds. We need different kind of behaviors, whether it’s introverts, extroverts, ADHD people, whatever, [inaudible 00:27:22] diverse, it doesn’t matter. The more colorful a team is the better the product is because all these different angles that those people bring to the table just help us to create beautiful products at the end.

Holly:
Yeah. Do you have any stories of a time where you had a particularly diverse team working on a product?

Stephanie Leue:
It was definitely, again, at Contentful, I would say. We had a similar situation at PayPal because we were working with people from India, San Francisco, UK, France, Germany with different backgrounds as well, but there was never a team as diverse as the one at Contentful. I think we were, when I joined, 120 people from 74 nations.

Holly:
Wow.

Stephanie Leue:
So it was really colorful. It was stressful on the one hand because there was a lot of alignment and getting to understand the other people and getting or gaining awareness of strengths and challenges and getting to know each other. But it was also extremely powerful and helpful to strife in such an environment.

Holly:
That’s amazing. Was it a fully remote company or how did…

Stephanie Leue:
No. Actually it was a Berlin based company. In the meantime they are fully remote, but when I worked there it was a Berlin based company. And in Berlin, anyone speaks English anyways. So some people say that there aren’t even true Berliners in Berlin anymore. I am one, but actually there are more people from across various countries than Berliners in Berlin, I assume. And you don’t even need to speak German here because people come from all over the world and speak English anyways.

Holly:
Has it been like that for a long time or is that more of a recent thing?

Stephanie Leue:
I’m not sure. I think I learned about that when I started working at Contentful. But if I talk to colleagues, I think it also started way early. Probably like 10 years ago, I think Berlin became more and more of a central startup app and people from all over the world just moved to Berlin because Berlin was quite cheap back then. So you were able to afford all the rents and cost of living actually. So it was just very attractive for people from all over the world to move to Berlin. And now in the meantime, it is just as it is, which is awesome, I think

Holly:
That sounds amazing. Really, really cool. So what are some other themes that you’ve found in the coaching you’ve been doing?

Stephanie Leue:
It was transformative for me. The coaching training itself definitely is something that I will never ever miss because it was just incredibly helpful for me to understand how I can become the person I want to be and how I also can become a better leader. And the thing that I really learned and that is most important for me, not only as a leader or as a product person, but also as a mom to children is the active listening part which we talked about earlier. Now, being able to listen actively is something that I learned during coaching training. And that does not only help me to be the leader I want to be, but also to listen more active to my children, which is helping in our relationship a lot.
The open question thing is mind blowing, because if you get trained to only ask open questions… It’s because whenever you were asking a closed questions, people were like screaming like, “No, you can’t. You’re a coach now.” And when you’re doing that for about a year, you’re so used to ask open questions. And the thing that are happening with people around you when you’re suddenly not opinionated anymore and if you’re asking open questions, that’s just beautiful. Because I can suddenly really trust that the people around me are experts for their own lives and their own challenges and I don’t need to deliver solutions for them. I can just help them to uncover the answers all by themselves. And that’s definitely a big win for me.

Holly:
That’s wonderful. So do you see yourself continuing in this coaching practice for a while?

Stephanie Leue:
Definitely, definitely. I don’t know if I want to do it full-time for like eight hours each day, because it’s also quite a stretch to listen to other people challenges every single day for a couple of hours. So that’s definitely nothing I want to do for the rest of my life. But on the other hand, coaching is always energizing me. So whenever I’m coming out of a coaching session, I feel like, “Yeah, that’s so beautiful. There is someone in that session. It probably feels like they are having a huge challenge and they have no idea on how to solve it, or they have no idea of how to set goals or how to achieve their own goals.”
And then when you’re leaving these coaching sessions, it often just feels if there is an energy in a room and people suddenly see that a new door can open for them and they can just grow. And that’s definitely a gift to be able to support people in finding these new doors they can go through. So, I would definitely stick to coaching for sure.

Holly:
I love that you called it a gift. I think that’s right. It’s a gift and it’s getting to spend time and help people and watch them make those internal leaps, is just a beautiful experience.

Stephanie Leue:
Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. Because I feel like things are moving so fast in today’s world that we are not used to people listening to us anymore. Everyone has the next question in mind already, or an answer or the next thing they want to say. We are always busy and we rarely spend time to really focus on our counterpart and to listen and to just be there for them. And that’s something that I learned with coaching and it definitely is a gift for me to be able to suddenly be 100% with my counterparts when talking. So I think it’s a gift for both sides. It’s a gift for me because I’m more energized, but I also often get the feedback that it is a gift for my coachees because it’s just wonderful to have of one listening to you.

Holly:
That’s true. Very true. Well, what would be your one piece of advice for an aspiring or recent product leader?

Stephanie Leue:
Love yourself. I think that’s my advice number one. I see so many wonderful product managers who just struggle and who don’t believe in their own abilities and strengths. And who are full of fears or doubts. And many of them think they do have imposter syndrome or they are bad PMs or they will never thrive. And whenever I talk to these people, I think, “If you just start telling a different story about your own life and about yourself, and if you just start to love yourself, your life is going to change.”
And I think that’s my personal experience. The moment that I started to believing in myself and to really allow me to love myself is the moment where I started to tell a different story about me and my life. And it was the moment in time where things became possible that I never thought will be possible for me. So, number one advice, just love yourself. Because if you don’t love yourself, who else should?

Holly:
That’s beautiful. Thank you for that. Well, how can people find you if they want to learn more?

Stephanie Leue:
LinkedIn, definitely. Stephanie Leue, just look for it. I think you probably also published my name in the notes somewhere.

Holly:
Oh yes.

Stephanie Leue:
And I’m very active on Twitter so you can just connect and then you will also find a link to my website on my Twitter and LinkedIn account. And I’m usually…

Holly:
And what is your Twitter handle?

Stephanie Leue:
Also Stephanie Leue. Probably a little bit hard to spell for American people, but it’s L-E-U-E.

Holly:
Got it. Awesome. All right. Well thank you so much, Stephanie. It’s been a pleasure talking to you today.

Stephanie Leue:
Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure talking to you as well.