Guide #00A: How to become a better product team manager

Take the approach of a career coach whose role is to support each team member in achieving their goals.

Identify what type of leader and manager you want to be

Identify the people you admire in your organization. Think about why. Look for the qualities you’d like to emulate and start building a mental framework of the type of leader you’d like to be.

Build your circle of trust

Recognize that you don’t have to go to your direct manager for everything. Build a network of colleagues and allies that you can consult with on matters outside of your experience. Don’t be afraid to lean on others. This can also include individuals you admire for their management style.

Develop a coaching mentality to managing your team

Professional development of your team is now a part of your job. Ask each team member to express what success looks like for them, either in their current role or as a career path. Go deeper and ask what matters most to them. Then ask what barriers might be preventing them from achieving their goals. After this exploration, work with each person to develop an action plan for achieving their goals. Don’t forget to maintain your role as a coach. Each member of your team is responsible for establishing their goals and tracking their progress.

Structure your one-on-one meetings around uncovering what each person is going through as they attempt to achieve their goals

These meetings should be more than a status update about current projects. Have your team members develop and maintain an action plan that is referenced each time you meet. Use action items from the last meeting as a starting point for the next discussion. Both you and your employee should bring discussion topics to the meeting. For items the employee did not accomplish since the last one-on-one, try to uncover what challenges might exist with the individual or within the larger team.

Get your whole team engaged in measuring and tracking organizational goals

Set a cadence with your team for discussing the goals of your company. Create a dashboard of goals and review them regularly. Encourage your team to participate in rating each item against a likelihood of completion. Meet and review last quarter's goals (or whatever time frame is appropriate) and ask your team what next quarter's aim should be. Within these discussions, assume the role of facilitator to connect day-to-day tactics with the higher-level purpose. Keep a pulse on whether or not you're working on the right objectives. Push your leadership for a clear vision and strategy that can be cascaded down to your team. Practice articulating, "If our team makes X possible, it will allow the company to do Y".

Become familiar with the financial structure of your organization

Become familiar with the budget for your team/unit and how you aid in generating revenue. Learn what the major costs are and what your leadership considers as expensive. Find out what your gross margins are and how you can contribute to increasing them.

Create a stakeholder map of your organization

Draw lines between key relationships and highlight where centers of influence exist within your organization. Develop an understanding of how decisions get made. Pinpoint where your team sits within the power structure of your organization and the role it plays in delivering priority goals.


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