Stripe Lead Product Manager on Managing Product Managers
Shreyas Doshi has led product teams at leading tech companies in Silicon Valley - from established giants to emerging startups. It's easy for product managers to become obsessed with becoming a team manager. As Shreyas explains, product managers need to first understand the drivers for success in order to position themselves to be fully prepared for a leadership role.
Success Drivers For Product Managers
“How do I get to manage product managers?” This is the question that I’m most often asked by product professionals who are looking to advance their career. In reality, we should reframe the question to ask, “how do I become a great product leader?” Ultimately, you need to focus on enhancing your abilities before you get caught up in achieving a new title. Simply put, you should “do the verb” and “the noun will follow.”
In my experience, there are three focal points that enable product managers to become successful leaders.
Understand Success Drivers.
Focus On The Right Priorities.
Pick The Right Manager.
Beginning with success drivers, it’s important to understand the pre-requisites that will enable you to advance your career.
- This represents the cumulative results that you’ve produced during your career.
- Present-day summary of your current skills and where you deliver the most value.
- Your capacity for personal/professional growth to develop into a leader.
Focusing on your impact, many product managers struggle with knowing where they fall on the development ladder. In other words, they don’t know where they need to develop in order to be in contention for a leadership role. For example, I like to look at leadership capacity in terms of scope and impact. If your scope and impact are low within your organization, then you need to increase your scope and capacity in order to jump up to the next level in product management.
Another way to look at your development maturity is through the three senses of product management.
- The ability to usually make correct product decisions, even in the presence of major ambiguity.
- Decisions need to be macro-level (will this product work?) and micro-level (what is the right label for this button?).
- Ability to frame the right questions, evaluate multiple facets of a problem, derive solutions and simulate possible outcomes.
- Being good with data is not the only driver for being sound from an analytics perspective – you have to think critically beyond the numbers.
- Ability to align people toward a particular objective and orchestrate complex projects.
- Exercise creativity, empathy, and persuasiveness – in addition to having superb organization abilities.
Over time, product managers must focus on identifying the sense that is most innate to their skill set – and understand how they can improve the other two. For greater context, I like to use the 10/30/50 model to illustrate how to balance your senses. Essentially, you want to operate within the top 10 percent of one sense, top 30 percent in another, and top 50 percent in the remaining sense.
Generally speaking, you should aim to be in the top 10 percent of product sense. Apart from the benefits of being regarded as a product expert, you’ll find that you’ll be at the top of the compensation bracket too!