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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Product Management Mentoring – Growing Globally

TPM-Short3-LogoWe are very excited to announce The Product Mentor Session 4 has just launched!  Since it’s very lean MVP kick-off 2 years ago, The Product Mentor has grown to 20+ countries and over 500 mentees in our backlog.  Help us with our global backlog of mentees and…

Sign up to be a Mentor today!

The Product Mentor is a very exclusive program to be chosen for.  As a result, all participants have fully embraced the philosophy of paying-it-forward to share as much of the product management knowledge with everyone who has yet to make it into the program. 

  • Mentees share their newly acquired knowledge via Articles containing notable lessons learned from their Mentors
  • imageMentors lead Talks on topics where mentors, mentees, and the rest of the Internet get to listen and ask questions in real-time.

This Session is shaping up to have some truly great Talks scheduled.  Hope to see you at one of the upcoming talks (or feel free to check out past ones on our YouTube Channel @ http://tpg.li/subscribe-tpg)

  • December 6
    • 10AM ET: Rapid Prototyping with Nis Frome
    • 12PM ET: Business Development vs. Product Management with Chris Butler
    • 2PM ET: Product Strategies for Non-Strategists with Dustin Levy
    • 4PM ET: Users vs. Thought Leaders with Jordan Bergtraum
    • 6PM ET: Finance and Business Case Essentials for Product Managers with Vikas Batra

  • January 10
    • 10AM ET: Creating and Managing Product Roadmaps with Marc Abraham
    • 12PM ET: International Product Management – The Challenge of Globalization with Ladislav Bartos
    • 2PM ET: Product Management: Product- vs. Services-centric Companies with Sarah Varki
    • 4PM ET: Not My Job with Marc Wendell
    • 6PM ET: Building Your Product Management Playbook with Ian Moulton
  • February 7
    • 10AM ET: Influencing Development Teams with Krishna Madhuvarsu
    • 12PM ET: How to Interview a Product Manager with Felix Sargent
    • 2PM ET: Define a Strategy and Vision for Your Product with Cameo Doran
    • 4PM ET: Measuring Product and Development with Bennett Morrison
    • 6PM ET: Working Remotely with Rishi Kumar

  • March 13
    • 10AM ET: Growth Hacking: Weaving Marketing into the Fabric of Your Product with Jason Valdina
    • 12PM ET: Does gender play a role in the world of product management? with Amanda Ralph
    • 2PM ET: Working with Designers with Jonathan Berg
    • 4PM ET: David v. Goliath: How to displace a huge entrenched incumbent with Greg Larkin
    • 6PM ET: Maximizing Your Linkedin for a Successful Product Management Career with Paul Hurwitz

  • April 17
    • 10AM ET: Mastering the Art of the Client Demo with Melissa Hunter
    • 12PM ET: Numbers and Limits: Balancing Data and Design in Product Management with Vasu Vadlamudi
    • 2PM ET: Agile in the Real World with Addi Regev
    • 4PM ET: Key to Product Management Success: Building Team Morale with Jenn Bornstein
    • 6PM ET: Google’s 70/20/10 Rule for Driving Product Innovation with James Alexander

Check back at http://TheProductMentor.com on the day of the Talks and a link will be posted for you to watch and participate.

More About The Product Mentor
The 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 executives!

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy