In just a few weeks, I will become a father.
Of course, I have been preparing. Setting up the room for the first few months. Closely coordinating everything with my partner, supporting her however I can as she prepares to do the hardest part. Attending as many doctor’s appointments as I can to help monitor the health of our baby. Planning ahead, reading the books, and talking to our friends and family who are already parents. Thinking about how our baby will grow and need daycare, pre-k, grade school and suddenly now we’re planning for college. All before they take their first breath.
As I prepare for the next phase in my personal life, I find myself drawing parallels between the steps I’m taking to get ready for parenthood and the approach I use in one of my favorite consulting projects: bringing a product to market.
A successful go-to-market (GTM) strategy requires shared understanding in the workplace, goal setting, the power of teamwork, and the art of embracing progress over perfection. As I get closer to fatherhood, it’s clear to see how parenting requires each of these as well. Parenthood provides ample learning opportunities that teach us patience, empathy, trust, and the power of working together — all of which translate readily into a workplace setting.
Even if being a parent isn’t in your plans, there’s a lot to discover from this transformative process. Whether it’s as a parent or simply as someone looking to grow, embracing these lessons can enrich our lives in the most meaningful ways.
Start on Solid Ground
Being on the same page with your partner goes a long way. Getting there requires healthy curiosity, good communication and earnest discovery.
When building a successful product, a shared vision also plays a vital role. By establishing a common understanding of the purpose and direction you want to go, a team can align their efforts towards a unified goal. This shared vision acts as a compass, guiding decision-making and fostering a sense of purpose and cohesion among team members.
In the same way, having a shared vision with your partner will help in the distribution of responsibilities, appointments and financial planning. Early alignment means you can focus on success for your child rather than simply avoiding failure.
Once you’re aligned on the vision, you can use this energizing time to build a comprehensive plan, mapping out the journey toward success. Where are you now and where do you want to be?
At the moment, our near-term plan is the birthing plan; but ultimately, a plan acts as a strategic blueprint, defining clear objectives and providing a roadmap for the team (and nurses) to follow. It’s specific but adaptable, outlining the steps, milestones, and metrics necessary to achieve desired outcomes. A well-crafted plan keeps everyone on track and enables effective communication and coordination among team members (especially when the unexpected happens, which it will).
Teamwork is a Superpower
If you’ve ever been in a workshop with me, I like the warmup exercise “Superpower.” It’s a healthy reminder to participants to express their best selves.
But, when you’re about to become a parent, suddenly it can feel like you don’t have any superpowers, the emperor’s clothes are gone, and you’re on an island signaling for help. Witnessing the birth of a new child, a tiny being entering the world with boundless potential is magical. And daunting. Do I have what it takes? Am I ready? A thousand tiny decisions have gotten you here, and a thousand more are still required.
But you’re not alone.
You’re surrounded by a team of people, who each bring their own special skills and perspective. They help you figure out thorny challenges (tiredness, stomachache, sore feet, etc.), educating and supporting you as you prepare. The midwives keep telling us: “You’re made for this.” It doesn’t always feel that way, but they’re right.
Back in the office, this means fostering collaboration and mutual respect among your people, and leveraging their diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills. It also means creating a safe and inclusive space where you can share opinions, insights, and experiences and learn from each other.
Radical collaboration can foster open communication, trust, and mutual respect to bring everyone’s best to the table. In action, this can show up as a healthy vulnerability and the ability to rely on each other through challenging situations.
“Perfect” shouldn’t impede progress
It’s natural to feel the pressure to have everything fall into place seamlessly. As a strategist, I like to see the destination and know where I’m going: but in parenting, as in product launches, it’s not realistic. That’s where flexibility and a learning mindset is impactful.
Sometimes, we assume we know the answer or have it all figured out. You might have heard someone on your team say, “why talk to customers?” Or, “why would we bother testing? We know it’s better.” We can become overly attached to our point of view and frustrated when the outcomes do not meet the extremely high standards we set for ourselves.
While aiming for excellence is commendable, it is more essential to develop a healthy learning perspective. Recognizing that mistakes, or “happy accidents,” can truly be a learning opportunity. In my class at Columbia University, Digital Product Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we learn to validate new product ideas in the market by engaging early on with customers to identify whether an idea solves a problem better than alternative solutions. The rapid learning cycles offer a chance to let go of perfection with an eye toward early validation.
The most comforting words I read came from The Mister Rogers’ Parenting Book; however, it’s The Good Enough Parent from the School of Life that particularly resonated with me in terms of embracing the concept of letting go:
“We often torment ourselves because we have a demanding and impossible vision of what we’re supposed to be like…ideals may sound nice, but they bring a terrible problem with them: they can make us despair of the merely quite good things we already do and have.“
In my journey to parenthood, the real trick has been letting go of perfection as a distraction in my head and instead seeing and supporting the creation in front of me. The same applies to my work – embracing a growth mindset and learning from each step will contribute to continuous improvement. It is important to celebrate achievements and milestones along the way, acknowledging the progress made and staying motivated to push forward, come what may.
Adjusting and maintaining momentum
Often at the outset of a new project I find it valuable to ask clients, “How do you define done?”
While this question can offer valuable insights on constraints, it’s important to acknowledge that there isn’t always a stopping point. It’s constant action all the time. Often, you’re just trying to adapt and keep up.
This dynamic applies both in a professional setting, like being part of a product team that’s constantly getting feedback, and in personal life, as I anticipate the challenges of parenthood. While preparation is essential, the arrival of a baby may necessitate reevaluating what we think we know and how to apply it.
Products undergo many rounds of adjusting and varying degrees of fidelity prior to reaching their final form. Embracing a bias toward action means purposefully making decisions to keep moving forward, consistently taking action to turn thoughts, plans and ideas into tangible outcomes. Companies often invest significant time in generating ideas, but ultimately the true value lies in adapting to new circumstances and taking decisive steps to turn plans into reality.
Whether it’s becoming a parent or bringing a product to market, both endeavors require a strong foundation, comprehensive planning, teamwork, trust, and a healthy perspective. With determination and perseverance, you’ll exercise the skill needed to navigate challenges, trust your team (and yourself), and make a positive impact.
For me right now, it’s just the beginning of fatherhood and the transformative and rewarding experience that lie ahead. And while launching a product is a huge deal for a business and its employees, I recognize it pales in comparison to becoming a parent.
There will be much more learning and growing to do, and plenty to celebrate along the way.
From concept through launch, Further Advisory advises our clients on product constructs, crafts go-to-market plans, and mobilizes cross-functional teams to bring new products & capabilities to customers, helping accelerate returns on investment. As for the parenting part… we’ll leave that to you. 🙂