I have been a people manager before. I have led growth teams, I have even had developers report to me on occasion, but I have never been a full-time PM Manager without having any IC responsibility. Since last year, I have been mostly managing PMs. Some of the things I have learned to do:
- Avoid being busy for the heck of it. Transitioning into someone who manages other PMs, and does not own any stream on paper is hard. I had managed other PMs before, but I also led my projects as well as run streams/verticals in parallel. Being a full-time manager means you will suddenly have a lot of free time unless you decide to fill your calendar with recurring meetings to look busy. That is exactly what I have seen a lot of leaders do in my career: set up sync-ups with a dozen people just to share updates. I have tried my hardest to avoid that.
- Let your reports know who is making the final decision. A manager can help their reports make the final decision by providing decision-making frameworks, situational context, past examples/knowledge, or just take the decision themself. Most conflicts come when someone feels that they are owning a project, and driving the decisions, while it is their manager. As a manager, you should make it clear whether you are asking your report to gather info for you to make the decision or is it them taking the final call. My goal is to help my reports learn as much as they can from me, both about building products as well as working in a PM org and do stakeholder management. Over time I want to be as little involved as possible and make my role redundant.
- Provide feedback. As someone obsessed with learning, using feedback loops, I find it hard to accept when people repeat the same mistake multiple times. After a meeting, be it external or internal, my impulse is to call up the PM and tell him about the things which went well, and things that could have been handled better. But doing it every time also dilutes the message. And makes me seem like a perfectionist ass who tries to find minor issues, and can’t let go of things. So I am learning more about when to give feedback, how to phrase it, and how often should I follow up on things. This is a work in progress.
- Let people know how their performance will be measured. I want my reports to know how they can judge their performance better and not rely on our twice-a-year performance evaluation cycles to get feedback. Hence I over-communicate on expectations, as well as things they should be doing at their level. I believe that management is about setting the right goals and communicating them well, having a relationship where your reports know you have the right intention and are rooting for them, rewarding/praising good work, and stepping in and helping whenever required.
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