Stripe Lead Product Manager on Managing Product Managers (Part 2)
Time management is critical to becoming a successful product leader. As product managers, we need to understand that non-project time is just as important as project time. In other words, you need to prioritize your day-to-day to focus on more than just common tasks. Here are four areas to focus on when setting your priorities.
The Right Product.
You should aim to work on the product that is most important to the organization’s overall success. Said differently, these are core products that have achieved product/market fit and are growing like crazy. For product managers, working on core business will ensure that they can demonstrate impact and build experience through driving results. Furthermore, you should try to “run toward trouble” and take on demanding or existential projects within your organization. Challenges represent an opportunity to stand out and enhance your overall value to the product team.
Mentor Product Managers.
Back to the most asked question that I referenced earlier, product managers will also ask “who can I manage?” Instead, the question should be “who can I mentor?” One way for your managers to gauge your leadership potential is to see how effective you can be as a mentor. In other words, it’s a stepping stone for becoming a leader and builds your credibility within the team. Most importantly, your mentees can vouch for your effectiveness with upper management. As a result, you’re that much better prepared and ultimately vetted for a leadership position.
Improve Your Product Management Function.
Going above and beyond to improve your product team’s capabilities is a major positive for building leadership skills. Particularly in startups, there are many business horizontals or shared functions that haven’t been built out within the team. For example, when I joined Stripe, we didn’t have a defined interview process for hiring product managers. As a result, I worked with the team to build out our protocol to ensure that we are hiring the right people for our product team.
As product managers, we can’t be the best at everything. But, we can always be the best at seeking advice from others. First, I recommended getting mentored by some of your manager’s peers. In addition to having skills and insights that are relevant to your development, they can also advocate on your behalf when you’re up for a promotion. Furthermore, it’s important to get continuous feedback – you shouldn’t wait around until your scheduled review. Instead, check in with your manager and peers on a regular basis to ensure that you’re on track. For example, you can maintain a shared Google Doc for co-workers to use in providing feedback for your development.