Stripe Lead Product Manager on Managing Product Managers (Part 3)
In my experience, picking the right manager is critical for product managers to develop leadership skills. The ability to learn from a great leader through collaboration on projects and personal attention will ensure that your development stays on track. Most importantly, great managers are those that look at your career as a joint venture. In other words, they are accountable for your personal growth and you are able to create a shared career roadmap.
When looking for a top-notch manager, I recommend focusing on four attributes.
Has credibility within your organization.
- Well-positioned leaders within the organization can put you in positions to shine beyond your immediate product team. For example, your work with a respected leader casts a positive light on your ability with upper management.
Understands the difficult parts of your job.
- The ability to be sympathetic to the challenges of your job will ensure that your boss focuses on improving your ability to overcome negative factors. Most importantly, they can relate to your struggles and provide insights on how to overcome hurdles.
Cares about your growth and well-being.
- Beyond making sure that you’re able to complete your daily tasks, great leaders exercise empathy on a personal level. For example, regularly checking in to make sure that product managers have enough downtime or opportunities to decompress.
Isn’t insecure about their own career.
- I’m sure you’ve had a “horrible boss” who isn’t cut out to lead and is self-absorbed by making sure that they “look good.” Instead, you should find a manager who is completely comfortable in their position. Furthermore, they need to be in a position to effectively lead your team and provide you with quality mentorship.
Even with the best mentorship, product managers must remember that leading teams is much more demanding than you expect. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating a promotion to a leadership role. However, you need to realize how much different your life will be than operating as an individual contributor. To quote Hamilton The Musical, “winning was easy, young man – governing is harder.”