Coding Creativity 06: Executive Coaching & The Art of Becoming a Better Product Manager with Thomas Knoll

Thomas Knoll has spent a significant portion of his career building communities. Taking these community conversations and applying them to product management and executive coaching is what has inspired and guided his trajectory for the last couple of decades. But Thomas has another name for community building. Rather, he likes to call it community architecture.

The best architects in the world don’t say that they make buildings.
They say that they use buildings to make spaces for people. That struck me that we could have more of an impact by thinking about the space that we’re building for the people and how they’re supposed to move through and interact in that space.

Thomas took two startups through the 500 Startups accelerator, which he later sold: LaunchRock, and Primeloop. Although two completely different products, each offered at its core the ability to help a company identify its customers, fans, community, or circle of influence in one way or the other.

In developing products and companies, even with the strength of a major accelerator behind you, Thomas says that there are always lessons to be learned.

It still isn’t a ‘thing’ unless it gets out there and people actually like it. I don’t care if it’s your fifth startup with four huge exits… It has just as big a possibility to fail as any of the others do.

When you start each new endeavor, he says, hopefully you’ll just fail differently, or simply avoid making the same mistakes. But there will always be lessons to learn. He shares some interesting points about identifying your product type and avoiding assumptions about your customer’s sales cycle. It’s these type of lessons that he brings to his executive advising conversations.

With 500 Startups, it was a ton of fun for me just to share a lot of these hard lessons learned…
MBAs and blog posts don’t cover ‘How do I get my team to trust me?’ and ‘Can I say that I’m not crushing it today?’

Working with entrepreneurs to help them better themselves in order to be better for their respective companies has been more useful and fulfilling, Thomas has found, than what traditional “startup advice” might offer. That’s why his executive coaching sessions have been brought to round out the offerings that Revelry provides.

We work on answering some of those questions, normalizing some of the pain, finding the areas of their game that they want to go pro on, building new habits that become great reactions that happen in the game of the company itself.

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