Things that I try to reminding myself about leadership…
There is no school for product management. You gain the skill & one fine day you decide to declare yourself one. Leadership is an important part of a Product Manager’s role. Over the last few years I have created a few personal rules on how to lead as a product manager.
1.Align with the Doers: Invest time with the ones who actually make your product, not just their managers. Don’t just deal with them as resources, by only evaluating them in velocity/capacity points. Real aligning would mean:
- Try not to make any major decision without soliciting their candid input,and ideally their (not necessarily their manager’s) buy in.
- If I listen to their concerns; Then make sure that you take action. Just listening and acting all-concerned doesn’t work. Solving their problems eventually solves larger ones for me.
The best thing I got in return was the right to be the first one informed of any good or bad news. This right is not an easy one to gain.
2. Influence is not a dark art: Aligning with the doers does not mean not connecting with their managers. But do not do this time investment with some future return in mind.
- Reach out to them as soon as they (or I) join the project/team
- Be honest & consistent about what drives me
- Listen & learn their goals & constraints in order to drive changes in a way that makes them successful
This genuine interest & clear communication buys me influence that no team lunch can.
3. Know who you are communicating with: After writing PRDs, BRDs,User Stories, OnePagers & post-it notes, I have realized there is no correct way to communicate requirements. This is my formula for requirements success in a new team:
- Try a crazy new way the first time; try the latest fad
- Take them to your team & see how every individual reacts
- Tailor your next set to the team
I have had developers in the same team that want a high level vision that they color on their own; while others who want to know exactly where the pixel needs to be placed. Knowing who I am writing for helps save a huge amount of time in repeat conversations.
4. Carry the wounded, someone else will shoot the stragglers: This is the best part of being a Product Manager. I can be the good guy who really just wants a good product. The team listens to my feedback objectively, since I do not hold the purse strings. Nurturing the team is not a part of the job description but the best part of a product manager’s job. I know one day my job will evolve to when I need to shoot the stragglers; I will cross that bridge then.
5. Know what you don’t know: Last but not the least, a point that I learnt from my mentor, is
- Have an ever running list of ‘Stuff I know that I don’t know’
- Strive to strike these items off the list either as things I do not need to learn about or as things I figured.
Being the sharpest guy on the block never hurt anyone.
These are points from an execution oriented product manager… I am going to spend the next few months focusing more on exploring & defining longer term roadmaps & managing upwards. More notes on that, as the diary fills up.