The journey from product manager to leader

If you ask a parent with more than one child, which child do you love the most? They will have a tough time answering.

I was the father of only one child then but I found myself in a similar situation when I went from being a product manager to leading a team of product managers.

Being a PM is a hard job but leading a team of PMs can be a lot harder, especially as it also involved giving up my child (product that I had worked on for years).

I had managed dev teams before where the focus was on training, coaching and giving members on what they needed to accomplish and periodically, joint problem solving when someone got stuck.

As a PM team lead, I worked with a team where each PM knew more about their product (way more…) so what value could I bring, I wondered.

First I drew a blank. Then I talked to some of the managers, then read and then listened to the team. While many things came up, three things bubbled up to the top:

  • Helping the team gain clarity of vision and direction
  • This means regularly conveying overall business strategy and interpreting broader trends in the market.
  • Enabling innovation and creativity
  • Essentially, creating an environment where the team could experiment, had a helping hand when dealing with other teams and had air cover when being taken to task by upper management
  • Helping them grow as leaders

By figuring out ways to train and coach on soft and hard skills and trying to “help them learn to catch fish” instead of “catching the fish for them”.

It was one of the hardest but also one of the most rewarding times in my career.

Helping PMs and product leaders raise their game is also part of our product leadership training and coaching program.