Being intentional about team scaling is an overlooked strategy for first-time PMs. A plan helps to hire in alignment with your roadmap and principles, assemble a multi-skill team to face shifting business needs, and lay the groundwork for a succession plan to keep leveling up. What is the process for determining your team’s foundation? ServiceNow Product Leader Rosa Welton shares steps to design a hiring roadmap to scale your first team, as well as a framework for seasoned leaders to coach novice managers.

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On new managers assessing the landscape

Rosa Welton points out that change is hard. When a new manager is created from within a team, or perhaps a manager is brought in from outside, adding in a new layer to the team, there will be an adjustment period. The first step is assessment – determining the landscape and setting people up for success when it comes time to scale. Key to that is forging personal connections.

Rosa says the new manager must “take a pause. Think about the mindsets or the approaches people bring to the conversation, and be very open and address them proactively…. 

“There’s an opportunity for the new people manager to really look at what is driving the team members in their motivation. What are their needs, in terms of their continued growth and development? And so this is really a nice window to come in and say, you know, you might have been in this larger org, [but] now there’s more focus, there’s a more hands-on accountability and responsibility from a new manager who can be that advocate for an individual on a team that maybe just wasn’t possible before, because of the team size.”

On managing managers planning a team

One of the most important aspects of a good team is diversity of skill sets. Your team might be full of people very high in technical skills in one area, but then when it comes time to pivot there might be too much homogeneity to navigate the new charter. This can put a good team in a bad spot, and limit your ability to scale. Team flexibility is vital to think about, whether building your own team, or coaching a manager on building a team.

If you are a manager of managers, it is important to encourage those managers “to have a vision for their team scaling roadmap. So you can be the one to check in with them to say, Hey, have you thought about how you might grow the team? Or where are you going to invest more here, or here? So asking the right questions can help prompt the right thinking from them. 

“And then also looking at what this change means in terms of attrition, risks, opportunities to stretch somebody. And all of that really comes with knowing where the focus areas are for your product and your people roadmap. That can help with your conversations with the managers on your team.”

On growing the team by thinking ahead

Once you have assessed the team, made a plan, and gotten approval for a new headcount, or maybe an internal referral – now it is time to grow. How can you be ready for that moment? How can you be ready to scale? In large part, you need to look ahead.

Rosa shares a story of a time when her team got a recommendation for an internal candidate who fit into her roadmap exceptionally well. “I had been reading about growth hacking as a way to kind of cut across some of the silos of a product experience. And so all these things came to mind where I thought, Okay, well, I’ve been thinking about maybe someone does need to look across these areas. Growth Hacking seems like a thing to try. It was a trendy phrase for a while, and now we’re all doing product-led growth. And this person had just really a lot of interest in trying something new and pushing out with a sense of urgency. 

“And so, because I’d done some of that thinking in the past, the opportunity that came with this essentially free headcount met the preparation. Opportunity and preparation, lucky break, right? And it turned out we got some really nice wins on the conversion metrics, and just really tried even a new way of working because of the energy this person brought to the team. So looking ahead can get you prepared for when these opportunities come up.”

About the speaker
Rosa Gonzalez Welton Intuit, Director of Product Member
About the host
Maheep Bhalla AT&T, Product Management Lead

Maheep is a customer-focused Product Leader. He believes that a Product Manager wears multiple hats but should always champion the voice of the customer.

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