Ken Norton Ken Norton

Product Leadership Coaching with Ken Norton

Bring the Donuts

Before becoming a full-time executive coach to product leaders, I spent more than fourteen years in product leadership at Google, building products that are now used by more than three billion people worldwide.

My clients are primarily Chief Product Officers/CPOs, VPs of Product, and Product Founder/CEOs at venture-funded startups and product management director-level and above at larger tech companies. But I also work with COOs, CTOs/VPs of Engineering, VPs of Design, and anyone else in a product leadership role.

I have worked with product leaders from many industries and companies of all shapes and sizes, from Series A startups to trillion dollar market cap public companies in consumer software, e-commerce, enterprise, hardware, life sciences/healthcare, frontier tech, and FAANG.

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

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 humanistic coaching 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. 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
  • Dealing with chaos, confusion, and inertia
  • Evolving from a reactive to a creative leader
  • 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 and underlying motivations
  • 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 head of product, told that the Chief Product Officer role is “theirs to lose” and wanting to 10x their development
  • A big tech company product manager director, 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 product leader 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 mid-life product executive facing an existential crisis of purpose and self, wanting to discover their north star
  • A PM director who just took on a large, troubled project, struggling to become more confident and decisive in the face of executive attention
  • A Chief Product Officer (CPO) 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 L8/L9 product leader at a FAANG, looking to become more strategic, grow in confidence, and accomplish their goal of being promoted to vice president
  • 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 experienced product leader wondering if they’re still climbing the right ladder
Winner, Top Product Leadership Coaches of 2022
Awarded by Scale in partnership with Reforge, On Deck, and Products By Women

Client Testimonials

I’ve coached hundreds of product leaders from across the industry, including executives from these top companies:

Logos of coaching clients

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.

My CEO told me recently: ’Your team loves you. You have the best retention of any department. It’s night and day from where you were a few years ago. I don’t know exactly what your secret is these last 12 months, but I know you have a great coach and it’s showing.’

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

There’s no one better to have by your side as you navigate the challenges of being a product leader at a growing organization.

Ken helped me get beyond the analytical framework and tapped inside emotions and feelings to help me make decisions. Ken is down-to-earth and to-the-point. He helped me gain extreme clarity.

One of the defining moments in my life has been working with Ken as my executive coach. I can’t stress how valuable it has been.

Read more testimonials »

What I Offer

My coaching rate is typically paid for by your company. All individual coaching engagements require a minimum six-month commitment and most of my clients come to me looking for long-term (12+ month) engagements. 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.

Individual 1:1 Coaching

  • Two one-hour 1:1 sessions every month for a minimum of six months
  • Includes one-hour foundation session
  • All coaching sessions are fully remote, using choice of Zoom video or voice-only
  • Unlimited email correspondence between sessions and occasional ad hoc ”laser-coaching” sessions as necessary
  • Can be extended on a month-to-month basis
  • Two check-in sessions at any time during the year after completion
  • Lifetime subscription to my private email newsletter for clients and alumni

360° Leadership Assessment

  • Full assessment includes two-hour debrief session (in addition to our regular coaching sessions) where we’ll discuss how to incorporate feedback and insights from your direct reports, peers, and boss into our coaching work
  • I am certified to work with the industry-leading Leadership Circle Profile™ (LCP) 360-degree leadership assessment—supported by research and validated through statistical analysis
  • LCP is the only instrument that measures the two primary leadership domains—Creative Competencies and Reactive Tendencies. Used by organizations from Google to NASA, it measures behavior, underlying beliefs, and assumptions—the habits of thought that run much of our behavior

Available to my clients at any time during our work together

I especially welcome the opportunity to coach product leaders from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds: Ask about scholarships if your company cannot or will not cover the entirety of my fee.

Contact Me

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 launched my career about a month after the Mosaic browser was released to the public. I knew immediately that I wanted to dedicate my career to building digital products that help people collaborate and connect. I joined Google with the acquisition of JotSpot, where I was vice president of products. JotSpot’s innovative collaborative wiki software would evolve into Google Sites. Before that, I led product management at Yahoo. Even farther back, in the Web 1.0 days, I was a software engineer and one of the earliest employees of CNET, and the founding CTO of search engine Snap (which became NBC Internet).

I received my coaching training and certification from the Co-Active Training Institute (CTI), the “gold standard” of coaching programs. I am credentialed by the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

I earned a bachelor’s from Boston University and a master’s from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). I am a listed inventor of more than forty issued patents.

I started blogging 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, user-centric 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.

All these years later, I remain committed to helping human beings collaborate and connect.

Coaching Credentials

  • PCC, Professional Certified Coach, International Coaching Federation (ICF)
  • CPCC, Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, Co-Active Training Institute (CTI)
  • Leadership Circle Certified Practitioner, Leadership Circle
Professional Certified Coach (PCC) Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) Leadership Circle Profile Certification
Ken Norton