Ken Norton

Product Leadership Coaching with Ken Norton

Bring the Donuts

Before becoming a full-time product management coach, I spent more than fourteen years in product leadership at Google, building products that are now used by more than three billion people worldwide. I have coached and mentored product managers and product leaders of all experience levels, from recent grad associate product managers to newly promoted product directors to experienced VPs of Product and Chief Product Officers.

I’m passionate about the craft of product management and dedicated to helping other product leaders achieve success through the power of coaching.

I have worked with PMs from many industries and companies of all shapes and sizes, including consumer software, e-commerce, enterprise, hardware, life sciences/healthcare, frontier tech, FAANG, and Fortune 500.

What is Coaching?

Coaching is distinct from advising, mentoring, training, or therapy. Our governing body, The International Coaching Federation, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Unlike advisors or consultants, coaches help you get to the root of the challenges you’re facing. They don’t tell you what they would do; they collaborate to help you discover what you should do. Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.

There’s no finish line when it comes to growing as a product leader. Although I specialize in coaching product leaders, I focus on the whole person and the topics my clients bring to our sessions span the entirety of their lives. A cornerstone of the Co-Active Training Institute, where I trained as a coach, is the belief that clients are naturally resourceful, creative, and whole. That means the definition of success is uniquely yours. Executive coaching is about asking the right questions and using innovative techniques to evoke in clients the realization of their fullest potential. A coach is someone in your corner you can test out ideas with, speak with candidly about your fears, and who will push you and hold you accountable.

I’ve benefited throughout my career from coaching, and I wish I’d discovered it earlier in my career. Sometimes it was helpful to just work through a problem with someone who’d been there, or even just someone who didn’t work at the same company. They helped me resolve conflict, create great cultures, make tough decisions, become an authentic leader, chart the direction of my career, and deliver world-class products. My twenty-plus-year career in product management and product leadership has sharpened my skills as a coach.

I’m passionate about the craft of product management and am dedicated to providing that same help to others. I hope we get the opportunity to work together.

Typical Engagements

Below are just a few areas my clients and I focus on:

  • Connecting with your values
  • Developing as a product leader
  • Finding your purpose as a product manager
  • Dealing with chaos, confusion, and inertia
  • Building a healthy and robust product culture
  • Designing your vision for a fulfilling product career
  • Creating a personalized vision for a compelling future
  • Team and organizational structure and dynamics
  • Identifying self-defeating influences
  • Hiring, coaching, and mentoring other product managers
  • Working with other groups and challenging personalities
  • Building outstanding relationships with engineering and design
  • Improving product strategy and process
  • Setting goals and objectives
  • Coping with setbacks and building resilience
  • Connecting with your authentic leadership style
  • Working through emotionally charged issues
  • Long-term product planning and vision
  • Learning to have difficult conversations
  • Working effectively with CEOs, other execs, and board members
  • Developing self-awareness and processing feedback
  • Gaining confidence and overcoming impostor phenomenon
  • Work/life integration
  • Choice and perspective
  • Getting unstuck

And here are some typical situations where clients reach out to me:

  • A fast-growing startup’s lead product manager, told that the Chief Product Officer role is “theirs to lose” and wanting to 10x their development
  • A big tech company group product manager, recently promoted and growing from individual contributor to product leader
  • A VP of Product at a big tech company, looking to reach their goal of becoming a CEO in 3-5 years
  • An experienced PM who feels like their career has plateaued, looking to shake up their potential, achieve work/life integration, and fall in love with the job again
  • A product manager who just took on a large project, struggling to become more confident and decisive in the face of executive attention
  • A Chief Product Officer at a high-growth startup who wants to become a better manager of managers, and challenged with how to structure an organization
  • An experienced product leader who was hired to change the product culture at a Fortune 500 company
  • An executive feeling like they’ve gotten “too comfortable,” and looking for more growth, challenge, and accountability
  • An L6/L7 product manager at a FAANG, looking to become more strategic, grow in confidence, and accomplish their goal of being promoted to director
  • A newly promoted product leader, challenged in a recent performance review to be less tactical and deliver a compelling vision for their product area
  • A mid-career product leader wondering if they’re climbing the right ladder

Client Testimonials

I’ve worked with hundreds of product leaders, product managers, executives, and teams from the following companies:

Logos of coaching clients

I have learned more from Ken’s coaching over the last six months than from any manager in my career.”

