In this #mtpcon London session, Tolulope Ayeni, Lead Product Manager at Rexel, shares some practical and actionable tips on managing product managers.
Watch the session to see her talk in full or read on for an overview of her key points:
- Start with why
Let’s start with the why
Product leaders need to ask themselves why they want to manage a team for success. The obvious reason isin order to create a successful product experience for clients. They may also want to build a high performing team and lead that team effectively. Most struggling product managers do not have managers with the right skills to help them succeed.
You need to ask, “How do I hire?”. Most times product leaders are told to hire for attitude and fit rather than skills. But you need to hire for both.
- Hire for skills and fit: This includes hard skills, soft skills and team fit.
- Hire for attitude and potential: You should look at their potential and consider if you might be hiring a future manager. You also need to check their attitude and see if they are willing to learn.
- Hire for diversity: Diverse teams are better decision makers than individuals. Yet diversity includes several factors such as age, gender, race, experience level and educational background, not just one diverse trait.
Ask “How do I develop my team?”. The primary job of each manager is to help people be more active. So how do you go about this? Start by assessing the skills of the team.
What’s the team skill level?
The collective skill and competence level of your team is a sum of its individual skills levels.
The team skills spectrum helps product leaders to answer:
1) What top skills are needed for product success
2) Where you should upskill
3) What you should hire for
It’s critical for product leaders to stay connected with team leaders. Some of the ways they can do that include:
One to one sessions: The product manager gets support and direction.
Team sessions: Product managers can share knowledge and best practices as well as check goals and objectives.
Product sessions: This provides an opportunity to check on discovery, product delivery and impact.
Feedback sessions: 360 degree feedback loops are useful, as well as external team feedback.
Pair work is a skill driver. Product leaders should deliberately pair people to work together on short specific skill acquiring activities. It can also be a team-building activity.
Product leaders should sit down with individual product managers and create OKRs that include company goals, team goals and individual goals.
Coaching and mentoring
The manager is the team’s first coach. Product leaders should provide in-house mentoring and also encourage external mentorship.
Team building is everybody’s business. The product leader should facilitate it, but let the team organise.
Ask, “What is my leadership style?”. While a title makes you a manager, whether you are a leader or not is determined by your team.
7 Don’ts: Things that product leaders and managers shouldn’t do
- Command and control
- Talk more than you listen
- Stifle their growth
- Force the team to focus on tactics only
- Always give answers
- Be the only feature requester
7 Dos: Things that product leaders and managers should do
- Define your personal purpose
- Define and share the product vision, strategy and roadmap
- Give direction
- Create the right environment for growth and development
- Delegate – make the team responsible and accountable
- Build trust
- Get training not just for product management but for leadership
The key takeaways from this talk are to hire right and be deliberate about it. Develop your team so that they grow individually and collectively, and lead effectively since you set the tone for your team’s success.