Being good at product management requires empathy, a quality Stephen Ballot exhibits in spades. As Chief Product Officer of Berlin, Germany-based heycar, he leads an international team of over 100 people distributed across four time zones throughout Europe. Managing a distributed team that big requires attention to their user experiences as employees. Ballot uses mmhmm to bring connection and creativity to his online conversations.
“My goal with all of this is keeping people closer together when they're not physically closer together,” he said.
Ballot discovered mmhmm about two years ago when he started working in his current role. As a new employee hired during the pandemic, he wanted a tool that would help him be a little more creative and different for the benefit of an audience attending long days of “boring-ish” presentations.
“With mmhmm, I can express myself as I would in-person, where I feel comfortable leading the room.”
Chief Product Officer, heycar
As a manager of a large, hybrid-work organization with flexible work hours, Ballot knows that people are productive while given full control over their days. He believes that the business benefits from strong, autonomous teams. “Productivity did increase when everyone was forced to work remote and we should be optimizing for it, not forcing people to return to the office.”
But keeping people motivated can be a challenge with the constant churn and turmoil in the news. Ballot believes that the tactics in a top-down, “blitz-like” playbook don’t improve productivity. He prefers to give people room to come up with ideas themselves, letting conversations among colleagues generate creativity. To foster dialogue, Ballot conducts fireside chats with product managers in mmhmm. These brief recorded videos help model the kinds of conversations he wants his teams to have. The videos have been distributed to smaller teams, as well as to the approximately 500 employees at the company.
“Showing what talking looks like often leads to talking,” he said. “My style is to try to encourage positivity and encourage people to connect with each other and to realize they're not alone.”
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