How to transition from a Product Manager to a Product Leader

Guest Post by: Avinash Bajaj (Mentee, Session 4, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Nis Frome]

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So, you did whatever it took to become a Product Manager. Either you stumbled your way into product management, or you planned your way through. Whatever the case maybe, you are here now. You have done it.

Now, how do you transition yourself from a product guy to the product guy in your organization? How do you get others to respect the area that you love? How do you grow yourself and shape the organization around a product culture to make it more sustainable, more scalable and more efficient?

That is where I was – I was the first Product Manager in my organization, and now I have managed to carve a new Product Management discipline/department in the organizational structure.

Below are some of the takeaways of the experience that can hopefully help others who are at a similar transition phase of their lives:

(*Note: These are my personal experiences. These certainly do not mean this is the only way to follow, but hopefully these can help give guidelines on how some actions worked for me)

1.Challenge the Status Quo

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If you want to become a Product Leader, act like one, NOW! When you are a Product Manager, your product is your business. But as a Product Leader, everything is your business. Just because things are a certain way doesn’t mean they should be. Ask questions – lots of them. Challenge assumptions and theories. Be bullish and aggressive in proposing product ideas, but at the same time, be stable and dependable to execute on those ideas. Don’t go into the position looking specifically to change everything. Give it a chance and try to understand why the ‘established’ practices exist. But don’t be afraid to challenge them and reconfigure them.

2.Be Entrepreneurial

entrepreneurial-growth-in-greener-industries-caption-image[1]I heard somewhere that great Product Leaders make great Entrepreneurs. I don’t know if that is true, but what has been true in my case is the attitude of “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”. As product managers, we often need to, have to, take decisions. But as Product Leaders, your decisions matter a lot more. There is more on the line. So we cannot be afraid to take hard calls if needed, and we have to be able to stand our ground and back ourselves when such a time comes.

Another aspect that is equally important for Product Leaders is the tendency to almost “walk” into chaotic, conventionally troublesome situations – that could mean standing up for a Product Manager colleague and taking the heat if something goes wrong, or, taking responsibility to solve a problem which you just became aware of, something that does not strictly lie within your product roadmap/portfolio.

3. Delegate and Support

As a Leader, you don’t have to take all decisions, in fact please don’t take all decisions. Learn to accept that people closest to certain topics are best to take those decisions. Your job is to lead and support those decisions – you don’t have to know 100% on the topic but you need to know enough to support the business case around those decisions. There is a reason you work with experts in areas that are not your expertise. As PMs you naturally learn to do this on a smaller scale, but as a product leader, you have to learn to inspire and teach PMs to get this awareness early on.

About Avinash Bajaj
AvinashBajajSean Echevarria is Head of Products by day and passionate about making a difference in the field of education.

 

 

 

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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About Jeremy Horn

Jeremy Horn is an award-winning, product management veteran with 2 decades of experience leading and managing product teams. Jeremy has held various executive and advisory roles, from founder of several start-ups to driving diverse organizations in online services, consumer products, and wearables. As founder of The Product Group, he has created the largest product management meetup in the world and hosts the annual awarding of The Best Product Person. Accelerating the next evolution of product management, Jeremy acted as creator and instructor of the 10-week product management course at General Assembly and The New School, and mentoring at Women 2.0 and Lean Startup Machine (where is he also a judge). To see where Jeremy is now check him out at (1) http://linkedin.com/in/TheProductGuy and (2) http://TheProductGuy.com