I’m a new GPM, working for a mid-level tech firm, and will be creating a new team for a new product. would love your experiences building a team and what kind of leadership styles do you use on daily basis to coach your reports?
What are your responsibilities? How do you manage your time between creating product strategy and coaching your reports? What are some challenges you face? How do you hire PMs?
What difficult scenario do you come across most often while leading a team? How involved are you in leading your reports without micromanaging? What do you do if your reports are having problems?
Congratulation on leveling up!
This is a packed question My $0.02:
This is a function of:
- your company/org/team culture
- your own (work) personality
- the person you’re managing - their background, seniority, etc
I like to provide direction, stay distant (give freedom as much and wherever possible) yet available. I’m vocal about my approach when new folks join my team and check-in to see if they’re comfortable with the approach. That said, gauge your team’s work and adjust as needed.
Challenges and Tips
- Managing product is significantly different from managing people. When you become a people manager, people become your product. And unlike product metrics, people respond with emotions. As you would in customer interviews, learn to read requirements
- As much as you might want to, do not lead with answers first. Try to convey your mental model to help your PM reports arrive at the answer
- As a mid-level PM, I was responsible for managing specific product/features (IC) and also managing others (people manager/their product responsibilities). This can be challenging, so learn to manage your time well and switch context - manager mode vs IC product mode
- Delegate - to the point you cringe a bit to give a task away
- Related to above, trusting others with something can be difficult, especially when they are new to the team. I have, over time, moved away from “building trust” to “losing trust” model - if I have made the decision to hire somebody, I trust them until they do something to prove otherwise
- On micro-management - make a list of non-negotiables (e.g. data accuracy, PRD structure, etc). No judgment here, this could be anything you/team/company deeply care about. These are things you’re willing to go to any extent to get right. Convey this to the team in your working sessions to have them acclimatize themselves to it
- Meetings - make sure you’re available. I like to set up a few recurring meetings (and adjust as needed):
- Weekly/bi-weekly 1:1s - allow people to let their guard down and promote open dialog to discuss what’s bothering them
- Monthly unwind sessions/coffee chats - to talk about anything but work (how to deal with ‘x’ team is fair game for this session )
- Quarterly career discussions
- Back your team/their work. Give them visibility with senior leadership. I’ve noticed people take significantly more pride in their work when this happens
I hope this helps.
Thank you for the detailed answer, I know this is question is a bit loaded. Some amazing points, I already do some of them so that makes me feel a bit easier. lol
Just wondering how do you manage your time. Do you block certain periods in the calendar so that you can work by yourself?
And how or what approach do you take in creating a plan for your reports to succeed? What does a career plan look like?
On-time management - I do personal daily and weekly sprints.
On a daily basis:
- List down all the tasks - brain dump in a single place
- Timebox - estimate time for each task
- Prioritize - I like to make sure how these tasks align with my weekly priorities
- Block your calendar - forces prioritization and optimize the time you’d like to spend on each task
- Just do it - this is the most difficult step
- Run a retrospective before you end the day - what worked/didn’t work, why? (reinforcement learning)
- Revisit the list and plan the next day
- Prune the list occasionally - some things will lose importance as time passes
On weekly basis, my process is simpler and high level than daily sprints. Before the weekend, I list down 3-5 things I’d like to focus on next week. I refer to this list to break down my daily tasks.
NOTE: This doesn’t work well for everyone. Time management is extremely personal. I experimented with this and it stuck with me. That said, if you give this a shot, I recommend starting out with weekly priorities and maybe 1-2 tasks on your calendar each day.
Re. career plan - I let my PM reports drive this. I see my role in enabling their professional goals, which vary for each individual.
Some general guidance:
- Ask the PMs to set up a career 1:1 every quarter/any other frequency. This gives “them” the opportunity to drive this - I’ve has some people not set anything up at all and some who want to do it more often - everything is fine. I request them to send me a list of things they’d like to discuss ahead of the call. Forces both of us to come prepared
- If possible, request one of your peers (different team/org) to mentor them - provides an unbiased external person they can work with and learn from, who is still entrenched in the company culture
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