After working with Ken, I’m better at seeing around corners and getting in touch with the root of any issue. I’m able to articulate who I am as a leader, who I want to be, and what it means to show up and lead authentically.”

Ken helped me gain extreme clarity. He’s down-to-earth and to-the-point. I absolutely recommend Ken to other PMs. It’s a worthwhile investment in your career.”

Ken helped me better articulate my core values, lean into my authentic leadership side, and uncover ways to create leverage. If you’ve ever wondered if coaching might be for you, I’d highly encourage you to work with Ken.”

Ken challenged my perspectives on growing as a leader. He coached me to answer fundamental career growth questions, helping me gain clarity on creating my own career ladder instead of following existing PM ladders.”

My confidence increased substantially during our time working together. Ken enabled me to get a bit farther faster and with more confidence.”

I was able to think critically about what I enjoy working on, my values, what to focus on, and how to move beyond comparing myself to other folks and towards focusing on what I really want.”

Read more testimonials »

Packages and Pricing

All individual coaching packages require a minimum six-month commitment. That will give us the time and space to work together on the challenges you face, get to know one another, and develop a powerful coaching alliance based on authenticity and trust. I offer a free, no-obligation one-hour exploratory session to determine fit.

6-Month Coaching

  • Two one-hour 1:1 sessions every month for six months (for a total of 12 sessions)
  • Includes one-hour foundation session
  • All coaching sessions are fully remote, using choice of Zoom video or voice-only
  • Unlimited email communication between sessions
  • One thirty-minute check-in session at any time during the year after completion

9-Month Coaching

  • Two one-hour 1:1 sessions every month for nine months (18 sessions)
  • Includes an extra 1.5 hour foundation session (for a total of 19 sessions)
  • All coaching sessions are fully remote, using choice of Zoom video or voice-only
  • Unlimited email communication between sessions
  • Two thirty-minute check-in sessions at any time during the year after completion

If you represent a company with multiple team members looking for 1:1 coaching, contact me for availability and discounted pricing.

Check to see if your company’s learning and development stipend covers coaching, or ask your manager about receiving sponsorship. People are often pleasantly surprised to discover their employer — even early-stage startups — will cover all or a portion of individual coaching. (Here’s some helpful advice on making a pitch.)

Contact Me

I especially welcome the opportunity to coach PMs from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds: Ask about scholarships.

About Ken Norton

Hi, my name is Ken Norton. I’m a product leadership coach, speaker, and writer.

Before becoming a full-time executive coach to product leaders, I spent more than fourteen years at Google, where I led product initiatives for Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Mobile Maps, and GV (formerly Google Ventures). These products today are used by more than three billion people worldwide.

I joined Google with the acquisition of JotSpot, where I was vice president of products. Before JotSpot, I led product management at Yahoo. Back in the day when I was a software engineer, I was one of the earliest employees of CNET and the founding CTO of Snap (which became NBC Internet). I am a listed inventor on more than forty issued patents.

I earned a bachelor’s from Boston University and a master’s from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). I trained as a Co-Active Coach at the Co-Active Training Institute (CTI), the “gold standard” of coaching programs.

I started writing about product management in 2005 because I couldn’t find anything on the web about what it meant to be a product manager in an empowered, customer-first tech company. My classic essay How To Hire a Product Manager has since become the playbook for a generation of product managers. Hundreds of people have contacted me over the years to say that my writing inspired them to become a PM, convinced them they were capable, or motivated them to keep pushing when times got tough. I am also the reason donuts and product management have become synonymous.

Ken Norton