How To Get Your Team Members A Seat At The Table Without Even Asking

“I wish they would include us earlier in the process.”

Does this lament sound familiar? You or your team just ran into a problem that you could have mitigated before it became a problem if you’d known about it sooner. If you had been in the room.

Yup, this whole “Every decision made about you and your opportunities is made in a room you’re not in…” statement I make all the time doesn’t just apply to individuals. It also applies to entire teams of people. And if you’re leading a team, then it’s your job to be the person who helps others understand why they should be inviting your people into that room. And your people will only be invited into the room if one of the following statements is true.

  1. You have the social power and influence to demand it.
  2. The other team understands the value of inviting other areas of expertise into the room.

As a leader, which of these options would you like to be true for you? I’m hoping you’re a fan of the second. And I want to point out a specific use of a term here; I said “the value of inviting,” which means not only do the other organizations understand WHY they should include, but WANT to add your team to the conversation. 

Wanting something doesn’t start with a title or impressive department name. Wanting begins with understanding the potential value of the contribution to the project in the future. The Future Contribution is the “product” other teams “buy” from your organization. Yes, we’re all part of the knowledge economy, and with that, the “product” being purchased and sold is their time. Your team’s time is a product you “rent” to people – a brilliant, complex, always evolving, sometimes surprising product.

I call this product “Future Them.”

If this is the first time you’ve read this or heard me talk about this, I want you to let that sink in for a second. We are all buying and selling our time to each other every day. If you’re leading, part of your responsibilities is to maximize that time. 

When I’m talking to people about these concepts, I get a myriad of reactions. One discussion had the person interviewing asking me if I was a Marxist. Most people have a mild panic attack because once you start unpacking this idea, the ramifications begin to get very big and intertwined. I have a hunch that it’s the enormity of untangling the implications that stop most people from doing anything about the situation. I get why. 

But if you’re still reading it’s because I hope you’re wondering where you should start thinking about the Future Them.

I can’t give you all the answers in one article. But here’s a place to start.

Step 1: You are promoted! 

Yes! I just gave you a promotion. You are now the Product Marketing lead for the product known as “Future Them.” Congratulations! Your pay? I expect that the person who buys the Future Tem will be compensating you in all the ways you wish to be compensated – monetarily and otherwise.

Step 2: Understand your job.

I went out and got some help from Matylda Chmielewska, who described the day to day of a Product Marketing Manager as the following.

“Depending on your industry and the type of product you market, the exact responsibilities may change, but here’s what your typical day may consist of if you’re a product marketing manager:

  • communicating product changes to your customers in an understandable way;
  • developing a product strategy and keeping the balance between your team’s vision for the product and the needs of the customers;
  • preparing the pricing strategy and deciding on your product’s positioning;
  • going through a list of most requested features;
  • conducting customers’ interviews that will help you see their motivation to use the product.

There are also some crucial questions you should know the answers to as a product marketing manager:

  • How will this new feature influence the product’s growth?
  • What are the primary product’s bottlenecks and customer pain-points?
  • What would be the best way to launch new features?

These questions will not only help you effectively market the product but can also influence how it unwraps and give your users what they genuinely want and need.”

Let me translate how this manifests into Product Marketing You. Let’s talk about the job of “product marketer” first:

  1. “Communicating product changes to your customers in an understandable way” – becomes – Communicating what your team learned (product changes) to the people “renting” their time (customers).
  2. “Developing a product strategy and keeping the balance between your team’s vision for the product and the needs of the customers” – becomes – Developing a strategy for your team that keeps a balance between your team’s needs and your organization’s needs.
  3. “Preparing the pricing strategy and deciding on your product’s positioning.” – becomes – Being strategic about how to prioritize your “inventory” – aka their time – while also choosing the best strategy to make it easy for decision-makers to understand and agree with these priorities.
  4. “Going through a list of most requested features.” – becomes – Understanding what is needed to support the immediate, near future, and long term strategic priorities and communicating them.
  5. “Conducting customers’ interviews that will help you see their motivation to use the product.” – becomes – Understanding what the people who “rent” your team’s time need from you in the future – building a Future Them strategy.

Curious about how to think about the Future Them? Matylda’s product questions are SPOT on if you swap out the product for you:

  • How will this new feature influence the product’s growth? – Will the new skill or learning (feature) help my team have more impact?
  • What are the primary product’s bottlenecks and customer pain-points? – Are there any bottlenecks or pain points for the people who “rent” our time?
  • What would be the best way to launch new features? – What is the best way to teach others about evolving abilities and additional potential?

Step 3: Start doing your job.

So often, I hear from leaders who are inundated with things to do and asks from other organizations. Or the “if only” lament. 

The clearer you are about who your team is, their value, and how it can help other groups in your company, the easier it is for them to choose to include your team members. When this is working well, you don’t even need to ask. They decide to “rent” their time. 

My hope is you’re already doing your job. You’ve intrinsically known that this is how to lead a team and foster collaboration across the organization. What you might not have had is this framework to think about your team’s time. I hope it helps you think about how to maximize the most valuable and limited resource you have.

And here’s a thought, you’re a product that people rent. Yes, of course, you need to think about the Future You.